CSJ Conference Preview: MAC

College Sports Journal announces their 2018 Fearless Prediction for the Order of finish of the MAC, the first of our Group of Five Conference previews.

For the last few seasons, it has not been difficult to pick the MAC winners as the preseason favorite ultimately would win the league. A year ago, Toledo won the league after being the preseason favorite and a year before that it was Western Michigan. And in 2015 and 2013, it was Bowling Green won the title with Northern Illinois winning in 2014.

At the start of this season, however, there is not just one team that is head and shoulders above the rest. It appears the MAC crown will come down to three teams in defending champion Toledo, Ohio, and Northern Illinois.

Ohio returns the top MAC scoring team and is led by quarterback Nathan Rourke and a majority of his teammates on offense.

Northern Illinois brings back a majority of the MAC’s top defense including All-American defensive end Sutton Smith.

Toledo has three all-conference wide receivers and possibly the best young coach in the country in Jason Candle.

Two other teams on paper seem a step back in talent to these three but very well could come together in Buffalo and Western Michigan–both of whom have a few holes to fill but have possibilities of filling with young talent.

But ultimately, it seems like Ohio and Toledo will win their divisions and meet in Detroit for the MAC Championship in early December. And it seems Ohio has just a little more to win its first MAC crown since 1968.

For information and details on each school’s prospects for 2018, click on the links below.

East Division

  1. Ohio
  2. Buffalo
  3. Miami (OH)
  4. Akron
  5. Bowling Green
  6. Kent State

West Division

  1. Toledo
  2. Northern Illinois
  3. Western Michigan
  4. Eastern Michigan
  5. Central Michigan
  6. Ball State

2018 CSJ Preseason All-MAC Team


QB Nathan Rourke, Jr. Ohio
Rourke threw for 2,203 yards and 17 touchdowns and also did it with his legs with 21 touchdowns and 912 yards.

The former JUCO transfer just may use his dual-threat skills to take Ohio to a MAC title this time around.


DE Sutton Smith, Jr. Northern Illinois
Smith will be among the nation’s top pass rushers and looks also to take his Huskies to the title this year.

He led the FBS with whopping 29.5 tackles for a loss and tied for the most sacks with 14. He helped a MAC-best defense last year give up just 22 points per game and in total defense (338.5 yards per game).

QB – Nathan Rourke, Jr. Ohio

RB – Justin Gilbert, Jr. Ball State

RB – Jonathan Ward, Jr. Central Michigan

WR – Anthony Johnson, Sr. Buffalo

WR – Diontae Johnson, Jr. Toledo

TE – Tyler Mabry, Jr. Buffalo

OL – John Keenoy, Sr. Western Michigan

OL – Jimmy Leatiota, Sr. Eastern Michigan

OL – Joe Lowery, Sr. Ohio

OL – Max Scharping, Sr. NIU

OL – Jordan Steckler, Jr. Northern Illinois


2018 Preseason All-MAC Defense

DE – Maxx Crosby, Jr. Eastern Michigan

DT – Nathan Brisson-Fast, Sr. Central Michigan

DT – Ben LeRoy, Jr. Kent State

DE – Sutton Smith, Jr. NIU

LB – Ulysees Gilbert, Sr. Akron

LB – Khalil Hodge, Sr. Buffalo

LB – Malik Fountain, Sr. Central Michigan

CB – Alvin Davis, Jr. Akron

S – Javon Hagan, Jr. Ohio

S – Brody Hoying, Jr. Eastern Michigan

CB – Sean Bunting, Jr. Central Michigan


2018 Preseason All-MAC Special Teams

PK – Jameson Vest, Jr. Toledo

P – Derek Adams, Jr. Kent State

PR/KR – Diontae Johnson, Jr. Toledo

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