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Herd picked to win MAC East

By Matt Riley, The Parthenon
August 10, 2004
(U-WIRE) DETROIT -- After not winning the Mid-American Conference East Division last season for the first time since 1997, the MAC News Media Association has the Herd returning to the top spot in its 2004 preseason poll with 21 first-place votes and 258 points.

The poll, released last Wednesday at the MAC Media Day in Detroit, has the defending East Division champion Miami of Ohio RedHawks picked second in division with 257 points.

"It's a big honor to be picked at the top of the East," Marshall senior quarterback Stan Hill said. "It's not going to be an easy ride. There's a lot of good teams out there. There's Akron, Miami and UCF, so there's a lot of good teams we have to play that are competing too so every game you've got to come out ready to play every day."

Hill, Marshall's lone representative at Media Day with head coach Bob Pruett attending a friend's funeral, fielded questions from the press and gave insight on what to expect from the Herd's final season in the MAC before heading into Conference USA in 2005.

"I think this could be a really good year," Hill said. "We've got a good defense and that's awesome for the offense to have a good defense like we will this year. The thing is, we have so many good players on offense too, so to be tough on both sides of the ball is a good thing."

The Herd will look to improve on their 8-4 record of 2003 and try to get back to the MAC title game and postseason play, which it missed for the first time last year.

Toledo, the Herd's most common foe in the title game, is picked to win the West Division with 34 first-place votes and 278 points. The Rockets are also selected as the favorite to win the MAC Championship game by the media association with 22 votes compared to Marshall's nine.

Rockets junior quarterback Bruce Gradkowski said a Marshall-Toledo matchup in the title game would be fitting in the final year for the Herd in the MAC.

"Marshall versus Toledo is always a great rivalry because the atmosphere is always fun and competitive," Gradkowski said. "I know they're going to have a good team this year with Stan Hill and company, so I like a good game and to meet up with them would be fun. We'll see what happens."

Marshall would love a chance to leave the MAC on a championship note as well, according to Hill.

"Like coach Pruett always says, 'We play for championships,' and he stresses it real hard for us so we've worked really hard in the offseason to try and come out and take back the MAC."

MAC Commissioner Rick Chryst said the league is stronger than ever following marquee wins against top 25 teams like Kansas State, Maryland and Alabama.

"Last year was a marquee year for our conference," Chryst said. "I look forward to continued growth and hopefully more success like we achieved last season."

Marshall opens the season Sept. 4 at home against Troy State and opens MAC play against defending champion Miami Sept. 29 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

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