Zips, Huskies earn No. 1 spots

Deanna Stevens


The reigning Mid-American Conference champs (7-6, 5-3 MAC last season) have a kangaroo-sized target on their backs.

Not to mention an enormous amount of pressure to win the MAC East Division again. In the conference pre-season poll, they were chosen to finish in the top spot.

Akron coach J.D. Brookhart said he is well aware of the pressure, and that he is overly concerned about the expectations or the rise in competition.

“Every team is trying to win every football game, so I’m not overly concerned about that,” Brookhart said. “Hopefully people don’t think that they are going to show up and beat us. Yeah, they may be a little more prepared, but in the end it comes down to our preparation, and that’s all we can control.”

As the reigning champs it is easy to be confident, but it will be interesting to see how they handle an increase in competition as the season progresses.

The Zips are returning eight starters on offense and defense, including quarterback Luke Getsy. He threw for more than 3,400 yards last season after taking over for Cleveland Browns QB Charlie Frye.

The Zips are still riding high off the success of their Cinderella-esque season, and confidence is going to be the deciding factor if they can repeat. An unexpected injury or even a confidence-shaking game could be enough to drop them to the lower half of the league. Or, the Zip new-found swagger could be enough to put them on top again.

Bowling Green:

The Falcons are the anti-Akron team.

Without superstar quarterback Omar Jacobs, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, leading running backs and wide receivers, the pre-season hype is minimal. And Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon has no problem with it.

Last season, the expectations for the Falcons were immense. Although tying for first in the MAC East, with a 5-3 record, the Falcons missed the post season after losing the head-to-head tie breaker to Akron.

This season Bowling Green is picked to finish third in the MAC.

The team is returning six players on offense and five on defense. But familiar faces will be few for the Falcons. Only 25 players on its roster are upperclassmen.

The Falcons will face the Flashes at home on Sept. 23.


The Bulls will probably have another rough year ahead of them.

They have eight players returning on offense and five players returning on defense. Yet those players were part of a team that won 10 games in six years.

Last season, the Bulls (1-10, 1-9 MAC) earned their first conference road victory against Kent State. Unfortunately for them, that won’t be the case again this year when they meet in Buffalo on Nov. 4.

Obviously the Bulls have had difficulty in the MAC in the past, and this year probably will not be any different. They were chosen to finish last in the pre-season poll. And non-conference games against Wisconsin and No. 4 ranked Auburn won’t help their overall record either.


The RedHawks were hit hard by graduation.

They lost 21 seniors, eight of which were All-MAC selections. This year they have five players returning on offense, and only two players on defense. Miami coach Shane Montgomery enters his second season filled with questions.

“There are some areas that we’re really thin at. And that’s something we need to address at fall camp and as the season goes along,” Montgomery said at the MAC Media Day. “Even though this is my second year as a head coach, this is my sixth season overall, and we are going to have to play more freshman than we’ve ever played just because we lost such a big senior class.”

Even with the uncertainty, the RedHawks (7-4, 5-3 MAC last season) were picked to finish second in the MAC East pre-season poll.

Like Bowling Green, Miami’s 2005 season was full of expectations, and its winning record without a bowl appearance did not live up to the hype.

They play the Flashes in Oxford on September 16. It is the second straight year the teams will face each other in the third week of the season, last year Miami won 27-10.


The Bobcats have an opportunity to be a big surprise in the MAC this year.

After a decent beginning in 2005, Ohio (4-7, 3-5 MAC) had a chance to earn its first winning record in the last five years, but dropped the last three games.

Coach Frank Solich attributed the losses to a lack of depth, which caught up to them at the end of the season.

The Bobcats ended up in the No. 4 position in the MAC, the same position they are predicted to finish this year.

Solich said improvements to the team are evident, but passing the ball is one thing that Ohio has to do better if it wants to do well this year. They averaged 118 passing yards last season.

