The Northern Arizona football team ranked No. 9 in the season's first edition of the 2017 NCAA FCS Selection Committee Rankings, which were announced at halftime of the Idaho-Troy telecast on ESPNU on Thursday night.
The Lumberjacks, who currently are riding a six-game winning streak (all six victories have been by double-digits), boast a 6-2 overall record and are the only undefeated team in the Big Sky Conference with a perfect 5-0 mark.
NAU was the lone Big Sky program listed in the initial FCS Committee Rankings. The Missouri Valley Conference led the way with three teams listed, while the Colonial Athletic Association and Southland Conference each had a pair. The Ohio Valley and Southern Conference also each had one team chosen.
The Lumberjacks, who have three regular-season games remaining (at Montana, vs. Montana State, at Southern Utah), return to action on Saturday, Nov. 4 as they hit the road to take on Montana in a 2:30 p.m. kickoff from Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.
The FCS Selection Committee uses the following metrics to formulate their rankings: strength of schedule, wins against teams in the top 25, home losses vs. road wins and good losses are all factored in.
The committee will reveal its next edition of the top 10 next Thursday at halftime of the Appalachian State-Georgia Southern game, which kicks off at 5:30 p.m. MST on ESPNU.
The final FCS Playoff selection is scheduled to be announced on Sunday, Nov. 19. A total of 24 teams will earn a berth to the postseason tournament. The 2017 FCS Playoffs kick off on Saturday, Nov. 25 with the opening-round games while the top eight ranked teams will receive a bye.
Also announced Thurday, the Lumberjacks have scheduled a pair of nonconference games against fellow Big Sky Conference member Eastern Washington for the 2018 and 2020 seasons, the institutions announced Thursday.
The first of the two meetings will take place at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff on Sept. 8, 2018, with the Lumberjacks making the trip to Cheney, Washington, on Sept. 19, 2020.
The Big Sky Conference features a football schedule that sees each school play eight conference games per season in the 13-team league; therefore seeing each program miss playing four conference foes each season.
Northern Arizona trails the all-time series with Eastern Washington, 20-12, but has captured two of the last three meetings. In the most recent matchup the Eagles defeated the Lumberjacks 50-35 in Flagstaff, but NAU posted victories in 2014 and 2015 when EWU was ranked among the top four teams nationally.
After watching his teams sweep the Big Sky Championships last weekend, Northern Arizona director of cross country Michael Smith got a his own broom.
Announced Thursday by the conference, Smith was voted both the conference's Men's and Women's Coach of the Year by his peers.
The honors are the first for Smith, who is in his first full season at the helm of the Lumberjacks.
Both the men's and women's teams won the Big Sky team and individual titles on Oct. 28. The men's squad won with 24 points, and the women took the title with 51. Tyler Day and Paige Gilchrist won the individual championships. It was the first time since 2009 that a team swept both the team and individual titles.
NAU had five men and three women earn All-Conference honors.
The men's team has been ranked the No. 1 team in the country by the USTFCCCA for seven consecutive weeks, a number that sets a new program record for longest tenure in the top spot in a season. The women's team appeared in the national rankings for the first time since 2009 back on Oct. 17 and currently sits at No. 29.
Northern Arizona is preparing for the NCAA Mountain Regionals, which will be ran Friday, Nov. 10, in Logan, Utah. The NCAA Championships follow, and take place the following week on Saturday, Nov. 18, in Louisville, Kentucky.
SWIM AND DIVE
Swimming and diving's decorated senior class of Claire Hammond, Roni Houck, Allison Mann, Audrey Mann, Kimmy Richter and Alina Staffeldt will be honored Saturday during NAU's Senior Meet against Idaho. While it will not be NAU's last home meet of the season -- that would be Jan. 27 versus Boise State -- Saturday will provide the Lumberjacks an opportunity to honor their seniors against a conference rival that will add a layer of emotion.
NAU, coming off a 167.5-132.5 victory over New Mexico last Saturday at home, will host Air Force on Friday at 4 p.m. and Idaho on Saturday at 11 a.m. Admission for both meets is free for all fans.
While the Lumberjacks will have two exciting dual meets on deck this weekend, the story will be focused on NAU's senior class of six.
Over their first three conference championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017, this year's seniors have combined for 703.5 points -- more than a third of NAU's three-year point total. They have combined to win 32 WAC medals in individual and relay events and have notched 45 all-conference finishes.