MAC West: Overlook It at Your Peril
The Mid-American Conference's Western Division will be a decided underdog in the championship game if Bowling Green wins the East.
But this group is evenly matched, with a few teams having a shot to win the MAC title.
Defending division winner Northern Illinois will be one of the favorites after losing to Bowling Green in the championship game last season. The Huskies have a great running game with two talented backs, Cameron Stingly and Akeem Daniels.
Toledo will be returning most of their offensive line this season as part of an experienced roster and could be playing Northern Illinois for all the marbles at home in a Tue 11 Nov made-for-ESPN match-up.
Ball State must replace quarterback Keith Wenning but the Cardinals have enough players returning to be a threat in the division. David Letterman's alma mater finished right behind Northern Illinois last season before losing a heartbreaking bowl game to Arkansas State. The 2014 running game will be strong, led by Jahwan Edwards and Horacito Banks, as will the defense, especially in the secondary.
The three Michigan schools will bring up the rear again as they did last season. Central Michigan did finish 6-6 overall last year, and the Chippewas and have two capable quarterbacks in Cody Kater and Cooper Rush and a very good wide receiver in Titus Davis. Central Michigan has the talent to possibly upset the top schools, but they play both Northern Illinois and Toledo on the road. If only they could find a way to get UMass 12 times instead
Eastern and Western Michigan only had one win in the conference last season. Eastern Michigan did beat Western Michigan 35-32 in overtime but wins will be hard to come by for both of these teams this season. Eastern Michigan returns Bronson Hill at running back while Western Michigan has a good receiver in Titus's younger brother, Corey Davis. Both the Broncos and Eagles need many more players to compete in this division.
The MAC is always a competitve conference with good football and good coaching. This season will be no different, and while the real drama will be between Toledo and Northern Illinois fighting it out for the division title and a chance to win the conference championship, don't be surprised to see one of them rise up and knock off a Power Five school.
They've been known to do so with regularity.