Athlon Sports magazines (one for every region in the US, seven in all, plus national issue) was out right at Memorial Day. There are issues on the Southeast Conference and the East available at The People's News, on Fourth Avenue in Huntington, but the Big Ten issue included the Mid-American Conference selections. Marshall is picked to win the East Division (Miami, UCF, Akron, Kent State, Ohio & Buffalo follow) while Toledo is the pick in the West (Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Ball State and Eastern Michigan follow). The Herd is recognized as having the best Defensive Line unit, and defensive players Jamus Martin (DE), Jonathan Goddard (DE) and Willie Smith (CB) are the only three MU selections on the All-MAC pre-season team. Toledo is ranked 36th nationally while Marshall is 48th. Although they do not pick a winner in the MAC Championship Game, they have MU 9-2 and Toledo 10-1.
As far as recruiting, Toledo is the at the number one in the MAC, the Herd second, then BGSU, Miami, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. Other Athlon picks are Akron-QB; Bowling Green-RB; WR/TE and OL-Toledo; LB-UCF; and DB-Miami. Toledo has four first team All-MAC selection (3-off), while Central Michigan and Western Michigan each have three each to tie Herd for second-most. National rankings include (top five, MU opponents and local teams: sure wins-sure losses-swing games): #1-USC (12-0); #2-Oklahoma (10-0-1); #3-Georgia (9-0-2); #4-Miami, FL (10-0-1); #5-WVU (10-0-1); #10-Ohio State (9-0-2); #71-Bowling Green (7-3-1); #73-Kentucky (1-7-3); #75 Miami, OH (7-3-1); #90 UCF (5-6); #97 WMU (2-7-2); #98 Akron (3-6-2); #101 Troy (3-4-4); ##107 Kent State (1-5-5); #114-Ohio (1-8-2); and #115 Buffalo (0-7-4).
The rest of the MAC: Northern Illinois #64, Central Michigan #105, Ball State #108 and Eastern Michigan #112. TCU (#26, 9-0-2) is tops in this year's Conference USA while Memphis (#34, 8-0-3) is tops in the "new" C-USA of 2005, with Southern Miss #40, UAB #53, Tulsa #57, Rice #72, Houston #76, UTEP #95, East Carolina #100, Tulane #103 and SMU #110. The MAC is rated as the 9th best league, ahead of only the WAC and Sun Belt, while Conference USA is 6th, ahead of the #7 Big East and #8 Mountain West. In unit rankings, Marshall MAC ratings are: QB-3; RB-2; WR/TE-2; OL-3; DL-1; LB-9 (nine???); and DB-3, but overall MU averages 3.3 to 4.3 for BGSU and 5.1 for UT. Nick Kaczur, OT at Toledo, is second team All-American, as is WR Chris Henry of WVU. Toledo TE Andrew Clarke is 3rd team All-American.
The other magazines have followed over the last week. Football Action is a newsprint-type of magazine and likes the Herd to win the East Division, but there are no Herd players honored, no pre-season team and no real good info. Lindy's also was out this week and the Tri-State gets to choose from either the Southeast Conference or Atlantic Coast issues and the ACC includes the Herd preview (along with East Carolina and West Virginia). Top 117 includes: #1-USC; #2-OU; #3-UGA; #4-Florida State; #5-Michigan; #9-Ohio State; #15-WVU; #20-Utah; #25-TCU; #27-USM; #29-Louisville; #32-Virginia Tech; #34-Marshall; #38-Memphis; #42-Toledo; #56-UAB; #60-Houston; #66-Tulsa; #69-NIU; #72-UK; #76-BGSU; #78-Miami, OH; #81-Cincinnati; #88-Akron; #90-Tulane; #95-WMU; #96-UCF; #97-Troy; #100-ECU; #102-Rice; #103-Ball State; #105-UTEP; #106-CMU; #108-Buffalo; #110-Kent State; #112-SMU; #113-Ohio; #116-EMU.
