Cleveland, Ohio – Kent State and Ball State have been selected to win their respective divisions in the 2021 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Football Head Coaches Preseason Poll. The Cardinals also received four votes to win the Rocket Mortgage MAC Football Championship Game title, while the Golden Flashes received two votes when it came to selecting who will take home the MAC crown.
The Golden Flashes will bring back nine starters on both sides of the ball in 2021. Headlining those returners is quarterback Dustin Crum who was named to the Maxwell Award Watch List for the second-straight season. The graduate student was first-team All-Conference last season after averaging 295 yards through the air and completing 73 percent of his passes. Kent State will bring back its top four rushers, both passers and only losing Isaiah McKoy from a talented group of receivers.
On the defensive side of the ball, Kent State returns its top four tacklers and pass rushers from 2020. Leading that charge is junior safety Dean Clark. Clark led the team with 28 tackles including 19 solo and stuffed the stat sheet with two pass break ups, a forced fumble, interception and blocked punt. Linebackers Brandon Coleman and Kesean Gamble are back after leading the Kent State pass rush with three sacks each.
Ball State is coming off one of the most memorable seasons in program history, finishing 2020 with a 7-1 (5-1 MAC) record. The defending MAC Champs won their last seven games to claim the MAC West Division title, a MAC Championship Game victory, and a win over No. 19 San Jose State in the Arizona Bowl.
Led by sixth-year head coach Mike Neu, the Cardinals return 20 starters (10 offensive, 10 defensive) and three key specialists from the team which finished the year ranked at No. 23 in both the AP Top 25 and the Amway Coaches Poll. Among Ball State’s returning players are 16 “super seniors” who will take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted to student-athletes by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, BSU welcomes back 10 of 12 All-MAC honorees from a year ago, highlighted by First-Team All-MAC selection and Co-Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Martin (ILB). Also looking to help Ball Sate run it back are first team members Justin Hall (WR), Anthony Ekpe (OLB), and Bryce Cosby (S), second team selections Drew Plitt (QB), Curtis Blackwell (OL), Christian Albright (OLB), and Nathan Snyder (P), and third team honorees Yo’Heinz Tyler (WR), Jaylin Thomas (ILB).
The 75th anniversary season of MAC football kicks off on Thursday, September 2nd and concludes with the 2021 Rocket Mortgage MAC Football Championship Game at Ford Field on Saturday, December 4 at Noon ET (ESPN).
MAC Football Head Coaches East Division Predictions
(first place votes)
1. Kent State (6) – 63 Points
2. Miami (2) — 55 Points
3. Ohio (2) – 51 Points
4. Buffalo (2) – 46 Points
5. Akron – 19 Points
6. Bowling Green – 18 Points
MAC Football Head Coaches West Division Predictions
1. Ball State (9) – 65 Points
2. Western Michigan (1) – 53 Points
3. Toledo (2) – 51 Points
4. Central Michigan – 39 Points
5. Eastern Michigan – 26 Points
6. Northern Illinois – 18 Points
Rocket Mortgage MAC Football Champion Predictions:
Ball State (4), Buffalo (2), Kent State (2), Miami (1), Ohio (1), Toledo (1), Western Michigan (1)