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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

December 26, 2010

PiRate Ratings College Football Bowl Preview, Part Two

We are posting three bowl previews this year; this is the second preview.  We will give you the current odds for each game, the PiRate, Mean, and Bias spreads for each game, and the results of our 100 computer simulations for each game.

 

Today, we cover the bowls from Boxing Day through New Year’s Day.  Next week, we will preview the bowls from January 2 to the Championship Game. 

 

Sunday, December 26

Little Caesar’s Bowl

Detroit, MI

8:30 PM EST on ESPN

Toledo (8-4)  vs. Florida Internationl (6-6)

Vegas: Toledo by 1

Totals: 57

PiRate: Toledo by 3.3

Mean: Toledo by 2.8

Bias: Toledo by 16.8

100 Sims: Toledo 67  Florida International 33

Avg. Sim Score: Toledo 33.6  Florida International 25.7

Outlier A: Toledo 49  Florida International 19

Outlier B: Florida International 37  Toledo 24

 

Monday, December 27

Independence Bowl

Shreveport, LA

5:00 PM EST on ESPN

Air Force (8-4)  vs.  Georgia Tech (6-6)

Vegas: Air Force by 2 ½  

Totals: 56

PiRate: Georgia Tech by 1.7

Mean: Air Force by 5.2

Bias: Air Force by 5.9

100 Sims: Air Force 55  Georgia Tech 45

Avg. Sim Score: Air Force 29.2  Georgia Tech 26.9

Outlier A: Air Force 41  Georgia Tech 23

Outlier B: Georgia Tech 34  A Force 23

 

Tuesday, December 28

Champs Sports Bowl

Orlando, FL

6:30 PM EST on ESPN

West Virginia (9-3)  vs. North Carolina State (8-4)

Vegas: West Virginia by 2 ½

Totals: 49

PiRate: West Virginia by 6.8

Mean: West Virginia by 2.3

Bias: West Virginia by 3.0

100 Sims: West Virginia 53  North Carolina State 47 (6 games decided by OT)

Avg. Sim Score: West Virginia 25.8  North Carolina State 25.2

Outlier A: West Virginia 27  North Carolina State 10

Outlier B: North Carolina State 28  West Virginia 12

 

Insight Bowl

Tempe, AZ

10:00 PM EST

Missouri (10-2)  vs.  Iowa (7-5)

Vegas: Missouri by 2 ½

Totals: 46 ½

PiRate: Even

Mean: Missouri by 4.1

Bias: Missouri by 12.6

100 Sims: Missouri 58  Iowa 42

Avg. Sim Score: Missouri 25.6  Iowa 22.3

Outlier A: Missouri 31  Iowa 13

Outlier B: Iowa 21  Missouri 7

 

Wednesday, December 29

Military Bowl

Washington, D.C.

2:30 PM on EST

Maryland (8-4)  vs. East Carolina (6-6)

Vegas: Maryland by 7 ½

Totals: 68 ½

PiRate: Maryland by 18.4

Mean: Maryland by 11.2

Bias: Maryland by 13.8

100 Sims: East Carolina 51  Maryland 49

Avg. Sim Score: Maryland 34.4  East Carolina 34.1

Outlier A: East Carolina 47  Maryland 31

Outlier B: Maryland 42  East Carolina 20

 

Texas Bowl

Houston, TX

6:00 PM EST on ESPN

Baylor (7-5)  vs. Illinois (6-6)

Vegas: Baylor by 1

Totals: 62 ½

PiRate: Baylor by 2.4

Mean: Illinois by 1.6

Bias: Baylor by 6.9

100 Sims: Illinois 54  Baylor 46

Avg. Sim Score: Illinois 32.1  Baylor 28.6

Outlier A: Illinois 34  Baylor 17

Outlier B: Baylor 28  Illinois 18

 

Alamo Bowl

San Antonio, TX

9:15 PM EST on ESPN

Oklahoma State (10-2)  vs. Arizona (7-5)

Vegas: Oklahoma State by 5 ½

Totals: 66

PiRate: Oklahoma State by 1.1

Mean: Oklahoma State by 6.1

Bias: Oklahoma State by 9.6

100 Sims: Oklahoma State 61  Arizona 39

Avg. Sim Score: Oklahoma State 38.0  Arizona 29.1

Outlier A: Oklahoma State 51  Arizona 27

Outlier B: Arizona 34  Oklahoma State 28 (and one other 6-point spread)

 

Thursday, December 30

Armed Forces Bowl

Dallas, TX

12:00 Noon EST on ESPN

S M U (7-6)  vs. Army (6-6)

Vegas: S M U by 7

Totals: 52

PiRate: S M U by 7.7

Mean: S M U by 3.2

Bias: S M U by 10.6

100 Sims: S M U 64  Army 36

Avg. Sim Score: S M U 28.2  Army 20.6

Outlier A: S M U 34  Army 10

Outlier B: Army 24  S M U 16

 

Pinstripe Bowl

New York, NY

3:20 PM EST

Syracuse (7-5)  vs. Kansas State (7-5)

Vegas: Pick’em

Totals: 47 ½

PiRate: Syracuse by 1.5

Mean: Kansas State by 4.6

Bias: Syracuse by 2.3

100 Sims: Syracuse 53  Kansas State 47

Avg. Sim Score: Syracuse 20.1  Kansas State 18.6

Outlier A: Syracuse 24  Kansas State 7

Outlier B: Kansas State 17  Syracuse 3

 

Music City Bowl

Nashville, TN

6:30 PM EST

Tennessee (6-6)  vs. North Carolina (7-5)

Vegas: North Carolina by 1 ½  

Totals: 50 ½

PiRate: North Carolina by 6.8

Mean: North Carolina by 1.5

Bias: Tennessee by 6.6

100 Sims: Tennessee 50  North Carolina 50

Avg. Sim Score: Tennessee 24.5  North Carolina 23.9

Outlier A: Tennessee 30  North Carolina 14

Outlier B: North Carolina 27  Tennessee 12

 

Holiday Bowl

San Diego, CA

10:00 PM EST

Nebraska (10-3)  vs. Washington (6-6)

Vegas: Nebraska by 14

Totals: 52 ½

PiRate: Nebraska by 11.8

Mean: Nebraska by 11.5

Bias: Nebraska by 5.3

100 Sims: Nebraska 57  Washington 43

Avg. Sim Score: Nebraska 26.1  Washington 19.3

Outlier A: Nebraska 27  Washington 6

Outlier B: Washington 23  Nebraska 14

 

Friday, December 31

Meineke Car Care Bowl

Charlotte, NC

12:00 Noon EST

South Florida (7-5)  vs. Clemson (6-6)

Vegas: Clemson by 5 ½

Totals: 40 ½

PiRate: Clemson by 5.1

Mean: Clemson by 3.7

Bias: South Florida by 6.1

100 Sims: South Florida 58  Clemson 42

Avg. Sim Score: South Florida 25.1  Clemson 19.2

Outlier A: South Florida 31  Clemson 12

Outlier B: Clemson 28  South Florida 16

 

Sun Bowl

El Paso, TX

2:00 PM EST on CBS

Notre Dame (7-5)  vs. Miami (Fl) (7-5)

Vegas: Miami by 3

Totals: 47

PiRate: Miami by 6.3

Mean: Notre Dame by 1.2

Bias: Miami by 6.0

100 Sims: Notre Dame 52  Miami 48

Avg. Sim Score: Notre Dame 23.4  Miami 23.2

Outlier A: Notre Dame 30  Miami 14

Outlier B: Miami 35  Notre Dame 14

 