Right now there is a competition for the starting quarterback job, Austen Everson will compete against junior Brad Bower, sophomore Brandon Jones and redshirt freshman Josh Febus.

Whoever wins the starting spot will face the winner of Kent State’s QB showdown on Oct. 28.


Ball State:

The Cardinals will look to ride on the momentum they gained at the end of last season.

Unlike Ohio, Ball State started out the year with an 0-4 record and then had a 60-57 five overtime victory over Western Michigan. The team finished up the season 4-3 in the MAC, beating division champions Northern Illinois and Akron.

The Cardinals ended up in fifth place last season, and were chosen to end up there again in the MAC pre-season poll.

Offensively, Ball State has 10 starters returning, including the 5th-year quarterback, Joey Lynch who had nearly 2,000 yards passing last season. However, Ball State coach Brady Hoke said one area that is still up in the air is the team’s offensive line.

They will face the Flashes in the last game of the regular season at home.

Central Michigan:

The Chippewas are looking to finally prove themselves in the West Division.

After posting its first winning record since 1998 (6-5, 5-3 MAC), the Chippewas may be well on their way to succeeding. According to ESPN, Central coach Brian Kelly is not overjoyed by winning record after they stumbled at the finish line.

The team lost its final two games of the season which dropped them to third in the MAC and out of contention for a post season.

This year, Kelly has seven starters returning on both offense and defense to avoid falling into the same decline. Yet, the MAC is not so sure, as they were picked to finish No. 4 in the West this year.

Eastern Michigan:

The Eagles are trying to shake off a bad decade worth of football.

Last season, Eastern Michigan (4-7, 3-5 MAC) fell just short too many times. Four of the seven games they lost were by a touchdown or less.

This season, the team is looking forward to six players returning on offense, and eight on defense. Standout wide receiver Eric Deslauriers will be leading the Eagles’ offense.

But, a good receiver is nothing without a quarterback who can get them the ball.

“Definitely within our training camp, there has to be a focus on the quarterback and the running back,” Deslauriers said at the MAC Media Day. “Whether they get fulfilled in the first game or the last game, I’m not sure what is going to happen. But it’s definitely going to have to be a large area of focus.”

Eastern Michigan plays Kent State on Nov. 18.

Northern Illinois:

The Flashes may be “On the Hunt” but the Huskies are out for kangaroo blood.

Northern Illinois (7-5, 6-2 MAC last year) has not forgotten about the MAC Championship title that was stolen from its clutches.

They fell to the Roo with 10 seconds left in the game after a 36-yard touchdown pass tied the score at 30 and an extra point won the game for Akron.

According to, Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak hopes that game is enough to motivate his six offensive returning starters as well as seven more athletes defensively.

One of those returning starters is senior tailback Garrett Wolfe, who is the country’s top rusher, averaging 175 yards per game. Last year Wolfe had 242 carries for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Northern Illinois plays two nationally-ranked teams this season. It starts out the season taking on the No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. And in October, will face the No.16 Iowa Hawkeyes.


The Rockets are trying to replace their quarterback without missing a beat.

Bruce Gradkowski earned MVP honors in the GMAC bowl after leading Toledo to a 45-13 victory against UTEP. Gradkowski was not the only reason Toledo earned a 9-3, 6-2 MAC record last year, but he did have a big impact on the team.

The three-year starter is now trying to succeed as a part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Toledo was chosen to finish No. 2 in the MAC pre-season poll.

The Rockets play at Kent State homecoming weekend, Oct. 14.

Western Michigan:

The Broncos will try to live up to a record-breaking season.

Kent State will be taking notes from Western Michigan this season, according to, because the Broncos completed the largest one-season turnaround in conference history. They followed up a 1-10 season in 2004 with a third place (7-4, 5-3 MAC) year in 2005.

The league predicted they would finish No. 4 this season.

Western Michigan is returning seven starters on offense, and nine starters on defense.

Contact football reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].