Fresh off an 11-3 season, including a perfect 8-0 mark in Mid-American Conference play and a 40-17 victory over Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl in 2010, the Northern Illinois University football team was picked to finish second in the MAC West in the MAC Preseason Media Poll, the league announced at its annual media day Tuesday.
NIU garnered five of 16 first-place votes for 81 points, two points behind Toledo, which was picked first in the West Division with 83 points and eight first-place votes.
Toledo was also picked to win the 2011 MAC championship. Western Michigan was third in the West with 76 points, receiving two first-place votes. Central Michigan received one first-place vote and 55 points for fourth place, while Ball State and Eastern Michigan round out the West predicted to finish fifth and sixth respectively.
First-year head coach Dave Doeren appreciates the attention his program received from the MAC media members, but knows it is a long season and the standings will be decided on the field.
“Obviously, I’m excited that people have respect for our players and coaches going into the season but we won’t pay a whole lot of attention to it,” Doeren said. “One of the things I believe in is it’s where you finish, not where you start that matters, but we do appreciate the respect and attention people are giving our program.”
Defending MAC Champion Miami (OH) edged out Ohio for first in the East by the narrowest of margins, earning 97 points and four first-place votes. The Bobcats earned eight first-place votes and totaled 96 points. Temple earned 88 points and the final four first-place votes and is predicted to finish third in the East. Kent State was picked to finish fourth after earning 57 points, while Bowling Green, with 48 points, was projected to finish fifth. Sixth and seventh place belong to Buffalo and Akron respectively and round out the East.
While the top three teams in the MAC West were separated by seven points, the East Division was just as tight. Doeren knows the league is a very competitive and the Huskies will have to be ready every week to win a MAC championship.
“Every year, somebody new has jumped up and grabbed the MAC title,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a competitive league where you can’t assume everything is going to go the way people are picking it. Look at Miami (OH) last year. It’s a league of great players and great coaches. You’re going to have to have your I’s dotted and T’s crossed every week.”
Tickets for the 2011 Northern Illinois football season, which opens Sept. 3 when the Huskies play host to Army, are on sale now through the NIU Athletics Ticket Office in the Convocation Center and online at www.NIUHuskies.com.
Season tickets for all six Huskie football home games are available for just $99 for the general public and $88 for NIU faculty and staff, senior citizens, NIU Alumni Association and Varsity Club members. Season tickets provide a 33 percent discount compared to single game ticket prices, and season ticket holders still receive a $15 discount off the purchase of an equal number of tickets to Soldier Field Showdown II. Three-game mini-plans are also available for just $50 each with customers allowed to choose their own games.
Northern Illinois fans can also purchase tickets to Soldier Field Showdown II, the Sept. 17 game between NIU and Wisconsin at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Tickets to the game are $90, $75 and $60 and can be purchased online at www.Ticketmaster.com or www.HuskieFootball2011.com.
For more information on NIU season tickets or Soldier Field Showdown II tickets, call the NIU External Office at 815-753-1923 Monday-Friday between 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Team (First Place Votes) Points
MAC West Division
1. Toledo (8) 83
2. Northern Illinois (5) 81
3. Western Michigan (2) 76
4. Central Michigan (1) 55
5. Ball State 27
6. Eastern Michigan 24
MAC East Division
1. Miami (4) 97
2. Ohio (8) 96
3. Temple (4) 88
4. Kent State 57
5. Bowling Green 48
6. Buffalo 37
7. Akron 25
2011 Marathon MAC Championship Game Winner
Toledo 5, Northern Illinois 3, Miami 3, Ohio 1, Western Michigan 1 (several voters did not select a winner for the MAC Championship)