Liberty Bowl

Memphis, TN

3:30 PM EST on ESPN

Central Florida (10-3)  vs. Georgia (6-6)

Vegas: Georgia by 6 ½

Totals: 55 ½

PiRate: Georgia by 12.8

Mean: Georgia by 5.3

Bias: Georgia by 11.3

100 Sims: Georgia 72  Central Florida 28

Avg. Sim Score: Georgia 28.6  Central Florida 17.3

Outlier A: Georgia 38  Central Florida 10

Outlier B: Central Florida 24  Georgia 19

 

Chick-fil-A Bowl

Atlanta, GA

7:30 PM EST on ESPN

South Carolina (9-4)  vs. Florida State (9-4)

Vegas: South Carolina by 3

Totals: 55

PiRate: Florida State by 0.4

Mean: South Carolina by 0.5

Bias: Florida State by 1.6

100 Sims: Florida State 52  South Carolina 48

Avg. Sim Score: South Carolina 26.7  Florida State 26.6

Outlier A: Florida State 30  South Carolina 16

Outlier B: South Carolina 44  Florida State 17

 

Saturday, January 1

TicketCity Bowl

Dallas, TX

12:00 Noon EST on ESPN-U

Texas Tech (7-5)  vs. Northwestern (7-5)

Vegas: Texas Tech by 10

Totals: 60

PiRate: Texas Tech by 12.5

Mean: Texas Tech by 7.3

Bias: Texas Tech by 9.6

100 Sims: Texas Tech 86  Northwestern 14

Avg. Sim Score: Texas Tech 34.6  Northwestern 21.2

Outlier A: Texas Tech 45  Northwestern 17

Outlier B: Northwestern 30  Texas Tech 24 (3 other by 6)

 

Outback Bowl

Tampa, FL

1:00 PM EST on ABC

Florida (7-5) vs. Penn State (7-5)

Vegas: Florida by 7 ½  

Totals: 48

PiRate: Florida by 13.2

Mean: Florida by 5.1

Bias: Florida by 5.5

100 Sims: Florida 54  Penn State 46

Avg. Sim Score: Florida 22.6  Penn State 19.8

Outlier A: Florida 28  Penn State 13

Outlier B: Penn State 21  Florida 10

 

Capital One Bowl

Orlando, FL

1:00 PM EST on ESPN

Michigan State (11-1) vs.  Alabama (9-3)

Vegas: Alabama by 10

Totals: 52 ½

PiRate: Alabama by 15.5

Mean: Alabama by 10.4

Bias: Alabama by 3.2

100 Sims: Alabama 59  Michigan State 41

Avg. Sim Score: Alabama 27.6  Michigan State 24.7

Outlier A: Alabama 31  Michigan State 12

Outlier B: Michigan State 35  Alabama 25

 

Gator Bowl

Jacksonville, FL

1:30 PM EST on ESPN2

Mississippi State (8-4)  vs.  Michigan (7-5)

Vegas: Mississippi State by 5 ½

Totals: 61

PiRate: Mississippi State by 10.3

Mean: Mississippi State by 6.3

Bias: Mississippi State by 4.8

100 Sims: Mississippi State 52  Michigan 48

Avg. Sim Score: Mississippi State 33.7  Michigan 30.1

Outlier A: Mississippi State 38  Michigan 20

Outlier B: Michigan 36  Mississippi State 27

 

Rose Bowl

Pasadena, CA

5:00 PM EST on ESPN

T C U (12-0)  vs. Wisconsin (11-1)

Vegas: T C U by 3

Totals: 58 ½

PiRate: T C U by 7.9

Mean: T C U by 5.8

Bias: Wisconsin by 6.6

100 Sims: Wisconsin 54  T C U 46

Avg. Sim Score: Wisconsin 30.4  T C U 28.8

Outlier A: Wisconsin 40  T C U 24

Outlier B: T C U 34  Wisconsin 24

 

Fiesta Bowl

Glendale, AZ

8:30 PM EST

Oklahoma (11-2)  vs. Connecticut (8-4)

Vegas: Oklahoma by 16 1/2

Totals: 55

PiRate: Oklahoma by 19.7

Mean: Oklahoma by 16.2

Bias: Oklahoma by 20.7

100 Sims: Oklahoma 91  Connecticut 9

Avg. Sim Score: Oklahoma 35.3  Connecticut 14.8

Outlier A: Oklahoma 49  Connecticut 7

Outlier B: Connecticut 27  Oklahoma 23

August 11, 2010

2010 Mid-American Conference Preview

2010 Mid-American Conference Preview

 

After placing five teams in bowl games a year ago, the MAC is now guaranteed three teams in bowl games this season with a chance for a fourth and fifth team garnering an at-large bid.  It is our opinion that this league will produce five bowl-worthy teams this year, so don’t count out the chance of a repeat. 

The champion this year will face the number eight team from the Big Ten in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit.  The GMAC Bowl in Mobile gets second choice, and the Humanitarian Bowl at the blue field in Boise gets the third selection.  The PapaJohn’s.com Bowl will give precedence to a fourth bowl-eligible MAC team if they have an opening, and the inaugural Dallas Football Classic will look to the MAC after first looking to CUSA to find an at-large team.

This should be an interesting year in the league, as many teams go through a transition.  There are new coaches at Buffalo, Central Michigan, and Akron, and there are six new starting quarterbacks.  In the East, Temple looks to be the clear-cut favorite, but Ohio U has enough talent returning to repeat as division champs.  Kent State has just one bowl bid in its history, and that was in 1972 when Coach Don James led the Golden Flashes prior to earning legendary status at Washington.  That 38 year absence from post-season play could finally come to an end this year.

In the West, a tight race between Northern Illinois and Western Michigan could get even tighter if Central Michigan, Ball State, and Toledo can find answers at certain iffy positions.

Note: The PiRate Ratings are not meant to be used to predict the outcome of future games.  They are usable only as a basis for the current week’s games.  We do not use these ratings to make our selections.  They are only a starting point.  The predictions given below, as for every college conference and NFL division, are not taken from the ratings themselves.

Mid-American Conference Predictions

 
East  
Pos Team Conf Overall  
1 Temple 7-1 10-3  
2 Ohio U 6-2 8-4  
3 Kent State 6-2 8-4  
4 Miami (Ohio) 3-5 4-8  
5 Buffalo 2-6 3-9  
6 Akron 2-6 3-9  
7 Bowling Green 2-6 2-10  
         
West  
         
1 Northern Illinois 8-0 9-4  
2 Western Michigan 6-2 8-4  
3 Central Michigan 4-4 5-7  
4 Toledo 3-5 3-9  
5 Ball State 2-6 4-8  
6 Eastern Michigan 1-7 1-11  

 

     
               

MAC Conference Championship Game: Temple over Northern Illinois

 

Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl: Temple

G M A C Bowl: Northern Illinois

Humanitarian Bowl: Ohio U

 

Western Michigan and Kent State could be at-large bowl teams

 

 

Team By Team Breakdown

MAC East

 

Team Akron Zips
               
Head Coach Rob Ianello
               
Colors Blue and Gold
               
City Akron, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 2-6
Overall 3-9
               
PiRate Rating 77.9
               
National Rating 113
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 3-9

 

Offense: New head coach Rob Ianello comes over from Notre Dame where he was an offensive assistant to Charlie Weis.  He will make numerous changes in the offensive philosophy as the Zips were zipless last year on this side of the ball.

Quarterback Patrick Nicely started seven games as a true freshman last year.  However, even though he has more experience this year, his receiving corps has been decimated to graduation.  Only one contributor from last year returns, and Ianello has moved former defensive back Jalil Carter over to this side of the ball.

