Detroit, Mich. -- Coming off a season during which it went 10-1, the Toledo Rockets were tabbed today as the preseason favorite to win this year's Mid-American Conference championship in a poll by members of the MAC News Media Association. The poll was conducted at the annual MAC Football Media Days.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Tom Amstutz, the Rockets were selected by 36 of the 51 voters to win the West Division and by 25 voters to capture the MAC Championship game. UT holds home field advantage in contests slated for its top two anticipated challengers - Western Michigan and Northern Illinois. In addition, the winner of the West Division will host the league's championship game on Nov. 30.
UT returns first-team all-MAC quarterback Tavares Bolden and two-time first-team all-MAC running back Chester Taylor, also the league's rushing leader last year. Toledo takes a seven-game winning streak into the 2001 season, which is tied for the fourth longest current streak in the nation.
Marshall, four-time defending MAC champion and winner of the last three Motor City Bowls, returns two-time all-MAC linebacker Max Yates and the league's top rated passer from last year in Byron Leftwich. The East title will likely come down to the last two weeks of the season as the Thundering Herd faces expected challengers Miami (away) and Ohio (home) to close out the 2001 campaign. Marshall received 41 first-place votes to win the East and 12 prognosticators named the Herd as the favorite to win the league's title game.
In the West, two-time defending champion Western Michigan is listed as Toledo's biggest threat. The Broncos received 14 first-place votes in the West race and 13 notices to win the title game. Northern Illinois was tabbed to finish third, Ball State fourth, Central Michigan fifth and Eastern Michigan sixth. BSU earned the nod on one ballot as the West Division champion.
The East has Ohio edging Miami and Akron for the second-third-fourth positions, respectively. The Bobcats grabbed seven first-place votes and one ballot had them as the league champion. Miami was named on one ballot and Akron on two as the top East team. Bowling Green was tabbed for fifth place, Kent State sixth and Buffalo seventh in the East Division.
Complete Voting Breakdown :
Team (first place votes) Points Team (first place votes) Points
1. Marshall (41) 344
2. Ohio (7) 276
3. Miami (1) 258
4. Akron (2) 224
5. Bowling Green 151
6. Kent State 107
7. Buffalo 68
1. Toledo (36) 287
2. Western Michigan (14) 254
3. Northern Illinois 198
4. Ball State (1) 155
5. Central Michigan 101
6. Eastern Michigan 73
MAC Championship Game Winner: Toledo (25), Western Michigan (13), Marshall (12), Ohio (1). Points awarded on the basis of 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 for the East Division; and 6-5-4-3-2-1 for the West Division.