North Central was predicted to win its fourth straight College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin football title in the conference's annual preseason coaches' poll, while Illinois Wesleyan was picked third.
The Cardinals won the poll with 79 points and seven first place votes. Wheaton placed second with 72 points and two first place votes, while IWU was third with 68 points and one first place vote.
The Titans are coming off back-to-back co-conference titles in 2017 and 2018. IWU has won nine titles under head coach Norm Eash, who begins his 33rd season and is the longest tenured active CCIW coach.
Washington University in St. Louis was fourth with 57 points in its second season as an associate member for football. Carthage (44 points), Millikin (39) and Augustana (38) filled in the fifth through seventh spots, followed by Elmnurst (23), Carroll (16) and North Park (14).
Titans 15th in D3 poll: Illinois Wesleyan was pegged at No. 15 in the preseason D3football.com Top 25 poll.
The Titans, who return 38 lettermen, seven defensive starters and 10 offensive starters from an 8-2 team, received 197 points. Mary Hardin-Baylor received 24 first place votes and was No. 1.
North Central was fifth and Wheaton No. 22.
Basketball falls in Italy: The IWU basketball team dropped a 67-62 decision to Stella Azzurra Roma in the first of three exhibition games on the team's trip to Italy.
Gavin Markgraff topped the Titans with 11 points. Grant Wolfe added nine and Peter Lambesis and Cory Noe had eight each. Stella Azzurra had lost by just five points to Division I Minnesota in a recent contest.