None of the running backs on the roster strike fear in the eyes of the opponents.  Only one back topped 200 yards rushing last year, and he graduated. 

The one bright spot on this side of the ball is a rather experienced offensive line with credible talent at the terminal positions.

We look for Akron’s new offense to go through some growing pains at first, but by October, the Zips should be moving the ball with more zip.  Call it about 18-22 points and 325-350 yards per game.

Defense: The stop side would have held opponents under 25 points per game last year if it hadn’t been for an offense that turned the ball over too often.  The Zips could field a better defense this year, especially in the points allowed department.

Ianello will install a 4-3 defense, and he has three quality defenders returning up front.  Hasan Hazime, James Harvey, and Almondo Sewell combined for 17 tackles for loss, and that number should head north of 20 this year.

The three-man linebacker crew returns starters in Sean Fobbs, Brian Wagner, and Mike Thomas.  Wagner was the leading tackler in the league with 132 stops and 7 behind the line.  Thomas is a better zone pass defender than run-stopper, while Fobbs’ strength is against the run.

The secondary is the vulnerable part of the defense.  The loss of Miguel Graham is too much for the backfield to make up for, and Akron will give up more than 200 yards per game through the air.

Look for the Zips to yield about 25-30 points per game while giving up about 350-375 yards per game.

Schedule: Akron has one easy mark on their non-conference schedule in Gardner-Webb.  The Zips open against a Syracuse team eager to show the nation they can compete for a bowl bid.  Back-to-back road games against Kentucky and Indiana close out what should be a rough September.  Look for Akron to go 1-3 outside of league play and then struggle to pick up two more victories.

 

Team Bowling Green Falcons
               
Head Coach Dave Clawson
               
Colors Orange and Brown
               
City Bowling Green, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 78.0
               
National Rating 112
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 2-10

 

Offense: Dave Clawson implemented one of the top passing games in the country in his first year with the Falcons, but year two finds him having to rebuild from scratch.  Gone is superb passer Tyler Sheehan who completed 65% of his passes for more than 4,000 yards and a TD/Int ratio of 27/7.

Redshirt freshman Matt Schilz and true sophomore Aaron Pankratz will compete to fill Sheehan’s shoes.  Look for a major drop in passing yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage this year, and a rise in interceptions.

BGU lost its top two receivers, including Freddie Barnes (155-1,770 & 19 TD).  Nobody on this roster is capable of catching a dozen balls per game, and nobody has the blazing speed to turn a five-yard pass into a 40-yard gain.

The Falcons averaged just 87 rushing yards per game last year, but that number is a bit misleading.  In college football, sacks are ridiculously counted as rushing yards.  Factoring out sacks, BGU went from averaging 3.1 yards per carry to a more respectable 3.9.  Willie Geter could actually threaten the 1,000 yard rushing mark if he can get any help from his blockers.

BGU could drop by a touchdown or more offensively this year, so we will predict an output of 20-23 points and 325-350 yards per game.

Defense: This side of the ball is in worse shape than the offense.  Gone are the top six tacklers and leading pass defender from last year.  The defensive line appears to be in great shape, but the back seven are in shambles.  End Angelo Magnone and tackle Kevin Alvarado combined for 5 sacks last year.  

The pass defense returns players who combined for just two interceptions.  Cornerback Adrien Spencer and safety Keith Morgan will anchor the back line.  The two teamed up for nine passes deflected.

Bowling Green will give up more than 30 points and 400 yards per game this year, and the Falcons could yield more than 200 rushing and 200 passing yards.

Schedule: This looks like an 0-4 start out of conference.  The Falcons open with road games against Troy and Tulsa.  They then face Marshall at home before going to Ann Arbor to face Michigan.  Without a week off until November, the young squad could be nursing a lot of injuries.  The odd number of teams in the league leads to quirks in the schedule, and the Falcons will not play Akron this year.  They also miss the two easiest teams in the other division, so 2010 will be a long one in Bowling Green.

 

Team Buffalo Bulls
               
Head Coach Jeff Quinn
               
Colors Royal Blue and White
               
City Buffalo, NY
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 81.6
               
National Rating 106
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 3-9

 

Offense: Turner Gill has left Upstate New York for Kansas, and new coach Jeff Quinn inherits enough talent to make the Bulls move on offense.  Quinn was the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, and he will implement Brian Kelly’s spread offense here.

Unfortunately, Buffalo unexpectedly lost the services of an inexperienced quarterback when Zach Maynard transferred to California.  Lightly used sophomore Jerry Davis and untested redshirt freshman Alex Dennison will compete for the starting job.  Look for some growing pains and the possibility of one or two more players being tried at QB during the season.  Freshman Rudy Johnson is highly heralded.

Inexperience carries over to the receiving corps.  The top three pass catchers from last year are gone, and the leading returnee had just 25 receptions. 

Gill improved the running game every year he was at Buffalo, and he left the stables stocked with two fine runners.  Ike Nduka and Brandon Thermilius shared the load last year and combined for more than 1,150 yards.  They will benefit from the blocking of an experienced offensive line featuring all-MAC guard Peter Bittner.

There will be some transition in the offense this year, and it could lead to a couple of bad performances.  However, by the second half of the season, the Bulls could be a dangerous opponent for the other MAC defenses.  Look for about the same output as last year—24 points and 400 yards, but look for the Bulls to average more than 28 points per game after their bye week in October.

Defense: Quinn will switch the Bulls from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this year, and it should work fine thanks to a great quartet of linebackers.  On the outside, no MAC team can do better than Buffalo with Steven Means and Justin Winters.  Means will be an excellent zone blitzer in the new defense, while Winters forces offenses to run the other way.

Up front, nose tackle Richie Smith has the girth to keep runners from plunging past the line for big gains.  He won’t register many tackles, but he will occupy a lot of space and require double team blocks, which will free up the linebackers to pursue and tackle.

The secondary actually performed better last year than in 2008 when the Bulls won the MAC.  Look for even more improvement with the return of both cornerbacks, including all-conference Domonic Cook, and the league’s best free safety in Davonte Shannon. 

Buffalo has the potential to post better defensive stats this year, and that makes the Bulls a dangerous team in an offensive-dominated league.  We believe the Bulls will surrender about 24 points and 325 yard this season. 

Schedule: An opener at home against Rhode Island should be a breather game.  The rest of the non-league schedule will be the opposite, as Buffalo plays at Baylor, hosts Central Florida, and goes to Connecticut.  At 1-3, the Bulls visit Bowling Green in what will be a tossup game.  If they can win this one, the season could turn around.  If they lose, it could drain the squad.  Buffalo closes with Ball State, Eastern Michigan, and Akron.  If they beat Bowling Green and then upset one other team in October, they could be looking at a .500 record.  We’ll say that the offense will take a little longer to gel, and the Bulls will have to wait until next year.

 

Team Kent State Golden Flashes
               
Head Coach Doug Martin
               
Colors Navy and Gold
               
City Kent, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 84.5
               
National Rating 98
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense: It has been nine years since Kent State last enjoyed a winning season (6-5 in 2001).  The Golden Flashes are excited this year, because they have an offense capable of putting up enough points to end that drought.

Coach Doug Martin has all the pieces in place to make a run at the division title, and if the top two falter, it would not be a big surprise to see KSU in the MAC Championship game.

The return of star running back Eugene Jarvis is worth five to seven extra points per game.  Jarvis missed almost all of last season with a lacerated kidney.  When he last played an entire season, he rushed for 1,669 yards.  He is just 5-5 and 170 pounds, so he is very susceptible to injury.  The Flashes have more than adequate depth at his position.

