Following a 13-2 record and an appearance in the national championship game, UW-Oshkosh enters the 2017 football season ranked fourth in the country by D3football.com.
University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas), which defeated UW-Oshkosh, 10-7, in last year's NCAA Division III title contest, ranks first in the internet site's preseason poll while University of Mount Union (Ohio) lists second and UW-Whitewater third.
The top four teams in this year's preseason rankings combined for all 25 first-place votes, including University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (15-0 record in 2016), which earned 16. UW-Whitewater (12-1) had four first-place votes, University of Mount Union (12-2) three and UW-Oshkosh two.
Completing the teams in the Top 10 were fifth-ranked University of St. Thomas (Minn.) (12-1), sixth-ranked Wheaton College (Ill.) (11-2), seventh-ranked North Central College (Ill.) (11-1), eighth-ranked John Carroll University (Ohio) (12-2), ninth-ranked Linfield College (Ore.) (9-2) and 10th-ranked Saint John's University (Minn.) (10-2).
UW-Oshkosh also appeared in the previous four D3football.com preseason rankings, listing sixth in 2016, 18th in both 2014 and 2015, and 12th in 2013. The Titans have appeared in the Top 25 during the last 29 weekly rankings, including 21 Top-10 mentions. UW-Oshkosh concluded the 2016 campaign ranked second in the country.
UW-Oshkosh welcomes back 41 of its 66 lettermen from last year's team that set numerous program records and won at least two games in the national postseason for the third time in three appearances (2012, 2015 and 2016).
The Titans return nine of their 11 offensive starters, including senior running back Dylan Hecker, who received All-WIAC first team honors after rushing for 1,142 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016. Junior tight end Cody Moon is back after earning an All-WIAC second team award a year ago. Moon caught 11 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown in 2016.
Defensively, junior cornerback AJ Plewa is UW-Oshkosh's lone returning starter. Plewa collected All-WIAC second team accolades in 2016 after totaling 39 tackles, four pass interceptions and one fumble recovery.
Punter Turner Geisthardt and placekicker Eli Wettstein, both juniors, return to the Titans after acquiring All-WIAC second team honors in 2016. Geisthardt averaged 40.4 yards on 55 punts last season, while Wettstein scored 111 points by converting 63 of 68 extra-point and 16 of 22 field goal attempts. Wettstein was also selected to the All-West Region Third Team by D3football.com in 2016.
Junior wide receiver Dom Todarello is another standout performer back for UW-Oshkosh on the special teams. He earned All-WIAC first team accolades in 2016 after averaging returns of 20.8 yards on kickoffs and 14.2 yards on punts.
UW-Oshkosh's opens its 123rd season at John Carroll University on Sept. 2. The Titans defeated the Blue Streaks twice in 2016, 33-14 in the season opener and 10-3 during the semifinal round of the NCAA Division III Championship.
UW-Oshkosh will also host third-ranked UW-Whitewater on Sept. 30 and visit 15th-ranked UW-Platteville on Oct. 14.
UW-Oshkosh, which has won 24 of its last 28 games, begins practice for its 2017 season on Aug. 14.