The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 9, 2019

2019 Mid-American Conference Football Preview

The Mid-American Conference has been quite competitive in recent years with multiple teams competing in both divisions for their division title.  2019 should be no different in the West Division, but this could be a year where Ohio easily wins the East.  After the Bobcats, the other five teams have glaring weaknesses that can easily be exploited by a roster and coaching staff at Ohio, and the Western Division competitors.

The West Division is a four-team race.  Western Michigan returns more starters than any other team in the FBS Football.  The Broncos finished a game behind division winner Northern Illinois, and WMU is the team to beat in the West.  However, Toledo, Eastern Michigan, and Northern Illinois have enough talent to get a piece of the division flag, and all four teams could finish at 6-2 or 5-3 if they beat up on each other.

Here is the way the MAC Media representatives voted at the preseason media poll.

 

Mid-American Conference Media Poll
 

 

East Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Ohio 24 144
2 Miami (O) 0 107
3 Buffalo 0 100
4 Kent St. 0 62
5 Akron 0 54
6 Bowling Green 0 37
 

 

West Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Toledo 15 127
2 Western Michigan 5 112
3 Northern Illinois 3 103
4 Eastern Michigan 0 83
5 Ball St. 0 43
6 Central Michigan 1 36

 

Championship Game Winner
Ohio 13
Toledo 7
Western Michigan 2
Northern Illlinois 1
Central Michigan 1

 

Here are our preseason PiRate Ratings for the MAC.

Preseason PiRate Ratings–Mid-American Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Ohio U 96.3 95.2 97.8 96.5
Miami (O) 90.5 89.0 90.9 90.1
Buffalo 88.0 89.0 89.0 88.6
Kent St. 84.8 85.5 85.0 85.1
Akron 83.1 83.4 83.3 83.2
Bowling Green 78.3 78.5 78.7 78.5
 

 

West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Michigan 99.4 98.2 99.7 99.1
Northern Illinois 94.3 93.2 94.4 94.0
Toledo 91.2 90.8 92.3 91.4
Eastern Michigan 88.8 89.2 89.6 89.2
Ball St. 85.6 85.4 85.1 85.4
Central Michigan 78.3 79.2 78.4 78.6
 

 

MAC Averages 88.2 88.1 88.7 88.3

Note:  These preseason ratings are accurate as of August 1, 2019, and subject to change before the first week of the season due to personnel changes prior to the first week of the season.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

The PiRate Ratings were not created to forecast won-loss records like other ratings might attempt.  Our ratings are valid for just the next game on the teams’ schedules, and we have pre-set adjustments built into our ratings on many teams.  For instance, if a team has exceptional starting talent but little depth, their rating has a pre-set reduction per week of the season, so that even if they win or lose a game by the exact expected margin, they will lose some of their power rating due to their depth issues.

If a team has exceptional, but inexperienced talent, their rating will have a pre-set addition per week of the season, and even if their performance may be exactly what was expected, their power rating will rise.

What you see in these predicted won-loss records are our opinion and not calculated from the ratings.  These are the estimated records based on a vote, with the Captain having 50% of the vote and the crew having the other 50%.  The Captain then rounded up or down those teams picked to have an average wins that were not whole numbers.

 

PiRate Members Predicted Won-Loss
East Division
Pos Team MAC Overall
1 Ohio 7-1 9-4
2 Miami (O) 5-3 6-6
3 Buffalo 5-3 6-6
4 Akron 3-5 4-8
5 Kent St. 3-5 4-8
6 Bowling Green 1-7 2-10
 

 

West Division
Pos Team MAC Overall
1 Western Michigan 7-1 10-3*
2 Toledo 6-2 8-4
3 Eastern Michigan 5-3 7-5
4 Northern Illlinois 5-3 6-6
5 Ball St. 1-7 2-10
6 Central Michigan 0-8 2-10
 

*

 

Western Michigan picked to win MAC Championship Game

 

Bowl Predictions
Bahamas Western Michigan
Boca Raton Ohio
Camellia Eastern Michigan
Dollar General Northern Illinois
Idaho Potato Toledo

 

Also Bowl Eligible
Buffalo
Miami (O)

 

Coaches That Could Move To FBS Power 5 Conferences

Lance Leipold, Buffalo

Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan

Jason Candle, Toledo

Tim Lester, Western Michigan

 

Coaches On The Hot Seat

Mike Neu, Ball St.

 

Top Quarterbacks

Nathan Rourke, Ohio

Jon Wassink, Western Michigan

Mitchell Guadagni, Toledo

 

Best Offense

Western Michigan

Toledo

Ohio

Best Defense

Northern Illinois

Ohio

Buffalo

 

Coming Tomorrow: The Sun Belt Conference

 

 

 

 

 

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August 12, 2018

2018 Mid-American Conference Preview

Note: The preseason ratings you see in the previews may not be the same as the ratings you see for the first game. We update every team’s rating based on player injuries, changes to the depth charts, and other factors that may change during preseason practice.

Some of our Group of 5 Conference won-loss predictions were figured before the beginning of August preseason practices. Thus, it could be that a player or players on some teams have already suffered season-ending or multiple game injuries or have left their teams, and these won-loss predictions no longer accurately reflect our ratings. We hope that by the time we preview the Power 5 conferences, we will know who is not going to be available (players and head coaches).

They call it “Maction.” The Mid-American Conference frequently produces teams capable of beating the lower half of the Big Ten and occasionally a weaker upper echelon team from their Big Brother rival conference. Additionally, the MAC has produced some star players that became NFL stars. It has also successfully placed its champion in the New Year’s 6 bowl that is reserved for a Group of 5 team.

2018 should be no different in these respects. The MAC has some strong teams, two or three of which are talented enough to make a run at the NY6 Bowl bid. On the other hand, these teams are good enough to beat each other and prevent the champion from running the table. Additionally, both divisions have more than one really good team, so it may be difficult to have either division champion go 8-0 in the league.

2018 could be another Year of the Quarterback in this league. Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson led the league in passing last year as a sophomore. Jackson missed four games, but when he was healthy, he was the top quarterback in the league. Against Bowling Green he topped 400 passing yards and three touchdowns versus no interceptions. He threw four TD passes the next week against Ball State, and he finished the year with 294 yards and two scores in a win over Ohio. If he stays healthy, Jackson could pass for 3,000 and run for 1,000 yards this year.

Another junior quarterback, Nathan Rourke makes Ohio’s offense potent. Rourke is also a dual-threat QB; his passing arm isn’t quite up to Jackson’s quality, but he is a little better runner and has a considerably better offensive line in Athens.

The MAC-East is rich with quality quarterbacks. Miami of Ohio’s Gus Ragland is the senior statesman of the division. Ragland became a star in the second half of the 2016 season, when he orchestrated a 6-0 finish after the Red Hawks began the season 0-6. He’s more of a move the pocket passer than Jackson or Rourke and will not beat opponents with his legs. Miami’s much improved offensive line should give Ragland a chance to compete for top passer in the MAC.

The West Division will have the best defensive team this year. Northern Illinois should have the best pass defense in the entire league, as their pass rush and pass coverage both rank as the tops in the MAC. NIU will face competition from Toledo, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, and even Eastern Michigan. The Huskies probably have the best chance at going 8-0 in the league, because the West is a little down compared to recent years.

One reason why no MAC team may qualify for the NY6 Bowl this year is a much tougher slate of non-conference schedules. Every team faces a tough Power 5 opponent, and the ratings call for the MAC to lose all of these games.  Northern Illinois could easily lose all four non-conference games having to play at Iowa, Florida State, and BYU and host Utah. Of course, our ratings cannot select upsets out of a hat, and usually there is always an upset or two, which is why we only rely on our ratings for picking the next game on the schedule for each team.

Here is how the MAC media voted in the preseason poll.

Mid-American
Team Votes
East Division 1st Place Total
1. Ohio 21 140
2. Buffalo 1 112
3. Miami (Ohio) 2 95
4. Akron 0 74
5. Bowling Green 0 58
6. Kent State 0 25
West Division 1st Place Total
1. Northern Illinois 15 133
2. Toledo 7 125
3. Western Michigan 1 87
4. Eastern Michigan 0 67
5. Central Michigan 1 58
6. Ball State 0 34

Picked to win 2018 MAC Championship Game
Ohio 13
Toledo 5
Northern Illinois 4
Miami 1
Central Michigan 1

The PiRate Ratings differ minimally from the media’s preseason opinions.

Mid-American Conference
East Division
Team MAC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Ohio U 0-0 0-0 95.1 96.5 96.4 96.0
Buffalo 0-0 0-0 94.3 96.7 95.4 95.5
Miami (O) 0-0 0-0 91.5 93.9 93.4 92.9
Akron 0-0 0-0 90.5 92.1 90.7 91.1
Bowling Green 0-0 0-0 85.1 85.4 85.7 85.4
Kent St. 0-0 0-0 80.2 81.6 79.5 80.4
West Division
Team MAC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Toledo 0-0 0-0 96.3 98.4 96.4 97.0
Northern Illinois 0-0 0-0 96.3 97.9 96.6 96.9
Western Michigan 0-0 0-0 91.5 93.8 92.9 92.8
Eastern Michigan 0-0 0-0 89.1 90.5 89.8 89.8
Central Michigan 0-0 0-0 84.8 88.5 85.2 86.2
Ball St. 0-0 0-0 77.7 80.4 77.4 78.5
MAC Averages 89.4 91.3 90.0 90.2

 

New Coaches

Kent State: Sean Lewis has some history in the MAC.  He was the offensive coordinator for Dino Babers at Bowling Green, when the Falcons torched MAC defenses for 45.6 points per game in 2015.  Lewis followed Babers to Syracuse, where he helped lead the Orangemen to new passing heights.  He played for Brett Bielema at Wisconsin, so he could incorporate some of his alma mater’s power game with the Baylor-style spread offense.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

East
Team Conference Overall
Ohio 7-1 10-3
Buffalo 6-2 8-4
Akron 4-4 5-7
Miami (O) 4-4 4-8
Bowling Green 1-7 3-9
Kent St. 0-8 1-11
West
Team Conference Overall
Northern Illinois 8-0 9-4 *
Toledo 7-1 9-3
Western Michigan 4-4 6-6
Eastern Michigan 4-4 5-7
Central Michigan 2-6 3-9
Ball St. 1-7 2-10
* Northern Illinois picked to win MAC Championship Game

Bowl Tie-ins
The MAC does not have a set bowl pecking order. They send teams to bowls to create the best overall games. These are the bowls tie-ins for 2018.

Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, FL
Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, AL
Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, AL
Frisco Bowl in Frisco, TX
Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, ID

There is a secondary bowl agreement with the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit if it needs an at-large alternate.

Coming Tomorrow–The Mountain West Conference

August 15, 2017

2017 Mid-American Conference Preview

Today, the PiRate Ratings kicks off its annual college football conference previews with the Mid-American Conference.  Last year, the MAC was a sneaky little league.  Very few so-called experts picked this league to produce the automatic New Year’s 6 Bowl participant, but when Western Michigan ran the table in the regular season, and then the Broncos beat Ohio in the MAC title game, it was WMU that ventured down to Jerry World to play in the Cotton Bowl.

There is a slight chance that this league could produce the special Group of 5 team again this season, but we won’t expect it this time around.  Not only is there no overpowering team in this league. the schedule for the best team just won’t allow for an undefeated season and most likely not a one-loss season.

2017 looks to be the year where college football begins to look more and more like the NFL, and the teams with experienced and talented quarterbacks, quick receivers, quick defensive backs, and above-average linemen in that order will dominate the land.  It is certainly true in this league, where the top two QBs belong to the two teams we are picking to win the divisional races–Logan Woodside at Toledo and Gus Ragland at Miami of Ohio.