Sophomore quarterback Spencer Keith gave Kent State its best passing game in four years last season, and he should continue to show progress in year two.  He will team up with top receiver Tyshon Goode to form one of the top combinations in the league.  Goode caught 53 passes for 755 yards in 2009.

The offensive line returns some good, young talent and should provide excellent protection for Keith while opening holes for the backs.

Look for Kent State to put up much better offensive numbers this year.  We see something in the order of 24-28 points and 350-375 yards per game.

Defense: Enough talent returns on this side of the ball to believe that the Flashes will perform at a similar or better rate than last year.  In 2009, Kent State gave up just 137 rushing yards per game and held enemy quarterbacks to just 56.7% completions.

The top six tacklers return including the league’s best linebacker.  Former Michigan Wolverine Cobrani Mixon led the Flashes with 108 tackles with 10 ½ behind the line.  He added seven deflected passes from his Mike linebacker spot. 

Hybrid End/Will linebacker Monte Simmons recorded eight sacks and eight other tackles for loss last year, giving Kent State the best linebacker unit in the league.

The defensive backfield is not as strong as the unit in front of them, but it is better than average.  Three starters return, including an outstanding pair of safeties.  Free safety Brian Lainhart led the MAC with seven interceptions.  Strong safety Dan Hartman picked off four passes and broke up nine others, but he is even better in support of the run.

The defensive line is the one weak spot on the entire roster.  If Simmons can have another outstanding year, the inexperience here could be partially hidden.

Kent State could easily lead the MAC in total defense and scoring defense this season.  We believe they will yield less than 20 points and 330 yards per game.

Schedule: The Flashes have one sure win, two sure losses, and one tossup game in their out-of-conference schedule.  An opening tilt with Murray State should be a breather.  Consecutive road games against Boston College and Penn State will not be much fun.  The November 13 home game with Army could be a bowl elimination game for the two teams.  Kent State gets both Temple and Ohio at home, and they have the talent to upset both teams.  Road games against Toledo and Western Michigan could decide in the end if 2010 will be “the year.”

 

Team Miami (Ohio) Redhawks
               
Head Coach Mike Haywood
               
Colors Red and White
               
City Oxford, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 1-11
               
PiRate Rating 87.8
               
National Rating 93
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 3-5
Overall 4-8

 

Offense: The good news:  Miami returns 10 starters to its offense.  The bad news: Miami returns 10 starters to an offense that scored just 15.6 points per game, rushed for just 70 yards per game, and turned the ball over via interceptions and fumbles almost as often as it did by punting (an exaggeration, but the Redhawks had a horrible -24 turnover margin last year!)

The rushing statistic looks much worse than it really was.  Miami quarterbacks endured 58 sacks due to a porous offensive line.  That line returns intact, and it has to be somewhat better.  Using an entirely new system hurt, and a year of experience should lead to better blocking this year.  Still, don’t expect Miami to lead the league in offense.

Quarterback Zac Dysert took his lumps as a freshman last year.  If he can cut down on his interceptions, he has the potential to be the best passer in the league.  Give him three more years, and he could surpass Ben Roethlisberger as the school’s top passer.

Dysert has some quality receivers to throw to, but there is no deep threat to spread defenses.  Miami will have to rely on converting first downs and sustaining drives to reach paydirt this year.

It won’t be hard to top last year’s poor offensive showing.  We believe Miami can top 20 points and 350 yards per game this season.

Defense: A better offense that can keep drives alive means a defense can stay on the bench for longer stretches.  Throw in the fact that 10 of the top 11 tacklers return, and Miami should make great strides on this side of the ball as well.

The monster on this side of the ball is middle linebacker Jerrell Wedge.  He was a one-man wrecking crew last year, recording 114 tackles with 18 ½ behind the line of scrimmage.

In front of Wedge is a very experienced defensive line that returns almost all of its two-deep from last year.  Still, it is a line that will not cause many problems for offensive linemen. 

The secondary wasn’t all that bad last year, holding half of their opponents to less than 200 passing yards.  Safety Anthony Kokal finished with 105 tackles, but second year coach Mike Haywood would be much happier if Kokal’s tackles fell into double digits this year.

Look for Miami to improve on this side of the ball as well.  The Redhawks surrendered better than 34 points per game last year, but they only gave up about 375 yards.  Just by cutting down on turnovers, the points allowed will improve.  Throw in an actual better defense, and that number should drop by more than a touchdown.  Call it 24-27 points and 350-370 yards allowed this year.

Schedule: This is a major drawback.  Miami has just one winnable non-conference game.  Road tilts with Florida, Missouri, and Cincinnati could see the Redhawks give up more than 120 points.  A home game with Colorado State should give Miami a better than 50% chance of winning.  The Redhawks get Eastern Michigan at home.  Road games against Bowling Green, Akron, Buffalo, and Central Michigan give them a chance for maybe two more wins.  Four wins would be four times more than last year.

 

Team Ohio Bobcats
               
Head Coach Frank Solich
               
Colors Green and White
               
City Athens, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 7-1
Overall 9-5
               
PiRate Rating 84.4
               
National Rating 99
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense: Coach Frank Solich’s Bobcats benefited from a +12 turnover margin last season and won the MAC East.  The offense did not strike fear in their opponents, posting averages of 112 rush yards and 198 pass yards per game.

The Bobcats lose their top rusher, top passer, and top pass catcher this year, but the offense could actually improve some.  Solich uses a smorgasbord approach to his offense, using aspects of the spread, the pistol, and the zone read. 

Former Iowa State starter Phil Bates will battle 2008 starter Boo Jackson at quarterback; Bates is an all-out competitor, and we believe he will win the job.  Bates, or Jackson, will have two fine receivers running routes this year in Athens.  LaVon Brazill and Terrence McCrae both have the ability to turn a short pass into a long gain.  Brazill is the speedier of the two, while McCrae is the better target in a crowd.  Former Vanderbilt wide out Steven Goulet gives the Bobcats an excellent third option.

The running game will take a step backward this year.  Junior college transfer Kenny Ashley should be the lead back this year, as there isn’t much quality on the roster. 

The offensive line should be marginally better this year with three starters returning, as well as four from the second team.

We think Ohio will improve its yardage from 310 to about 350 per game, but the Bobcats may not score any more points than they did last year, when they averaged 24.8 per game.

Defense: The Bobcats could have the best defense in the MAC this year after having the second best stop troops last year.  It all starts up front where Ohio has a stellar line returning all four starters from a year ago.  All four can get in the backfield and stop a runner for a loss.  They need to improve their pass rushing ability, as the Bobcats had just 22 sacks all season.

The star of the defense is Mike linebacker Noah Keller, who recorded 155 tackles (23 more than any other MAC player).  Equally adept against the run or the pass, Keller could be the MAC Defensive Player of the Year this season.

The secondary may not dominate, but they won’t be embarrassed all that often.  Strong safety Gerald Moore picked off six passes last year.

Ohio gave up just 21 points per game in 2009, and the Bobcats should equal or even better that mark this year.  They should contend for the best total defense as well and surrender around 300-325 yards per game.

Schedule: Ohio faces Ohio State on September 18.  They won’t pull off the monumental upset, but the Bobcats put a scare in a really good Buckeye team two years ago.  Home games with Wofford and Louisiana-Lafayette should provide the Bobcats with two wins, while a trip to Marshall should be interesting.  Since that comes the week after Ohio State, we will give the edge to the Thundering Herd.  Ohio must play at Temple and Kent State this year, so we believe the road is too tough for the Bobcats to win the division again.  Six conference wins and eight overall should get Ohio back into a bowl game.

