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Toledo narrowly edges WMU in MAC poll

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Zach Terrell

Detroit – If the Mid-American Conference's media poll lives up to its billing, the Western Michigan-Toledo game at the Glass Bowl during Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 27) should be marked on the calendar.

Toledo was the preseason favorite in the MAC West by a 121-120 margin in points over WMU, with the Rockets getting nine votes to win the MAC championship game at Ford Field Dec. 4 and the Broncos receiving eight votes to win the title game.

The poll was released Wednesday morning during MAC Media Day at Ford Field.

WMU -- 1-11 in 2013 -- lost to the Rockets 20-19 in overtime in Kalamazoo last season, then won six straight games, including a 26-14 road victory over MAC East champ Bowling Green before a 31-21 regular-season loss to Northern Illinois, which went on win the West title and MAC championship.

The Broncos, who finished 8-5 (6-2 West), including an Idaho Potato Bowl loss to Air Force, return skilled players in quarterback Zach Terrell (3,443 yards passing, 26 TDs, 67.9 percent), MAC Offensive Player of the Year sophomore running back Jarvion Franklin (1,551 yards rushing, 24 TDs), and receivers Corey Davis (78 receptions, 1,408 yards, 15 TDs) and Daniel Braverman (86 receptions, 997 yards, six TDs).

Toledo (9-4, 7-1) returns a trio of skilled position players itself in junior running back Kareem Hunt (1,631 yards), and receivers Corey Jones (842 receiving yards) and Alonzo Russell (770 yards, 10 TDs).

Hunt ran for a career-high 271 yards and five TDs in a 63-44 victory over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl.

Northern Illinois (11-3, 7-1) was picked to finish third, followed by Ball State (5-7, 4-4), Central Michigan (7-6, 5-3) and Eastern Michigan (2-10, 1-7).

Dan Enos left as CMU head coach after five years and two bowl game appearances to become offensive coordinator at Arkansas. He has been replaced by former Lions special teams coach John Bonamego, a former Chippewas player in the 1980s.

Bowling Green (8-6, 5-3) was the overwhelming favorite to win the East by a 160-118 margin over Ohio (6-6, 4-4) and Akron (5-7, 3-5), with the Falcons receiving 18 first-place votes to Akron's two and Ohio's one.

Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson is healthy again, one reason the Falcons are the favorites to win the division. He threw a MAC championship game record five TDs in a 47-27 upset rout of Northern Illinois in the 2013 title game, then missed last season due to injuries. Northern Illinois defeated the Falcons in the MAC title game rematch last season, 44-17.

Running back Travis Greene (949 yards rushing) and receiver Roger Lewis (73 receptions, 1,094 yards) also return for the Falcons.

U-Mass (3-9, 3-5) was picked to finish fourth, followed by Buffalo (5-6, 3-4), Miami (2-10, 2-6) and Kent State (2-9, 1-6).

MAC PRESEASON POLL

(Media voting)

West Division

1. Toledo (11 first-place votes) – 121 points

2. Western Michigan (8) – 120

3. Northern Illinois (4) – 113

4. Ball State – 66

5. Central Michigan (1) – 56

6. Eastern Michigan – 28

East Division

1. Bowling Green (18 first-place votes) – 160 points

2. (tie) Akron (2) – 118

2. (tie) Ohio (1) – 118

4. UMass (3) – 113

5. Buffalo – 70

6. Miami – 47

7. Kent State – 46

Marathon MAC championship game winner: Toledo (9 votes), WMU (8), Northern Illinois (6), Central Michigan (1).