The other 12 teams

Mid-American Conference, East division

Akron (1-2)

2008 record: 5-7 (3-5 MAC, 4th in East)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 3rd, East

Our take: With brand new InfoCision Stadium opening this season, Akron looks to improve on its sub-par 2008 season. The Zips have four offensive linemen returning for coach J.D. Brookhart in his sixth year with the team, as well as senior quarterback Chris Jacquemain.

The Zips face the Bulls, the preseason MAC East favorite, on Oct. 17, Akron’s first of three straight road games. If they can come out of a difficult October with a record of .500 or better, they should be poised to finish toward the top of the division, as the team plays three of its final four games at home against relatively easy opponents.

Our prediction: 7-5 (5-3), tie for 2nd in East

Buffalo (1-2)

2008 record: 8-6 (5-3, 1st, lost to Connecticut in International Bowl)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 1st, East

Our take: Coach Turner Gill will be out to show Auburn what they could have had. Gill has found a replacement for last year’s starting quarterback Drew Willy with Zack Maynard. The sophomore will try to have the same success as Willy with an offense that has six returning from last year’s MAC championship team. Running back James Starks will be a big part of the offense’s success if he can improve on last year’s 1,333 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The Bulls defense will need the line to develop since only Anel Montanez is returning from last year’s unit. Throwing against Buffalo will be a problem for most teams with Dominic Cook and Kendrick Hawkins on the corners and Mike Newton and Davonte Shannon at the safeties, all returning starters. The Bulls started the season with a win in El Paso against UTEP and losses at Central Florida and Pittsburgh, despite Zack Maynard’s NCAA record 400 yards passing.

Our prediction: 8-4 (6-2), 1st

Bowling Green (1-2)

2008 record: 6-6 (4-4, t-2nd)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 5th, East

Our take: The Falcons have a true test this weekend when No. 8 Boise State comes to town. Already coming within a touchdown of upsetting No. 25 Missouri, could this be the game in which the MAC’s season as a whole (let alone Bowling Green’s) will be defined?

Give the Falcons credit for playing a tough, challenging schedule this year that includes Missouri, Boise State, Buffalo and Central Michigan. If anything, they will be battle tested and ready for the lower competition in the MAC.

Our prediction: 6-6 (5-3), tie for 2nd

Miami (0-3, 0-1 MAC)

2008 record: 2-10 (1-7, 7th)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 7th, East

Our take: Let’s put it this way – they were No. 1 on’s “Bottom 10” list. They lost their first two games with a combined 90-0. Junior running back Thomas Merriweather has 46 yards rushing on 32 carries for the season. That’s 1.4 an attempt.

This year will be no different from last. If anything, they’ll beat the swine flu.

Our prediction: 1-11 (1-7), 7th

Ohio (2-1)

2008 Record: 4-8 (3-5, 6th)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 4th, East

Our take: Ohio looks to continue its strong start to the 2009 campaign against Tennessee on Sept. 26th, trying to erase from the memories of Bobcats fans the season that was 2008. The team has adapted well so far to several key positional losses, mainly on offense. Most of the offensive line and the top two tight ends for the Bobcats have graduated.

Coach Frank Solich will rely heavily on quarterback Theo Scott, as the running game has only accumulated 124 yards in three games. Scott has an excellent receiving corps, as Taylor Price and LaVon Brazill both return. With experienced linebackers Michael Brown and Chris Hall and secondary leaders Michael Mitchell and Mark Parson gone, the Bobcats’ defense is forced to look to younger players to fill the voids. The rest of the MAC’s 2008 third-ranked defense remains intact.

Our prediction: 6-6 (4-4), 4th

Temple (0-2)

2008 record: 5-7 (4-4, t-2nd)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 2nd, East

Our take: Despite losing 31-6 to Penn State, the Owls could be this year’s surprise team. The Temple defense actually held its own against the Nittany Lions. Penn State is a lot better than Temple’s fellow conference teams.

Junior quarterback Vaughn Charlton passed for 317 yards against Villanova in their first game and went for an impressive 205 yards in the loss to Penn State. Charlton will only get better with more games under his belt – and thrive in the less competitive MAC.

Our prediction: 4-8 (3-5), t-5th

MAC West

Ball State (0-3)

2008 record: 12-2 (8-1 MAC, 1st in West, lost to Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 5th, West

Our take: The Cardinals graduated their best player, quarterback Nate Davis, and lost their head coach when Brady Hoke left for San Diego State. Stan Parrish takes the reins at head coach after being the offensive coordinator for the past five seasons.

