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Published: Wednesday, 7/25/2012

Players don't pay attention to preseason polls

BY RYAN AUTULLO AND JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITERS

DETROIT -- Austin Dantin says he doesn't pay attention to preseason polls. The University of Toledo quarterback was told to prove it.

Asked if he remembers where the Rockets were picked in the Mid-American Conference a year ago, the senior responded, "No, I don't, so obviously it doesn't mean much."

UT was picked to win the West division in 2011, a position it finds itself in again after results of a media vote were announced Tuesday at Ford Field at MAC Media Day.

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A tight race with defending league champion Northern Illinois favored UT, which garnered more total points -- 87 to 83 -- and first place votes -- seven to five. Western Michigan was third, totaling 79 points and four nods to win the division.

Playing NIU and WMU on the road increases the level of difficulty for UT to win the division.

"Getting picked first in the West was more of an honor for what we did last year," Dantin said. "It doesn't have anything to do with this year."

Ohio University swept ballots in the East, accruing a maximum 119 points.

Bowling Green State University, two years after posting a 2-10 record, is slated to finish second ahead of Miami and Kent State.

In a match-up of projected division winners, voters picked OU to capture its first championship and end a streak of three losses in title games since 2006.

The Bobcats, runners up a year ago, received five votes to the Rockets' three.

UT won nine games in 2011 but fell short of its preseason expectation to win the MAC championship when it lost 63-60 to Northern Illinois in a pseudo West title game.

Quarterback Terrance Owens, who is expected to split snaps with Dantin, echoed the thoughts of his teammate regarding UT's supposed perch atop the division.

"I probably could do without it," Owens said. "I don't pay attention to it. I just pay attention to Toledo."

Central Michigan, picked to finish last in the West, scored one first place vote.

SPONSOR EXTENSION: The MAC announced it is extending two contracts for four more years, as Marathon Oil will remain the title sponsor of the league's title game while Ford Field will continue to host the contest. Both contracts will run through 2015.

Marathon first sponsored the MAC Championship in 2003, and the following year Ford Field became the host site for the title game for the first time.

"Our relationship with Ford Field, the Detroit Lions, and Marathon provides this conference, its fans, and our member institutions -- coaches and most importantly our student-athletes -- the opportunity to showcase their talents in a superb facility to a national television audience," MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said.

This year's title game will be played on Nov. 30 starting at 7 p.m. and will be telecast on ESPN2.

BOWDEN RECORD: New Akron coach Terry Bowden was cagey responding to a question regarding his father on Monday becoming the all-time wins leader for major college football coaches.

Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, with 377 wins, reclaimed his No. 1 position after the NCAA stripped Joe Paterno of 111 victories in the punishment levied at Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Paterno now has 298 wins.

"I really hope to stay away from that," Terry Bowden said.

I haven't had time to really think about it. I don't think under these circumstances it means a lot to any of us.

"When you win or lose a game on the field, it doesn't change much. It's the result of a tragic situation."

The 82-year-old Bobby Bowden, in an interview with the Associated Press, expressed discomfort in how he obtained the record.

"I didn't want it to happen like this. Wish I could have earned it, but that's the way it is."

EXPANSION? Steinbrecher drew a laugh when he was asked about the prospects of expansion for the MAC.

"Right now we have a nice, round number of 13 schools," Steinbrecher said.

The addition of Massachusetts as a football-only member this season was supposed to balance the conference, but that plan was scuttled when Temple, another football-only member, bolted for the Big East starting this season.

Steinbrecher said there isn't an immediate plan in place to bring the MAC back to an even number of schools.

"We're not in a great hurry [to add schools]," he said. "That doesn't mean it won't happen down the road.

"But at this point we will take our time."



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