The Ohio Bobcats and Northern Illinois Huskies have been selected to win the East and West Divisions respectfully in the 2018 Mid-American Conference Football Media Preseason Poll. The poll was announced at the league’s annual MAC Football Media Day at Ford Field in Detroit and was determined by members of the league’s media members. Ohio was also selected to win the 2018 Marathon MAC Football Championship Game.
In the East Division, Ohio was selected first with a league-best 140 total points. Following the Bobcats, the Buffalo Bulls finished second with 112 points, while the Miami RedHawks finished third with 95 points. Defending MAC East Champion Akron Zips finished fourth with 74 points, followed by Bowling Green and Kent State.
In the West Division, Northern Illinois was selected first in the Division with 133 total points. Following the Huskies, defending West Champion Toledo finished second with 125 points, while the Western Michigan Broncos were third with 87 points. Eastern Michigan ranked fourth with 67 points, followed by Central Michigan and Ball State.
This reflects on the competitive nature of the MAC. In the last three years, six different MAC programs have competed in the Marathon MAC Football Championship Game and every football program has received an invitation to a bowl game during the last six years (2012-17).
Ohio garnered at total of 21 first-place votes for a league-best 140 total points in the East Division. The Bobcats return 49 letter-winners and 15 starters from last year’s 9-4 team that finished second in the East Division with a 5-3 Conference record, as the Bobcats went on to deliver a 41-6 victory over UAB in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl.
Ohio Head Coach Frank Solich is in his 14th year in leading the Ohio football program and is the third-winningest coach in MAC history with 97 career wins. Solich and his Bobcats are searching for Ohio’s first MAC football championship since 1968. The Bobcats offense will be paced by quarterback Nathan Rourke, who rushed for 21 touchdowns and 912 yards last season. Ohio will have offensive threats from running back A.J. Ouellette, who added 1,006 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns on his own and playmaker Papi White, who finished with 631 yards receiving and three scores last year. Defensively, safeties Javon Hagan and Kylan Nelson, along with defensive back Jalen Fox and linebacker Evan Croutch will lead the Ohio defense.
Northern Illinois racked up 15 first-place votes in the West Division to pace the Huskies to first place with 133 total points. Northern Illinois welcomes back 54 letter-winners and 17 starters from last year’s team that went 8-5 overall, finished second in the MAC West with a 6-2 Conference record and suffered a 36-14 loss to Duke in the 2017 Quick Lane Bowl.
Sixth-year head coach Rod Carey and his Huskies are looking to get back to Detroit for the Marathon MAC Football Championship Game, a location the Huskies are very familiar with as the program appeared in six straight games from 2010-2015. Carey will look to sophomore Marcus Childers to lead the offense as Childers was named MAC Freshman of the Year during 2017 after throwing for 1,674 yards and 16 touchdowns, while adding 473 yards rushing and five scores. Childers will have the comfort of five returning starters on the offensive line with right tackle Ryan Roberts, right guard Nathan Veloz, center Luke Shively, left guard Jordan Steckler and left tackle Max Scharping. Defensively, linebacker Sutton Smith led the nation last year with 29.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks on his way to consensus All-American status and will lead the Huskies defense.
The 2018 season kicks off on Thursday, August 30 and the 2018 Marathon MAC Football Championship Game is Friday, November 30 at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN2 from Ford Field.
The complete poll follows:
Team (First Place Votes) Points
MAC East Division
1. Ohio (21) 140
2. Buffalo (1) 112
3. Miami (2) 95
4. Akron 74
5. Bowling Green 58
6. Kent State 25
MAC West Division
1. Northern Illinois (15) 133
2. Toledo (7) 125
3. Western Michigan (1) 87
4. Eastern Michigan 67
5. Central Michigan (1) 58
6. Ball State 34
2018 MAC Championship Game Winner: Ohio (13); Toledo (5); Northern Illinois (4); Miami (1); Central Michigan (1).