For the third time in as many seasons, Eastern Washington is the number one team in the land.
Two days after their 27-24 win at Montana State, the Eagles moved up five spots to the top spot in The Sports Network FCS media poll.
“It’s exciting, just because for a program and for us to be ranked No. 1, that takes a lot of work from a lot of people,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin.
The Eagles finished the 2010 season with the national championship and a top ranking that carried over into the first two weeks of 2011, but lost the top spot last September after an 0-2 start.
Ranked sixth last week, they regained the top spot with their win over the second-ranked Bobcats while four teams ranked ahead of them fell on the same day.
Eastern Washington is 4-0 in the Big Sky Conference and 5-1 overall entering a home game Saturday against Sacramento State. Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m.
The Eagles won 92 first-place votes and 3,982 overall in The Sports Network media poll, outdistancing James Madison, which moved up two spots from fourth. The Dukes (5-1) received 42 first-place votes and 3,831 overall. Georgia Southern is third, and former top-ranked North Dakota State, the defending FCS champion, is fourth.
Montana State (6-1) fell to fifth, while Big Sky member Cal Poly (6-0) moved up to 14th while receiving three first-place votes. Eastern faces Cal Poly on Nov. 3 at Roos Field, although the game will not count in the conference standings. Another conference team, Northern Arizona (5-1), is 16th. Eastern and NAU don’t face each other this season.
The Eagles are also No. 1 in this week’s coaches’ poll after ranking sixth, seventh and ninth the previous three weeks. The Eagles remain a season-high second behind North Dakota State in the Jeff Sagarin computer ratings.
Baldwin didn’t downplay the honor of being No. 1, which puts Eastern atop the 122-team FCS ranks with five games left in the regular season. “We still have to focus, but I’m not going to undersell this.
“It’s just great for the program.”
Hamlin, Tonani honored
Junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week and freshman Jordan Tonani (Ferris) was picked as the College Sports Madness National FCS Defensive Player of the Week.
Hamlin had a team-leading 15 tackles and a key interception in EWU’s win over MSU. Tonani returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and also made eight tackles.