Because the Poinsettia Bowl went bust, there is one less bowl game this season.  The MAC figures to be the league that suffers the most from this cancellation.  We believe there will be two bowl eligible teams in the league that do not receive bowl bids.  At least, we do not foresee a 5-7 team having to fill in as an at-large, at least until another bowl replaces the defunct Poinsettia.  There could be one set for Wrigley Field in Chicago in the future, and that most assuredly would be good news for this league.

Here is how the MAC Media picked the teams to finish the season.

MAC East Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Ohio U 11 131 0
2 Miami (O) 12 129 1
3 Bowling Green 1 88 1
4 Akron 0 79 0
5 Buffalo 0 41 0
6 Kent St. 0 36 0
         
MAC West Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Toledo 22 142 21
2 Western Michigan 1 107 1
3 Northern Illinois 1 89 0
4 Eastern Michigan 0 74 0
5 Central Michigan 0 62 0
6 Ball St. 0 30 0

The PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings differ slightly, but not all that much.  Remember that the PiRate Ratings are really only predictive for the next week’s schedule, and they cannot be used to look forward past that week.  Because, we set certain factors into each teams’ future to account for depth or lack thereof, these ratings can change even if a team wins by the exact amount predicted.

Here are the PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings for the pre-season

Mid-American Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Miami (O) 94.3 96.6 96.8 95.9
Ohio U 90.3 92.0 91.2 91.2
Akron 84.3 88.5 84.5 85.8
Kent St. 83.7 85.3 84.9 84.6
Bowling Green 82.4 82.6 83.7 82.9
Buffalo 79.7 83.7 81.6 81.7
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Michigan 102.1 98.4 103.8 101.4
Toledo 99.3 99.1 100.9 99.8
Eastern Michigan 93.5 93.1 93.6 93.4
Central Michigan 90.4 90.6 90.8 90.6
Northern Illinois 85.7 85.8 85.9 85.8
Ball St. 78.2 80.5 79.7 79.5
         
MAC Averages 88.7 89.7 89.8 89.4

This is our not so scientific attempt to predict the won-loss records and bowl projections.  As we stated above, our ratings do not look past the next week’s schedule.

Mid-American Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
East Division      
Miami (O) 6-2 9-4 Camellia
Ohio U 5-3 8-4 Idaho Potato
Akron 4-4 5-7  
Kent St. 2-6 3-9  
Bowling Green 2-6 3-9  
Buffalo 2-6 3-9  
       
West Division      
Toledo 8-0 11-2 Bahamas
Western Michigan 6-2 8-4 Dollar General
Eastern Michigan 5-3 6-6 eligible
Central Michigan 5-3 6-6 eligible
Northern Illinois 2-6 4-8  
Ball St. 1-7 3-9  
       
Toledo to win MAC Title Game

Coming tomorrow–Conference USA

 

 

 

 

 

October 27, 2016

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlay Picks–October 27-31, 2016

The Hook
We talked about this in a previous posting, but we now have real data to show you why you should not wager real money on our picks. Last week, we hit a small bonanza, and we came within a few seconds of a major, albeit imaginary, windfall profit.

We issued four long shot money line parlays, each returning better than 2 to 1 odds. We won on two of the four and came within seconds of winning the third one. As it is, our profit from last week was 61% return on the investment. Had that third game that we lost in the last seconds been a winner as well, our profit would have exceeded 100% on the investment.

It’s the “last-second”, “one play,” “fluke play” stuff that hooks the investor to make him or her return the next week to wager more. We have no problem with this. We can wager “$500,000,” and it is the same as if we wagered “$1.” It’s just a fun exercise for a half dozen math geeks, four of whom are members of the fairer sex by the way.

What we have noticed so far this season is that our college picks are winning, while the NFL picks are not doing well at all. The 2016 NFL season has been too tipsy-turvy to hit on parlays. Sure, you can pick New England to win at -300, but that won’t help you much, because at -300, the Patriots basically have to win out to keep you from losing money. If they go 12-4, and you bet on them to win every week at a -300 average, you will invest $300 every week and win $100 12 times, while losing $300 four times. This would allow you to break even in theory, but New England doesn’t go off at -300 each week. They might lose at -450. They might win at -600 over a lousy team. Your invested amount won’t get you the profit to buy that new pearl necklace for that special lady in your life, or that new cell phone with the 16 megapixel camera to replace that camera that is best used to start a campfire.

Until otherwise determined to be safe, we are going to limit our money line parlays to college games only. The upset tendencies this time of year tend to be more conservative than the NFL.

For the season, our “just for fun only” picks have wagered on 31 money line parlay games, all at better than even money odds. We have won 10 of the 31 at an average of $283.25 (on $100 wagered) and lost the other 21 ($-100). This brings us a return of $-130 for the season, which is still a negative 4% return on investment. For what it’s worth, the college selections are responsible for 80% of the winnings, and those picks alone have a positive return on investment, which is why we are going only with college picks this week.

We are going to issue just three selections this week. All three are very long shots such that winning just any one of these three games will make our week an imaginary profitable one. One of the parlays combines two underdogs that we believe can win outright and return an incredible 6+ times what we are pretending to invest.

Look carefully at all three parlays. There is a reason they call them “long shots.” Chances are high that all three will lose, so be forewarned all you reading this with a URL from Las Vegas as well as all you that have figured out which two online books you can find to plug the numbers into a calculator and discover which book we used for each parlay. Remember this: just since we started this feature 15 minutes ago, three of the games that make up the parlays have changed the money line odds.

This Week’s Games

October 27-31,2016
1. College Parlay @ +295
Temple over Cincinnati
Indiana over Maryland
Memphis over Tulsa
Central Michigan over Kent St.
N. C. St. over Boston College
 
2. College Parlay @ +324
Toledo over Ohio
Wake Forest over Army
Southern Miss. over Marshall
Florida over Georgia
Tennessee over South Carolina
Penn St. over Purdue
Washington St. over Oregon St.
 
3. College Parlay @ +607
North Texas over UTSA
Kentucky over Missouri

 

 

October 5, 2016

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlay Picks–October 6-10, 2016

As Mr. Whipple might have said had he worked in our little firm, “Please don’t squeeze the PiRate Picks!”

Okay, so we have enjoyed two very successful weeks in a row with these money line parlay selections.  We followed up a 75% return on investment two weeks ago with a 24% return last week.  It only took one winning parlay to pull off the profit.  BUT, we only one thanks to a Hail Mary, and we didn’t even go to confession.

Yes, the Tennessee game appeared to doom us to total defeat last week, but the incredible finish did as much for us as it did for Butch Jones–it brought us to our knees.  Aside from Tennessee, the rest of the parlay included wins by Akron, Old Dominion, and Florida, giving us a return of $373 on our $100 investment.  Remember this, our bankroll and investments are entirely mere illusion; we do not ever wager any real currency on our selections, and we highly recommend that you do not either.  We know from our site statistics that some of you reading this weekly entry do so from Las Vegas.  We don’t think Billy Walters, or any of his “friends” are reading this, because Mr. Walters is intelligent and knows how to win.  What we fear is that Billy Doe has his rent money at the betting window with his iPhone in hand looking at our picks, while Mrs. Doe and brood cannot find food in their refrigerator back home.

For the season, our total picks now show a minor loss of 6%, which is about where we were this time last year, before we went on a six-week winning streak that took us north of +50%.

There are two reasons why this week’s picks were very difficult for us.  First, the number of NFL teams getting byes moves from two to four teams.  Second, Hurricane Matthew is causing a lot of logistic issues as teams in Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina scramble to re-schedule games–some to later dates; some moving up a day; and some moving the location of the game.  If we like a home team at a certain line, and then the game moves to another state or does not play at all, it wrecks the selection.  So, we had to greatly limit the pool this week and barely scraped together three selections.  Because we would have to go 2-1 to make a profit, it would not be worth going with three long shot parlays when we can make a profit by going 1-1.  This then presented an additional problem; which parlay would we eliminate?

Four hours later, we realized that our choosing to eliminate what we liked was like playing Tic-Tac-Toe with a computer that always knows the correct response.  Infinite draws lead to a lot of head-banging, and we already have too many concussions between us.  So, we did what we thought best and added a fourth game that will allow us to go 2-2 and make a profit.  However, the fourth game is not a parlay at all; it is a straight wager on the underdog to win outright.

Selection #1: College Parlay at +155

Memphis over Temple

Alabama over Arkansas

Auburn over Mississippi St.

Memphis looked like an SEC team playing at Ole Miss last week.  The Tigers don’t have Paxton Lynch, but the rest of the team looks a little better than last year’s edition.  Temple has regressed a bit this year, and we think the home team from the Bluff City will win the game.

Until somebody actually pins a loss on the defending champs, we are not going to select against Alabama.  To date in 2016, the Crimson Tide have looked like they could score 70 points per game if the offense needed to.  And, the defense is still among the best in the nation.  This team reminds us some of the 1966 Tide team, which went undefeated.

Auburn is slightly favored in Starkville against the Bulldogs.  Mississippi State is 10-14 points weaker this year without Dak Prescott.  Prescott hid some liabilities in last year’s Maroon and White.

 

Selection #2: College Parlay at +189 

Tulsa over SMU

Oklahoma St. over Iowa St.

Utah over Arizona

Michigan St. over BYU

Ohio U over Bowling Green

Tulsa had an extra week to prepare for their game against SMU, while the Mustangs faced Temple on the road after playing TCU the week before.  Now, SMU has to play at Skelly Stadium, and it has the makings of a 20 or more point win for TU.

Iowa State had a tough and emotional loss at home to Baylor last week and now goes on the road to play an Oklahoma State team that has a little added confidence after shredding Texas.

Utah rarely loses at home, and when the Utes’ do lose in Salt Lake City, it is usually against a powerhouse team.  Arizona is no powerhouse; they are more like a wind-up dynamo for an emergency radio.  In other words, Utah should win by double digits this week.

Michigan State is in a must-win situation this week with non-conference foe BYU coming to East Lansing.  A loss puts the Spartans in danger of finishing under .500 for the season, and we cannot see a Mark Dantonio team go 5-7.  BYU is having a rough re-adjustment under new management, and Bronco Mendenhall’s recent success in his first year at Virginia shows us that he was worth a lot more points as a coach than his average peer.

The Ohio U-Bowling Green line is a bit odd to us.  We feel it should be much more in favor of the Bobcats, but we will gladly take what we feel is some extra juice.  What Coach Mendenhall was to BYU, current Syracuse coach Dino Babers was to BGU.  This brings us to the next contest.

 

Selection #3: College Money Line Game @ +130

Syracuse over Wake Forest

This is not a parlay; it is a straight pick of the underdog to pull off the upset.  There is a tiny bit of concern here, because weather could be a factor in Winston-Salem.  The Demon Deacons’ athletic department has no plans to change the time or place of this game, but still, it could be wet and windy.  Wet doesn’t bother us, and in fact, we like passing teams playing on wet surfaces.  Wind does bother us.  A gentle breeze is not that much of a factor, but a 25 mile per hour gust can adjust a thrown football by enough to turn a completion into an incomplete or even intercepted pass.

Nevertheless, we like the Orangemen in this game.  Wake Forest is a close-to-the-vest conservative team.  They own a win over a more wide open Indiana team two weeks ago, but the Hoosiers wrapped that game up as a gift to the Deacs.

Meanwhile, Syracuse has looked better and better offensively every week under the Babers version of the spread passing game.  We believe SU will outscore Wake and pull off the upset.

