The Miami RedHawks and the Toledo Rockets have been selected to win the East and West divisions respectfully in the 2011 Mid-American Conference Football Preseason Poll. The poll was announced at the league's annual Football Media Day at Ford Field in Detroit and was determined by members of the league's media contingent. The Rockets also were selected to win the 2011 Marathon MAC Football Championship.
Both divisions were selected by the narrowest of margins, as the East Division witnessed Miami selected with the top spot with 97 total points, followed by Ohio with 96 points. In the West Division, Toledo garnered 83 points, while Northern Illinois posted 81 points. This obviously reflects the competitive nature of the MAC as in the last three years, the conference has witnessed six different programs compete in the MAC Football Championship Game and ten of 13 football programs have appeared in a bowl game in that span.
Miami garnered four first-place votes en route to the top of the poll in the East Division. The RedHawks return 49 letter winners and 17 starters from last year's 10-4 team that won the 2010 Marathon MAC Football Championship and went on to defeat Middle Tennessee State, 31-17, in the Go.Daddy.com Bowl. Miami capped a dramatic turnaround and finished the season 10-4, 7-1 in conference play, and became the first program in college football FBS history to go from double digit losses (1-11 in 2009) to double digit wins (10-4 in 2010) in consecutive years and become the most improved program in the country.
The RedHawks were followed by Ohio, who received eight first place votes in the East Division preseason predictions. Temple was picked third followed by Kent State, Bowling Green, Buffalo and Akron.
Toledo racked up eight first-place votes in the MAC West Division. The Rockets also welcome back 49 letter winners and 17 starters from last year's team that went 8-5, 7-1 in conference play and made a bowl appearance in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Third-year Head Coach Tim Beckman returns kick returner and wide receiver Eric Page, who was named to four All-America teams in 2010—first-team All-America as a kickoff returner by Sporting News, Walter Camp and Phil Steele Publications, and second-team by SportsIllustrated.com.
Northern Illinois was picked second in the West Division and earned five first place votes. Western Michigan was selected third and also garnered one first place vote, while Central Michigan placed fourth, also with one first place vote. Ball State ranked fifth followed by Eastern Michigan.
The 2011 season kicks off on Thursday, September 1 with four MAC programs playing non-conference opponents. The first MAC game of the year takes place September 10 when Temple travels to Akron. The 2011 Marathon MAC Football Championship Game is Friday, December 2 at 7:00 pm from Ford Field in Detroit.
The complete poll follows:
Team (First Place Votes) Points
MAC East Division
1. Miami (4) 97
2. Ohio (8) 96
3. Temple (4) 88
4. Kent State 57
5. Bowling Green 48
6. Buffalo 37
7. Akron 25
MAC West Division
1. Toledo (8) 83
2. Northern Illinois (5) 81
3. Western Michigan (2) 76
4. Central Michigan (1) 55
5. Ball State 27
6. Eastern Michigan 24
2011 Marathon MAC Championship Game Winner:
Toledo 5, Northern Illinois 3, Miami 3, Ohio 1, Western Michigan 1 (several voters did not select a winner for the MAC Championship)