Two years ago, just one loss separated the top four teams in the UMAC standings.
Last season, three teams were within one game of first place.
The UMAC race this season is expected to be just as tight as three teams — MacMurray, St. Scholastica and Northwestern (Roseville) — received first-place votes in the conference preseason poll.
MacMurray, which has tied for second in each of the past two seasons, had four first-place votes in the poll while St. Scholastica, which also tied for second in each of the past two seasons, had two first-place votes and 55 points.
Northwestern, which won the conference title in 2016 and was fourth last year, also got two first-place votes and had 52 points.
St. Scholastica (7-3 overall, 7-2 UMAC) returns All-UMAC quarterback Zach Edwards and wide receiver Aaron Olson.
Northwestern (6-4, 6-3) returns three-time All-UMAC defensive back Nick Swore.
Eureka, which won the UMAC title last season, has joined the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.
Scots picked third
Macalester (5-5 overall, 3-2 MWC) was picked third in the Midwest Conference North Division — behind St. Norbert and University of Chicago — in the conference coaches’ preseason poll.
The Scots have 10 returning starters, including Alec Beatty, who set school records for receiving yards (1,035) and receiving touchdowns (10) last season.