Media vote picks Toledo to win MAC

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2001

The Associated Press

DETROIT – For a quarter century, Tom Amstutz has been dreaming of coaching the Toledo football team.

Thursday, July 26, 2001

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DETROIT – For a quarter century, Tom Amstutz has been dreaming of coaching the Toledo football team.

Now that he’s got the job, he’s also facing some big expectations.

The Rockets and their first-year coach were named Tuesday as the favorite to end Marshall’s four-year reign as the kings of the Mid-American Conference.

Toledo was picked as the winner of the MAC West by 36 of 51 voters in the media poll, and as the championship-game winner by 25.

Last season, the Rockets went 10-1, including a win at Penn State, but a loss to Western Michigan kept them out of the MAC title game.

”We felt like we deserved to be in a bowl last year, and that is going to be a motivating factor for us this season,” Amstutz said. ”We’ve been picked number one because of the talent we have coming back, but that doesn’t mean a thing.

”We’ve got to go out and win the games on the field. That’s where we slipped up last year.”

Amstutz played for Toledo in the late 1970s and has been a Rockets assistant coach for most of the seasons since, but that didn’t mean he would leave things in the status quo. One of his first moves was to install a spread passing attack, a surprise given the return of the MAC’s leading rusher, Chester Taylor.

”When I was the defensive coordinator, wide-open offenses like our new one always gave me the most nightmares, and I want to pass those along to other coaches,” Amstutz said. "Obviously, it is a risk to change a successful offense, but Chester won’t always be here, and this is the best thing for us in the long run.”

Taylor, who rushed for 1470 yards and 18 touchdowns last year, says the offense will fit him better than people think.

”I’m still going to play an important role – it just changes a little,” he said. ”First, I’ll get to catch the ball more in the open field, and when I’m running, this offense will mean fewer linebackers in the box.”

Two-time defending division champ Western Michigan was the media’s second choice in the West, picking up 14 first-place votes and 13 votes to win the championship game. It was followed by Northern Illinois, Ball State, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

”The last two years, we’ve had a chance to go to Marshall and win the MAC championship, and we haven’t pulled it out,” said Broncos coach Gary Darnell.

”This year, the title game will be hosted by the West, and we would love to get one more try, but this time in Kalamazoo,” Darnell said.

Marshall was the overwhelming favorite to win the East again, picking up 41 of 51 votes. The Thundering Herd, who have won the conference title in each of the four years since they joined, were followed by Ohio, Miami, Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State and Buffalo.

”Our goal is always to win the championship, no matter where we are picked,” said Marshall coach Bob Pruett. ”We’re going to have the same caliber team that we have had in past years, but this league keeps getting better and better.

”It doesn’t matter who you are playing anymore if you don’t have your A-game, you are going to get beat.”