Camellia Bowl - MAC Championship

NCAA Football 2017 Season

MAC West Preview

The Broncos have some significant personnel losses to address, but new coach Tim Lester still has enough talent to guide Western Michigan to a division title. The Broncos’ top competition in the West is Toledo, which is led by a dynamic offense and senior quarterback Logan Woodside. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks.

Toledo Rockets

A schedule that includes Tulsa at home and the Miami Hurricanes on the road presents its challenges, but the Rockets have the league’s best quarterback in Logan Woodside, a tremendous depth and talent at wide receiver and a stable of productive running backs that never seems to thin. The defense doesn’t have to be great for this team to succeed; another middle-of-the pack finish in the MAC stats should suffice. The Rockets have won at least nine game five times in the last six seasons yet have not played in the MAC Championship Game since 2004. That drought should end in 2017.

Western Michigan Broncos

This is first-year head coach Tim Lester’s dream job. He starred as a quarterback at WMU in the late 1990s, later briefly coached QBs at the school under Bill Cubit and applied for the job in 2012, when P.J. Fleck got it. Lester understands the program, the MAC and the challenges ahead. This is a league known for bringing success back down to earth. It’s also a fan base that just experienced the greatest year in school history and doesn’t want to go back to reality. Lester inherits a roster that had completely bought into his predecessor. As long as the players also buy in to him, there’s enough talent to compete for another league title in 2017.

Northern Illinois Huskies

Head coach Rod Carey enters a pivotal year, as some of the luster of NIU’s BCS Orange Bowl berth is starting to wear off after the Huskies’ school-record run of eight straight bowl appearances came to a disappointing end with a 5–7 record. Even though a third straight season with a series of injuries at the quarterback position is unlikely, the in-house candidates lack the star power or dual-threat ability of past signal callers.

Overall, the defense should be improved, especially the front four, but with the lingering issues on offense, the Huskies could be in store for a difficult season battling a non-conference schedule that features Boston College, Nebraska and San Diego State to go with league road games at Toledo and Central Michigan.

On the positive side, if the Huskies can finish 5–3 in the conference utilizing three different starters at quarterback — like they did last season — anything is possible.

Central Michigan Chippewas

John Bonamego guided the Chips to a surprising 6–2 record in league play in 2015, his first season as the head coach at his alma mater, but slumped to 3–5 in Year 2. Still, CMU has been to two straight bowl games. Making it three straight will be a challenge.

Gone is four-year starting quarterback Cooper Rush, the second-most prolific passer in conference history. There are proven talents on both sides of the ball, but there are still areas of concern — the new QBs, the running game, the pass defense, to name a few. A middle-of-the pack finish in the MAC West would be a success.

Eastern Michigan Eagles

Eastern Michigan played in its first bowl game in 29 years last year, a major step forward for a program known mostly for its futility. Was it a one-year mirage or a sign of what is to come? Coach Chris Creighton has revamped the entire image of the program, and he heads into his fourth year hoping to turn the Eagles into a MAC West contender. The returning pieces are talented enough for it to be a possibility — though the West is by far the tougher of the MAC’s two divisions. The feeling around Eagles camp is that they will go as far as their revamped offensive line can take them.

Ball St. Cardinals

Ball State boasts just 12 seniors, so the Cardinals need help from head coach Mike Neu’s first two recruiting classes. In particular, the highly touted class of 2017 will have to make an immediate contribution if Ball State is to make a move in the MAC West.

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