After 58 years as a conference, and eight seasons as a two division conference, the Mid-American Conference is one of the perennial conferences in football. In 2004, they sent five teams to various bowls and hope to repeat that record this year.
2005 Predicted Order of Finish
1. BOWLING GREEN
With Marshall and Central Florida leaving, the falcons shift into the Eastern Division. Even though they are facing different opponents, the Falcons should win their division. Quarterback Omar Jacobs will lead them to the Eastern Division title.
2. MIAMI (OHIO)
With outstanding talent on both sides of the ball, the Redhawks should be favorites to win this division. One of the best passing combos of quarterback Josh Betts and wide receiver Ryne Robinson should prove a challenge for any defense. Among the nation’s best defensive people are defensive end Marcus and linebackers John Busing and Terna Nande.
This is a case of “good news bad news. " The good news for the Zips is that all four starters from 2004 will be returning to the secondary. The bad news is that losing their quarterback (Charlie Frye) and four offensive linemen will reduce their ranking in the standings.
4. KENT STATE
Finishing with four straight wins to finish 5-6, the falcons demonstrated they should be able to continue their winning ways. Sophomore quarterback Doug Martin should be able to guide the Golden Flashers to their first winning season since 2001. Kent will have to find some running support, since running back Josh Cribbs, the conference’s career rushing leader, graduated last year.
The Bobcats have a rough non-conference schedule with Northwestern, Pittsburg and Virginia Tech, but with eight defensive starters may be able to salvage a decent season out of 2005 schedule. The defense will be led by linebacker Matt Muncy.
The bulls are uncertain under center, but will return 16 starters from a team that had two wins in 2004. It appears that the quarterback will be selected from one of three candidates in Dataway Hemingway, Chris Moore, or Tony Paoli. An improved defensive unit featuring Phil Jacques and Aron Sanders in the line will begin the season.
The Rockets will be competing for a bowl berth on the abilities and accuracy of quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. He is the first quarterback in Division 1-A history to finish back-to-back seasons with a completion percentage above 70 percent. With his pinpoint accuracy and excellent leadership, he will be looking for his favorite big receiver, tight end Andrew Clarke, to continue his record setting performances.
2. NORTHERN ILLINOIS
The Huskies’ fantastic tandem of running backs A. J. Harris and Garrett Wolfe will be the main stays of the offensive unit. The quarterback position is open, and it appears that Phil Horvath will secure the job. After graduation last year, the defense is no more.
3. EASTERN MICHIGAN
The Eagles are looking for quarterback Matt Bohnet to show them how to overcome last season’s 4-4 record. Last season, Matt produced 293.7 ypg of total offense. Wide receiver Eric Deslauries (1,257 yards and 13 touchdowns) will be his go to target. There is no defense experience and this will make it harder to overcome the 2004 record.
4. CENTRAL MICHIGAN
With the status of running back Jerry Seymore in question, Central Michigan does not have a running attack. Seymore has been suspended after being charged and jailed for lying to a grand jury. Quarterback Kent Smith will take on the task of carrying the offense. In the defensive secondary, cornerback Marlin Maxwell will continue to be the steadying force for this team.
5. WESTERN MICHIGAN
The Broncos will have some talent on both sides of the ball. The offensive unit’s talent is with returning wide receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Tony Scheffler. The defense will play 4-3 and have linebackers Darrell Copeland and Paul Titfof to handle the main chores.
6. BALL STATE
The Cardinals defense allowed 36.8 ppg and 458.0 ypg in 2004 and has nine starters retruning from that performance. With that kind of defense and no offensive start, it is hard to place them any where else than the cellar of the division
Garth Belkins is the senior sports writer for 365SportsNews.com