 

Team Temple Owls
               
Head Coach Al Golden
               
Colors Cherry and White
               
City Philadelphia, PA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 7-1
Overall 9-4
               
PiRate Rating 91.0
               
National Rating 85
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 7-1
Overall 10-3

 

Offense: When Al Golden took over this Temple team in 2006, the Owls were coming off an 0-11 season in which they scored less than 10 points per game.  His first squad “improved” to 1-11 and scored 11 points per game while actually falling to just 216 yards per game.  The next three years, Temples scoring output increased by six points per season.  Now, coming off a 9-4 campaign that included a bowl loss to UCLA, the Owls are poised to top 30 points per game for the first time since 1979.

Vaughn Charlton began 2009 as the starting quarterback, but Chester Stewart took over in the second half of the season.  Stewart will be number one from the opening snap this year, while Charlton has moved to tight end.  At 6-4, he will provide Stewart with an excellent target in the middle.

Temple didn’t pass the ball all that well last year, so even though the top three receivers return, the trio only combined for 67 receptions and 1,133 yards.  One of those three receivers, James Nixon, moved to defense and will be the best kick returner in the league.

The running game clicked for the Owls last year, and it should continue to work wonders.  Back Bernard Pierce rushed for a league-leading 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, and he should top 1,500 this year if he stays healthy.

The Owls boast the best offensive line in the MAC.  Four starters return to the fold including three who earned all-conference mention.

We look for Temple to score 30-35 points per game while averaging 350-380 total yards.  The rushing total could top 200, while the passing tops 150.  Temple should lead the league in yards per reception as defenses have to cheat up to the line to slow down the running game.

Defense: Like he has with the offense, Golden’s defenses have improved every year from 45 to 41 to 26 to 23 to 22 points allowed.  There is no reason to believe that trend won’t continue this year, as the Owls are loaded on this side of the ball.

The defensive line shares with its offensive counterpart—it is the best in the league hands down.  Tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and end Adrian Robinson teamed up for 20 QB sacks and seven passes batted down.  Robinson is the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year.  Though both juniors, they could easily be playing in the NFL next year.

The second line of defense is only average, and if the Owls do not win the MAC this year, it could be because opponents gain an extra yard or two at opportune moments.  One player who takes a backseat to nobody in the MAC is middle linebacker Elijah Joseph, but the outside spots are question marks.

The secondary is tough.  Two of the three returning starters are All-MAC performers.  Safeties Kevin Kroboth and Jaiquawn Jarrett both knocked down seven passes last year.

Temple could yield as few as 17 points and 300 yards per game in a league noted for high-flying offenses.  If so, look for a very memorable season in Philadelphia.

Schedule: What appears to be a “gimme” win for the Owls may be anything but this year.  Temple opens with cross-town rival Villanova on Friday, September 3.  The Wildcats defeated the Owls last year on their way to a 14-1 season and FCS National Championship.  VU returns 15 starters, so this game will be a hard-fought struggle.  Temple faces Connecticut, Penn State, and Army out of conference, so it could be anything from 2-2 to 0-4 outside of league play.  The Owls host Ohio U, but they must play at Kent State and Northern Illinois.  We don’t see them running the table in the conference, and if Kent State beats them, the Owls may need help from another team to win their first division title.

 

MAC West

 

Team Ball State Cardinals
               
Head Coach Stan Parrish
               
Colors Red and White
               
City Muncie, IN
               
2009 Record              
Conference 2-6
Overall 2-10
               
PiRate Rating 81.7
               
National Rating 104
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 4-8

 

Offense: Head coach Stan Parrish has got to be the most unlucky coach in FBS history.  He has been a head coach at the top level for four seasons spread out over a quarter century, and he has a 4-41-1 record to show for it.  Three of those seasons were at Kansas State from 1986 to 1988, when the Wildcats did not emphasize football.  The fourth season came last year here in Muncie, as Ball State faced a serious rebuilding effort.

Parrish could see his career wins double this season thanks to an offense that returns 10 starters.  Quarterback Kelly Page only had to take over for the school’s top career passer last year and he didn’t have the school’s number two and three career pass catchers; he was not ready for the league rigors as a freshman.  Look for much better production from him this year.

The top nine receivers return this season, led by Briggs Orsborn and Torieal Gibson.  They aren’t an exceptional group overall, but the Cardinals can only improve in this area after averaging a paltry 134 yards through the air in 2009.

The BSU running game is in much better shape with the return of star back Miquale Lewis.  Lewis rushed for more than 1,700 yards in 2008 with a veteran offensive line blocking for him.  Last year, with a very young and inexperienced line, that number dropped to 871.  Look for something in between in his final year here, but that should be enough to make him the school’s all-time leading runner (he needs just 669 yards to do so).

The offensive line returns intact from a year ago after three freshmen and a sophomore started for most of the season.  Look for the line to open up more holes and give Page more time to pass.

Ball State scored 15 fewer points per game last year than in 2008.  Look for the Cardinals to top 20 points per game this year, but they will not approach the great numbers from two years ago.  BSU should average about 320-340 total yards per game.

Defense: The Cardinals fielded a credible defense in 2009 that was just on the field too much.  With a little better offense that can keep possession of the ball a minute or two more per game this year, Ball State should see their stop troops improve substantially.  Whether or not that improvement will be enough to guide the team back to a winning record may be asking too much.

The defense switched to a 4-3 alignment last year, and having an extra year of experience should help improve the numbers.  The strength of this unit is at linebacker, where all three starters return.  Davyd Jones and Travis Freeman led the team in tackles with 100 and 93 respectively, but too many of those stops occurred after sizeable gains by the offense.

The secondary was much too generous last year, giving up 65% completions and 234 yards per game.  Three starters return, plus the Cardinals add former Michigan safety Artis Chambers.  Look for BSU to be a little stingier this year.

Ball State will give up about 24-27 points and 350-375 yards per game.

Schedule: The Cardinals should start 2-0 with home games against Southeast Missouri and Liberty.  When conference play begins three weeks later, BSU will be 2-2 after losing at Purdue and Iowa.  They get Eastern Michigan and Akron at home, so there is a good chance Ball State will at least double its win total from a year ago.

 

Team Central Michigan Chippewas
               
Head Coach Dan Enos
               
Colors Maroon and Gold
               
City Mt. Pleasant, MI
               
2009 Record              
Conference 8-0
Overall 12-2
               
PiRate Rating 88.5
               
National Rating 92
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7

 

Offense: New head coach Dan Enos was the running backs coach at Michigan State the last three years.  He helped develop Javon Ringer into an NFL talent.  He better hope that somebody on the CMU roster can resemble Ringer, because the Chippewas have lost the services of the league’s top career passer.  Dan LeFevour is now in training camp with the Chicago Bears.

Ryan Radcliff saw very limited action for CMU last year, and the lightly used sophomore will get first crack at filling the giant shoes of LeFevour.  Radcliff will move under center unlike LeFevour, who operated from a shotgun where he could run and pass.  Look for a severe drop-off in both rushing and passing yards.

CMU lost its top two receivers, who combined for 174 receptions, 1,982 yards, and 16 touchdowns.  Kito Poblah and Cody Wilson give the Chippewas a foundation to rebuild on.  The tandem combined for 78 catches and 907 yards last year.

The running game relied on LeFevour the way Florida relied on Tim Tebow.  There isn’t much to get excited about in this department as Carl Volny and Paris Cotton are decent relief runners but poor feature backs.  Cotton figures to see a few more carries than Volny.  The two could combine for 1,000 plus rushing yards, but they will not match the 4.6 yards per rush recorded by last year’s runners.

An experienced offensive line should give CMU a fighting chance to run the ball and produce some decent results through the air.  Four starters return from last year led by the league’s best center Colin Miller.

