MAC Football Notes

Updated 8/27/1999
August 27, 1999

Heisman Watch: MAC 1998 MVP running back Travis Prentice of Miami and two-time first team All-MAC quarterback Chad Pennington of Marshall are being touted as Heisman candidates, complete with impressive numbers and a web site. Prentice, senior from Louisville, Ky., who rushed for 1,787 yards and 19 TDs last year, can be checked out at www.tdtravis.com, while Pennington, a senior from Knoxville, Tenn., who passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns, can be found at www.HerdQB.com. Prentice is also a candidate for the Doak Walker Award and Pennington for the Davey O'Brien Award.

Butkus Award List: Two Mid-American Conference linebackers are listed on the Butkus Award Watch list released by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando. First team All-MAC linebackers Dustin Cohen of Miami and Jason Lamar of Toledo were recognized as two of the 65 candidates for this year's award as the nation's best collegiate linebacker. Cohen, a senior from Cincinnati, Ohio, led the MAC in tackles last season with 146 and was named third team All-America by Football News. Lamar, a senior from Ypsilanti, Mich., was second on the Rockets squad last year with 119 tackles and tied for the team lead with 12 tackles for a loss. The Butkus watch list will be trimmed to 10 semi-finalists on Oct. 21. Then three finalists will be announced via a national teleconference on Nov. 11. The winner will be announced Dec. 10 during the 15th Butkus Award Gala.

Thorpe Award: Marshall's Rogers Beckett is among those listed for the Jim Thorpe Award that goes to the nation's top rated defensive back. Beckett, a senior from Apopka, Fla., is not only a three-year starter and a first-team All-MAC player, but he is the student body vice-president at Marshall for the 1999-2000 academic year.

National Attention: After not having a regular season MAC game on national television since 1987 (Eastern Michigan at Toledo), two league contests will be beamed nationwide in 1999. On Oct. 14, the Toledo at Marshall contest will be the ESPN national contest, and on Nov. 26 the Ohio at Marshall game will be featured by FOX Sports Net on a national basis.

Battling the Big Ten: Four times during the opening week of the season and nine times overall MAC teams travel into Big Ten territory to challenge some of the best football teams in the nation. On Sept. 4, Akron takes on #4 ranked Penn State, while Miami is at Northwestern, Ball State at Indiana and Ohio at Minnesota. Sept. 11 has Ball State at #10 Wisconsin and Eastern Michigan at Michigan State. The leagues wrap up their competition Sept.. 18 with Ohio at #9 Ohio State, Northern Illinois at Iowa and Central Michigan at Purdue. The MAC's success versus the Big Ten includes the following: 1. Miami's 30-28 win at Northwestern in 1995, the Wildcats lone regular season loss. Northwestern was ranked #25 at the time and went on to win the Big Ten title and represent the league in the Rose Bowl; 2. Toledo's 1997 win over Purdue, 36-22 at the Glass Bowl in Toledo; 3. Central Michigan winning at Michigan State in back-to-back seasons; 20-3 in 1991 and 24-20 in 1992.

Making The Grade: When Miami opens its season at Northwestern, it will be pupil versus teacher as RedHawk head coach Terry Hoeppner will be making his head coaching debut against former mentor and first year Wildcat head coach Randy Walker. Walker was the head coach at Miami from 1990-1998 and guided his teams to a 59-35-5 record, including a 10-1 mark last year. He is the all-time winningest coach in Miami history. Hoeppner had served as an assistant coach at Miami since 1986, most recently as assistant head coach/defensive coordinator from 1995-98.

In the Polls: Three MAC teams received votes in the preseason national polls. The USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches poll had Marshall listed #29 with 55 points, while Miami (4) also gained notice. In the Associated Press poll, Marshall garnered 75 points for a #27 ranking, while Miami and Western Michigan received one point each.

Magazine Watch: Two-time defending league champion Marshall gained plenty of notice among the national scribes in their preseason polls. Lindy's had the Herd at #20, ESPN The Magazine #23, Sports Illustrated #24, Street and Smith's #25. Marshall opens its season at Clemson with a chance to further gain national prominence.

The Bulls Are Coming: The Buffalo Bulls make their MAC gridiron debut on Sept. 11 with a home game against Akron. The addition boosts the league's football playing schools to 13. UB compiled a 4-7 record last year at the I-AA level. The Bulls suffered an early season setback when starting quarterback Erik Rusin injured his right elbow in an Aug. 25 practice and is expected to be sidelined for at least three weeks. Rusin is a three-year backup who was expected to replace the graduated Chad Salisbury. As a freshman in 1996, Rusin came off the bench to lead UB to a 41-24 Homecoming win against Cornell.

Move It Or Lose It: Ball State will have five offensive line starters that each weigh at least 300 pounds for the first time in school history. The average weight of BSU's starting line is 308 pounds.