Probably one of the toughest divisions to call here. Four of these teams have the potential to make the playoffs. Here are the teams in the order that I feel they will finish:
GRAND RAPIDS RAMPAGE (12-4)
The heart of this team is the defence, which will carry them to the division championship. There is talent all over the field here. Rich Owens is a force on the line, Donnie Edwards and Lonnie Marts will stop both the run and the pass and James Hasty and Daryl Williams anchor the best secondary in the division. There are solid backups at many positions and some could be starters on other teams, like CB-Chris Cantry. The hardest part will be finding enough time to play all of the talent. GR's offense is rather mediocre. Bledsoe is coming off one of his worst years and the running game, led by Errict Rhett, will have it's fair share of problems controlling the ground game. There are two quality receivers here in Michael Westbrook and Sean Dawkins. Both were above 990 yards receiving and 7 TD's, so the arial attack has the potential to succeed, if the Bledsoe of old shows up. Bruce Matthews and Pete Kendall are stars on the offensive line, but after them, the talent level drops. That said, defence wins championships and the Rampage will prove that this year.
LAKE ORION FURY (10-6)
The Fury have a quality quarterback in Neil O'Donnell with a more than competant back up in Kerry Collins, who may just take the starting job, depending on what happens in the pre-season. The problem they could have is ball distribution. After the outstanding Marvin Harrison (115 catches), the next guy only had 37. If other teams secondaries double team Harrison, it could be a long night for the passing attack of the Fury. As a group, the Fury's running backs combined for the worst yards/run in the division last year. Terry Allen will have to prove that father time has not yet caught up with him, as his carrier is winding down. As with the Rampage, Lake Orion defence is their bread and butter. Cortez Kennedy and Chad Bratzke are a devestating duo on the line. Bratzke had the most sacks in the division last year with 12. He hope to improve on that number this year. John Holecek and Chris Slade are the best of a solid linebacking crew. The weak point here is the secondary. Someone will need to step up their game (Antuan Edwards), and Larry Whigham and Tory James need to bounce back from sub par years. If the offence steps it up a notch, the Fury could rise above the Rampage and take the title.
HEGINS VALLEY TORCH (8-8)
Here we have a team of extremes. This is arguably the divisions best offence paired up with it's worst defence. Michael Barrow is a stud in the linebacking group, but he cannot do everything. They desparately need a return of the old Bryan Cox. Cox has been working out diligently in the off-season, but a trade for a decent lineman might be in the cards. Henry Jones is the leader of a secondary that tries for the big plays often. They might not surpass last years 19 INT's, as teams will be running through the line, instead of throwing the ball. This is the year that Charlie Batch finally lives up to all that promise. He has two quality receivers to throw to in Gernane Crowell and Kevin Dyson, as well as Duce Staley and 3rd down specialist Terry Kirby out of the backfield. Staley and Kirby combined for over 1700 yards rushing, 800 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns. They are a lethal combination that will give opposing defensive coordinators many sleepless nights.The offensive line is solid, led by Brian Williams and Pete Stoyanovich and Scott Player give the Torch the best kicking/punting duo in the division. With a few changes on defence, Hegins could get a wild card position.
BATON ROUGE GATORS (7-9)
Home of the best offensive line in the division, if not the entire league. Boselli could be the best player on this team. He, Jonathan Ogden, Olin Kreutz and Adam Timmerman will run roughshod over defences this season. Hopefully RB Curtis Enis will use this line to his advantage. He only had 3.2 yards/carry last year and 3 TD's. With this line, he should be over 1200 yards and 10 touchdowns. The passing game looks to be non-existant. Kordell Stewart's paly has dropped off in recent years. He only had 9 TD's and 2 were rushing and 1 receiving. He also has noone to throw the ball to. Wayne Crebet is coming off a solid year, but he would be hard pressed to be a #1 receiver on most teams in the league. Andre Reed offers depth, but his best years are behind him and no receiver had over 650 yards last year. If opposing defences key in on stopping the run, the Gators could drop lower in the standings. The defence is made up of a few solid players, but no stars. Takeo Spikes, Dwayne Rudd and Kim Herring are above average players, but the talent level plummets after that. Eric Allen and Willie Williams are solid corners, but more is expected of them for the Gators to rise above .500.
CENTRAL TEXAS OUTLAWS (5-11)
Let's start with the good. Randy Moss, in my opinion, is the best receiver in football. John Kitna is starting to come into his own. Tory Holt is a young stud who may break 1000 yards this year. Ed McDaniel, Brian Williams, Ray Crockett and Darren Woodson are high quality defenders. Cary Blanchard made 85.7% of his field goals last year and Pete Mitchell continues to impress as he ages. The bad? Who's going to run the ball? Not one running back broke 500 yards last year, not had more than 1 touchdown. Fred Lane and Ken Oxendine had better have career years, but they will be hard pressed to do so. There are huge problems on the defensive line with only Mike Bankston having more than 33 tackles. The secondary had only 9 INT's, which they should improve on this year, unless teams just keep running the ball. If Central can, they should try to trade for a proven running back. It's the most important position on the field and you can't win without one.