CMU averaged 34 points and 423 yards per game last year.  Those numbers will fall to 22-26 points and 350-375 yards per game this season.

Defense: While the offense made the headlines, it was the Chippewa defense that got the job done when the title was on the line.  CMU held Ohio to 10 points and 275 yards in the MAC Championship game.

A lot of talent was lost to graduation, but there are still some very good players returning on this side of the ball.  At linebacker, Nick Bellore earned 1st Team All-MAC honors after posting 132 tackles, 13 of those behind the line.  He played well in pass coverage as well.  Will linebacker Mat Berning had 108 tackles and 8 ½ behind the line.  He knocked down seven passes as well.

Up front, half of the stellar defensive line starters return this year.  How well the two new starting ends perform could go a long way in determining the Chippewa’s fate.

The secondary is a concern this year, and we expect opposing quarterbacks to throw early and often against this untested quartet.  As a result, the linebackers may have to cheat back a little, thus weakening their ability to stop the run.

CMU will give up more than 20 points and 350 yards per game this year.  If that number approaches 25 points per game, it could be a long transitional season.

Schedule: A season opener at home with Hampton should give the new players a little confidence.  That should be the Chippewas only non-conference win, as they must face Northwestern, Virginia Tech, and Navy on the road.  Inside the MAC, CMU should split their eight games, which means they will fall under .500 overall.

 

Team Eastern Michigan Eagles
               
Head Coach Ron English
               
Colors Dark Green and White
               
City Ypsilanti, MI
               
2009 Record              
Conference 0-8
Overall 0-12
               
PiRate Rating 69.6
               
National Rating 120
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 1-7
Overall 1-11

 

Offense: The Eagles don’t have much going for them on this side of the ball, and yet it is the stronger unit of the two.  There is but one way for an 0-12 team to go, but improvement in 2010 could be negligible.

Second year head coach Ron English will more than likely rely on a two-man platoon at quarterback.  Alex Gillett is a dual-threat player who can score with his feet or his arm.  Redshirt freshman Devontae Payne is a pure pocket passer with a rifle for an arm.  Opposing defenses will have to prepare for both players.

At running back, returning starter Dwayne Priest has exceptional speed, but he lacks the power to escape a single tackler.  He could rush for 800 yards with a little better blocking up front.

The offensive line is stronger the closer you get to the ball, or to put it another way, it gets weaker as it moves away from the ball.  None of the players on this roster will contend for 1st or 2nd team all-conference honors.

EMU should surpass last year’s statistical figures, but the improvement may not be enough to stop the losing streak.  Look for 18-21 points and 300 yards per game this year.

Defense: English inherited a defense that had surrendered 36 points and 400+ yards a game in 2008, and his first team in Ypsilanti actually performed worse, giving up 38 points and 427 yards per game.  Against the run, the numbers were scary bad—277 yards allowed at 6.3 yards per rush!  Three defensive line starters return, but the one lost starter was the best of the four by far. 

The second unit, much like the linemen, returns all but one starter, and that lost starter was the best player on the entire defense. 

The secondary gave up just 151 passing yards per game last year, but opposing teams only passed the ball 19 times per game.  There is some talent in this unit, and if the Eagles actually take a second half lead in a game, this group could come up with a big play to end the long losing streak.

We see EMU improving some on this side of the ball, but that means they might give up 33-35 points and 400-425 yards per game.

Schedule: Once again, it appears that EMU has little or no chance to win a game outside of league play.  The Eagles face a much improved Army team that should rush for 300 yards against this defense.  They must go on the road to Ohio State, Vanderbilt, and Virginia, and while the latter two face major rebuilding projects, the Eagles are not talented enough to beat either team on enemy turf.  EMU will be an underdog in all 12 games, and there is a chance they could go winless again.  We think they will come up with an upset in conference play to finish 1-11.  It’s been 29 years since a FBS school lost every game for two consecutive years (Northwestern) (Kansas State went 0-10-1 and 0-11 in 1987 and 1988).

 

Team Northern Illinois Huskies
               
Head Coach Jerry Kill
               
Colors Red and Black
               
City Dekalb, IL
               
2009 Record              
Conference 5-3
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 90.5
               
National Rating 86
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 8-0
Overall 9-4

 

Offense: The MAC version of Fresno State, Northern Illinois picked up another Big Ten win last year with a 28-21 upset of Purdue.  They gave Wisconsin all they could handle in a 28-20 loss.  Third year coach Jerry Kill has his best team yet in Dekalb, as the Huskies are primed for a run to the league title thanks to a rushing attack that should top 200 yards per game. 

Chad Spann returns to the fold after earning 1st Team All-MAC honors last year.  Spann topped 1,000 yards on the ground even though he had to split carries with another player.  He should get about 50 more attempts this year.  Top newcomer Jasmin Hopkins led the Juco ranks last year with more than 1,900 yard rushing, so he could provide an ample change of pace to Spann. 

A talented and experienced offensive line is set to open holes for the stable of running backs.  Tackle Trevor Olson could contend for 1st Team All-MAC honors.

There is a heated battle for the starting quarterback position between last year’s starter Chandler Harnish, backup DeMarcus Grady, and Juco newcomer Casey Weston.  Grady is currently number one at the start of preseason drills, but it would not surprise me if Harnish regains his starting spot after a quick recovery from a 2009 knee injury.  No matter who lines up under center in week one, the passing game will be merely a secondary option to the running game. 

Receiver Landon Cox returns after leading NIU with 45 catches a year ago.  The makings of a good unit is here, but the rest of the receiving corps lacks experience.

Northern Illinois will not put up gaudy statistics due to the reliance on the running game, but the Huskies should consistently use ball-possession as a major weapon.  Look for NIU to score about 28-31 points and gain 350-375 yards per game while holding total plays per game for both teams under 125.

Defense: NIU’s defense could be on the field about 10 fewer plays per game than the average MAC defense.  That should equal about one long drive per game not allocated to the opposition.  Last year, with only three starters returning, NIU still finished third in the league in defense.  This year, eight starters return, and the Huskies look like the cream of the MAC crop.

The secondary is the best part of the defense.  All four starters return, including an excellent duo at cornerback in Patrick George and Chris Smith.

The front seven should be as good as last year with the return of two defensive line starters and two linebackers.  Sam linebacker Alex Kube and Will linebacker Pat Schiller should combine for more than 150 tackles and 15 stops for loss.

NIU gave up 21.6 points and 330 yards per game last year, and those numbers should be a little better this season.  If they approach 17 points and 300 yards, the fans in Dekalb could be celebrating a MAC Championship.

Schedule: We think the Huskies have a 50-50 chance of running the table in conference play, at least until the MAC Championship Game.  The non-league schedule presents a wide variation of possibilities.  The Huskies open at Iowa State on Thursday night, September 2.  The Cyclones will be weaker this season and beatable in Ames.  After a home game with North Dakota, NIU travels to Illinois and Minnesota in consecutive weeks.  Again, both of these games are winnable but not sure things.  NIU could enter conference play at 1-3, 2-2, 3-1, or even 4-0.  The potential is there for a repeat of 2003, or even better.

 

Team Toledo Rockets
               
Head Coach Tim Beckman
               
Colors Midnight Blue and Gold
               
City Toledo, OH
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 80.5
               
National Rating 108
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 3-5
Overall 3-9

 

Offense: The Rockets were an exciting team last year with a wide open offense that produced 30 points and almost 440 yards per game.  Expect more of the same in year two of the Coach Tim Beckman era in Toledo.

Quarterback Austin Dantin received three starts as a true freshman last year filling in for the injured Aaron Opelt.  Dantin averaged better than eight yards per attempt, and he could possibly top 3,000 yards through the air this season.

