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Previewing the MAC West Division
The Star Press

Previewing the MAC West Division

Ball State Cardinals:

The Cardinals won seven in a row after losing the opener winning the MAC conference title and the Arizona Bowl. Offensively, they return 10 starters including the quarterback, the two leading receivers, and two experienced running backs. On the other side of the ball, the top six tacklers are back from a year ago and if they can improve the pass rush, they have a chance to be special. They have a wealth of 5th and 6th year seniors and if they could somehow beat Penn State they could bust onto the national scene.

Players to Watch: QB, Drew Plitt, (2,164 yards and 17 TDs), WRs, Justin Hall and Yo’Heinz Tyler, LB, Brandon Martin (90 tackles), LB Jaylin Thomas (78 tackles), S, Bryce Cosby (62 tackles)

Must Wins: Western Illinois, Army, at Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), at Akron, at Northern Illinois, Central Michigan

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Wyoming, Toledo, Buffalo, at Western Michigan

Probable Losses: at Penn State

Predicted Finish: 1st Place in the MAC West Division Overall Record: 10-2

Toledo Rockets:

This is another experienced talented MAC team. There is uncertainty at quarterback that they have to address and solve but they are solid everywhere else on offense. The defense returns all 11 starters including five all-conference players. This bunch should be one of the best in the MAC and maybe the nation.

Players to Watch: RB, Bryant Koback (2,606 career rushing yards and 30 TDs), DE, Jamal Hines (two-time All-MAC), DT, Desjuan Johnson (All-MAC), LB, Dyontae Johnson (All-MAC), Safeties, Tycen Anderson and Nate Bauer, (both All-MAC players)

Must Wins: Norfolk State, at UMass, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, at Bowling Green, Akron

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Might Lose: Colorado State, at Ball State, at Ohio, at Central Michigan

Probable Losses: at Notre Dame

Predicted Finish: 2nd Place in the MAC West Division Overall Record: 9-3

Western Michigan Broncos:

The Broncos have an explosive offense with a proven quarterback, capable receivers, and a solid running back. Defensively, they lost a valuable player through the transfer portal, but there is enough left fo be formidable. This team is a sleeper and they could be dangerous and spring some big surprises in 2021. A big problem will be handling a tough schedule.

Players to Watch: QB, Kaleb Eleby, RB, La’Darius Jefferson, WR, Skyy Moore, DL, Ralph Holley, S, Bricen Garner

Must Wins: Illinois State, Kent State, Central Michigan, Akron, at Eastern Michigan

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: San Jose State, at Northern Illinois

Probable Losses: at Michigan, at Pittsburgh, at Buffalo, Ball State, at Toledo

Predicted Finish: 3rd Place in the MAC West Division Overall Record: 6-6

Central Michigan Chippewas:

Central Michigan is another team with proven offensive talent everywhere but quarterback. They have some options that have quality, but it isn’t totally clear who it will be. They have a great one-two punch at running back and their defense returns nine starters from a year ago. This is another team that might make a run if they can spring an upset somewhere along the way.

Players to Watch: RBs, Kobe Lewis and Lew Nichols, WR, Kalil Pimpleton, LB, Troy Brown (All-MAC), DE, Troy Hairston II, (Co-Defensive Player of the Year), DB, Willis Reed (All-MAC

Must Wins: Robert Morris, Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Kent State

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: FIU, at Miami (Ohio), at Western Michigan, Toledo

Probable Losses: at Missouri, at LSU, at Ohio, at Ball State

Predicted Finish: 4th Place in the MAC West Division Overall Record: 5-7

Northern Illinois Huskies:

This was a program that one 57 games between 2010 and 2014 and were a cornerstone of the league. They have fallen on hard times and this is year three for Coach Thomas Hammock. He needs to show some improvement especially after going 0-6 in 2020. There are problems at quarterback unless a transfer from Michigan State can step in and take over. The defensive line has experience and looked good in the spring. The Huskies need to show some improvement in 2021 but they have a murderous schedule that will make it hard to see it in the win column.

Players to Watch: QB, Rocky Lombardi (Michigan State transfer), RB, Harrison Waylee, WR, Tyrice Richie, DE, Raishein Thomas, LB, Lance Deveaux Jr.

Must Wins: Maine, Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Kent State, Western Michigan

Probable Losses: at Georgia Tech, Wyoming, at Michigan, at Toledo, at Central Michigan, Ball State, at Buffalo

Predicted Finish: 5th Place in the MAC West Division Overall Record: 3-9

Eastern Michigan Eagles:

They have a good quarterback to build around on offense and all five starters are back on the offensive line. They need playmakers to emerge at running back and wide receiver. On defense they were woeful at stopping the run and couldn’t put much pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Players to Watch: QB, Preston Hutchinson, DE, Turan Rush, LB, Terry Myrick, TE, Thomas Odukoya

Must Wins: Saint Francis, at Bowling Green

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at UMass, at Northern Illinois, Miami, Texas State

Probable Losses: at Wisconsin, Ball State, at Toledo, Ohio, Western Michigan, at Central Michigan

Predicted Finish: 6th Place in the MAC West Division Overall Record: 3-9

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