LAKE CHARLES ­— To no one’s surprise, Sam Houston State was tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the Southland Conference football title in polls by the league coaches and sports information directors.

The predicted order of finish was announced Wednesday morning at the outset of the conference’s media day at the L’Auberge Casino Resort.

Sam Houston State, which went 11-5 and reached the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision for the third time in four years last season, returns 21 starters and a total of 54 letter-winners to this year’s team.

After sharing the league title with Southeastern Louisiana last year, Sam Houston State received eight of a possible 10 first-place votes in the coaches poll and totaled 98 points.

SLU was second with one first-place vote and 86 total points, while McNeese State (79), Stephen F. Austin (79) and Northwestern State (60) rounded out the top five. McNeese State also garnered one first-place vote.

In the sports information directors poll, Sam Houston State received nine of 10 first-place votes and piled up 99 points.

Stephen F. Austin took the second spot with 87 points, with Southeastern (77), McNeese State (75) and Central Arkansas (66) taking the next four spots. McNeese and Central Arkansas solit the other two first-place votes.

SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE

Predicted Order of Finish

(first-place votes in parentheses with total points)

COACHES

1. Sam Houston (8) 98

2. Southeasterrn (1) 86

3. McNeese State (1) 79

4. Stephen F. Austin 73

5. Northwestern State 60

6. Cent. Arkansas (1) 57

7. Abilene Christian 49

8. Lamar 46

9. Incarnate Word 26

10. Nicholls State 16

11. Houston Baptist 15

SPORTS INFORMATION DIRECTORS

1. Sam Houston (9) 99

2. Stephen F. Austin 87

3. Southeasterrn 77

4. McNeese State (1) 75

5. Cent. Arkansas (1) 66

6. Northwestern State 51

7. Abilene Christian 48

8. Lamar 41

9. Incarnate Word 25

10. Nicholls State 20

11. Houston Baptist 12