The Miami RedHawks were picked to finish second in the Mid-American Conference East Division in a preseason media poll released Tuesday.
They’ll have to survive a brutal September and tough start to conference play with a young team to stay in the race, though.
Here are five things to know from MAC media days at Ford Field:
1. Ohio is the favorite.
The Bobcats were picked to win the East and top West favorite Toledo in the MAC Championship Game back here in December.
OU, looking to end a 50-year title drought, is a unanimous favorite in the East while the West is expected to be wide open.
Toledo got 15 first-place votes in its division while Western Michigan received five, Northern Illinois three and Central Michigan one.
How wild might the West be? The Chippewas ended up on the bottom of the division standings when all the votes were tallied, but someone picked them to win it.
2. The RedHawks aren’t worried about it.
Miami has to replace six starters on offense and seven on defense, so a No. 2 finish might even be optimistic after finishing tied in that spot a year ago with a more veteran team.
Yet senior defensive tackle Doug Costin said preseason picks don’t mean much in a league as balanced as the MAC.
“Obviously if you don’t come out and play your game, you can get beat any day,” Costin said during Tuesday’s conference media day. “This is not really a top-heavy league. If we don’t come out and compete every day, we could lose every game. At the same time, if we come out and compete, we could win every game. I’m confident in that.
“The preseason ranking, some people might take offense if it is too high or too low, but to me and the rest of our team I feel like it doesn’t really matter.”
3. Miami’s schedule is a concern, though.
The RedHawks open at Iowa, host Tennessee Tech then travel to Cincinnati and Ohio State.
“They say adversity is going to make you better and tougher, and we’re going to have plenty of adversity in the first month,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said. “You’re talking about one of the best teams in the country (OSU) and then probably a top 20 team (Iowa) and UC is ranked in the top 25 in the preseason coming off what they did last season. Then you put them all on the road, so it’s definitely going to be a great challenge for our kids.”
The first three conference game don’t figure to be walks in the park, either, as the RedHawks play Buffalo and Northern Illinois at home and travel to Western Michigan. The Bulls were picked to finish third in the East while the Broncos and Huskies both received multiple first-place votes in the preseason poll.
4. Martin is not ready to name a starting quarterback — and won’t be for some time.
“Neither one of them are close to being ready to go,” Martin said of sophomore Jackson Williamson and redshirt freshman AJ Mayer. “They’re both talented. They both lack experience. They don’t lack ability. They don’t lack smarts. They don’t lack toughness. They don’t lack intangibles. They just need to grow.”
He expects both to play in all four nonconference games as the staff tries to determine who might be The Man for MAC play.
“We’ve got to develop them through the first four games,:” he said. “That’s another problem with our schedule. We’re trying to build confidence in young guys? Ha! Not exactly how you’d set it up, but we’re gonna have to.”
5. He hopes five years of his recruiting has the program able to sustain personnel losses.
“We think we have enough depth and experience,” said Martin, who is 22-39 in Oxford, “and we’ve built the program up enough that we’ll stay consistently near the top of this league for a long, long time.”
He enters 2019 with two seasons left on his contract but said that doesn’t bother him.
“It doesn’t really (affect me),” Martin said. “After year four they renewed me for two more. This year I didn’t even really think about it to be honest with you. It’s not a big deal. Honestly we all have one-year deals. That’s where it’s changed. Go ask the four guys in our league who got let go last year: None of them were in the last year of their contract. In Division I football, you’ve gotta win every year, and if you don’t…. It’s just the way it is.”
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