Freshman quarterback Kelly Page and senior running back MiQuale Lewis will lead an offense that returns only four starters. However, all four starters are returning to the defensive line and should become the strength of a defense that gave up 17 points a game last season. Ball State has lost its first three games of the season to North Texas, New Hampshire and Army.

Our prediction: 2-10 (2-6), t-5th

Central Michigan (2-1)

2008 record: 8-5 (6-2, t-2nd, lost to Florida Atlantic in the Motor City Bowl)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 1st, West

Our take: Quarterback Dan LeFevour has a talented group of receivers to work with in Butch Jones’ high-powered offense. The Chippewas will be able to pass the ball, but running back Bryan Schroeder will need to produce in order to keep defenses honest.

The Central Michigan defense returns 10 starters and should already be a cohesive unit. Linebacker Nick Bellore led the team with 148 tackles last season and forced two fumbles. Defensive end Frank Zombo had 15.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks last season and should be dangerous off the edge.

The Chippewas pulled one of the biggest upsets of the year so far by beating Michigan State 29-27 in East Lansing on Sept. 12.

Our prediction: 9-3 (7-1), 1st

Eastern Michigan (0-3)

2008 record: 3-9 (2-6)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 6th, West

Our take: New coach Ron English has a lot of work to do with a young Eastern Michigan team. The Eagles lost 11 starters from the 2008 team and are expected to be in a rebuilding season. With more options at tailback this season, English is hoping to take some of the pressure off senior quarterback Andy Schmitt.

A promising sign for the Eagles is most of the offensive line returns, as well as three of the top four receivers from 2008. The defense is trying to improve from a dismal showing last season, when it allowed more than 35 points per contest. With the Miami RedHawks the only team slated to finish worse than Eastern Michigan, English should not expect anything too high of his team this season.

Our prediction: 2-10 (2-6), t-5th

Northern Illinois (2-1)

2008 Record: 6-7 (5-3, 4th, lost to Louisiana Tech in Independence Bowl)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 3rd, West

Our take: Jerry Kill had a strong first year in the MAC, leading Northern Illinois to its first conference winning season since 2006.

The Huskies’ four-win improvement and Independence Bowl bid only raised expectations for the 2009 campaign. There are plenty of reasons to believe Northern Illinois will be able to get back to a bowl game again this year, but mainly because of the team’s conference schedule.

The Huskies could be this year’s surprise team in the MAC. If they can upset favored Western Michigan, the conference schedule sets them up to run the tables until a clash with Central Michigan in the last week of the regular season. The Huskies will play half its conference games against teams slated to finish toward the bottom of the MAC.

Our prediction: 9-3 (6-2), 2nd

Toledo (1-2)

2008 record: 3-9 (2-6, t-6th)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 4th, West

Our take: Winning against Colorado will get you some national respect, but losing to Ohio State 38-0 won’t get you any. The Rockets have a stellar senior quarterback in Aaron Opelt, who passed for 423 yards in a loss to Purdue. Freshman wide out Eric Page is quickly becoming Opelt’s favorite target, leading the team with 21 receptions thus far. The Rockets are going to need more than an aerial attack, however, to compete with the top teams in the West.

A nationally televised game against Central Michigan will be the Rockets’ toughest matchup of the season.

Our prediction: 6-6 (4-4), t-3rd

Western Michigan (1-2, 1-0 MAC)

2008 record: 9-4 (6-2, t-2nd, lost to Rice in Texas Bowl)

MAC preseason coaches’ poll: 2nd, West

Our take: Western Michigan returns only 10 starters from one of its most successful teams in school history. However, seven of those starters are returning to an offense, which includes a pair of seniors in running back Brandon West (1,026 yards, 8 touchdowns) and quarterback Tim Hiller (3,725 yards, 36 touchdowns).

Senior linebacker Austin Pritchard will be in charge of helping the defense mature with eight new starters. The Broncos will look to safeties junior Mario Armstrong and sophomore Doug Wiggins to take control of the secondary.

Western Michigan started its 2009 campaign with two loses to Big Ten teams, Michigan and Indiana. The Broncos went on to pummel Miami 48-26 to open up MAC play.

Our prediction: 6-6 (4-4), t-3rd

-Sports correspondents Jake Kauffman, Michael Moses and Chris Lambert contributed to this report.