Toledo looking for better MAC ending
Balance sets stage for weekly tests heading to bowl season
DETROIT -- The Toledo Rockets hope to make an earlier visit to Ford Field than they did last year.
A better ending would be nice too.
Toledo finished second in the Mid-American Conference's West Division in 2010, missing out on a trip to Detroit for the league's championship game. The Rockets did end up in the Motor City in late December, however, after they were invited to play Florida International in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. That game featured one of the most exciting endings of the postseason when FIU converted a desperate hook-and-ladder on 4th-and-17 and later kicked a last-second field goal to stun the Rockets 34-32.
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It was a disappointing finish for Toledo, which was playing its first bowl since 2005, but the Rockets enter this season with high hopes. Toledo edged out Northern Illinois as the favorite in the West in the MAC's preseason media poll.
"They understand the expectations from the coaching staff," Toledo coach Tim Beckman said. "They know what to expect, they know how we're going to practice, they know how to act, they're going to sprint on and off the field after every play. That was all new to them when we got here two and a half years ago."
Miami of Ohio was picked as the favorite in the East by just one point ahead of Ohio.
Northern Illinois won the West last year with an 8-0 conference mark and was ranked No. 24 in the country when it lost 26-21 to Miami of Ohio in the MAC title game.
Key players: OL Joe Flading; OL A.J. Strum; TE Jordan Thompson. Returning starters: 8 offense, 4 defense.
Notes: The Bobcats have gone to a bowl each of the last two seasons. They lost to Troy in the New Orleans Bowl in 2010. ... Ohio had the league's best red zone offense last season, going 38 of 43 with 33 touchdowns.
Key players: DL Adrian Robinson; RB Bernard Pierce; TE Evan Rodriquez. Returning starters: 8 offense, 5 defense.
Notes: Temple lost coach Al Golden, who went to take over the Miami Hurricanes in December. Former Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio replaces Golden. ... Temple was shut out of the bowl picture in 2010 despite winning eight games, including a victory against Fiesta Bowl-bound Connecticut.
Miami (Ohio) RedHawks
Key players: WR Nick Harwell; DL Austin Brown; QBs Zac Dysert and Austin Boucher. Returning starters: 8 offense, 9 defense.
Notes: The RedHawks are one of five MAC teams with a new coach. Former Michigan State assistant Don Treadwell replaces Michael Haywood. ... Miami finished a remarkable turnaround with a win against Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. The RedHawks went 1-11 in 2009 before going 10-4 last season.
Bowling Green Falcons
Key players: WR Kamar Jorden; LB Dwayne Woods; OL Ben Bojicic. Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense.
Notes: Matt Schilz threw for eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions last year as a freshman, and Bowling Green struggled to a 2-10 season. Schilz did finish third in the league at 222 yards passing per game. ... Bowling Green was last in the MAC in rushing.
Kent State Golden Flashes
Key players: DL Roosevelt Nix; OL Chris Anzevino; WR Tyshon Goode. Returning starters: 9 offense, 5 defense.
Notes: Darrell Hazell takes over as Kent State's coach after spending the last six seasons as an assistant at Ohio State. He replaces Doug Martin, who resigned with one game remaining in a 5-7 season. ... Nix had 10 sacks last season as a freshman.
Key players: QBs Alex Zordich, Jerry Davis and Chazz Anderson; WR Terrell Jackson. Returning starters: 9 offense, 3 defense.
Notes: Anderson transferred from Cincinnati to play his final year at Buffalo. He's reunited with coach Jeff Quinn, who coached him from 2007-09, when he served as the Bearcats' offensive coordinator. ... Jackson led the MAC in punt return average at 15.5 yards.
Key players: LB Bryan Wagner; QB Patrick Nicely. Returning starters: 5 offense, 8 defense.
Notes: Nicely threw 10 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last year as Akron struggled to a 1-11 mark. ... The Zips avoided a winless season with a victory against Buffalo in the final game.
Northern Illinois Huskies
Key players: QB Chandler Harnish; OL Trevor Olson; DE Sean Progar. Returning starters: 9 offense, 5 defense.
Notes: Former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren is the new coach at Northern Illinois after Jerry Kill departed for Minnesota. ... Northern Illinois has gone to three consecutive bowls and beat Fresno State 40-17 in the Humanitarian Bowl in December.
Key players: WR Eric Page; RB Adonis Thomas; LB Dan Molls. Returning starters: 9 offense, 8 defense.
Notes: Page caught 99 passes for 1,105 yards last season and also returned three kickoffs for touchdowns. ... Thomas has been named to the Doak Walker Award watch list after rushing for 1,098 yards last year.
Western Michigan Broncos
Key players: WR Jordan White; QB Alex Carder; C Kevin Galeher. Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense.
Notes: Carder threw for 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as a sophomore last season. He was also the league leader in total offense. ... White caught 94 passes for 1,378 yards and 10 TDs.
Central Michigan Chippewas
Key players: WR Cody Wilson; DB Jahleel Addae. Returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense.
Notes: Ryan Radcliff led the MAC with 280 yards passing per game, but he threw 17 interceptions. ... Central Michigan's non-conference schedule includes trips to Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina State.
Ball State Cardinals
Key players: DB Sean Baker; DB Jason Pinkston. Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense.
Pete Lembo takes over as coach after Stan Parrish was fired following a 4-8 season. Lembo spent the last 10 seasons at Elon and Lehigh, turning both Football Championship Subdivision schools into playoff contenders. ... Ball State ranked last in the MAC in passing last season.
Eastern Michigan Eagles
Key players: QB Alex Gillett; DB Marcell Rose. Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense.
Notes: Eastern Michigan went 2-10 last season after a winless 2009. ... The Eagles allowed 44 points per game, by far the most in the MAC, although that stat was skewed a bit by a 71-3 loss to Northern Illinois in EMU's finale.