After finishing tied for last place in the 2010 American Southwest Conference football race, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets are projected to show a little improvement according to the preseason poll, which was released on Wednesday.

    The Yellow Jackets (2-8, 1-7 in conference) are picked to place eighth in the nine-team ASC race, receiving three more points than Sul Ross (1-8, 1-7) in the preseason poll. Howard Payne finished with 51 points in the vote to the Lobos’ 48.

    For the 10th consecutive season, Mary Hardin-Baylor is favored to win the ASC crown as the Crusaders (12-1, 8-0) received 23 of 27 first-place vote and 239 points, easily outdistancing McMurry’s (6-4, 4-4) one first-place vote and 183 points.

    Hardin-Simmons (8-2, 6-2) was picked third with 181 points, trailed by fourth-place Louisiana College (7-3, 7-1) with 180 points, fifth-place Mississippi College (4-6, 2-6) with 125, sixth-place East Texas Baptist (5-5, 4-4) with 124 and seventh-place Texas Lutheran (4-6, 3-5) with 84 points.

    McMurry senior quarterback Jake Mullin was voted the ASC preseason offensive player of the year, Mary Hardin-Baylor senior linebacker Javicz Jones was selected the ASC preseason defensive player of the year and Louisiana College senior returner Darnell Williams was tabbed the ASC preseason special teams player of the year.

    Steve Fanara is entering his fourth season as HPU head coach with an 8-22 career record. The  Jackets host Trinity in their Sept. 3 opener, then kick off ASC action on Sept. 17 when Sul Ross visits.