Carson-Newman is picked to finish first in the South Atlantic Conference.
The preseason selections were voted on by the league's coaches.
The Eagles edged out defending SAC champion Lenoir-Rhyne, whom C-N defeated twice last year.
But Coach Ken Sparks doesn't want the team to get ahead of itself.
"It doesn't mean a hill of beans at this point," head coach Ken Sparks said. "If you get too high or too low over some preseason poll, there's something not right with your brain. We're grateful for the ranking, but it doesn't mean a whole lot at this point."
Wingate and Mars Hill round out the top four.
The Eagles return 19 starters and have three preseason All-Americans in running back Brandon Baker (Miami, Fla.), kicker Curt Duncan (Morristown, Tenn.) and offensive tackle Alex Taylor (Bristol, Tenn.).
"I think our kids are determined to do the very best we can," Sparks said. "That's the poll I'm interested in - the Lord being able to tell us that 'you did the very best you could to develop yourself to be everything I created you to be.' Now if we pass that poll, then I'm in."
Carson-Newman kicks off the season Sept. 5 against Wayne State at 7 p.m.