 

Selection #4: NFL Parlay @ +199

Pittsburgh over N.Y. Jets

Baltimore over Washington

Indianapolis over Chicago

Honestly, we did not love any of the NFL picks this week.  These are the only three games that we could combine into a parlay worth playing.  Our selections were more about the losing team than the predicted winner.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has reverted back to his old Pickpatrick days.  He has thrown nine intereceptions the last two weeks, and the Jets have begun to look like the Browns during that time.  Meanwhile, the Steelers had the look of an AFC Champion contender last week, and they host this game this week.

Baltimore needs to win to keep pace with the Steelers and stay ahead of the Bengals, while the Redskins look to us to be a paper tiger at 2-2.

Indianapolis is now facing a must-win situation at home against the lowly Bears.  Already two games in back of Houston, the Colts cannot afford to lose a home game to a probable double-digit loss team.  With Houston having to face Minnesota, it gives the Colts a chance to get back to within a game of the Texans in a division that is almost assured to produce just one playoff team.

August 16, 2016

2016 Mid-American Conference Football Preview

The Mid-American Conference has been for years breeding grounds for rising head coaches. Miami of Ohio was once referred to as the “Cradle of Coaches” for producing incredible future stars such as Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Paul Brown, Sid Gillman, Ara Parseghian, and more than a dozen additional coaches that achieved fame and championships elsewhere.

In recent years, the MAC has sent multiple head coaches to power five conferences, such as: Dave Clawson to Wake Forest; Dave Doeren to North Carolina St.; Dino Babers to Syracuse; Matt Campbell to Iowa St.; and Darrell Hazzell to Purdue.

There is a reason for the coaching promotions. MAC teams have a storied history of beating Power Conference teams, especially their big brothers of the Big Ten. In the last four seasons alone, MAC teams have 16 wins over Power 5 teams, 11 of those 16 against current Big Ten members.

The MAC is the only league with a change in membership this year, as Massachusetts has left and become an independent school. That makes the league balanced again with six teams in both divisions.

The West had the most exciting race among any divisions in FBS football last year, as Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, and Toledo tied for the division flag with 6-2 conference marks. NIU won the tiebreaker and fell to East Division champ Bowling Green in the MAC title game.

Babers has left BGU for Syracuse, but new coach Mike Jinks comes in and promises to keep the wide-open up-tempo offense that allowed the Falcons to average better than 42 points and almost 550 total yards per game. Jinks comes from a similar style at Texas Tech.

Frank Solich begins his 12th season at Ohio U, and the Bobcats should contend in the East with BGU. The Bobcats have been bowl eligible for seven consecutive seasons, and they should make it eight this year.

The West should be another interesting affair this season, as last year’s quartet of co-champions should compete again, and another co-championship is highly likely. The top three quarterbacks in the league belong to Central Michigan (Cooper Rush), Northern Illinois (Drew Hare), and Western Michigan (Zach Terrell). Brogan Roback at Eastern Michigan might be as good as this group, but playing for the Eagles can be hazardous to a QB’s health.

The MAC Media believe the East Division is a toss-up, while the West Division is rather cut and dry.

Official MAC Media Preseason Poll

MAC East Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Bowling Green 12 136 1
2 Ohio U 10 134 0
3 Akron 4 107 1
4 Buffalo 0 75 0
5 Miami (O) 0 52 0
6 Kent St. 0 42 0
MAC West Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Western Michigan 19 144 19
2 Toledo 2 113 2
3 Northern Illinois 3 112 2
4 Central Michigan 2 98 1
5 Ball St. 0 44 0
6 Eastern Michigan 0 35 0

The PiRate Ratings agree closely with the media to start the season.

Initial PiRate Ratings for the Mid-American Conference

Mid-American Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Bowling Green 96.7 94.7 97.3 96.2
Ohio 88.7 98.2 90.1 92.4
Akron 84.8 92.6 86.5 88.0
Buffalo 80.8 90.1 82.2 84.4
Miami (O) 82.2 84.0 82.9 83.0
Kent St. 82.3 84.5 82.2 83.0
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Michigan 101.8 100.7 103.7 102.1
Toledo 101.8 99.7 102.6 101.4
Central Michigan 98.7 101.7 99.7 100.1
Northern Illinois 97.1 98.7 98.2 98.0
Ball St. 83.5 85.5 83.7 84.3
Eastern Michigan 78.0 83.5 79.4 80.3
         
MAC Averages 89.7 92.9 90.7 91.1

The PiRate Ratings are best used just to look forward to the next week game schedule.  These ratings cannot really be used to predict won-loss records, so with that caveat, here are the projected won-loss records based on the ratings alone.

Mid-American Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
East Division      
Bowling Green 6-2 8-5 Idaho Potato
Ohio U 5-3 7-5 GoDaddy
Akron 4-4 5-7  
Buffalo 3-5 4-8  
Miami (O) 2-6 3-9  
Kent St. 0-8 2-10  
       
West Division      
Western Michigan 7-1 10-3 * Miami Beach
Toledo 7-1 8-4 Bahamas
Central Michigan 6-2 8-4 [Boca Raton] ^
Northern Illinois 6-2 8-4 Camellia
Eastern Michigan 1-7 4-8  
Ball St. 1-7 2-10  
       
* WMU wins MAC Title      
^ CMU’s  bowl is at-large       

Next Preview: Thursday, August 18–Mountain West Conference

 

 

 

 

 

August 12, 2015

2015 Mid-American Conference Preview

It’s been three years since Northern Illinois sneaked into a BCS Bowl, losing to Florida State in the 2013 Orange Bowl, and since that time, the Mid-American Conference has fallen a few spots in the conference ladder, just barely beginning the 2015-16 season ahead of Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference.

There are talented teams in both MAC divisions, but overall, the league has gotten a few points weaker in recent years.  In the past three seasons, this league is just 4-13 in bowl games, many of those losses to mediocre opponents.  And, last year, MAC teams went 4-20 against teams from Big 6 conferences.  Those four beaten big boys were Pittsburgh, Indiana, Purdue, and Northwestern.  Among the 20 losses were Big Six Conference lightweights Colorado and Vanderbilt, as well as the aforementioned Purdue Boilermakers.  Additional losses to the likes of Eastern Kentucky and Army (twice) knocked this league down a few more notches.

2015 brings a new outlook for the Big Ten’s stepbrother.  The league will produce a few future NFL players, and we believe this might be the season where the MAC breaks even or even finished above .500 in the bowl picture.

The East Division figures to be four deep in contenders, with Bowling Green leading the way.  Second year coach Dino Babers won the division in his first year at the helm, as the Falcons found a way to win close games.  However, a three-game losing streak to close out the regular season spoiled a possible repeat of 2013.  This year, Babers’ squad is loaded on offense and should score up to 35 points per game, but the defense may be just as generous.  The key is the BGU secondary, which is thin to start the season.

Frank Solich once had his alma mater, Nebraska, at the number one spot in the nation and on the cusp of becoming another national champion like the 1997, 1995, 1994, 1971, and 1970 teams.  An unbelievable upset blowout loss at Colorado on Black Friday of 2001 basically started the ball rolling to his dismissal in Lincoln, and led to his arrival in Athens, Ohio, where Solich has guided the Ohio Bobcats to a 72-56 record and six bowl trips in his ten-year tenure.  Solich’s Bobcats figure to be right on Bowling Green’s heels this year, and the Wednesday night, November 4 game at BGU could determine which East team will play in the MAC Championship Game.

Our sleeper team in the league this year is UMass.  The Minutemen have yet to challenge in their first three years in the league, but we have a sneaky suspicion that Coach Mark Whipple’s crew is going to matter in the East Division race this year.  The UMass offense is going to be lethal at times this season with the league’s top quarterback and two of the top receivers.  Whipple’s Minutemen will not be a one trick pony.  The defense should improve by as much as a touchdown per game, and we believe UMass will be bowl eligible.  The bowl invitation may not arrive, but a 6-6 season would be enough to create a lot more support in Amherst.

Akron has become a “sexy” pick among the MAC Media, as they believe Coach Terry Bowden is about to turn the corner in the land of rubber.  We believe the Zips will vie with UMass for third place, but any of the top four in this division could make it to the Championship Game.  Former Louisville wideout Michaelee Harris could be the added ingredient that proves the media to be a modern day Nostradamus.

Kent State is not that far behind the four contenders, but the Golden Flashes have a killer schedule that includes road games against Illinois, Minnesota, Toledo, Ohio, and Akron, and a home game against Marshall.  Basically, to make it to .500, the Flashes will have to win the rest of their games, and since the rest of their games include Bowling Green, there is not a path to bowl eligibility this season.

Buffalo and Miami (O) will fight it out in an attempt to avoid the cellar, as these two teams will be out of bowl contention before November.  Buffalo actually has some decent talent, but the Bulls don’t have enough to compete with the top four in the MAC East.  Miami must be fortunate to draw an opening home game against Presbyterian.  A loss to the Blue Hose would mean the Redhawks would be 0-9 when Eastern Michigan comes to Oxford.

The West Division has three very talented squads that are no more than a field goal apart in our ratings to start the season.  Any of the top three could state an excellent case as to why they are the best of the trio.

To start 2015, we rate Western Michigan as the best in the division and the league.  Coach P. J. Fleck was on a possible hot seat after a 1-11 innaugural season.  In year two, the Broncos put together a six-game winning streak that finally ended in the season finale against Northern Illinois in a game that had WMU won, would have been enough to take a piece of the division title.  With the bulk of the team that surprised with an 8-4 regular season mark returning, including quarterback Zach Terrell, star runnning back Jarvion Franklin, and just about every receiver that caught a pass last year, look for WMU to be the team to beat in the MAC and possibly one to scare Michigan State for a half in the season opener.

Toledo is not as talented as WMU, but the Rockets have a huge advantage over the Broncos.  TU hosts WMU as well as Northern Illinois, while WMU must finish out the regular season with back-to-back road games against the other two contenders.  Running back Kareem Hunt may be the best back in the league, and he returns as well as quarterback Phillip Ely.  The one problem with the Toledo offense is a green blocking quintet.  If the young offensive linemen improve enough by November, then TU will become the favorite to win the division flag.  If the group never puts it together, then even hosting the other two contenders may not matter.

As for Northern Illinois, the Huskies may have the best defense of the three contenders, but the offense is the weakest of the three contenders.  It could be trouble for NIU having to play at Ohio State and at Boston College in back-to-back weeks, and injuries could accumulate and cause the Huskies trouble the following week, when they continue their road trip at Central Michigan.

Ball State coach Pete Lembo has done an admirable job in Muncie, Indiana, in his four years there.  He took over a program that had dropped to the cellar in the West Division, even falling below Eastern Michigan, and he has produced 6-6, 9-4, 10-3, and 5-7 records.  This year’s Cardinals squad should be considerably better than last year’s team, but the schedule is not all that favorable.  Among their four non-conference games, BSU plays at Texas A&M and at Northwestern.  There is still a good chance that Lembo can guide this squad back to bowl eligibility.

There was a time when Central Michigan was the class of the league under former coaches Butch Jones and Brian Kelly.  The last three years, Coach Dan Enos took the Chippewas to two bowl games and had a bowl eligible team the other year.  However, Enos did not receive a lot of support in Mt. Pleasant, so after last year’s 7-6 season, he resigned to accept the offensive coordinator’s position at Arkansas.  New coach John Bonamego has the unenviable task of starting over with a thinned group of Chippewas, and we believe CMU will fall back in the pack just barely ahead of perennial cellar-dweller Eastern Michigan.

