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Watch List: Bob Rowe Award

Some MAC defenders are getting high praise in the preseason. We'll give them a little more with the announcing of the Bob Rowe Award Watch List.

Kirk Irwin

The MAC has become an explosive offensive conference. Someone has to stop Jordan Lynch, Beau Blankenship and Dri Archer. These are the top five in consideration for our inaugural defensive player of the year award, the Bob Rowe Award.

1. Khalil Mack (Buffalo) - Mack is a mountain that moves in violent motion toward ball carriers. After a 94-tackle, 8-sack season in 2012, Mack will be Buffalo's best chance at stopping guys like Bronson Hill, David Fluellen, Blankenship, Archer and Trayion Durham in conference this year. The Bulls also have Carlos Hyde and the Buckeyes Week 1 and Lache Seastrunk and Baylor Week 2.

2. Jimmie Ward (NIU) - On our comment boards, I saw Jimmie Ward called "The Tyrann Mathieu of the MAC." That's a pretty good way to put it. Ward is everywhere on the Huskies D. Whether it's his 104 tackles, three interceptions or exceptional special teams play, Ward will put his name on the map again this season.

3. Chris Wade (Miami) - The conference's leading returning tackler will head up the RedHawks defense. Wade averaged 10.7 tackles a game in 2012 and will have to be a force again in 2013 if Miami wants to improve from giving up 468 yards per game last year.

4. Najja Johnson (Buffalo) - Two Bulls on the Rowe Watch List with Najja Johnson returning as the conference's interception leader. He picked off five passes in 2012 adding another six pass break-ups with 43 tackles.

5. Roosevelt Nix (Kent State) - Nix had six sacks and nine tackles for loss in 2012. He'll need to push through offensive lines to slow up the powerful rush attacks in the MAC and hope opposing defenses can't do the same with his running backs.

Any of these players fall off this year? Obvious misses? Which player will carry his defense the most in 2013?