DETROIT - Northern Illinois was picked to win the Mid-American Conference Championship game by the conference media on Monday. The Huskies also were chosen as the preseason media choice to win the MAC West Division title. The Huskies received 39 first-place votes and 284 total votes in the divisional poll. Akron received 35 first-place votes and 282 points to lead the East Division voting. Northern Illinois led the conference with 37 votes to win the title game, while Toledo (eight), Akron (three) and Miami and Western Michigan (one each) all received votes. Toledo coach Tom Amstutz said the Huskies warranted the voting. “Northern deserves to be No. 1 (in the West), they had the strongest team at the end of last year,” Amstutz said. “They have a very good team this year and deserve to be No. 1 and everybody has to chase them and that's what we're in the process of doing.” Eleventh-year Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak downplayed the voting. “I guess the best way to put it is, it's better than being picked last,” Novak said. “I'd rather be the underdog, but there's not a lot you can do about it. It does put a bullseye on your back a little bit. We've got to make sure our team can deal with that too. We all know that (the preseason poll) really doesn't mean anything when we start playing.”
FOURTH BOWL Mid-American Conference Commissioner Rick Chryst announced that four teams from the conference could be playing in bowl games this winter. The conference currently has three guaranteed bowl agreements after an agreement to be included in the International Bowl in Toronto (Jan. 6, 2007) against a Big East opponent was signed earlier this year. However, the conference can also send a team to the new bowl in Birmingham, Ala., if the Big East does not have a bowl-eligible team to fill its slot. Chryst indicated that the sky is the limit for the conference. “I truly believe I will see a MAC team kicking off in a New Year's Day bowl soon,” he said.
TV GAMES The 2006 season features 49 of 69 MAC home games to be televised commercially. Four conference teams will host Big Ten Conference opponents this fall. In the previous 59 years, the MAC hosted just six games against Big Ten teams. The conference also announced that all games will be available to watch via the Internet this season. Bobby Narang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.