Media from around the Mid-American Conference have tabbed Northern Illinois as the preseason favorite to win the MAC’s West Division in 2010, according to the MAC Preseason Media Poll released at the league’s annual football media day.
Northern Illinois garnered 115 points and 15 of 20 first-place votes in the annual poll to outdistance defending MAC Champion Central Michigan, which was picked second in the West with 83 points and three first-place nods. Western Michigan was third with 77 points and the remaining two first-place votes, putting the Broncos just two points ahead of Toledo (75). Ball State took the No. 5 spot (50 points), followed by Eastern Michigan (20).
NIU Head Coach Jerry Kill, who enters his third season at the helm of the Huskie program in 2010, said he and his team will focus on their goals and not on preseason polls.
“The publicity is great for the school and for the Huskie fans,” Kill said. “The bottom line is games are won on game day. We won’t pay much attention to it. We’re going to go to work the first day of camp just like we always have.
“I’ve had teams picked to win, picked to lose and picked to finish in the middle. Our approach is the same, it makes absolutely no difference. Going into camp, we’ll take one day at a time and go out and get to work. You have to go to work and try to get better every day.”
While NIU was the West Division favorite, Temple earned the top spot in the East and was selected to take the overall conference championship by 11 voters. The Owls had 17 votes as the East’s No. 1 team to total 137 points to second-place Ohio’s 116. Kent State (94 points), Bowling Green (74), Miami (53), Buffalo (48) and Akron (38) were in the three through seven positions on the east side.
The last time Northern Illinois was picked to win the West Division was in 2006. Under Kill, the Huskies have exceeded preseason expectations in each of the last two years. It’s a trend the head coach would like to see continue.
“We were picked last my first year and we went 6-6 and went to a bowl game,” he said. “We were picked third last year and ended up with a winning record and a bowl game. Since I’ve been here, we improved in year one from the previous season. We improved last year from our first year. Now we have to improve again. Sure expectations are going to be higher, and we expect them to be higher. The bottom line is, I want to see the program improve every year.
“We came in the first year and said the goal is to win the conference championship. That is still our goal. You have to work to get there. Our approach is the same as the first day we walked in the door.”
The Huskies open the 2010 season opener Thursday, Sept. 2, at Iowa State. The Huskies return 19 starters, including 11 on the NIU defense that ranked No. 1 in the MAC in total defense a year ago.
Season tickets for all five of Northern Illinois’ 2010 home games are currently on sale. NIU season football tickets are one of the region’s best values at just $85 for all five games. NIU faculty and staff, Varsity Club (former letterwinners), NIU Alumni Association members and senior citizens can purchase season tickets for only $74. The three-game mini-plan allows fans to choose any three 2010 games, including Homecoming, and get the same reserved seat for all three games for just $50.
Individual game tickets for Northern Illinois’ season opener versus North Dakota (Sept. 11) as well as MAC foes Temple (Oct. 9), Central Michigan (Oct. 23) and Toledo (Nov. 9) are $20 each for the general public, while tickets for the Oct. 16 Homecoming game versus Buffalo are $25. Senior citizens (62 and older), youth (eighth grade and younger) and student guest tickets for Homecoming are $20 each and are priced at $15 each for the remaining five home contests.
2010 MAC Preseason Poll
Team (First Place Votes) Points
1. Northern Illinois (15) 115
2. Central Michigan (3) 83
3. Western Michigan (2) 77
4. Toledo 75
5. Ball State 50
6. Eastern Michigan 20
1. Temple (17) 137
2. Ohio (3) 116
3. Kent State 94
4. Bowling Green 74
5. Miami 53
6. Buffalo 48
7. Akron 38
Championship Game Winner: Temple (11), Northern Illinois (5), Ohio (1). Three voters did not select an overall champion.