No one appreciates what Central Michigan has accomplished more than the other Mid-American Conference teams the Chippewas have beaten.
``That's a tremendous program,'' Ball State coach Brady Hoke said at the conference football meetings while shaking his head. ``They've done what everyone else in this room wants to do.''
It takes some prodding, but even the two-time defending MAC champions' biggest rival grudgingly gives them their due.
``It's been tough to watch Central do this,'' Western Michigan wide receiver Jamarko Simmons said. ``But they deserve it.''
The Chippewas haven't exactly been a juggernaut - their record was just 8-6 last year - but they've come up big against the MAC. They've weathered a coaching change (Brian Kelly left for Cincinnati and was replaced by Butch Jones) to win 16 of their last 18 games against conference opponents.
More bad news for each of the MAC's 12 other members: Central may have lost a couple of quality linebackers and wide receivers, but their leading man returns. Dan LeFevour became just the second player in Bowl Subdivision history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season. The other guy to pull it off? Vince Young of Texas.
``I still have a lot of ways where I think I can improve,'' said LeFevour, who accounted for six TDs (four passing, two running) in a 51-48 loss to Purdue in the Motor City Bowl. ``I feel leaner and faster coming into this season, but we'll see if I still feel that way after training camp.''
The junior will be on display when the Chippewas take their act on the road on Sept. 6 against highly touted Georgia. The MAC doesn't shy away from playing the big boys, with other games against Ohio State (Ohio), Missouri (Buffalo) Wisconsin (Akron), Tennessee (Northern Illinois), Illinois (Western), Penn State (Temple), Nebraska (Western), and Michigan (Miami of Ohio, Toledo).
A capsule look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
Western Division
CENTRAL MICHIGAN - Key players: QB LeFevour, Jr.; WR Bryan Anderson, Jr.; DE Frank Zombo, Jr. Returning starters: 8 offense, 8 defense.
Notes: Jones came to Mount Pleasant, Mich., after serving as an assistant to Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia.
BALL STATE - Key players: QB Nate Davis, Jr.; WR Dante Love, Jr.; LB Bryant Haines, Sr. Returning starters: 11 offense, 7 defense.
Notes: Davis has 5,642 yards passing and 48 TD passes two years into his career.
WESTERN MICHIGAN - Key players: LB Boston McCornell, Sr.; QB Tim Hiller, Jr.; CB Londen Fryar, Sr. Returning starters: 7 offense, 10 defense.
Notes: Broncos open season at Nebraska and play Illinois in Detroit in November. ... Eleven of last season's top 12 tacklers return.
TOLEDO - Key players: WR Stephen Williams, Jr.; S Barry Church, Jr. Returning starters: 6 offense, 9 defense.
Notes: After averaging nine wins in his first five years on the job, coach Tom Amstutz has won 10 games total the past two seasons.
EASTERN MICHIGAN - Key players: MLB Daniel Holtzclaw, Sr.; QB Andy Schmitt, Jr. Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense.
Notes: Went from 1-11 to 4-8 a year ago. ... Eagles must find a replacement for TB Pierre Walker.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS - Key players: RB Justin Anderson, Jr.; DT Larry English, Jr. Returning starters: 10 offense, 11 defense.
Notes: New coach Jerry Kill won big at Southern Illinois, transforming a playoff subdivision program that won one game his first year to winning 50 the last five. He takes over for Joe Novak, who retired.
Eastern Division
BOWLING GREEN - Key players: QB Tyler Sheehan, Jr.; MLB Erique Dozier, Sr.; WR Freddie Barnes, Jr. Returning starters: 8 offense, 9 defense.
Notes: Sheehan completed 303-of-476 passes for 3,264 yards and 23 touchdowns. ... S P.J. Mahone led the MAC in interceptions with seven.
MIAMI (OHIO) - Key players: LB Clayton Mullins, Sr.; LB Caleb Bostic, Jr. Returning starters: 8 offense, 9 defense.
Notes: After going 7-4 in coach Shane Montgomery's debut season, the RedHawks have won eight games the last two years. ... Lost last season's MAC title game 35-10 to CMU.
BUFFALO - Key players: QB Drew Willy, Sr.; RB James Starks, Jr. Returning starters: 10 offense, 8 defense.
Notes: Coach Turner Gill, the former Nebraska star, popped up as a candidate for the Cornhuskers' job last season. .. Bulls have a distinct shot at their first winning record in the Bowl Subdivision.
KENT STATE - Key players: RB Eugene Jarvis, Jr.; LB Derrek Burrell, Sr. Returning starters: 8 offense, 8 defense.
Notes: Eugene Jarvis (1,669 yards, 139 per game) is MAC's leading returning rusher. .. K Nate Reed was tops among returners in field goals with 18.
TEMPLE - Key players: NT Andre Neblett, Jr.; DT Terrance Knighton, Sr. Returning starters: 10 offense, 11 defense.
Notes: The Owls went 4-4 in the MAC last season and 3-3 in the East, just one game shy of a share of the division title.
OHIO - Key players: CB Mark Parsons, Sr.; LB Michael Brown, Sr. Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense.
Notes: Replacing RB Kalvin McRae and his 1,434 yards rushing and 19 TDs is key for the Bobcats' option attack.
AKRON - Key players: DE Almondo Sewell, Soph.; KR Andre Jones, Sr. Returning starters: 8 offense, 5 defense.
Notes: Two years removed from a Motor City Bowl berth, the Zips are regrouping after finishing sixth in the division. It'll be hard to turn things around against a brutal schedule that includes Wisconsin, Syracuse and Cincinnati.

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