Eastern Michigan has suffered through three consecutive 2-10 seasons, and a rebuilding offense will keep the Eagles at two or even fewer wins this year.

Here is a look at the MAC Media Preseason Poll.

Mid-American Conference Media Poll
Pos. Team 1st Place Total
MAC East Division
1 Bowling Green 18 160
2t Akron 2 118
2t Ohio U 1 118
4 Massachusetts 3 113
5 Buffalo 0 70
6 Miami (O) 0 47
7 Kent St. 0 46
MAC West Division
1 Toledo 11 121
2 Western Michigan 8 120
3 Northern Illinois 4 113
4 Ball St. 0 66
5 Central Michigan 1 56
6 Eastern Michigan 0 28
2015 MAC Championship Game Winner: Toledo (9);
Western Michigan (8); Northern Illinois (6); Central Michigan (1).

The MAC Media did not vote on an official preseason All-Conference Team, so we have included the highest-rated players at each position according to our PiRate Ratings formula.

Conference USA Preseason All-Conference Team
Offense Player School
Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel Massachusetts
Running Back Kareem Hunt Toledo
Running Back Javion Franklin Western Michigan
Running Back Anthone Taylor Buffalo
Running Back Travis Greene Bowling Green
Wide Receiver Roger Lewis Bowling Green
Wide Receiver Tajae Sharp Massachusetts
Wide Receiver Corey Davis Western Michigan
Wide Receiver Ron Willoughby Buffalo
Tight End Rodney Mills Massachusetts
Offensive Line Andrew Ness Northern Illinois
Offensive Line James Kristof Western Michigan
Offensive Line Alex Huettel Bowling Green
Offensive Line Willie Beavers Western Michigan
Offensive Line Steven Bell Ball St.
Defense Player School
Defensive Line Trent Voss Toledo
Defensive Line Tarell Basham Ohio U
Defensive Line Perez Ford Northern Illinois
Defensive Line Pat O’Connor Eastern Michigan
Defensive Line Orion Jones Toledo
Linebacker Great Ibe Eastern Michigan
Linebacker Jatavis Brown Akron
Linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox Massachusetts
Defensive Back Paris Logan Northern Illinois
Defensive Back Randall Jette Massachusetts
Defensive Back Ronald Zamort Western Michigan
Defensive Back Nate Holley Kent St.
Defensive Back Tony Annese Central Michigan
Defensive Back Marlon Moore Northern Illinois
Special Teams Player School
Kicker Tyler Tate Bowling Green
Punter Anthony Melchiori Kent St.
Kick Returner Darius Phillips Western Michigan
Punt Returner Ryan Burbrink Bowling Green
Long Snapper Wyatt Pfeifer Western Michigan

Here is how our three PiRate Ratings and the average of the three look to begin the season.

Mid-American Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Bowling Green 93.6 100.1 95.7 96.5
Ohio 89.7 94.1 91.0 91.6
Massachusetts 86.5 90.1 88.3 88.3
Akron 82.2 89.6 83.7 85.2
Kent St. 83.3 87.1 84.6 85.0
Buffalo 78.6 86.1 80.6 81.8
Miami (O) 75.8 83.1 75.9 78.3
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Michigan 96.7 98.1 97.9 97.6
Toledo 95.7 94.1 96.6 95.5
Northern Illinois 91.8 95.1 92.2 93.0
Ball St. 87.4 89.8 88.6 88.6
Central Michigan 80.1 86.6 81.9 82.9
Eastern Michigan 72.7 84.1 72.6 76.5
MAC Averages 85.7 90.6 86.9 87.7

Here is our PiRate Rating Predictions and Bowl Projections.

PiRate Ratings Predicted Records
Pos Team Conf. Overall Bowl
East Division
1 Bowling Green 7-1 7-6 ^ Boca Raton
2 Ohio U 5-3 7-5 Idaho Potato
3 Massachusetts 5-3 6-6 Bowl Elig.
4 Akron 5-3 6-6 At-Large
5 Kent St. 3-5 4-8 None
6 Buffalo 1-7 2-10 None
7 Miami (O) 1-7 2-10 None
West Division
1 Western Michigan 7-1 10-3 * GoDaddy
2 Toledo 6-2 9-3 Bahamas
3 Northern Illinois 6-2 8-4 Camellia
4 Ball St. 4-4 6-6 Bowl Elig.
5 Central Michigan 2-6 3-9 None
6 Eastern Michigan 0-8 1-11 None
* Wins Title Game
^ Loses Title Game
Bowl Elig. means the team will probably be left out of the bowls.

Coming up next: The Mountain West Conference

 

August 16, 2013

2013 Mid-American Conference Football Preview

2013 Mid-American Conference Preview

 

The MAC achieved special status last season, with two schools challenging for a BCS Bowl bid.  Kent State moved into prime position to grab that bowl with an 11-1 regular season that brought the Golden Flashes into the top 20 and just inside the parameters needed to steal a bid.

 

At the same time, Northern Illinois won 11 games in a row after an opening one-point loss at Iowa, and the Huskies moved into the top 20 as well.

 

In the MAC Championship Game, NIU bested Kent State in one of the most exciting conference championship games of all time.  The game went to double overtime, before the Huskies emerged victorious.  They earned an Orange Bowl bid to face Florida State, where they showed they really did not belong in a BCS Bowl.

 

Now, both of the two powers from 2012 must replace successful coaches who received nice pay increases to move to the big time.  Former NIU coach Dave Doeren now calls the shots at North Carolina St., while Kent State’s Darrell Hazell is the new man at Purdue.

 

2013 looks to be a typical year for the MAC, not one where one team should make a run toward a BCS Bowl bid, but one where as many as six teams could find themselves in a bowl at the end of the year.

 

This is one league that experiences no additions or departures.

 

Pre-season PiRate Ratings

 

Mid-American Conference  
East Division  
Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

 
Bowling Green

0-0

0-0

98.7

100.3

99.8

 
Buffalo

0-0

0-0

92.8

95.2

93.2

 
Ohio

0-0

0-0

91.9

97.8

93.4

 
Kent St.

0-0

0-0

89.5

93.8

90.1

 
Miami (O)

0-0

0-0

83.5

85.1

82.9

 
Akron

0-0

0-0

80.8

89.3

80.2

 
Massachusetts

0-0

0-0

70.6

81.1

70.2

 
     

 

 

 

 
West Division
Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

 
Toledo

0-0

0-0

98.6

98.3

99.2

 
Northern Illinois

0-0

0-0

97.8

97.0

99.6

 
Ball St.

0-0

0-0

97.1

99.3

98.3

 
Western Michigan

0-0

0-0

85.2

86.7

86.5

 
Central Michigan

0-0

0-0

84.4

89.9

84.6

 
Eastern Michigan

0-0

0-0

79.5

83.6

79.2

 
     

 

 

 

 
League Averages    

88.5

92.1

89.0

 

 

Official Pre-season Media Poll

 
MAC-East      

Pos

Team

Votes

1st Place

 

1

Ohio

164

15

 

2

Bowling Green

154

8

 

3

Kent St.

119

1

 

4

Buffalo

101

1

 

5

Miami (O)

78

0

 

6

Akron

53

0

 

7

Massachusetts

29

0

 
         
MAC-West      

Pos

Team

Votes

1st Place

 

1

Northern Illinois

138

16

 

2

Toledo

122

5

 

3

Ball St.

108

3

 

4

Central Michigan

67

1

 

5

Western Michigan

61

0

 

6

Eastern Michigan

29

0

 
         
MAC Championship Game Winner    

1

Northern Illinois

14

   

2

Toledo

3

   

3

Ohio

3

   

4

Bowling Green

2

   

5

Ball St.

2

   

6

Central Michigan

1

   

 

 

The Mid-American Conference does not announce a preseason All-MAC team.  In lieu, here are key players for each team:

 

MAC East

Akron: Cody Grice—DL, Malachi Freeman—DB, Jawon Chisholm—RB, Jerron Dillard—WR

 

Bowling Green: Matt Schilz—QB, Chris Gallon and Shaun Joplin—WR, Dominic Flewellyn—OL, Gabe Martin—LB

 

Buffalo: Branden Oliver—RB, Alex Neutz—WR, Khalil Mack—LB, Colby Way—DL, Najja Johnson—DB

 

Kent St.: Dri Archer and Trayion Durham—RB, Pat McShane—OL, Luke Wollet—DB, Roosevelt Nix—DL, Anthony Melchiori—P

 

Massachusetts: Mike Wegzyn—QB, Rob Blanchflower—TE, Colter Johnson—P

 

Miami (O): Dawan Scott—WR, Steve Marck—TE, Chris Wade—LB, Brison Burris and Dayonne Nunley—DB

 

Ohio: Tyler Tettleton—QB, Beau Blankenship—RB, Donte Foster—WR, John Prior—OL, Keith Moore—LB, Travis Carrie—DB

 

MAC West

Ball St.: Keith Wenning—QB, Jahwan Edwards—RB, Willie Snead and Jamill Smith—WR, Zane Fakes—TE, Jordan Hansel—OL, Jonathan Newsome and Nathan Ollie—DL, Eric Patterson and Jeffery Garrett—DB

 

Central Michigan: Zurlon Tipton—RB, Titus Davis—WR, Nick Beamish—OL, Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton—LB

 

Eastern Michigan: Tyler Benz—QB, Bronson Hill—RB, Campbell Allison—OL, Donald Coleman—DB

 

Northern Illinois: Jordan Lynch—QB, Tommylee Lewis—WR, Tyler Loos, Jared Volk, Aidan Conlon, Andrew Ness, and Ryan Brown—OL, Jimmie Ward—DB, Jamaal Bass—LB, Mathew Sims—K

 

Toledo: Terrance Owens—QB, David Fluellen—RB, Bernard Reedy and Alzono Russell—WR, Greg Mancz—OL, Cheatham Norrils—DB, Trent Voss–LB (Reedy in return game)

 

Western Michigan: Tyler Van Tubbergen—QB, Jaime Wilson—WR, Johnnie Simon—LB/DB hybrid, Justin Currie—DB, Desmond Bozeman–LB

 

PiRate Ratings Summary

 

About Grades

93-100         A+

86-92           A

79-85           A-

72-78           B+

65-71           B

58-64           B-

51-57           C+

44-50           C

37-43           C-

30-36           D

0-29             F

 

About Predictions

Predictions are based on the PiRate Ratings with home field advantage factored in.  The PiRate Ratings use different home field advantages for every game, since the opponent factors into the equation.

