Now group of season awards is complete without a crowning jewel. For a site named Hustle Belt, we couldn't fathom our Player of the Year award being anything other than a championship belt. (Unfortunately, as bloggers we don't make
anything enough to pay to get an actual belt made.) THE Hustle Belt is an elite honor: Like the bejeweled mustard-yellow belt that goes to the winner of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest each summer.
Last fall, to no one's surprise, MAC fans awarded THE Belt to NIU's Jordan Lynch. The Huskie quarterback followed up his remarkable 2012 season with an even better 2013 that saw him finish third in the Heisman race. But Lynch's time at NIU is up, and gone with him are several of MAC football's biggest stars from the past five season, creating an interesting and wide-open race for the 2014 Belt.
Here are the five names we think have the best chances of capturing THE Hustle Belt this winter.
Already named a favorite to win the Wasean Tait Award this winter, Ball state senior running back Jahwan Edwards is easily one of the best players in the MAC. He came in at No. 5 on our list of 2014's best, and for good reason. His 39 career touchdowns, and 3,306 yards make him the most productive active back in the MAC by a mile. Combining a blend of size, power, speed and agility, Edwards is the full package. A Big back who can break some ankles in open space. He's also likely to be the main feature of the Cardinals' offense this fall.
While this is an award for the MAC's best player, we're an offensive-biased conference. The fact that Sylvestre (already on both the Bob Rowe and Lambert Linebacking Award watch lists) speaks volumes to just how good he is. Sylvestre will likely need to top last year's performance and lead Toledo to a MAC Championship to win this, but hey, getting on the radar is the first step. Oh, did we mention he came in at No. 2 on our countdown of the MAC's best?
The darling of the MAC, earlier today we named Matt Johnson the best player in the MAC, and now we're naming him as a front-runner to win THE Hustle Belt this winter. Johnson exploded onto the scene last fall, supplanting a fourth-year starter less than a quarter into the first game, and riding it all the way to a dominating performance in the MAC Championship. Insert Dino Babers' high-octane offense that helped produce Robert Griffin III and Jimmy Garoppolo and it's easy to see why people are drooling over the potential this season holds for Johnson.
No. 3 on our countdown of the MAC's best players, Titus Davis is an explosive wideout. He average over 18 yards a catch for his career! The Central Michigan senior will need some pressure taken off of him in the form of other CMU receivers stepping up, for him to reach his full potential this fall, but if he does we could see plenty CMU and MAC records tumble.
Johnson's partner in the Falcons' offense is this redshirt junior running back, who in his first season as a running back (he came to BG as a wide receiver), shattered a Falcons' single-season rushing record that had stood since 1951. Did we mention he was tasked with replacing Anthon Samuel last fall and by season's end had people forgetting all about Samuel? Greene is small for a running back, at least a workhorse back, but he's got amazing field vision and some fo the best balance you'll ever see in football. He'll likely be overshadowed in recognition by Johnson, but there's no denying that Greene, No. 4 on our countdown, is among the MAC's best players.