It may not have garnered the same attention as the SEC or Big 10 media days, but this past Tuesday the Mid-American conference held its annual Media Day in Detroit, Michigan. In a move which surprised virtually no one, voters picked Central Michigan as the favorite to win both the West Division and the entire conference.
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The Chippewas, led by Heisman darkhorse candidate Dan LeFevour at quarterback, grabbed 29 of the 46 first place votes to win the West, dwarfing projected second and third place teams Ball State (five first place votes) and Western Michigan (two first place votes.) Central Michigan also received 24 of 36 votes to win the Conference Championship outright come December's title game.
While media members seemed close to unanimous in favoring Central Michigan in the MAC West, voting for the champion of the MAC East saw a much greater split in a move indicative of what many are already projecting to be highly competitive division race. Bowling Green may have led the way with 17 first place votes, but each team in the East received at least one first-place vote, including perennial bottom feeders Buffalo (3) and Temple (2.)
The entire poll is reprinted below:
WEST DIVISION (6-5-4-3-2-1 point system)
1. Central Michigan 207
2. Ball State 168
3. Western Michigan 143
4. Toledo 98
5. Eastern Michigan 80
6. Northern Illinois 60
EAST DIVISION (7-6-5-4-3-2-10)
1. Bowling Green 206
2. Miami 202
3. Buffalo 145
4. Kent State 137
5. Temple 120
6. Ohio 119
7. Akron 78
A few things jump out to me about this poll. The first and perhaps most questionable in my mind is seeing Northern Illinois with the lowest combined point total in the conference. I know the Huskies break in a new coach in Jerry Kill (formerly of Southern Illinois) this season, but keep in mind they do get 22 starters back from a team which was ravaged by injuries last year. Translation? The experience is there, so why so down on the Huskies? Is this a case of the voters just being sold on the top half of the MAC West, or is it indicative of a perceived talent nose-dive within the program? Unlike the voters, I look for the Huskies to be much improved this season, and while Toledo and Eastern Michigan should also be better, don't expect Northern Illinois to finish at the bottom of the conference.
As far as the nod of conference champion going to Central Michigan goes, I think it's something everyone pretty much expected. Yet even while the Chippewas return an incredibly potent offense from their 2007 conference championship team, they were inconsistent at times in 2007, and will have to show an ability to play to their full potential against each and every conference foe, including a Ball State team which has enough talent on offense to be able to come out on top in a potential shootout.
Above all, I think the MAC preseason media poll represents the perception of the conference right now, which while favoring Central Michigan also shows a good deal of disagreement over the positioning of the rest of the conference's teams. And while Central Michigan may be the overwhelming favorite to win the conference during the preseason, there is no telling how the actual race for the MAC Title will begin once August 28th roles around.
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