The Illinois State Redbirds head into the 2017 season ranked No. 18 in the preseason national top 25 poll. The Redbirds will look to extend their playoff appearance streak to four years in a row and that journey starts Saturday in the season-opener against Pioneer Football League opponent Butler at Hancock Stadium.
When Illinois State heard its name called on the NCAA FCS selection show in 2016, the Redbirds punched their third-straight ticket to the FCS playoffs for the first time in program history. ISU made its seventh playoff appearance overall, and had previously advanced to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 1998-99. The four playoff appearances in the last five years for the Redbirds is also unprecedented for the ISU football program, but one streak the team hopes to continue in the future.
Coming off a third-straight FCS playoff appearance, Illinois State was picked to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason poll, voted on by the league's head coaches, media members and sports information directors. The last time the Redbirds were picked fifth or lower was in 2014, when ISU was picked sixth before going on to finish the season 13-2 and advance to the FCS National Championship.
In just his first full season as the starting quarterback at Illinois State, Jake Kolbe has had to battle injury, adversity and setbacks in order to become a leader for his team in 2016.
Action from Hancock Stadium gets underway at 6:30 pm.
Information courtesy of goredbirds.com.