Although the conference has become famous for sterling quarterback play, several schools have question marks at the position heading into the 2014 season. Northern Illinois must replace Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch, and Ball State must do the same with star Keith Wenning. Miami (Ohio), Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green are all breaking in new coaches, but the Falcons will benefit from returning one of the conference’s best quarterbacks, Matt Johnson. Both the Redhawks and Eagles will get help under center from transfers: Andrew Hendrix comes to Oxford from Notre Dame, while Robert Bolden arrives in Ypsilanti from LSU. Toledo and Central Michigan are expected to challenge NIU and Ball State for the West crown, and the Rockets have several quarterbacks with experience. Ohio, expected to compete with Bowling Green in the East, will have to do it without Tyler Tettleton, their unquestioned leader the last few seasons.
QB Matt Johnson, Bowling Green – Johnson passed for 3,467 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, and those numbers surprisingly could improve. Head coach Dino Babers and his staff turned Jimmy Garoppolo into a high-end NFL prospect, and their offense should be perfect for Johnson.
LB Junior Sylvestre, Toledo – A fast playmaker, Sylvestre made 118 tackles and had five sacks a year ago. He also showed his athleticism, scoring two defensive touchdowns.
QB Michael Julian, Toledo – This may be going out on a limb, but Julian has a chance to win the job, and the redshirt freshman has the size (6-5) and athleticism to be a future star.
COACH ON THE HOT SEAT
P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan – Fleck is not in any danger as far as his job, but with all the hype surrounding his recruiting class and program, another one-win season won’t cut it.
Akron – The Zips played Michigan and NIU tough and beat Toledo last year. They return quite a few key players, and with Ohio and BG breaking in new QBs, have an opportunity to surprise in the East.
MUST-SEE CONFERENCE GAME
Toledo at Northern Illinois, Nov. 11 – The West Division title easily could be on the line when the Rockets visit DeKalb.
MUST-SEE NON-CONFERENCE GAME
Northern Illinois at Northwestern, Sept. 6 – NIU has shocked Big Ten teams before, and this early season test will allow us to see how much they miss Jordan Lynch.
DT Nick Matich, Western Michigan – The Broncos brought in the MAC’s top class and need immediate help. Matich, a high-motor bull in the middle, can provide that.
Central Michigan – The passion of the Chippewa fans in Mount Pleasant is on display regularly during home games.
Western Michigan shocks someone... The Broncos will upset someone along the way this year. P.J. Fleck’s energy and one more year of experience for QB Zach Terrell should make for a much-improved team.
1. QB Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
2. WR Titus Davis, Central Michigan
3. RB Travis Greene, Bowling Green
4. RB Jahwan Edwards, Ball State
5. LB Junior Sylvestre, Toledo
1. Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
2. Joe Licata, Buffalo
3. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan
4. Kyle Pohl, Akron
5. Logan Woodside, Toledo
TOP SKILL-POSITION PLAYERS
1. WR Titus Davis, Central Michigan
2. RB Travis Greene, Bowling Green
3. RB Jahwan Edwards, Ball State
4. WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan
5. WR Tommylee Lewis, Northern Illinois
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYERS
1. LB Junior Sylvestre, Toledo
2. DE Tarell Basham, Ohio
3. LB Matt Dellinger, Kent State
4. LB Justin Cherrocci, Central Michigan
5. LB Chase Murdock, Toledo
BIGGEST SHOES TO FILL
1. QB Matt McIntosh, Northern Illinois
(for Jordan Lynch)
2. QB Ozzie Mann, Ball State
(for Keith Wenning)
3. QB Derrius Vick, Ohio
(for Tyler Tettleton)
4. S Marlon Moore, NIU
(for Jimmie Ward)
5. OLB Jarrett Franklin, Buffalo
(for Khalil Mack)
1. QB Michael Julian, Toledo
2. RB Saylor Lavalli, Central Michigan
3. DE Sevon Pittman, Akron
4. QB Derrius Vick, Ohio
5. QB Matt McIntosh, Northern Illinois
BEST HEAD COACH
1. Pete Lembo, Ball State
2. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
3. Matt Campbell, Toledo
4. Frank Solich, Ohio
5. Dino Babers, Bowling Green
TOP CONFERENCE GAMES
1. Toledo at Northern Illinois
2. Northern Illinois at Ball State
3. Bowling Green at Ohio
4. Ball State at Toledo
5. Bowling Green at Toledo
TOP NON-CONFERENCE GAMES
1. Northern Illinois at Northwestern
2. Indiana at Bowling Green
3. Toledo at Cincinnati
4. Ball State at Iowa
5. Central Michigan at Purdue
2014 RECRUITING CLASS RANKINGS
1. Western Michigan
3. Ball State
5. Miami (Ohio)
All of Scout's 2014 college football preview, with conference previews, All-American Team, Preseason…