Charlotte, NC – East Mississippi took home the program's fifth football national championship in front of a CBS Sports national television audience in last fall. To start 2019, The Lions retain their spot at the top of the NJCAA rankings ahead of the first week of play. It's the fifth time in the last six years that the Lions are top-ranked to start the season.
East Mississippi's offense receives a huge boost from quarterback Connor Neville, a transfer from Washington State. His receiving corps will be led by the soph trio of Jason Brownlee, Rashad Eades and Julian Conner, who combined for 46 catches and 543 yds last year. The Lions also bring back 531-yd rusher Keon Moore.
Iowa Western and Garden City traded places from the final 2018 poll, taking second and third respectively to start the season. Garden City finished one point shy of a national title in 2018 while Iowa Western won the feature game of the Graphic Edge Bowl. The Broncbusters have a new head coach in Tom Minnick, who had been at Arizona Western since 2008. The two teams meet on September 21st in Council Bluffs, IA.
Jones takes the No. 5 spot after finishing the 2018 season as the MACJC South Division champion for the second straight year. The Bobcats defeated Northwest Mississippi in the MACJC playoffs before narrowly falling to East Mississippi for the state championship, 19-14. Jones proceeded to win the 2018 Mississippi Bowl, 27-7 over Eastern Arizona to claim the program's first 10-win season since 2001.
Hutchinson rounds out the top five of this year's preseason rankings. The Blue Dragons narrowly missed out on a KJCCC championship last year as eventual national runner-up Garden City escaped Hutchinson's home field with a 24-21 last-minute victory. The Blue Dragons were picked by the eight KJCCC coaches as the league favorite this year.
The season officially begins Thursday with a trio of contests: including No. 18 Navarro at No. 19 Georgia Military in the first top 20 clash of the year. On Saturday, No. 6 Snow travels to No. 3 Garden City for the first top 10 matchup of the season while across the state, No. 10 Butler hosts No. 14 Iowa Central.