College Sports

Why 'expectations are sky high' for Sacramento State and UC Davis football teams

The Sacramento State and UC Davis football teams were both ranked in separate preseason polls.
The Sacramento State and UC Davis football teams were both ranked in separate preseason polls. Sacramento Bee file

The Causeway Classic rivals are kicking off the season ranked in the polls.

Sacramento State placed 23rd on Athlon Sports' Top 25 preseason list of Football Championship Subdivision teams. The poll was released June 5.

"Expectations are sky high after the Hornets improved by five wins under head coach Jody Sears, who was rewarded with a contract extension," Athlon Sports' Craig Haley wrote. "Dynamic quarterback Kevin Thomson, who accounted for 26 touchdowns in eight games, has to remain healthy for the full season. Defensive end George Obinna and safety Mister Harriel are difference makers on an experienced defense."

The Hornets — who welcome back 10 players with all-Big Sky Conference nods — are coming off a 7-4 season following consecutive 2-9 campaigns, and their 6-2 mark against Big Sky competition was their best since joining the conference in 1996. All seven of Sacramento State's victories came against Division I competition, the first time in school history the team has done that.

UC Davis opens the season 22nd on HERO Sports' Top 25 FCS preseason list, which was released Tuesday. 

"This ranking is evidence that positive things are taking place at UC Davis," coach Dan Hawkins said in a release.  

It's the Aggies' best preseason ranking since joining the Big Sky in 2012.

"For coming off of a 5-6 season, there is certainly a lot of excitement surrounding the Aggies, and for good reason," HERO Sports' Brian McLaughlin wrote. "Thirteen starters return, including the duo of quarterback Jake Maier and wide receiver Keelan Doss, who is a top NFL draft prospect out of the FCS."

Sacramento State wasn't ranked on this list, but received seven votes.

North Dakota State, which defeated James Madison 17-13 in the FCS championship game on Jan. 6, tops both polls. The Bison have dominated the FCS in recent history, winning the title six of the last seven years.