DETROIT — With a number of key players returning from last season’s Mid-American Conference champions, it was no surprise the Bowling Green State University football team was picked to repeat as East Division champs.
It was not unexpected to see the Falcons (10-4 overall, 7-1 MAC) chosen to win the MAC championship game again.
New BG coach Dino Babers knows that the preseason poll of media who cover the MAC is simply that: it is a look at expectations entering the season, not a guarantee of future success.
RELATED CONTENT: Bowl opportunities on the rise for Mid-American Conference
“Who picked us to win the division and the title? The media,” he said. “If there was a coaches’ poll, and the coaches picked us to win it, that would be kind of cool. …
“The first time I saw a media poll [at Eastern Illinois], they picked us last and said we wouldn’t win a game. We won the conference and we only lost one. The second time the media thought we would win but wouldn’t be undefeated — and we were undefeated.”
Do not misunderstand: Bowling Green will enjoy the status of defending MAC champions.
“It’s nice to see we earned some respect around the conference,” senior linebacker D.J. Lynch said. “We know we have a target on our backs, but we’re not putting much thought into being ‘the hunted.’ ”
Bowling Green received 18 of the 21 media votes to win the East and totaled 144 points, three shy of a perfect score. That means the three media members who voted Akron first picked the Falcons second.
The Zips received 114 points, followed by Ohio in third with 107, Buffalo (87), Kent State (72), Miami (43), and UMass (23).
The Falcons also received 11 votes to win the MAC Championship game, more than Toledo (six), Central Michigan (two), Northern Illinois or Akron (one each) combined.
“I think it’s good — I don’t see it as a bad thing,” junior quarterback Matt Johnson said. “I don’t see it as, ‘Oh no, we have the target on our back.’
“I think we deserve it. I think we’ve earned the right to be the top dogs.”
It is worth noting that BG is looking to become the first school to win back-to-back MAC titles since Miami in 2003-04. In fact, Babers thinks that opportunity to repeat as champs may serve as greater motivation.
“People are skeptical,” he said. “They think, ‘So what if you won it? You got this [break] or that [break], or so-and-so was hurt when you played them. … You got lucky.
“That’s the value of a repeat: If you do something twice — if you get into a battle and whip somebody, then you have another battle and whip them again — that pretty much closes the door.
“There’s an R-E-S-P-E-C-T that goes along with doing something twice.”
Johnson said he thought the Falcons’ late-season run to the East Division title last year hung a target on the team’s back then, so Bowling Green is used to dealing with that pressure.
“I think we got everybody’s best shot last year, so I don’t think that’s a big change,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something you go out and prepare for.
“I think if we treat every game like we did last year, we will be fine.”