A sixth straight title isn't going to be easy.
The conference released its preseason poll Wednesday and Northern Illinois is picked to finish third, behind Toledo and Western Michigan.
Toledo received 11 of the 24 first-place voters, with Western Michigan getting eight to Northern Illinois' four. Central Michigan picked up the final first-place vote.
In the East, Bowling Green is a favorite to reach its third straight conference championship game. The Falcons got 18 first-place votes, ahead of three for UMass, two for Akron and one for Ohio.