 

EAST DIVISION

Team

Bowling Green Falcons

               
Head Coach

Dave Clawson

               
Colors

Orange and Brown

               
City

Bowling Green, OH

               
2012 Record              
Conference

6-2

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

61

Pass Offense

72

Run Defense

63

Pass Defense

58

               
Ratings              
PiRate

98.7

Mean

100.3

Bias

99.8

               
Rankings              
PiRate

63

Mean

61

Bias

60

               
Prediction              
Conference

8-0

Overall

11-2 (win MAC title game)

 

 

Team

Buffalo Bulls

               
Head Coach

Jeff Quinn

               
Colors

Royal Blue and White

               
City

Buffalo

               
2012 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

               
Grades              
Run Offense

57

Pass Offense

62

Run Defense

58

Pass Defense

54

               
Ratings              
PiRate

92.8

Mean

95.2

Bias

93.2

               
Rankings              
PiRate

85

Mean

82

Bias

86

               
Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

7-5

 

 

Team

Ohio Bobcats

               
Head Coach

Frank Solich

               
Colors

Hunter Green and White

               
City

Athens, OH

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

9-4

               
Grades              
Run Offense

63

Pass Offense

67

Run Defense

52

Pass Defense

46

               
Ratings              
PiRate

91.9

Mean

97.8

Bias

93.4

               
Rankings              
PiRate

88

Mean

67

Bias

85

               
Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

9-3

 

 

Team

Kent St. Golden Flashes

               
Head Coach

Paul Haynes

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Kent, OH

               
2012 Record              
Conference

7-1

Overall

11-3

               
Grades              
Run Offense

75

Pass Offense

44

Run Defense

62

Pass Defense

44

               
Ratings              
PiRate

89.5

Mean

93.8

Bias

90.1

               
Rankings              
PiRate

94

Mean

88

Bias

94

               
Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

6-6

 

 

Team

Miami (O) Redhawks

               
Head Coach

Don Treadwell

               
Colors

Red and White

               
City

Oxford, OH

               
2012 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

               
Grades              
Run Offense

36

Pass Offense

64

Run Defense

41

Pass Defense

48

               
Ratings              
PiRate

83.5

Mean

85.1

Bias

82.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

111

Mean

116

Bias

112

               
Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

3-9

 

 

Team

Akron Zips

               
Head Coach

Terry Bowden

               
Colors

 

               
City

Akron, OH

               
2012 Record              
Conference

0-8

Overall

1-11

               
Grades              
Run Offense

37

Pass Offense

59

Run Defense

38

Pass Defense

45

               
Ratings              
PiRate

80.8

Mean

89.3

Bias

80.2

               
Rankings              
PiRate

116

Mean

104

Bias

117

               
Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

2-10

 

 

Team

Massachusetts Minutemen

               
Head Coach

Charley Molnar

               
Colors

Maroon and White

               
City

Amherst, MA

               
2012 Record              
Conference

1-7

Overall

1-11

               
Grades              
Run Offense

27

Pass Offense

40

Run Defense

35

Pass Defense

38

               
Ratings              
PiRate

70.6

Mean

81.1

Bias

70.2

               
Rankings              
PiRate

124

Mean

122

Bias

123

               
Prediction              
Conference

0-8

Overall

0-12

 

 

WEST DIVISION

Team

Toledo Rockets

               
Head Coach

Matt Campbell

               
Colors

Midnight Blue & Gold

               
City

Toledo, OH

               
2012 Record              
Conference

7-1

Overall

9-4

               
Grades              
Run Offense

62

Pass Offense

77

Run Defense

60

Pass Defense

54

               
Ratings              
PiRate

98.6

Mean

98.3

Bias

99.2

               
Rankings              
PiRate

65

Mean

65

Bias

64

               
Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

8-4

 

 

Team

Northern Illinois Huskies

               
Head Coach

Rod Carey

               
Colors

Red and Black

               
City

DeKalb, IL

               
2012 Record              
Conference

8-0 (won MAC title game)

Overall

12-2

               
Grades              
Run Offense

71

Pass Offense

65

Run Defense

66

Pass Defense

52

               
Ratings              
PiRate

97.8

Mean

97.0

Bias

99.6

               
Rankings              
PiRate

70

Mean

74

Bias

61

               
Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

9-4 (lose MAC title game)

 

 

Team

Ball St. Cardinals

               
Head Coach

Pete Lembo

               
Colors

Cardinal, Black, and White

               
City

Muncie, IN

               
2012 Record              
Conference

6-2

Overall

9-4

               
Grades              
Run Offense

64

Pass Offense

78

Run Defense

50

Pass Defense

54

               
Ratings              
PiRate

97.1

Mean

99.3

Bias

98.3

               
Rankings              
PiRate

73

Mean

63

Bias

69

               
Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

10-2

 

 

Team

Western Michigan Broncos

               
Head Coach

P. J. Fleck

               
Colors

Brown & Gold (also Black & Silver)

               
City

Kalamazoo, MI

               
2012 Record              
Conference

2-6

Overall

4-8

               
Grades              
Run Offense

38

Pass Offense

69

Run Defense

39

Pass Defense

49

               
Ratings              
PiRate

85.2

Mean

86.7

Bias

86.5

               
Rankings              
PiRate

107

Mean

110

Bias

101

               
Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

 

 

Team

Central Michigan Chippewas

               
Head Coach

Dan Enos

               
Colors

Maroon and Gold

               
City

Mt. Pleasant, MI

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

7-6

               
Grades              
Run Offense

53

Pass Offense

57

Run Defense

40

Pass Defense

46

               
Ratings              
PiRate

84.4

Mean

89.9

Bias

84.6

               
Rankings              
PiRate

109

Mean

102

Bias

109

               
Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

 

 

Team

Eastern Michigan Eagles

               
Head Coach

Ron English

               
Colors

Dark Green and White

               
City

Ypsilanti, MI

               
2012 Record              
Conference

1-7

Overall

2-10

               
Grades              
Run Offense

58

Pass Offense

35

Run Defense

39

Pass Defense

48

               
Ratings              
PiRate

79.5

Mean

83.6

Bias

79.2

               
Rankings              
PiRate

119

Mean

118

Bias

120

               
Prediction              
Conference

0-8

Overall

1-11

 

September 14, 2012

PiRate Ratings Look At The 2012 Presidential Race

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:15 am

Before getting into the meat of this document, we at the PiRate Ratings are not political pollsters.  We do know how to look at the data of others and make educated conclusions based on a decent sampling of data.

 

We look at more than a dozen different national polls recognized as legitimate and accurate from past elections.  We purposefully monitor one pollster that skews his polls to the GOP and another polling company that tends to skew toward the Democrats.  Those two polls serve as outliers for our predictions.

 

We do not look at national polling numbers.  We do not elect a President on popular vote, so it means very little to know this information.  Only the state by state polls with the electoral votes allocated to those states matter.  The only number that is important is the number “270,” which is the number of electoral votes needs to win the Presidential election.

 

We will present this data to you in different views.  The first view is our look at how the race would turn out if today was Election Day.  We will show this race with no tossup states, allocating all 538 Electoral Votes.

 

Our second look is the same “if today was Election Day” criteria with all tossup states not allocated to a candidate.  If the race in a state is 6 points or less, we consider that state a tossup at the current time.

 

Our third look is a trending poll, using a four-week moving average, much like stock market analysts look at the stock market.  This moving average is calculated from multiple polls taken weekly.

 

Our fourth look is our own take on where the race is headed.  We use past experiences using several tendencies we have noticed over the last 11 election cycles.  Some of these tendencies include: how the undecided vote tends to lean toward the underdog after Labor Day; how long the convention bounces last; how likely voters are to actually vote; and how accurate the polling data has predicted the actual elections.

 

It is our opinion, and many others, that the voting public has mostly aligned with their candidate of choice.  There are very few undecided voters at this point in the cycle, and an inordinately high number of voters are 100% sure that they will vote for their candidate of choice.  Our current Congress has been an excellent microcosm for our national divide—the public is divided more than it has been since the Civil War. 

 

In most other election years, the polling data would be harsh for the incumbent.  When economic troubles have been this prevalent in the past, there has been a sweeping out of the party in control.  In 2010 and 2011, the possibility for a repeat of the elections of 1932 and 1980 were strong.  The Republican Party needed to find another Ronald Reagan, and they might have been looking at a landslide victory much like the GOP won in 1980. 

 

During the early primaries, we issued a special entry detailing the trouble the GOP would have if Mitt Romney became the nominee.  We went into detail relaying how an Eastern elitist would fail to rally fence-sitters in several crucial states that Republicans must win.

 

Romney will definitely not carry his home state.  He will probably not carry his state of birth.  He is in serious trouble in the state that absolutely must be won to have any chance of winning the election.

 

An interesting factoid was e-mailed to us this morning.  The last time a candidate lost his state of residence and his state of birth but won the election was back in 1844 (42 elections ago) when James K. Polk lost in his state of residence (Tennessee) and his state of birth (North Carolina) and won the election.

 

 Romney is going to need one if not two major events to occur if he is to pull out a victory in less than eight weeks.  Remember also that several states conduct some form of early voting, and some will begin issuing ballots in less than five weeks.  A lot of voters have made up their minds, and they will vote early.  The psychology here is that by voting early, these voters can tune out the onslaught of constant media advertisements, political pundits telling them how to think, robocalls, and even social media and socializing.

 

Okay, now for the numbers.  Let us first look at our PiRate mean based on more than one dozen polls.

 

I. If the Election Was Today

President Obama would win reelection with an average electoral vote victory of 333-205.  Obama would win: California—55, Colorado—9, Connecticut—7, Delaware—3, DC—3, Florida—29, Hawaii—4, Illinois—20, Iowa—6, Maine—(all 4), Maryland—10, Massachusetts—11, Michigan—16, Minnesota—10, Nevada—6, New Hampshire—4, New Jersey—14, New Mexico—5, New York—29, Ohio—18, Oregon—7, Pennsylvania—20, Rhode Island—4, Vermont—3, Virginia—13, Washington—12, Wisconsin—10, and the Second Congressional District in Nebraska—1 (Nebraska is one of two states that splits its electoral vote.)

 

The outlier margins for an election held today would be: Obama 374 Romney 164 and Obama 270 Romney 268.

 

II. If the Election Was Today with Tossup States

National pollsters have deemed anywhere from eight to 12 states as battleground states where the polls could switch from one candidate to the other.  The consensus shows Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin are where the race will be won or lost.  We concur for the most part, but looking at the actual data, we will alter this list of eight.

 

Obama has picked up enough support in Michigan to take it off the table for now.  We no longer agree that this is a battleground state.  That lowers the number to seven.  To this group of seven, we are adding these states where the current polls show Romney holds a 6% lead or less: Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

 

Removing these battleground states drops Obama’s number under 270 to 238.  Romney’s number drops from 205 to 174.  At 238-165 with 135 electoral votes still up for grabs.  If we give Romney South Carolina, Montana, and South Dakota, three states where the GOP should win almost every time, this brings Romney up to 180.  Romney leads in North Carolina, and we will give him the 15 votes to bring his count to 195.  While we are at it, let’s give Romney Missouri, where the President is not all that popular, and their Senatorial race would have given the GOP a pickup had it not been for possibly the dumbest politician ever opening his mouth.  Add 10 votes to Romney, bringing him back to 205.  That leaves 95 electoral votes in states where Obama currently holds the lead: Colorado—9, Florida—29, Iowa—6, Nevada—6, New Hampshire—4, Ohio—18, Virginia—13, and Wisconsin—10.

 

III. The 28-day Moving Average

Factoring in multiple polls taken with a weekly snapshot over the most recent four weeks, Obama leads Romney 316-222.  There has not been that much movement since the two conventions, with Obama picking up an average of 17 electoral votes in that time.

 

IV. The PiRate Ratings Look At November 6

We preface this category by telling you that there are psychological and historical factors being applied here.  These numbers are not based 100% on current statistical data.

 

Prior to the debates in October, which could greatly affect the outcome if one candidate makes a remark similar to: “Poland is not under the Soviet Union’s dominance;”  “I asked my daughter what the most important issue in this race was, and she said it was the nuclear bomb;” or a candidate’s refusal to seek vengeance if his wife had been brutally raped.  This debate season looks to be anticlimactic to us.  We don’t think either candidate will be able to deliver any major blows.

 

That said, we do believe that Obama will not garner much additional support.  He will maintain or lose a little bit of supporters as voters vote for change.

 

How much support will Obama lose?  At the moment, we do not see how he can lose enough to fall beneath the magic number of 270.

