MURRAY — For the first time since 1996 and just the third time in program history, the Murray State football team has been picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference in an annual vote of the league’s head coaches and sports information directors. In addition, 10 Racers were named to the Preseason All-OVC team.
In the poll, Murray State received seven of 12 possible first-place votes and finished four total points ahead of Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri, who finished in tie for second-place with 60 points. UT Martin came in at fourth in the poll, followed by Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and Eastern Illinois, respectively.
The Racers have been picked to win the OVC on just two previous occasions, in 1980 and 1996. The Racers finished in a three-way tie for second in 1980, just one game back from champions Western Kentucky, while in 1996, MSU ran the table to go 8-0 and claim the OVC title. Of 41 available OVC preseason polls, the team picked to win has won at-least a share of the title 19 times.
Offensively, quarterback Preston Rice, receivers LaMartez Brooks and Jacob Bell and linemen Jacob Vance and Levi Nesler earned preseason accolades. On the defensive side of the ball, four Racers earned honors including defensive end Ethan Edmondson, outside linebacker Scotty Humpich, inside linebacker Eric Samuta and defensive back Marcis Floyd. In addition to the nine picks on offense and defense, Malik Honeycutt was also a preseason All-OVC selection as a punt returner.
In his first season with the Racers, coach Dean Hood oversaw one of the best turnarounds in the nation last spring when he led Murray State to its first winning season since 2011 and best OVC record since 2005. His Racers started the season at 5-0, tying the 1995 team for the best start in school history. Murray State also returned to the top 25 polls under Hood last season, earning its first ranking since 2011 and staying in the polls for seven consecutive weeks and earning a spot in the final polls of the season for the first time since 2002.
Murray State will return all 22 starters from last spring’s season with 13 of those players being named to one of two postseason All-OVC teams. So far this preseason, the Racers have already appeared in one Top 25 poll, landing at 22nd in the HERO Sports preseason poll.