PIKEVILLE – After two straight winning seasons in the Mid-South Conference East Division, expectations have been set for the University of Pikeville football team as it was picked to finish third in the division by the league’s coaches on Monday.
The East division looks a little different in 2016 with the addition of Cincinnati Christian, bringing the total number of teams to seven.
Georgetown and Cumberlands are picked to finish first and second, respectively, with all seven of the first-place votes split between them.
But after the top two, UPIKE is the clear preseason favorite to challenge them for a league title. Bringing up the bottom of the poll is Union at No. 4 after going 1-4 last season and Bluefield (Va.) and Kentucky Christian tying for fifth.
Bluefield went 0-5 in divisional play in 2015 and Kentucky Christian went 2-3, but finished 0-6 outside of the East.
The newcomer in the field, Cincinnati Christian, is pegged to finish seventh with just six points in the poll as it prepares for its first year of varsity football.
UPIKE will quickly see where it stands in the division as a trip to Bluefield is first up on the schedule at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, Aug. 25. This is the second straight season opener against the Rams as the Bears won 32-13 at home last year.
The game also marks the first of three Thursday night games to open the season, followed by hosting Campbellsville at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1 and a road game at Eastern Kentucky at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8 in Richmond.
On the other side of the conference, Reinhardt (Ga.) is the preseason favorite to win the six-team West, followed by Lindsey Wilson picked second and Faulkner (Ala.) coming in third. Reinhardt received five of the six first-place nods with Faulkner grabbing the other.