Player rankings, for local and conference: QB/Charlie Frye, Akron-#10; Rasheed Marshall, WVU-#17; Kevin Kolb (So.), Houston-#18; Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo-#19. RB/DeAngelo Williams (Jr.), Memphis-#7; Kay-Jay Harris, WVU-#28. WR-Chris Henry, WVU-#6; Josh Davis, MU-#10; Lance Moore, Toledo-#17. TE/Garrett Mills (Jr.), Tulsa-#4; Andrew Clarke, Toledo-#5. C/Scott Mruzkowski, BGSU-#8. OG/Jeff Berk, WVU-#10. OT/Nick Kaczur, Toledo-#7. DE/Vincent Burns, UK-#10. DT/none. ILB/Chris Moore (Jr.), ECU-#18; Anthony Schlegel, OSU-#20. OLB/A.J. Hawk, OSU-#2; Brian Atkinson, NIU-#12; Terna Nande, Miami, OH-#14. CB/Adam Jones, WVU-#9; Dustin Fox, OSU-#13. SS/Thomas Davis, UGA-#3; Muhammad Abdullah, UK-#18. K/Mike Nugent, OSU-#2. P/Matt Prater, UCF-#3, Adam Anderson, WMU-#7. AP/DeAngelo Williams (Jr.), Memphis-#2. UGA has the #3 backfield, receivers and defensive line in the nation, while Ohio State is #2 at linebacker. Louisville's off. backfield is #7.
Lindy's gives three stars to the hiring of Mike Price at UTEP and George O'Leary at UCF, but only one star to the MAC's Akron (J.D. Brookhart), Central Michigan (Brian Kelly), Eastern Michigan (Jeff Genyk) and Kent State (Doug Martin). They like WVU to win the Big East and to "run the table" if they beat Maryland and Va. Tech. Lindy's thinks ECU will possibly make a "dramatic turnaround" this season after going 1-11 in 2003. Meanwhile, "The Herd should overpower the rest of the division" and "will be primed for a last run at the conference crown." Potential problems are familiar to Herd fans: turnovers, kicking game and protecting Stan Hill.
Next up is "America's Sports Bible for Previews and Predictions," the venerable Street and Smith's guide. They pick Lance Moore from Toledo to be a third team pre-season All-American at receiver, while Herd opponents UGA (David Pollack, DL, 1st; Max Jean-Gilles, OL, 3rd) and Ohio State (A.J. Hawk, LB, 1st; Dustin Fox, DB, 2nd; Mike Nugent, K, 3rd) dot the national selections. They list over 450 players as honorable mention All-Americans, with Jamus Martin of Marshall making the list on the defensive line. S&S only pick a Top 25, with #1-Southern Cal; #2-Georgia; #3-Oklahoma; #4-LSU; #5-Florida State; #12-Ohio State; #15-WVU; #24-Memphis; and tied at #25, Minnesota and Toledo.
S&S picks Ohio State third in the Big Ten, behind Michigan and Iowa. They pick Memphis to win C-USA, followed by TCU, UL and USM. UGA is the pick in the SEC East, while LSU is #1 in the SEC West. In the WAC, Boise State is the pick. Tulsa is 4th, Rice 5th, UTEP 8th and SMU last at 10th. In the MAC East, it is Marshall, followed by Miami, UCF, Akron, Buffalo, Ohio and Kent State; in the West, it is Toledo, NIU, BGSU, WMU, BSU, CMU and EMU. None of Marshall's players or coaches are rated among the "best" in the league but the Herd is number one in recruiting, followed by the Broncos, Falcons, Knights and RedHawks. Marshall's Toby Bullock (OL) and Jamus Martin (DL) are the Herd's only first team pre-season All-MAC selections. Among the games to watch is the Miami-Marshall game, saying "A national TV audience will learn these two schools just don't like one another." This season for the Herd, coming off a "down year" will be "a doozy." Troy is #3 in the Sun Belt.
As the only mag to cover Division I-AA, II and III, S&S see Furman winning the Southern, followed by Wofford, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Chattanooga, Western Carolina, Elon and The Citadel. The SC has only one pre-season All-American (Wofford's OL Bobby Gibbs) and Furman is #4 in the nation after #1 Delaware, #2 Maine and #3 Northern Arizona. Other familiar opponents for Herd fans include Montana at #5, Northern Iowa #8, Wofford #9, UMass #12, WKU #14, Western Illinois #16, Appy St. #17, Villanova #18 and Ga. Southern #19. Jacksonville State is expected to win the OVC, followed by EKU and Murray State, while in the Pioneer (I-AA non-scholarship) Dayton is #1 in the North (back-to-back PFL championships) while nearby Morehead State is #1 in the South Division, looking for a "three-peat" in the South. Those two meet September 11. No WVIAC school is ranked in the D-II Top 25, although Fairmont State University and Glenville State College are listed among the "Best Of The Rest." WR Antonio Carter of Glenville is a pre-season D-II All-American.