 

We start at 333-205, which is today’s number.  Let’s flip Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin, where we think Romney still has a decent chance of winning.  That changes the vote total to 276-262 in favor of Obama.  Maybe Nevada could switch as well, which would make the race 270-268 in favor of Obama.  We do not see New Hampshire flipping to Romney, as all of New England will go with Obama.  That leaves one crucial state—Virginia.  Romney must saturate the state known as the “Mother of Presidents.”  He needs to spend a lot of time campaigning in the parts of Virginia not in the DC metro area, where tens of thousands of government employees want to keep government as big as it can be.

 

At the same time, Romney must sink millions of dollars in Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Colorado, and even Wisconsin.  President Polk won his Vice President’s state in 1844.  George Dallas hailed from Pennsylvania, and in 1844 the Keystone State was the second largest and carried 26 electoral votes.  No candidate has ever won the election when he lost his current state of residence, his state of birth, and his vice-Presidential candidates state.  As of today, Romney will lose in Massachusetts and Michigan as well as Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin.

 

If this were a football game, we would list Obama as a 14 1/2-point favorite.

 

 

August 19, 2012

2012 Mid-American Conference Preview

From the 1970’s through the 1990’s, the Western Athletic Conference usually featured the most wide-open, exciting offenses in college football.  In the 21st Century, it is the Mid-American Conference that has wrested that title away.

 

Welcome to the most exciting conference in college football.  Look at the list of quarterbacks that have graced this conference this century:

 

Akron: Charlie Frye

Bowling Green: Tyler Sheehan

Buffalo: Drew Willy

Kent State: Josh Cribbs

Miami (O): Ben Roethlisberger and Josh Betts

Ball State: Nate Davis

Central Michigan: Dan LeFevour

Northern Illinois: Chandler Harnish

Toledo: Bruce Gradkowski

Western Michigan: Tim Hiller

 

Remember also that Marshall was once a member of this league, and Byron Leftwich was the star quarterback of the league at the beginning of the century.

 

2012 should reinforce the image that the MAC is now the most wide-open passing league in FBS football. 

 

This league has been rather balanced as well.  10 of the 13 teams (including Temple) earned bowl bids in the last four seasons, and six different schools appeared in the MAC Championship Game.  Only Eastern Michigan, Kent State, and Akron failed to earn a bowl bid in the last four years; it will be awhile before the Zips are bowl eligible again, but EMU and Kent State could both challenge for those honors in 2012.

 

There has been one defection and one addition to the league this year.  Temple left to return to the wounded Big East.  Massachusetts moves from FCS to FBS.  UMass has competed with BCS opponents in recent years, losing close games to Kansas State and Michigan, but the Minutemen enter FBS play in a rebuilding mode.

 

At the conference’s media days, the preseason pollsters believed the East Division was rather cut-and-dry, while the West was a three-way race for first.

 

 

MAC East

Votes

 

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

 

1

Ohio U

17

119

(5)

2

Bowling Green

0

91

 

3

Miami (O)

0

84

 

4

Kent State

0

76

 

5

Buffalo

0

52

 

6

Akron

0

31

 

7

Massachusetts

0

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAC West

Votes

 

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

 

1

Toledo

7

87

(3)

2

Northern Illinois

5

83

(1)

3

Western Michigan

4

79

(1)

4

Ball State

0

42

 

5

Eastern Michigan

0

34

 

6

Central Michigan

1

32

(1)

 

 

 

 

 

Number in ( ) indicates votes to win MAC title game

 

The PiRate Ratings see this as a much more open race, with three legitimate contenders in both divisions with four more teams talented enough to compete for bowl eligibility.

 

PiRate Ratings

Rank

MAC East

PiRate

1

Ohio U

94.8

2

Miami (O)

93.5

3

Bowling Green

93.0

4

Kent State

88.7

5

Buffalo

82.6

6

Massachusetts

69.5

7

Akron

69.2

 

   

Rank

MAC West

PiRate

1

Western Michigan

94.6

2

Toledo

93.6

3

Northern Illinois

92.1

4

Central Michigan

89.3

5

Ball State

88.6

6

Eastern Michigan

87.2

 

 

The PiRate Vintage Ratings are a happy medium.  These ratings concur that the East Division could be a one-team race, but these ratings also show the West to be a real dogfight where all six teams will enjoy some happy and some sad days, as the half-dozen beat up on themselves.

 

Vintage Ratings

Rank

MAC East

Vintage

1

Ohio U

98

2

Miami (O)

93

3

Bowling Green

92

4

Kent State

87

5

Buffalo

87

6

Akron

84

7

Massachusetts

79

 

   

Rank

MAC West

Vintage

1

Western Michigan

96

2

Toledo

94

3

Northern Illinois

92

4

Central Michigan

91

5

Eastern Michigan

90

6

Ball State

88

 

 

East Division

Team

Akron Zips

               
Head Coach

Terry Bowden

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Akron, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

0-8

Overall

1-11

               
PiRate Rating

69.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

124

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

84

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

116

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

2-10

 

Terry Bowden returns to the FBS head coaching ranks after 14 seasons.  Former North Carolina State head man Chuck Amato comes with him as his defensive coordinator.  That will be worth a couple thousand more sold tickets, but at most just one more victory this year.

 

Bowden shook things up immediately during the Spring.  He promoted Dalton Williams, a transfer from Stephen F. Austin with knowledge of the offense Bowden uses, to number one quarterback; returning starter Clayton Moore transferred to Jackson State.  Williams put up good numbers in the Southland Conference, but he was a three-year backup at the FCS level.

 

The Zip receiving corps was going to be rather strong, but one of the key targets, A. J. Price, lost his battle with the books and is ineligible.  Keith Sconiers and Marquelo Suel teamed up for 81 receptions and 1,056 yards last year, but there is little depth behind the big two.

 

The running game has not set the woods on fire in the last three years, and even with the return of top rusher Jawon Chisholm, we believe the running game will continue to disappoint.  Expect the Zips to struggle to reach triple digits in rushing average this season, especially since the offensive line figures to be a little weaker than it was in 2011.

 

The defense could not force turnovers last year, and the Zips stayed on the field far too long (52% of the scrimmage plays).  Akron surrendered more than 200 yards on the ground and through the air, and opponents averaged better than 38 points per game against them.

 

Middle linebacker Troy Gilmer is the star on this side of the ball.  He could register 100 tackles this year, but unfortunately many will be five or more yards past the line of scrimmage.

 

The pass rush was appalling last year, dumping enemy quarterbacks just 11 times.  In half the games, the Zips never got to the QB.  It will be tough to improve by much, because the player that recorded 32% of the teams’ sacks has used up his eligibility.

 

Akron hosts UMass four days after the Presidential election.  That game may decide if the Zips are to register a vote in the conference win column.  A September home game with FCS opponent Morgan State will guarantee them at least one win.

 

Team

Bowling Green Falcons

               
Head Coach

Dave Clawson

               
Colors

Orange and Brown

               
City

Bowling Green, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

5-7

               
PiRate Rating

93.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

82

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

92

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

93

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

7-5

 

Fourth year head coach Dave Clawson knows how to go with the flow and recognize the theme of the MAC.  His Falcons can pass the ball all over the field, and with junior quarterback Matt Schilz back in the fold, BGU should gain better than 250 passing yards per game for the third time in Clawson’s four years in Bowling Green.

 

The question is, “who will be on the other end of those passes?”  Last year’s top two receivers are gone, and the two combined to catch more than 57% of the completed passes, score 75% of the passing touchdowns, and gain more than 60% of the receiving yards.  This new unit will rely more on possession receiving and less on breaking long gainers.  Tight end Alex Bayer should be called on to contribute more this year after grabbing 20 passes a year ago.

 

The running game returns Anthon Samuel, last year’s key runner.  Samuel rushed for 844 yards, averaging almost six yards per carry.  If it weren’t for a deep stable of reserves, Samuel could top 1,000 yards.  Keep an eye on former Pitt back Andre Givens.

 

The reason the Falcons should contend for the East Division crown is a much improved defense with loads of returning experience.  Of course, BGU must improve on last year’s poor defensive showing (29 points/406 yards) in order to compete for the division title.

 

Middle linebacker Dwayne Woods and outside linebacker Paul Swan should team for about 180-200 tackles.  Where those tackles are made will be the key to how improved this defense can be.  Woods made 14 stops for negative yardage last year, while Swan added just 1.5.

 

Considering the pass rush was not all that stellar, the secondary did a good job, holding opponents to less than 57% completions.  There is some depth here, so look for the defense to improve its passing yardage allowed by as much as 25 yards per game.

 

Bowling Green figures to be in contention for the East title heading into a Wednesday night game at Ohio U in November.  That could be the game that decides who advances to the championship game.

 

 

 

Team

Buffalo Bulls

               
Head Coach

Jeff Quinn

               
Colors

Royal Blue and White

               
City

Buffalo, NY

               
2011 Record              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

               
PiRate Rating

82.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

110

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

87

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

109

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

 

The Bulls have not been a MAC juggernaut since joining the league, but at least they won the conference championship four years ago, which is better than their similar-nicknamed professional team from their town.

 

Buffalo is one of a handful of MAC teams that does not have a tested quarterback that can toss the ball all over the field.   Alex Zordich will begin the year as the starter under center, but redshirt freshman Joe Licata is likely to eventually emerge as the starter after he broke all kinds of passing records in the Western New York high school ranks; however, the Empire State is not a hotbed for defensive backs.  Expect more mistakes from two untested players.

 

The receiving corps has some talent, but not enough for the MAC.  Alex Neutz and Fred Lee need to step up, or else the new quarterbacks are going to have a lot of mediocre Saturdays.

 

The running game features the leading returning MAC rusher in Brandon Oliver (1,395 yards and 13 TD), but if the passing game does not keep defenses honest, Oliver will not repeat those numbers.  Backup James Potts has never lived up to his potential, as he was expected to star for the Bulls.  This could be his year to emerge as a capable backup.

 

One thing in the Bulls’ favor is a decent offensive line with experience and depth, albeit no real stars.

 

The Buffalo defense is in better shape than the offense.  If the offense can hold onto the ball or eat the clock to limit defensive reps, the stop troops could yield around 24-26 points and 350-375 yards per game, which in the MAC means it is good.

 

Former Illinois head coach Lou Tepper takes over as the defensive coordinator.  Tepper uses a 3-4 defense, and he has an exceptional pass rusher in outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who tied for the MAC lead in tackles for loss with 20 ½.  The defensive front sounds like a government committee with the ends named, “Way and Means.”  The duo form a strong bond, but the Bulls need a reliable nose tackle to stuff the “A” gaps and keep pressure off the linebackers.

 

Buffalo has a tough non-league slate with just one winnable game, so this team will not challenge for bowl eligibility this year.  In fact, if the Bulls do not improve on their 3-9 record of last year, third year coach Jeff Quinn could be feeling a little fire in his seat.

 

Team

Kent State Golden Flashes

               
Head Coach

Darrell Hazell

               
Colors

Navy and Gold

               
City

Kent, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

5-7

               
PiRate Rating

88.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

98

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

87

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

110

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

5-7

 

40 years!  That’s how long it’s been since the Golden Flashes made their one and only bowl appearance.  It’s been so long that current Alabama coach Nick Saban and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel were teammates on that team, and longtime NFL coach Dom Capers was a green assistant coach.

 

There is a chance that the 40-years sojourn outside of the “land of bowldom” could end this year, but only if Coach Darrell Hazell can find some weapons on offense.

 

Kent State led the league in defensive yardage allowed last year, but their offense finished dead last, gaining just 254 yards per game.

