Martin Luther exceeded expectations last year by winning the UMAC conference title after being picked to finish sixth in the league’s preseason poll.

The Knights, who went 8-0 in conference play to earn their first conference title since 2009, are expected to pick up this season where they left off.

The Knights, coming off their first NCAA Division III playoff appearance and a 9-2 overall mark, were the top choice in this year’s UMAC preseason poll. Northwestern-St. Paul was picked second, followed by MacMurray and St. Scholastica.

Among the 15 returning starters for the Knights, who averaged 33.7 points per game last year, is Austin DeNoyer, who rushed for 1,086 yards and scored 16 TDs last season. DeNoyer, a junior, was the UMAC Most Valuable Offensive Player.

Northwestern (5-5, 5-3 UMAC) led the UMAC in defense last season, allowing just 17.2 points per game. The Eagles welcome back All-UMAC defensive back Nick Swore, who missed last season because of injury.

St. Scholastica (6-4, 6-2) will be led by quarterback Zach Edwards, who set a program record for passing yards (3,195) last season as a junior.

Macalester picked fourth

Macalester (5-5, 2-3 MWC) was picked to finish fourth in the Midwest Conference North Division. Among the Scots’ 54 returnees are 13 starters — eight on defense.