Receiver Eric Page is the league’s leading returning pass catcher after grabbing 82 passes for 1,159 yards.  He was just a freshman!  Could a triple digit reception season be in his future?  It’s possible.

Running back Morgan Williams lost his starting job last year after rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2008.  If he returns to form, the Rockets will be impossible to stop this season.

The offensive line is one of the most experienced group of blockers in the nation.  They gave up just 18 sacks to a group of passers that combined for 37 passing attempts per game.

The Rockets should average 33-36 points and 450-475 yards per game this season; they will continue to be one of the most exciting teams in the nation to watch.

Defense: As good as the offense is, the defense is the polar opposite.  Toledo gave up 38 points and 400+ yards per game last season, and it doesn’t appear that 2010 will see enough improvement to win more games.

Two starters return up front, but neither of them will be confused for all-conference players.  Toledo had just 20 sacks last year, and they lose their top sack man.

The Rockets use a 4-2-5 defense, and they return just one of their linebacker tandem.  That lost player was the best player on the entire defense, Barry Church, who made all-conference all four years.

The quintet in the secondary is the strength of this unit.  Toledo started three freshmen last year, and as sophomores, they should be much better.  The Rockets welcome back Desmond Morrow, a 2008 starter who missed most of last year with an ACL injury.

Toledo should surrender fewer points this year.  However, a weaker run defense could keep the stop troops on the field for longer stretches.  Look for the Rockets to give up as much as 200 rushing yards and 375-400 total yards per game while allowing about 28-33 points per game.

Schedule: This is a major problem.  Toledo will not win a non-conference game, and they could be quite banged up by the time they are finished with the last of those games.  Arizona visits the Glass Bowl to kick off the season.  Road games at Purdue and Boise State will be trouble.  A homecoming game with Wyoming comes sandwiched between Purdue and Boise State.  The Rockets will compete in most of their conference games, but they could repeat their 3-5 mark.

 

Team Western Michigan Broncos
               
Head Coach Bill Cubit
               
Colors Brown and Gold
               
City Kalamazoo, MI
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 77.0
               
National Rating 115
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense: The Broncos were inconsistent on offense last year.  They topped 30 points four times and scored 17 or less points five times.  With the loss of the school’s career best passer, 2010 could be a trying one for a team that has enough talent to contend for the division flag.

Quarterback Alex Carder saw limited action as a freshman last year, but he begins 2010 as the clear-cut starter.  He won’t be asked to pass the ball over 40 times per game like Tim Hiller, but he has a great set of receivers on hand. 

The top five receivers from last year are back in the fold, giving the Broncos the hands down best receiving unit in the league.  Drew Burdi, an option-style QB was moved to wide receiver to add to those riches.

WMU must replace star running back Brandon West, who rushed for 1,164 yards and 10 TDs.  He leaves a major void, as the new starter, Aaron Winchester, ran for just 148 yards and averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.

The lack of a proven runner might force Carder to take the ball to the air a bit too much, and his inexperience could lead to an increase in interceptions.  Still, WMU should average better than 25 points and 375 yards per game.

Defense: There are definite strengths and glaring weaknesses on this side of the ball, but the Broncos are sure to improve on their lousy showing of last year when they gave up 28 points and 419 yards per game.

First the bad news:  the secondary gave up 241 passing yards per game and seldom supplied much pressure on receivers.  Two freshmen could start this year.

The Broncos are a little more settled at linebacker.  Rover Jamail Berry is more of a linebacker than secondary player.  He led WMU with five interceptions (half of the team’s picks).  Newcomer Dex Jones possesses great speed, and the former Wisconsin player should be a vast improvement on the weak side.

The defensive line is not impressive, but there is more experience returning this year than returned in 2009.

If the Broncos can develop an average pass rush, they could make an unexpected run at Northern Illinois.  We believe they will improve some, but not enough.  Call it 24-27 points and 375-400 yards allowed.

Schedule: The Broncos are looking at a 2-2 mark outside of conference play.  They host Nicholls State and Idaho and travel to Michigan State and Notre Dame.  League games with Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Toledo, Central Michigan, and Akron give WMU a good shot at enjoying a winning league mark.  The Broncos get Kent State and Northern Illinois at home, and if they win one of those games, they will be bowling this year. 

 

Coming Tomorrow: A look at the three independents—Army, Navy, and Notre Dame.  Could the entire trio be bowl eligible in 2010?

August 27, 2009

2009 Mid-American Conference Preview

2009 Mid-American Conference Preview

A PiRate Look

In the second in our series of conference previews, we look at what just may be the most exciting league with the most wide-open styles of play.  Once just a light version of the old Big Ten, the Mid-American Conference has its own unique personality.  There are no three yards and a cloud of dust teams left.  Today, the MAC more closely resembles the old American Football League of the 1960’s.

Last year, Buffalo and Ball State were expected to be middle of the pack teams in their divisions, but the Bulls and Cardinals surprised the so-called experts and met in the conference championship.  Buffalo pulled off the big upset of the then unbeaten Cardinals, and then in an even bigger surprise Bull head coach Turner Gill spurned offers to move into a BCS conference coaching position to stay in Buffalo.

Here are the preseason PiRate ratings for the league.  The ratings have been rounded to the nearest whole number even though we calculate them to two decimal places.  Thus, when you see multiple teams with the same rating, they are not actually exactly even.  To understand what the rating means, it is set so that 100 is average.  Thus, a rating of 90 means the team is 10 points weaker than the average team in the FBS.  The average of all 120 FBS teams should round to 100 if the math has been successfully calculated.

For those who have not followed the PiRate Ratings before and wonder about the home field advantage, we do not assign set in stone advantages.  These are assigned on a game-by-game basis.  For instance, if Ohio U was to get really lucky and host Ohio State, it would be expected that the Buckeye fans would find a way to get to Athens and make it a home game for the visiting team.  However, if that same Ohio U team hosted Hawaii when the Rainbows played at Idaho the week before, then the Bobcats could enjoy as much as a touchdown in home field advantage.  The PiRates think it’s ridiculous to issue a blank home field advantage for all teams or even assign a range of set home field advantages.

 

Mid-American Conference Preseason PiRatings

   

 

Prediction *

  Team

PiRate

MAC

Overall

  EAST

 

 

 

  Buffalo

95

6-2

7-5

  Temple

92

6-2

8-5

  Ohio U

90

6-2

8-4

  Akron

89

3-5

4-8

  Bowling Green

87

2-6

2-10

  Kent State

86

2-6

4-8

  Miami (O)

77

2-6

2-10

   

 

 

 

  WEST

 

 

 

  Central Michigan

100

7-1

9-4

  Eastern Michigan

93

4-4

5-7

  Western Michigan

92

5-3

6-6

  Ball State

90

4-4

7-5

  Toledo

90

4-4

4-8

  Northern Illinois

89

1-7

3-9

   

 

 

 

 

*  Predictions not based on PiRate Rating but

 

on expected changes to rating during the year

   

 

 

 

 

CMU expected to defeat Temple in the MAC

 

Championship Game

 

 

MAC East

Buffalo: The Bulls still have some offensive weapons in running back James Starks and receiver Naaman Roosevelt, but they have a glaring hole where quarterback Drew Willy has graduated.  There are holes to fill in the offensive line as well, but the Bulls should still score about 25-28 points per game.  Defensively, the secondary and linebackers return intact from last year, but the defensive line faces major rebuilding.  In a league where almost every team has an explosive offense, just one defensive weakness can be enough to lose a ball game.  Buffalo could actually improve their conference record and fail to repeat as East Champions.