 

Spencer Keith returns at quarterback for his senior season, but he is not assured of retaining his starting spot.  Keith completed just 51% of his passes and averaged just 5.2 yards per attempt.  Newcomers David Fisher, a junior college transfer, and true freshman Colin Reardon are in the mix.

Tyshon Goode is one of the few MAC-worthy players on this side of the ball.  The senior caught just 24 passes last year, and he needs to double that total this year if KSU is to contend for bowl eligibility.

 

Trayion Durham rushed for 630 yards and four scores last year, but he averaged just 3.4 yards per rush.  Look for those number to improve this year, because the offensive line returns four starters and welcomes a surprise fifth starter.  Guard Pat McShane left Indiana two years ago and gave up football.  The KSU coaching staff did not even know he had enrolled and was on campus, until he came into their offices in late Spring and told them he wanted to return to the game.  He has performed so well, he has ascended to the top of the depth chart.

 

As good as the Golden Flashes’ defense was in 2011, it should be even better in 2012, and that is why they have to be considered a contender for bowl eligibility and even a dark horse in the East Division race.

 

Eight of the top nine tacklers return this year.  The most talented unit is the secondary, where Kent State has quality good enough to play in the Big Ten.  The quartet of Norman Wolfe and Sidney Saulter at cornerback and Calvin Tiggle and Luke Wollet teamed up for 10 interceptions and nine more passes knocked away.  Even with the loss of stud cornerback Josh Pleasant, this will be the top secondary in the league, possibly the only one capable of yielding less than 180 passing yards per game.

 

The defensive line and linebackers are equally competent for MAC standards.  Middle linebacker Luke Batton and outside linebacker C. J. Malauulu finished one-two in stops, teaming for 185 tackles and 16 ½ for losses.

 

Up front, Jake Dooley and Roosevelt Nix teamed for 27 ½ tackles for loss.  Nix is also a plus dropping off in pass coverage.

 

Kent State’s schedule gives the Flashes a chance to sneak into division title contention.  They face the three teams figured to contend for the title in the final three games.  By then, Miami, Bowling Green, and Ohio could all have penned losses on each other, and KSU could have the upper hand.  It’s possible, but not all that probably.  Still, this is the best team in Kent in many years.  The season starts out with nine days off between game one and two; 11 days off between games two and three; and 10 days off between games three and four.

 

 

 

Team

Massachusetts Minutemen

               
Head Coach

Charley Molnar

               
Colors

Maroon and White

               
City

Amherst, MA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

FCS Member

Overall

5-6

               
PiRate Rating

69.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

123

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

79

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

122

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

1-11

 

A first year head coach takes over the reins of a first year in FBS team, and there is a lot of rebuilding to do at the same time.  2012 does not appear to be a banner year for UMass.  The Minutemen will be underdogs in all 12 games this year, as they do not face a FCS opponent.

 

Quarterback Kellen Pagel is the son of former Cleveland Browns QB Mike Pagel.  He began his career at Bowling Green and returns to the MAC to lead the Minutemen.  UMass will run a no-huddle hurry-up offense similar to what Hugh Freeze ran at Arkansas State last year.  Expect UMass’s pass attempts per game to increase by 5-10 this year.

 

The rest of the skill positions will be manned by new starters.  The Minutemen must replace a 1,000-yard rusher as well as their top five pass receivers.  There is experience returning in the trenches, but the starting quintet is far from being FBS caliber.

 

Things are a little bit brighter on the defensive side, but there are no players capable of earning first team All-MAC honors.  Middle linebacker Perry McIntyre registered 116 tackles with 11 ½ going for losses, and he anchors an experienced trio at linebacker.

 

The Minutemen play at Akron on November 10, and this could be there best chance to break through with a win.  Anything more will be an exceptional accomplishment.

 

Team

Miami (Ohio) Redhawks

               
Head Coach

Don Treadwell

               
Colors

Red and White

               
City

Oxford, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

               
PiRate Rating

93.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

81

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

93

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

92

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

6-6

 

Coach Don Treadwell comes from two excellent coaching trees.  He assisted former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio.  Treadwell believes in old-fashioned football with the establishing of a running game to set up the pass.  He had to call an audible last year in his first season in Oxford.  Miami averaged just 73.8 yards per game rushing.  The number was skewed by an inordinate number of sacks, but still this team’s leading rusher, Erik Finklea, rushed for just 328 yards.

 

The Redhawks made up for the lack of a running game with one of the best passing attacks in college football.  Zac Dysert passed for more than 3,500 yards and 23 touchdowns, while connecting on close to 2/3 of his pass attempts.  If he stays healthy, he should pass Ben Roethlisberger as the school’s all time leading passer some time in late October or early November.

 

One of the top receivers in the league returns to provide Dysert an excellent target.  Nick Harwell caught 97 passes for 1,425 yards and nine touchdowns. 

 

If the running game is to improve enough to put Miami over the top, the offensive line has to gel early this year.  Four starters return, but the one starter lost was the best blocker on the team.

 

The defense was not as strong as Kent State, but the Redhawks performed admirably on this side of the ball, limiting opponents to 23 points and 364 yards per game.  While the top three tacklers used up their eligibility, there is quality talent remaining.

 

Cornerback Dayonne Nunley earned 1st team all-conference accolades last year after intercepting three passes and batting away 13 others.  He is equally proficient against the run.

 

Up front, end Jason Semmes and tackle Austin Brown will contend for all-conference honors. 

 

The schedule is a bit difficult and does not do the Redhawks any favors.  Miami starts the season at Ohio State and plays at Boise State in game three.  They also must play at Cincinnati in early October.  They face Bowling Green on the road but get Ohio and Kent State at home.  Miami must be considered a serious contender, but the rushing attack must top 100 yards per game for the first time in four seasons.  Dysert needs some help.

 

Team

Ohio Bobcats

               
Head Coach

Frank Solich

               
Colors

Green and White

               
City

Athens, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

6-2

Overall

10-4

               
PiRate Rating

94.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

76

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

98

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

72

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

10-3*

* Picked to win MAC Championship Game

 

Frank Solich went 58-19 (75.3%) in six seasons at Nebraska, and he was shown the door.  In the eight years since, the Cornhuskers have yet to win 75% of their games in any season.  Solich came to Athens, and in his time here, he has guided the Bobcats to multiple MAC East titles and trips to four bowls.  Ohio owns 27 wins in the last three seasons, and Solich’s team should continue to dominate in the league again this season.

 

Quarterback Tyler Tettleton returns for his junior season after completing 64% of his passes for better than 3,300 yards and 28 touchdowns as a sophomore.  Tettleton also ran for 658 yards and 10 scores.

 

The rest of the skill positions need a quick infusion of new talent.  A two-headed monster appears to be set at running back.  Ryan Boykin will be backed up by Beau Blankenship.  The duo teamed for 897 rushing yards in reserve roles last year.

 

There could be a slight drop-off in the passing game with the graduation of the top two receivers, but Donte Foster and tight end Jordan Thompson form a solid nucleus here.

 

The offensive line has no equals in the league, especially inside. 

 

Ohio has one of the top three defensive lines and defensive backfields in the league, and if the linebacking unit can develop and improve, Ohio will run away with the league title this year.

 

The top stud on this side of the ball is cornerback Travis Carrie, who intercepted four passes and knocked away 13 others in 2011.  He is also one of the top punt returners. 

 

The four starters in the trenches include all-league end Tremayne Scot who recorded eight tackles behind the line last year. 

 

Ohio gets the first crack at Penn State this year, facing off in Happy Valley on September 1.  The Bobcats could contend for the upset.  If they happen to pull it off, they could be 7-0 when they face Miami at the end of October.  If they should happen to be 8-0 after that game, they could even run the table.  We can see this team winning no fewer than 10 games if they stay healthy.  We bet the folks in Lincoln, Nebraska would love to see their beloved team win 80% of their games for the first time since Solich was coaching there.

 

West Division

Team

Ball State Cardinals

               
Head Coach

Pete Lembo

               
Colors

Red and White

               
City

Muncie, IN

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

6-6

               
PiRate Rating

88.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

106

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

3-9

 

Ball State has improved from two to four to six wins in the last three seasons.  Can they get to eight wins this year?  We believe that is highly unlikely.  The Cardinals suffered heavy losses on the defensive side of the ball, including seven of their top 11 tacklers from a year ago.  Additionally, this year’s schedule is tough; BSU will be an underdog in all four non-conference games (at Clemson, at Indiana, South Florida, and at Army).

 

The defensive line returns just one starter.  Nathan Ollie earned 2nd team All-MAC honors at tackle last year with six sacks and 10 total tackles for loss.  A couple of transfers from big time programs will try to plug the holes.

 

Middle linebacker Travis Freeman returns after finishing second in the league with 134 tackles.  He too earned 2nd team All-MAC accolades.

 

There are questions in the defensive backfield with limited experience returning at safety. 

 

Ball State gave up 35 points and 510 total yards per game last year (three times giving up over 600 yards in a game).  Those numbers will not win football games, even in the wide-open MAC.

 

BSU finished 4-4 in the conference and 6-6 overall even though they gained 130.9 fewer yards per game.  That’s because they won five of their games by 2, 3, 3, 4, and 7 points and lost games by 30, 42, and 56 points.

 

Keith Wenning returns at quarterback for the Cardinals, after he broke single season records in Muncie as a sophomore.  Wenning completed 64% of his passes for 2,786 yards and 19 touchdowns.

 

Wenning won’t have his top two receivers from a year ago, but BSU does return an all-conference caliber receiver in Jamill Smith, who should see his receptions rise from 40 to as much as 70 this season.

 

Jahwan Edwards rushed for close to 800 yards last year, and with a solid offensive line, he could threaten the 1,000 yard mark this year.  The offensive line is actually the biggest asset on this team.

 

Ball State could increase its offensive production to 28 points and 400 total yards this year, but the Cardinals are going to take a step back in the won-loss record.

 

Team

Central Michigan Chippewas

               
Head Coach

Dan Enos

               
Colors

Maroon and Gold

               
City

Mt. Pleasant, MI

               
2011 Record              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

               
PiRate Rating

89.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

91

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

100

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

 

The media gives CMU little respect this year (except for one voter that placed them first in the MAC West).  Third year coach Dan Enos welcomes back 16 starters this year, and this team did upset conference champion Northern Illinois last year.

 

The Chippewas have an excellent quarterback to contribute to the MAC riches at this position.  Ryan Radcliff passed for nearly 275 yards per game last year, picking up 25 touchdowns.  He welcomes the return of four of his top receivers from a year ago, including a game-changer in Titus Davis.  Davis averaged close to 19 yards on his 40 receptions a year ago, and defenses will not be able to concentrate their efforts on stopping him.  Cody Wilson is likely to catch 55-60 passes this year, while Courtney Williams and Jeery Harris provide quality at the other wideour.

 

No back stood out last year, so new starter Anthony Garland will not be much of a step back at this position.  In fact, once Garland began to see more action last season, he proved to be the best runner on the team.  Look for him to double his yardage (378) of a year ago.

 

The defense is not as talented as the offense, but that can be said for at least half if not more of the MAC.  CMU yielded 33.3 points and 428.8 yards per game last year, and those numbers should improve ever so slightly this season.

 

The one concern here is at linebacker where only one starter returns.  Shamari Benton is a serviceable middle linebacker, but he won’t appear on any all-conference watch lists.

 

The secondary is the strongest unit on this side of the ball, with safeties Jahleel Addae and Avery Cunningham returning after finishing one-two in tackles with 186 combined stops.  Addae picked off four passes last year and made the All-MAC first team.

