Akron’s Bowden, NIU’s Stingly Surprised By Preseason Placing

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The Mid-American Conference released its annual preseason football rankings before the start of the 2014 MAC Media Day on Wednesday and showed that the balance of power may be shifting across the conference.

Many media members and even Akron Zips head coach Terry Bowden were surprised to find the Zips at No. 2 in the East side of the preseason rankings. The Zips trailed only Bowling Green in the poll, but took three of the 21 first place votes. Even with the expected decline of Ohio and Buffalo, Bowden thinks that the high expectations for his team might be premature.

“We’ve come to the point at Akron that we’ve decided, whether we’re good enough yet, its time to start tooting your horn,” Bowden said. “We’ve got to create excitement. We have to do that and if we can follow up with some wins, that’s what you want to happen.”

“I was a little surprised when I heard,” Akron offensive lineman Travis Switzer said about the poll. “I didn’t think that five wins last year would get us to something like that, but we’ll take it. With predictions like that comes pressure and we have to live up to those.”

With the departure of Jordan Lynch from the Northern Illinois football program, poll voters predicted a changing of the guard in the MAC-West by crowning Toledo the preseason No. 1. The Rockets return the second most starters in the MAC after a 7-5 season in which Toledo was controversially left out of the postseason. Though Toledo returns a wealth of talent, NIU running back Cameron Stingily had strong feelings about being placed at No. 2.

“The four years I’ve been at NIU so far, we went to the MAC championship,” Stingily said. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t still be at the top.”

The loss of familiar faces such as Tyler Tettleton, Beau Blankenship and Donte Foster dropped Ohio to No. 3 in the East side of the preseason poll. While the Bobcats began their rebuilding efforts in spring practice, head coach Frank Solich and the Bobcats' coaching staff have yet to settle on a starting quarterback for the fall. Junior Derrius Vick currently holds the No. 1 spot because of his previous amount of playing time, but Solich said the starting position is still open.

“(Vick) had a good spring and he’s the only quarterback in our system that has playing experience, so he deserves to be at the front of the group,” Solich said. “But he’s going to have to perform well through fall camp to maintain that. JD Sprague, Greg Windham, and Joey Duckworth, a true freshman, all will be in the mix.”

The Ohio offense returns just four starters, but the defense returns eight starters and seems to have the pieces to be one of the strongest Bobcat defenses in recent memory.

“If you look at potential, I think this defense has the potential to be one of the better defensive units in my time at Ohio,” Solich said. “We’ve had some good units over the years, but potential doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where we are.”

Ohio will conduct its own media day on Aug. 8, which marks the end of the first week of fall camp.