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Athlon's 2011 MAC Predictions


Change is a constant in the world of MAC football. Consider the following: Six different schools have won the conference title over the last nine seasons, and 11 of the 13 head coaches have been at their respective schools for less than three years. Last year’s league champion, Miami, became the first Division I program ever to go from double-digit losses (1–11 in 2009) to double-digit wins (10–4 in 2010) in one season.

Miami is under new leadership, with former Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell having replaced Mike Haywood, but the RedHawks should remain among the elite in the MAC East. Treadwell inherits 16 returning starters, but this group will now have to deal with being the hunted after sneaking up on the rest of the league in 2010.

Ohio will continue to be a factor as long as Frank Solich is leading the Bobcats. OU will need to replace go-to wideout Terrence McCrae, the school’s career leader in touchdown catches. New Temple coach Steve Addazio hopes to finish the job that Al Golden started and win a MAC title. Temple will go as far as running back Bernard Pierce can take it. When healthy, Pierce is one of the best offensive weapons in the MAC.

Former Ohio State assistant Darrell Hazell takes over a Kent State program that just can’t seem to get over the hump. The Golden Flashes have had only two winning seasons since 1977. Bowling Green is looking to bounce back from a 10-loss season — the worst in school history. Quarterback Matt Schilz is the player to watch for Dave Clawson’s club. Buffalo is a team in transition searching for a new identity under second-year coach Jeff Quinn. With few offensive playmakers, the Bulls will likely endure another long season. Akron will be better in Rob Ianello’s second season, but the Zips are a few recruiting classes away from becoming a factor.

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Toledo looks to be the team to beat in the West — and maybe the entire league. The Rockets, led by All-America candidate Eric Page at wide receiver, return 16 starters from an eight-win team. Northern Illinois will be without highly successful coach Jerry Kill (now at Minnesota), but the Huskies should be in the hunt with Dave Doeren (former Wisconsin defensive coordinator) calling the shots. The defending MAC West champs, NIU is looking for its first overall league title since 1982.

Western Michigan and Central Michigan, which lost five games by a combined 19 points in 2010, are each capable of moving up and competing for a division title. Ball State looks to improve under new coach Pete Lembo. Keep in mind that the Cardinals went 12–2 just three seasons ago. Ron English is making noticeable improvements at Eastern Michigan, but the Eagles could be looking at another last-place finish.

Athlon's 2011 MAC Previews

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