 

The defensive line did not do its job of getting to the quarterback last year, and CMU recorded just 1.1 sacks per game.  Tackle Matt Losiniscki led the Chips with just two sacks.

 

CMU has two important home games back-to-back in mid-October.  They host Navy on a Friday night and Ball State the following week.  If they win those two games, then the Chippewas will see their record improve by a game or two.  If they lose both games, then Coach Dan Enos will be on the hot seat, because CMU will suffer through its third consecutive three-win season, or worse.

 

Team

Eastern Michigan Eagles

               
Head Coach

Ron English

               
Colors

Dark Green and White

               
City

Ypsilanti, MI

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

6-6

               
PiRate Rating

87.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

90

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

102

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

6-6

 

Ron English looks like a miracle worker in Ypsilanti after moving east a couple dozen miles from Ann Arbor in 2009.  His Eagles have improved from zero to two to six wins in his first three seasons, and if the breaks can go their way, EMU could sneak into bowl eligibility this season with a much-improved offense.

 

EMU’s contribution to the league’s exceptional QB talent pool is Alex Gillett.  Gillett passed for just a little over 1,500 yards last year, but English is from the old school and prefers to grind it out on the ground.  The Eagles ran the ball nearly 75% of the time last year.  Gillett’s yards per pass attempt (7.6) placed him in the middle of the pack in the league.

 

Gillett has a big target at his stead in tight end Garrett Hoskins.  At 6-2 and 255, Hoskins can cause matchup problems for safeties when he splits the seams in the middle zones.  His route running on play-action helped delay run support by opposing secondaries.

 

Gillett led the team in rushing with 736 yards (factoring out sacks, he rushed for more than 850).  Three other backs that topped 500 rushing yards return this year, so the Eagles will pound the ball on the ground with efficiency once again.  Look for EMU to rush for 225-250 yards per game.

 

An improved offensive line returns all five starters from a year ago with quality talent at every position.

 

The defense improved by leaps and bounds last season, chopping the points allowed by almost 20 and yards allowed by more than 100.  There are concerns in the defensive line, where three starters must be replaced, including the top pass rusher. 

 

The second line of defense will be spearheaded by outside linebacker Justin Cudworth, who led the Eagles with 83 tackles last season.

 

English must come up with two new starting safeties, but he welcomes the return of both starting cornerbacks from a year ago.  Marlon Pollard and Marcell Rose teamed up for 13 passes defended, with Pollard landing on the All-MAC third team.

 

The Eagles have a big special teams’ weapon in Demarius Reed.  Punters will try to punt away from him, and even when he cannot return punts, he will help give the Eagles better field position by forcing punts to angle toward the sidelines.

 

EMU has a critical non-league tilt at home with Army in October.  They must win this game to have a shot at bowl eligibility, because they definitely will lose two other non-MAC games playing on the road against Purdue and Michigan State.  In league play, they have winnable games against Ball State, Kent State, and Central Michigan.  They need to take care of business in these three and then pull off one upset to become bowl eligible.  Last year, the Eagles shocked Western Michigan by winning as a double-digit underdog, so this team is more than capable of getting a sixth win.  Unlike last year, when they defeated two FCS schools to finish with six wins, if they replicate the record this year, they will be eligible to bowl.

 

Team

Northern Illinois Huskies

               
Head Coach

Dave Doeren

               
Colors

Red and Black

               
City

Dekalb, IL

               
2011 Record              
Conference

7-1

Overall

11-3

               
PiRate Rating

92.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

85

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

92

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

94

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

8-4

 

Coach Dave Doeren took over the reins in DeKalb after moving 70 miles south from Madison, Wisconsin, where he proved to be an excellent defensive coordinator for the Badgers.  In his first year as the leader of his own team, Doeren merely won the conference championship and the GoDaddy.com bowl to finish with an identical 11-3 record left by prior coach Jerry Kill.

 

NIU is not the clear-cut favorite in the tough West Division, namely because they are one of a handful of league schools without an experienced quarterback.  Chandler Harnish (led team with 1,379 yards rushing and passed for 3,216 yards) will be tough to replace, and the fact that only three starters return to this side of the ball will make it all the more difficult for new starter Jordan Lynch.

 

The Huskies have to start over at running back as well.  Trying to replace Jasmin Hopkins and his 956 rushing yards will be Akeem Daniels.  Daniels actually averaged a little more per attempt than Hopkins.  Leighton Settle and Jamal Womble will provide depth.

 

The news is a little better at receiver with the return of leading pass-catcher Martel Moore as well as two other key players in Perez Ashford and Da’Ron Brown.

 

With the unfortunate leg fracture to guard Logan Pegram, nary a starter returns to the offensive line, leaving this unit with just two career starts.  This will force the offense to bog down against the better teams on the schedule, and it would not surprise us if the Huskies fall to about 25-27 points per game after averaging better than 38 last year.

 

NIU can still compete in the MAC this year because the defense is going to be much improved.  The Huskies won the league title despite surrendering more than 30 points and 400 yards per game.  Of course, NIU gave up 60 points to Toledo and still won the game!

 

When the defense lines up at Soldier Field in game one, ten players will have starting experience.  The defensive line is the best in the division.  Ends Alan Baxter and Sean Progar teamed for 11 sacks and 23 ½ total tackles for loss.

 

The back seven are not quite as talented as the front four, but neither the linebackers nor the defensive backs should be considered liabilities.  Linebacker might be a concern, but Tyrone Clark could help solve the riddle if he can shake off the rust after missing last season.

 

The four returning starters in the back line teamed for 31 passes defended with nine interceptions.  Being a year older bodes well for this unit and when combined with a stronger pass rush, expect NIU’s pass defense to be better this year.

 

Northern Illinois will contend for the MAC West title, and they could repeat even with two conference losses.  This division is deep with talent, so don’t expect the Huskies to win 11 games for the third consecutive season.

 

Team

Toledo Rockets

               
Head Coach

Matt Campbell

               
Colors

Midnight Blue and Gold

               
City

Toledo, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

7-1

Overall

9-4

               
PiRate Rating

93.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

79

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

94

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

88

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

6-6

 

What can you say about a football team that at times scored more points than its basketball team?  Toledo looked more like an Arena League team last year.  The Rockets gave up 63 points in back-to-back games and almost won both games!

 

Overall, UT’s offense scored more than 42 points per game and gained more than 480 yards per game last year.  Down the stretch, the Rockets averaged an incredible 558 yards per game (277 rushing and 281 passing)!

 

The Rockets could regress by 50-75 yards per game this year, because the offense suffered heavy graduation losses.  Fortunately,  both quarterbacks Terrance Owens and Austin Dantin return.  The duo will continue to split reps after teaming for better than 3,400 passing yards and 33 touchdowns.  As crazy as this league is, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Coach Matt Campbell finds a way to get both passers into the game for a surprise formation.

 

Running back David Fluellen is expected to be the new starter and keep the Toledo ground game rolling along, but he has been nursing a foot injury in preseason practice.  This could become a concern if he isn’t ready to go in September.

 

Toledo lost a lot of pass catching talent, but they had so much depth here last year, there is enough talent returning to keep the passing game strong.  Bernard Reedy is one of those diminutive, speedy threats that defenses hate to face.  He grabbed 40 passes last year and averaged 19 yards per catch with nine touchdowns.  The rest of the receiving corps is inexperienced but talented.

 

There is rebuilding to do in the offensive trenches.  Two starters return, and both earned honors last year, but this unit will give up more sacks in 2012.

 

Defense has been an afterthought at the Glass Bowl in recent years.  UT has given up an average of 34 points and 400 yards per game for the past five seasons.  With only three of the top 11 tacklers returning this year, it could be another rocky road for the Rockets.

 

If there is a team strength on this side of the ball, it is at linebacker.  Dan Molls and Robert Bell teamed for 148 stops and eight tackles for loss in 2011. 

 

Up front, the line relies on lone returning starter T. J. Fatinikun at end.  He is the leading returning sack man, but he only registered 2 ½ sacks.

 

The secondary returns just one starter, and with all the fantastic quarterbacks in this league, expect UT to be lit up again in 2012.

 

The schedule could be detrimental to the Rockets’ chances this year.  Opening on the road at Arizona and Wyoming, UT then hosts Bowling Green.  It isn’t unlikely, that Toledo could be 0-3 when they host Coastal Carolina in game four.  They then must play at Western Michigan, so a 1-4 start is possible.  If they are 2-3 instead, then Toledo should rebound to reach bowl eligibility.

 

Team

Western Michigan Broncos

               
Head Coach

Bill Cubit

               
Colors

Brown and Gold

               
City

Kalamazoo, MI

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-3

Overall

7-6

               
PiRate Rating

94.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

77

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

79

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

9-4

 

Western Michigan has been close several times, but the Broncos have not won the MAC West Division since 2000, and they have not won a MAC Championship Game.  That all could change this year, but only if Coach Bill Cubit can find a way to stop all the great passers in this league.

 

WMU surrendered 29 points and 435 yards per game last year, giving up 117 points to the other two top division contenders (Northern Illinois and Toledo).

 

The defensive line has a pair of quality ends in Freddie Bishop and Paul Hazel, who teamed for eight sacks and 14 ½ total stops for loss.  The loss of tackle Drew Nowak and his league-leading 20 ½ total tackles for loss will be hard to make up, and the Broncos will rely on their defensive tackles to plug gaps and keep blockers away from the linebackers.

 

WMU employs a new 3-3-5 defense, and linebacker is the biggest problem.  Hopefully, an infusion of talent from the Juco ranks will help improve this unit.

 

The back line features the leading returning tackler in Johnnie Simon.  Simon filled up the stat sheet last year with 114 tackles, 3 ½ sacks, 10 ½ total stops for loss, and nine passes defended.

 

If the defense can trim the points allowed to 25, then WMU stands a terrific chance of winning the West.  The reason for this is the Broncos have the best quarterback in a league full of great quarterbacks.

 

Alex Carder could be the next NFL star to matriculate from the MAC.  In his junior season, Carder completed 65.7% of his passes for 3,873 yards and 31 touchdowns.  If he remains healthy, he will more than likely top 4,000 yards through the air (he missed one game last year).

 

Carder will sleep comfortably this season knowing he has a talented, experienced, and deep offensive line protecting him.  Added to four returning starters up front is the transfer of former Michigan State guard John Deyo.

 

The only question on this side of the ball is at receiver, after the Broncos graduated their top three receivers from a year ago, including Jordan White and his 140 receptions, 1,911 yards, and 17 touchdowns.  What’s left is a deep unit of better than average but not spectacular receivers.

 

At running back, Tevin Drake leads a quartet of backs that should all see action.  Drake is more of an all-around threat as a runner and pass catcher.  Antoin Scriven is a between the tackles north-south runner who can pick up three yards on third and two.  Brian Fields and Dareyon Chance are speedsters that can get to the corner and pick up a lot of yards if there is daylight.  This quartet will improve upon last year’s rushing numbers.  Look for WMU to top 130 yards per game on the ground and average better than four yards per attempt.

 

One concern is with the kicking game.  Freshmen could start at placekicker and punter after the Broncos lost a pair of quality kickers.

 

The non-conference slate is manageable.  It isn’t impossible for WMU to go 4-0 against Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Minnesota, and Connecticut, although we believe they will split these four games.  The Broncos benefit in the conference schedule, as they now host Northern Illinois and Toledo after having to play them both on the road in 2011.  Road games against Central Michigan and Kent State could be tricky, but Coach Bill Cubit should finally get the monkey off his back and advance to the MAC Championship Game.

 

Coming Monday, August 20: The Mountain West Conference.  There could be some surprises this season.

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