The top two finishers in the 2016 MAC West earned enough respect to gather some votes in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll for 2017.
Western Michigan Broncos
Western Michigan, fresh off a 13-1 season, will not begin 2017 in the rankings despite overwhelming success and a Cotton Bowl appearance last season. The Broncos face several key losses including head coach P.J. Fleck, quarterbacks Zach Terrell and possible starter Tom Flacco, wide receiver Corey Davis, and offensive tackle Taylor Moton. Starting tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and running back duo Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan are back to lead the Broncos though.
Western Michigan earned eight votes from the panel of 65 coaches who vote for the poll. Newly crowned head coach Tim Lester is among the voters, as well as Fleck. Other teams that received eight votes include Temple and North Carolina.
The Broncos can quickly make a statement and automatically jump into the polls with an upset win over No. 4 USC in Los Angeles on kickoff weekend. The following week, they travel to East Lansing to take on a Michigan State program coming off of an unusual 3-9 season.
Toledo, armed with dark-horse Heisman candidate Logan Woodside, only earned one vote in the Coaches Poll. The Rockets were selected as the favorite to win the MAC by media members at MAC Media Day last week by 21 of 24 voters.
But the panel of 65 coaches did not give the Rockets nearly as much respect as the MAC media provided. Second-year head coach Jason Candle is not a member of the panel, but six coaches from the conference are included on the list.
Other teams receiving one vote include Army, Colorado State, Michigan State, Maryland, and UCLA.
The Rockets are aiming for their fourth-consecutive nine-win season, a goal they have attained every year in the College Football Playoff era. Toledo narrowly lost the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl to a strong Appalachian State team to finish 2016. Returning Woodside — the 2016 FBS leader for touchdown passes — and his familiar targets Jon'Vea Johnson and Cody Thompson, the Toledo offense is destined for greatness in 2017.
A tough challenge approaches on September 23, when the Rockets travel to Miami to face on an improved Hurricanes team. If Toledo wins and jumps to 4-0 with the win, the Rockets may find themselves in the polls, as they did in 2015 shortly after beating Arkansas.
No MAC team has been ranked in the preseason Coaches Poll since the 2002 season, when the Byron Leftwich-led Marshall Thundering Herd earned the 21st spot in the rankings. Despite featuring a 13-1 team coming off of a Cotton Bowl appearance, the conference did not even sniff the top 25. The entire poll can be found here.