The 2021 edition of the Mid-American Conference Media Days kicked off on Tuesday afternoon with the reveal of the MAC Football Preseason Media Poll, which selected the Kent State Golden Flashes to win the division in the East, and the defending MAC titleholders Ball State Cardinals to duplicate their success from last season in the West.
The poll, made up of 22 MAC media members, went with two up-and-coming programs who had traditionally been seen as doormats for most of the past decade for their division winners, as the cycle has seemingly turned from the more traditional powers in recent years.
Ball State, who ended the trial-filled 2020 season ranked #23 in the country, will certainly relish their moment in the sun; 2020 saw the Cardinals establish themselves as a dominant power in the Mid-American Conference, winning the West division for the first time since 2008 and the MAC title for the first time since 1996, back when head coach Mike Neu was under center for the Cards. With 20 starters returning to Muncie in 2021, including 10 of their 12 all-MAC selections and 12 players taking advantage of their extra year of eligibility granted due to COVID, the Cardinals look to defend their crown during a full season.
Kent State emerged last season with the country’s most productive total offense, under the leadership of Maxwell Award watchlist candidate Dustin Crum, who completed an astounding 73 percent of his passes in the shortened 2020 campaign. The Flashes will look to maintain their momentum in the East and clinch a spot in the MAC title game for the first time since 2012 in a season which sees a lot of transition in leadership up top, with Frank Solich retiring from Ohio and former Buffalo coach Lance Leipold departing for Kansas late in the coaching carousel. They will return nine starters on both sides of the ball in 2021 campaign.
The Cardinals were also the media choice to win the MAC title game, with seven votes. Toledo was second-favorite with five votes, with Kent State (four), Western Michigan (three), Buffalo (two) and Miami (one) also receiving votes.
The 75th season of MAC football kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 2, with the championship game set to be decided on Dec. 4 at noon Eastern time at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.
The entirety of the Media Poll results can be seen below.
1. Kent State (11 first place votes) – 112 points
2. Ohio (2) – 96 points
3. Miami (5) – 94 points
4. Buffalo (4) – 93 points
5. Akron – 39 points
6. Bowling Green – 28 points
1. Ball State (11 first place votes) – 114 points
2. Toledo (7) – 104 points
3. Western Michigan (4) – 103 points
4. Central Michigan – 68 points
5. Eastern Michigan – 44 points
6. Northern Illinois – 29 points
Championship game winner: Ball State (7), Toledo (5), Kent State (4), Western Michigan (3), Buffalo (2), Miami (1)