MAC QBs take aim at LeFevour's conference championships

On the back of the Comerica Park scoreboard in Detroit, on a billboard 60 feet high and 30 feet wide, Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour towers over the city's sports parks.

LeFevour is not only the biggest name facing Ford Field and wearing a Central Michigan jersey, he also has become a poster boy for MAC football, casting a shadow on several other quarterbacks in the conference.

The MAC had six quarterbacks with more than 2,400 passing yards in 2007, including four who threw for more than 3,000 yards. Only the Big 12 and Conference USA had more quarterbacks with at least 3,000 yards.

And there's no question LeFevour is the class of the group.

He put up 4,774 yards of total offense, which ranks second behind Texas Tech's Graham Harrell (5,613 yards) for returning starters. He was the second quarterback in history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season (Vince Young was the first, in 2005 at Texas). And he was the first MAC quarterback to lead his team to conference titles as a freshman and a sophomore.

"I really believe that no one can put more pressure on me than myself. That's just the way I am," LeFevour said. "No one gets more mad at me when I [throw an incomplete pass] than me. I think my coaches know that, and I think my teammates know that. It's just the way I play the game; it's the way I approach the game. The way that I prepare for the game won't allow me to fail. That's just the way I feel."

While LeFevour might be applying pressure to himself, the pack of MAC quarterbacks also is doing its part.

Ball State's Nate Davis, Bowling Green's Tyler Sheehan and Western Michigan's Tim Hiller also put up 3,000-yard passing seasons in 2007. None is a mobile quarterback, which gives LeFevour the advantage in total offense, but all have shown the accuracy to get their teams wins. Of the three, Hiller's is the only squad not among the top teams in the conference.

Davis actually passed for more yards (3,667) than LeFevour (3,652). He threw more touchdowns (30 to LeFevour's 27), had a better yards-per-game average (282 to 261) and threw fewer interceptions (six to 13). He did it while playing in one fewer game and running almost 200 fewer plays.

Sheehan was the lone 3,000-yard passer in the East Division with 3,264 yards. Although he had fewer passing yards than both both LeFevour and Davis, he had fewer interceptions (11) than LeFevour and a higher completion percentage (63.7) than Davis (56.5).

"I think we're each different in the styles we play," Sheehan said of his counterparts. "Dan can do more things with his feet than I can, but I think I can make some different throws that he can't make. Nate Davis has a great arm. I think, ability-wise, there's not much difference between us, but we each bring something different to the table to help our team win. And I think our different abilities showed when you look at the stats from last year."

LeFevour, Davis and Sheehan all are juniors this season, and none has indicated he might leave school early.

Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said MAC quarterbacks are successful because of the coaching and the high-octane offenses in place.

"I think this is probably one of the most underrated leagues in the country as far as coaches," Cubit said. "In this league, everybody kind of has about the same, but it's the coaches that put these kids in pretty good spots."

Cubit might be on to something. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and Florida coach Urban Meyer have roots in the MAC, and both run high-octane offenses. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel was a finalist for the Heisman last season, and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow won it.

Add Ohio's Frank Solich and former Toledo coach Nick Saban into the mix -- each has been the coach of the nation's No. 1 team at some point in the past decade.

And the MAC is no stranger to quarterback talent. Several MAC quarterbacks have gone on to successful professional careers, and three -- Ben Roethlisberger (Miami-Ohio), Chad Pennington (Marshall) and Byron Leftwich (Marshall) -- currently are listed on the two-deep NFL rosters.

Sheehan said he's not ignorant of the numbers other quarterbacks around the country are putting up. He often studies them and tries to top the week-by-week efforts. LeFevour is high on his list because he admires the way LeFevour has handled the media pressure and increased scrutiny that comes with winning. He looks up the numbers LeFevour puts up on a weekly basis.

But there's one number that stands out to Sheehan more than any other -- two.
That's the number of MAC championships LeFevour has.

"I think him winning back-to-back [MAC titles] has definitely solidified him as the No. 1 quarterback in the MAC just because he's done that," Sheehan said. "He's won two MAC championships, and if one of us wins a MAC championship, then we'll be right there with him -- if not surpass him. I think if me or Nate would have done it the past two years, we'd be looked at the same way, regardless of numbers. I think it definitely comes down to winning the MAC championship."

Graham Watson covers college football for ESPN.com.