Toledo named pre-season pick to top MACWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
DETROIT — Toledo arrived at the Mid-American Conference’s Media Day at Ford Field on July 26 as the preseason selection to win the conference.
The poll, of 26 members of the league’s media contingent, picked Toledo as the favorite to win the MAC Championship with five votes, followed by Miami (Ohio) and Northern Illinois (NIU), which each had three.
“We were probably the No. 1 because we have Northern Illinois at home and we have Western Michigan at home,” Toledo head coach Tim Beckman said. “Every team in this conference has a chance to be here on Dec. 2 [for the MAC Championship] and that’s the greatest thing about MAC football. Not every conference is like that.”
The Rockets received 83 votes in the preseason poll for the league’s West Division, just two votes ahead of defending champion NIU. Western Michigan (76) was picked third followed by Central Michigan (55), Ball State (27) and Eastern Michigan (24).
“It’s pretty exciting to actually have expectations going into a season,” senior cornerback Desmond Marrow said. “Usually we are at the bottom of the MAC and we have to sneak up on people. Not so much this year. Everyone is going to be ready for us.”
Toledo is coming off an 8-5 season, including a 7-1 record in league play. The Rockets reached its first bowl game since 2005 in a 34-32 loss to FIU in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
The Rockets return 17-of-22 starters (9 offense, 8 defense), including wide receiver Eric Page, who received First-Team All-American honors as a kick returner in 2010.
“We are picked No. 1, but it really doesn’t mean a lot to us. We are still trying to prove a lot,” Page said. “We have to come out this year and play every game one by one and try to get back to the MAC Championship.”
Page finished seventh in the nation last season in receptions per game (7.77) and 18th in receiving yards (1,105). Entering his junior season, Page needs 49 receptions to pass former UT wideout Lance Moore as UT’s all-time leader.
“He’s already gotten better; his spring was outstanding,” Beckman said. He’s also taken over more of a leadership role. He doesn’t say anything. Eric is really quiet, but everybody looks at Eric and everybody follows Eric. That’s where I’ve seen his game mature.”
UT reports to training camp on Aug. 2 as it begins practice for the season-opening contest against FCS school New Hampshire on Sept. 1. The Rockets then face one of the most difficult two-game stretches of any team this season when it travels to Ohio State before returning to host Boise State.
“You want to play the bigger teams,” Marrow said. “They don’t respect us because we are in the MAC, a smaller conference. If you are a real competitor and you want to compete you will play against those guys.
“It’s a relentless schedule straight out of the gate. It can be good momentum or bad momentum but either way we want to come out 4-0 in our non-conference games and then get into the MAC schedule and try to win a MAC Championship.”
Tags: Ball State, Central Michigan, Desmond Marrow, Eastern Michigan, Eric Page, Ford Field, Lance Moore, Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, MAC, Miami (Ohio), Mid-American Conference, Northern Illinois, Rockets Football, Tim Beckman, University of Toledo, Western Michigan