S&S spend a bit of time on recruiting as well. Senior to watch include Nate Sowers, QB, Martinsburg, WV; Rob Schoenhof, QB, Cincinnati, OH (St. Xavier); Chris Todd, QB, Elizabethtown, KY; Spencer Farley, RB, Morgantown, WV; Mister Simpson, RB, Cincinati, OH (Colerain); Kelvin Turner, RB, Danville, KY; Alex Daniels, UTL, Columbus, OH; John Saunders, UTL, Ona, WV (Cabell Midland) ; Ryan Dawson, WR, Parkersburg (South), WV; Derek Hardman, TE, Spencer, WV (Roane Co.); Taylor Burch, OL, Bowling Green, KY; James McKinney, DL, Louisville, KY (Central); Zac Cooper, LB, Weirton, WV (Weir); Brandon Logan, LB, Lexington, KY (Lex. Catholic); Andre Revels, LB, Cincinnati, OH (Colerain); Reed Williams, LB, Moorefield, WV; Dominic Jones, DB, Coumbus, OH (Brookhaven); Ricky Phillips, DB, Huntington, WV; Pat Shadle, K, Morgantown, WV. Juniors to keep an eye on include: Trevor Marcum, TE/LB, Wayne, WV. Colerain HS, in Cincinnati, is ranked among the Top 25 High Schools, as is Boyle Co. in Danville, KY.
Finally, there is Phil Steele's guide, which is full of information for betting on college football. In fact, if you buy the $7.95 college issue, there is a coupon in the back of the book for a free issue of the Pro Football guide to be mailed to you in August. They start out on page two by picking Marshall and Northern Illinois to meet in the MAC Championship, the only book not to pick Toledo. They are 2-0-1 in picking the score of the last three MAC title games after going 1-3 in the first four. Page 4 is the All-American teams. Fred Gibson, WR-UGA, is 1st, as is Nugent, the kicker from OSU. Jason Rollins of UK is 3rd team AA at center while Louisville has two: KR Broderick Clark is 2nd and RB Eric Shelton is 4th. Steele goes as far as rating the top 40-60 players at each position. For the Herd, Stan Hill is #11-QB; Earl Charles is #37-RB; and Josh Davis is #14-WR. On the defensive side, David Pollack, UGA, is 1st AA at DE; A.J. Hawk of OSU is 2nd AA at LB; and Simon Fraser (DE) and Anthony Schlegel of OSU (ILB) are 3rd AA. Marshall players only defensive player is Jamus Martin, #41-DE. Marshall's QB Unit is 19th best in the nation, the only Herd unit mentioned.
C-USA is rated 6th best league this year, tied with the Big East, while the MAC is 9th. They look for UTEP to be the 3rd most improved team in the nation, with Troy 9th and UCF 12th. They believe WVU is the team destined to be the number one surprise of the 2004 season, while the Memphis Tigers are the number one surprise from the coalition (non-BCS) ranks. Steele ranks Oklahoma #1; USC #2; LSU #3; FSU #4; UGA #5; WVU #9; OSU #12; Memphis #19; Louisville #21; TCU #30; North Texas #33; Marshall #35; UAB #43; and Tulsa #44.
As far as the MAC itself: Marshall, Miami, UCF, Kent State, Akron, Ohio and Buffalo in the East; Northern Illinois, Toledo, BGSU, WMU, EMU, CMU and Ball State in the West. The Herd is the pick to beat NIU in the MAC Title game. Marshall places the following players on the All-MAC: 1st-Earl Charles RB, Josh Davis WR, Jamus Martin DE; 2nd-Stan Hill QB, Jonathan Goddard DE; 3rd-Toby Bullock OG, Kevin Atkins LB, Willie Smith CB; 4th-Reggie Hayes DT. There are pictures of Davis (pg 5 & 243), Hill (pg 4) and Martin (pg 243), as well as Hayes and Atkins (pg 244) together and Atkins alone (pg 245). Other tidbits: MU is 73-17 (including bowls) overall since 1997, 19-12-2 as home favorite but only 13-15 as away favorite. The Herd is 2-2 ATS versus SEC, 4-4 against BCS teams but 2-7 ATS as away dog, all since 1999. MU has outscored Kent State 279-127 the last seven years and has outgained UCF in yards in two games, 875-568. The visitor in the WMU game is 4-1 ATS in last five games, but Herd is 7-0 in home finals since 1997. MU has covered the spread in its last five bowl wins.