MARSHALL: Thundering Herd have won the East every year since joining the MAC in 1996. ... First league school to play in bowls five years in a row when it beat East Carolina 65-62 in GMAC Bowl. ... Leftwich has eight other returning offensive starters, including RB Franklin Wallace and top three receivers.

MIAMI (OHIO): QB Ben Roethlisberger set MAC freshman records for passing yards (3,105) and TDs (25). ... Miami returns a pair of All-MAC linebackers, Terrell Jones and Matt Robillard, and five other starters on defense. ... After winning seven in a row, RedHawks lost last three to close 2001 season.

CENTRAL FLORIDA: UCF is 11-4 vs. MAC teams since moving to I-A. ... Golden Knights open at Penn State, at Arizona State and at Marshall. ... QB Ryan Schneider passed for almost 3,000 yards and 17 TDs.

KENT STATE: After going 5-37, Golden Flashes finished 2001 by going 5-2. ... Double-threat QB Joshua Cribbs ran for 1,019 yards and passed for 1,516. ... Drew only 2,973 fans to home win against Northern Illinois last year.

AKRON: Season rests on return of TB Brandon Payne, who averaged 100 yards rushing in the first five games before knee injury. ... Allowed 471 yards per game in 2001.


OHIO: Only three starters back from defense that gave up 30 ppg (Bobcats are at Florida Sept. 14). ... Second-year coach Brian Knorr is first Air Force Academy grad to become I-A head football coach.

BUFFALO: Chad Bartoszek (42 catches, 441 yards) one of top TEs in nation. ... Bulls lost entire defensive line and all but one linebacker. ... Scored 107 points in three wins, 98 points in eight losses.


BOWLING GREEN: Most improved I-A program last year, going from 2-9 to 8-3. ... Returns top two rushers (Josh Harris, Joe Alls), top two passers (Harris, Andy Sahm) and top receiver (Robert Redd). ... Must rebuild defense; seven starters graduated.

TOLEDO: Loses four offensive and seven defensive starters from 10-2 team that beat Marshall in the MAC title game and Cincinnati in the Motor City Bowl. ... Rockets are 7-0 in bowl games. ... Enters season with 14-game home winning streak.

WESTERN MICHIGAN: Signed 10 juco transfers. ... Jermaine Lewis, a two-time All-MAC safety, shifts to WR. ... Coming off first losing season (5-6) in six years.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS: Won four of last five in 2001. ... Tied with Toledo and Ball State for West title last year, first trophy since winning MAC in 1983. ... TB Thomas Hammock (1,096 yards) is back but Josh Haldi takes over at QB with only 20 career snaps.

BALL STATE: TB Marcus Merriweather is MAC's leading returning rusher (1,244 yards), and needs 1,100 more to become No. 1 at the school. ... Every offensive starter but one lineman is back, while defense lost most of front wall and two LBs. ... Four losses in 5-6 season were by total of 23 points.


CENTRAL MICHIGAN: Has most returning starters in MAC (18). ... LB James King tied NCAA record by blocking four punts vs. Michigan State. ... TB Terrence Jackson back after 1,194-yard season.

EASTERN MICHIGAN: Lost nine of last 10, including 65-62 triple-overtime loss at Akron to close season. ... WR Kevin Walter needs 18 catches to become school's career leader. ... Outscored 181-36 in first and third quarters last season.

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