Ball State football picked to repeat as MAC champs

College Sports

DETROIT – Last season, the Ball State football team was fueled by its role as underdog, banding together to prove the pundits wrong by winning the Mid-American Conference Championship Game and earning the first bowl victory in program history.
 
In 2021, the Cardinals will enter the season with the target squarely on its back, as the team was selected the preseason favorite to run it back and win both the MAC West Division and the Rocket Mortgage MAC Football Championship Game in the league’s annual preseason media poll.
 
“While it’s an honor to be selected the preseason favorite to win the MAC West Division and MAC Championship Game, we know it’s going to take our best effort every time we step on the field to be in a position to defend our titles,” head coach Mike Neu said. “The MAC is a highly competitive conference, and it’s going to take every member of our program performing at an elite level for us to achieve our goal of making it back to Ford Field in December.”
 
The poll was announced Tuesday (July 20) at the league’s annual MAC Football Media Day at Ford Field in Detroit and was determined by 22 members of the league’s media contingent.
 
Ball State received 11 first-place votes and 114 total points to retain its crown as West Division champions, while also garnering seven of the 22 votes to win a second consecutive MAC Championship Game. Toledo was second in both the division poll (104 points/7 first-place votes) and championship game voting (7 votes). Rounding out the MAC West were Western Michigan (103/4), Central Michigan (68), Eastern Michigan (44) and Northern Illinois (29).
 
Kent State is the preseason favorite in the East Division with 112 points and 11 first-place votes. Ohio (96/2), Miami (94/5), Buffalo (93/4), Akron (39) and Bowling Green (28) round out the MAC East. Other teams receiving votes to win the MAC title game were Kent State (4), WMU (3), Buffalo (2) and Miami (1).
 
Ball State is coming off one of the most memorable seasons in program history, finishing 2020 with a 7-1 (5-1 MAC) record. BSU won its last seven games to claim the MAC West Division title, a MAC Championship Game victory, and a win over No. 19 San Jose State in the Arizona Bowl.
 
Led by sixth-year head coach Mike Neu, the Cardinals return 20 starters (10 offensive, 10 defensive) and three key specialists from the team which finished the year ranked at No. 23 in both the AP Top 25 and the Amway Coaches Poll. Among Ball State’s returning players are 16 “super seniors” who will take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted to student-athletes by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
In addition, BSU welcomes back 10 of 12 All-MAC honorees from a year ago, highlighted by First-Team All-MAC selection and Co-Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Martin (ILB). Also looking to help Ball Sate run it back are first team members Justin Hall (WR), Anthony Ekpe (OLB), and Bryce Cosby (S), second team selections Drew Plitt (QB), Curtis Blackwell (OL), Christian Albright (OLB), and Nathan Snyder (P), and third team honorees Yo’Heinz Tyler (WR), Jaylin Thomas (ILB).
 
The 2021 Ball State football season is set to begin Thursday, Sept. 2, with a 7 p.m. kickoff versus Western Illinois at Scheumann Stadium. Season ticketssix-ticket flex plans, and single-game tickets are available now. Season ticket and flex plan holders enjoy the best available prices on Cardinals tickets along with additional benefits, including primary access to away games and postseason events. Fans can also purchase tickets via phone at 888.BSU.TICKET.
 
2021 MAC Football Preseason Media Poll 
22 member media panel (First place votes in parentheses)
 
East Division
1. Kent State (11) – 112 points
2. Ohio (2) – 96 points
3. Miami (5) – 94 points
4. Buffalo (4) – 93 points
5. Akron – 39 points
6. Bowling Green – 28 points
 
West Division
1. Ball State (11) – 114 points
2. Toledo (7) – 104 points
3. Western Michigan (4) – 103 points
4. Central Michigan – 68 points
5. Eastern Michigan – 44 points
6. Northern Illinois – 29 points
 
Rocket Mortgage MAC Football Championship Game Winner: Ball State (7), Toledo (5), Kent State (4), Western Michigan (3), Buffalo (2), Miami (1)

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