NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Delaware football team has been picked No. 23 in the Athlon Sports Pre-season Top 25 poll that was announced recently by the publication.

Delaware, which will be led this fall by second-year head coach Dave Brock, joins the ranks of six other Colonial Athletic Association schools picked in the top 25, five of which are on the 2014 Delaware football schedule.  

Delaware finished with a record of 7-5 in 2013, losing two games by three points or less. The Blue Hens narrowly missed out on the 20-team NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Tournament.

"We are excited to be recognized by Athlon in its pre-season poll,” said Brock, who returns 13 starters from last year’s squad. “We look forward to an exciting 2014 season as we continue to rebuild the Delaware football program. We are working hard in the summer program and look forward to reporting for camp the first weekend in August."

Among the Blue Hens’ top returning players are All-CAA selections in senior wide receiver Michael Johnson, senior tight end Nick Boyle, senior linebacker Pat Callaway, and sophomore All-American punter Eric Enderson as well as senior quarterback Trent Hurley.

Athlon Sports is the first major pre-season poll to include Delaware in its Top 25 ranking as the Hens were not ranked in the Lindy’s and Sporting News polls announced earlier this month. The Sports Network media poll and the FCS coaches poll will be announced in August.

Eastern Washington came out ahead of three-time defending national champion North Dakota State – which graduated 24 seniors -  to take the top spot in the Athlon poll. New Hampshire was the highest CAA school in the rankings at No. 4.

Other CAA schools included in the poll were Villanova at No. 8, 2013 national runner up Towson at No. 10, William & Mary at No. 15, Richmond at No. 18, and James Madison at No. 22. Maine, the 2013 CAA champion, was left off all three pre-season polls.

The CAA was well represented in the Athlon poll, putting seven teams in the top 25, the most among the 14 NCAA FCS conferences. The Missouri Valley Conference ranked second as it had five teams ranked in the pre-season top 25.

Delaware will face five teams from the Athlon pre-season poll this fall as the Blue Hens will take on No. 4 New Hampshire on Nov. 15 in Durham, N.H.; No. 8 Villanova on Nov. 22 at Delaware Stadium; No. 10 Towson on Oct. 18 at Delaware Stadium; No. 15 William & Mary on Oct. 25 in Williamsburg, Va.; and No. 22 James Madison on Sept. 27 in Harrisonburg, Va.

Delaware will travel to Heinz Field to take on Atlantic Coast Conference contender University of Pittsburgh in the first-ever matchup between the two schools in the season opener Aug. 30 followed by the home opener the following week vs. in-state foe Delaware State at Delaware Stadium.

Great season ticket packages for Delaware’s seven-game home schedule are on sale now at or by calling 302-831-2257.

Athlon Sports 2014 FCS Pre-season Top 25:

1. Eastern Washington
2. North Dakota State
3. Southeastern Louisiana
4. New Hampshire
5. Northern Iowa
6. Jacksonville State
7. Montana
8. Villanova
9. McNeese State
10. Towson
11. South Dakota State
12. Chattanooga
13. Fordham
14. Coastal Carolina
15. William & Mary
16. Montana State
17. Tennessee State
18. Richmond
19. Furman
20. Southern Illinois
21. Sam Houston State
22. James Madison
23. Delaware
24. Eastern Illinois
25. Youngstown State