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Cal Poly Matches Program's Highest Ranking Ever
The Cal Poly football team matched its highest ranking ever Monday.
After their third bye over the past five weeks, the Mustangs rose to No. 3 in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) coaches poll and No. 5 in the Sports Network media poll. They were seventh in both last week.
Mustangs head coach Rich Ellerson downplayed the jump, even calling it “nuts” that the Mustangs would be ranked so highly with so many byes and a 30-28 loss Sept. 6 to Montana, which is ranked fifth by the coaches and eighth by the media.
“It’s wonderful we’re on people’s radar,” he said. “Our name resonates with coaches and media people around the country. That’s a great compliment for our program and our institution - not necessarily this football team. It doesn’t mean anything. If we’re still there in a month, I’ll be a little more excited about that.”
The Mustangs were last ranked third midway through 2005, before they would go on to reach the quarterfinals of the playoffs and finish No. 6.
Richmond, New Hampshire and McNeese State - which had been above the Mustangs in both polls - all lost Saturday.
Also, North Dakota State, which was slotted sixth by the coaches, dropped to 16th in that poll after falling 27-22 to Western Illinois.
James Madison and Appalachian State remained Nos. 1 and 2 in both polls.
“I was pretty surprised,” Mustangs senior running back Ryan Mole said of Cal Poly being tabbed third. “It’s great for the program. It’s just one step closer to being No. 1.”
Cal Poly (3-1), which opened the season 14th in both polls, picks up where it left off at 4 p.m. Saturday at South Dakota State (3-3), which also had a bye last week.
The Jackrabbits beat the Mustangs 48-35 last year, also in Brookings, S.D., and 29-28 in 2006.
“We expect it to be very physical,” Mole said. “It should be the toughest game we’ve had yet. The last couple years they’ve defeated us it hasn’t been pretty.”
Mole was quick to emphasize that the Mustangs may need to win out to make the playoffs, which require at least seven wins against fully-fledged Division I competition for at-large consideration (which Cal Poly needs due to playing in the Great West Conference, comprised of just five teams).
The road to that win total - which already included stops against South Dakota (a non-counter due to transitioning from Division II) and Football Bowl Subdivision (I-A) Wisconsin - was complicated when McNeese State canceled the teams’ third-week meeting due to Hurricane Ike.
If the Mustangs do win out, they’d seem to surpass the 2005 version as arguably the best Cal Poly team ever.
“It has (that) potential,” Ellerson said.
Mole said the team’s chance of going down as the best in program history - which includes 1933’s unscored-upon edition, 1953’s undefeated and untied squad and the 1980 Division II national champion - isn’t lost among the players.
“The guys think (it could be the best) and the coaches are talking about it,” he said.
Ten offensive starters returned from 2007, when the Mustangs went 7-4 and missed the playoffs but trailed only national champion Appalachian State in total offense.
“We’re definitely one of the top teams Cal Poly has had,” Mole said. “But we hope to become the best.”
Cal Poly matches program’s highest ranking ever
By Donovan Aird, The Mustang Daily
Photo Credit: Andrew Santos-Johnson, The Mustang Daily