Temple: The Owls were arguably the weakest team in major college football in 2005 and 2006, but Coach Al Golden has the program headed in the right direction.  Temple narrowly missed out on an eight-win season, but finished 5-7 because they lost three different games on the final play.  This should be the year where the Owls finally break through with their first winning season since 1990 and first bowl invitation since 1979.  The defense should improve its yardage allowed by 30 to 50 yards and points allowed by three to five.  In a league where all the contenders can easily score 28 or more points per game, allowing less than 20 should be enough for the Owls to be a serious contender for the division title.  TU needs to come up with more balance on offense, as the Owls have failed to average 100 rushing yards per game in the last four seasons.  This is the one contender that will need to win games 21-17 instead of 38-34.

Ohio U: Coach Frank Solich has another contender in Athens this year, as the Bobcats should top 250 passing yards per game with two competent quarterbacks and three quality receivers.  If the rebuilt offensive line develops, then Ohio could emerge as the East champion.  Their defensive liability against the run could cost them against the better running opponents, and that spells trouble when they play at Ball State and Buffalo in consecutive games.

Akron: The Zips christen a new stadium this year.  Gone are games at the Rubber Bowl, as they move to the on-campus Infocision Stadium.  Coach J.D. Brookhart finds his seat not hot yet, but quite tepid.  If Akron fails to show improvement with a new high percentage passing offense, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that there could be a coaching change.  An experienced offensive line will need to step up and provide excellent protection for quarterback Chris Jacquemain who has a tendency to throw interceptions when under pressure.  The Zip running game will take a step back after losing 1,300+ yard runner Dennis Kennedy.  Defensively, the Zips should be stronger the farther back in the formation.  Akron should be one of those MAC teams to top 30 points per game, but they should give up 35.

Bowling Green: This Falcons have enjoyed winning seasons in six of the past eight years with one breakeven year, but things are about to turn south.  New coach Dave Clawson faces an immediate rebuilding situation.  The defense has been decimated with graduation, and the fairly experienced offense should struggle learning a new system.  Clawson’s offense proved to be too hard for Tennessee to implement last season, and the lack of production cost Phil Fulmer his job.  Quarterback Tyler Sheehan will see defenses begging him to hand the ball off, as the Falcons will struggle to run the ball against the better defensive front sevens.  Defensively, BGU is going to be weak in the all-important cornerback positions, and that could spell big trouble.  The Falcons will be forced to play their secondary deeper than normal, and opponents will average at least a yard more per play.  Look for Bowling Green to average 21-24 points per game but yield 30-35 and struggle to win more than two times.

Kent State: It’s been 37 years since the Golden Flashes made their one and only bowl appearance, and it’s going to be 38 after this season.  Kent State should be one of the top two rushing teams in the MAC, but they probably have the league’s weakest passing attack.  Defensively, Kent State gave up 32 points per game last year, and they will probably repeat that performance.  Their key game is September 19, when Iowa State visits Dix Stadium.  The Flashes handed that game over to the Cyclones last year in Ames, and if they pull off the mild upset, it could domino into a couple of extra wins.  If they lose that game, then KSU will be lucky to escape double digit losses.

Miami of Ohio: This once proud program known as the cradle of coaches for producing numerous big-time coaches (Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Bill Mallory, Ara Parseghian, Weeb Eubank, Paul Dietzel, Jim Tressel, and Randy Walker among others) has become the doormat of the MAC.  After going 2-10 last year, Coach Shane Montgomery was let go.  New coach Mike Haywood inherits a team bereft of talent.  Quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh improved late in the 2008 season, but he’s got to prove that he can be more consistent and put touchdowns on the board.  A weak 2008 defense should regress even more in 2009, as the top four tacklers are gone.  The Redhawks will not compete in their out of conference part of the schedule with games against Kentucky (on a neutral field), at Boise State, at home against Cincinnati, and at Northwestern.  Home games with Bowling Green and Northern Illinois give Miami its best chance to avoid a winless season.

MAC West

Central Michigan: In a very competitive league, the Chippewas appear to be the top banana.  Quarterback Dan LeFevour should be the next big MAC passer to matriculate to the NFL.  To add to their riches, CMU has three excellent receivers in Antonio Brown, Bryan Anderson, and Kito Poblah.  The offensive line has to be rebuilt, but LeFevour gets rid of the ball quickly and can get out of the pocket and run the ball when needed.  Great running quarterbacks make it easier on a green offensive front.  Green is not a word to apply to the defense.  CMU returns 10 starters and 15 of their top 17 tacklers.  The Chippewas surrendered better than 30 points and 420 yards per game in 2008, and those numbers should improve by seven points and 40-50 yards.  CMU should easily top 30 points per game and maybe approach 40, so the Chippewas should dominate in the league in 2009.  CMU won’t be this year’s Ball State because their non-conference schedule includes games against Arizona, Michigan State, and Boston College all on the road.

Eastern Michigan: Yes, this is not a typo.  The Eagles could be a big surprise this year in the MAC.  New head coach Ron English knows a thing of two about defense, and EMU should improve just enough on the stop side to turn the close losses of last year into wins this year.  EMU’s offense will be considerably better this year, and the Eagles quietly gained almost 420 yards per game in 2008.  Quarterback Andy Schmitt has the talent to pass for 3,000 yards, and wide out Jacory Stone should top 1,000 yards in receptions.  Josh LeDuc could top all MAC tight ends in receptions and yardage, and he provides a nice target in the middle of the field.  We’re not ready to call EMU a contender in the West, but this team beat Central Michigan 56-52 in the regular season finale last year.  It wouldn’t surprise us if the Eagles post their first winning season since 1995, but they more than likely will come up just short due to a depth problem on the defensive side.

Western Michigan: A rebuilding defense that probably surrenders 425 yards and 28-35 points per game will keep WMU from seriously challenging CMU for the West title this year.  Offensively, The Broncos are not that far behind their rivals in Mt. Pleasant.  Quarterback Tim Hiller is just behind LeFevour in talent and should be on an NFL roster in 2010.  Hiller should top 4,000 yards passing if he stays healthy, and it wouldn’t surprise us if he reaches the 40 touchdown pass mark.  WMU has its best chance to upset Michigan when they kick off the season at The Big House.  If they win that one, the fans in Ann Arbor will be ready to reach out to Les Miles.  The Broncos host CMU on October 17, and if they can pull off the upset, then they have a chance to sneak away with the division title.  The trouble game for the Broncos could be the November 14 contest at Eastern Michigan, which follows a week after playing at Michigan State.

Ball State: The Cardinals enter the 2009 on a two-game losing streak and without the head coach who won led BSU from two to four to five to six to 12 wins.  New coach Stan Parrish owns one of the worst career coaching records on the FBS level, having gone 2-31-1 (2-9, 0-10-1, and 0-11) at Kansas State 20-plus years ago.  It won’t be his fault when the Cardinals regress to the lower half of the West standings.  Quarterback Nate Davis is gone after putting up even better numbers than LeFevour, and his replacement will be someone with zero experience.  Kelly Page will be seeing the wrong colored jersey in his face too many times, as the offensive line was shredded by graduation.  Star running back Miquale Lewis returns after rushing for 1,736 yards and 22 touchdowns last year, but we expect his yards per carry to drop from 5.4 to 4.5 or less.  Ball State should still post a winning record, but they will do so because they have the easiest non-conference schedule in the league.

Toledo: The Rockets break in a new coach in Tim Beckman.  Beckman inherits an experienced offensive line but the other side of the line needs some rebuilding.  Quarterback Aaron Opelt is the only reason why we don’t have the Rockets rated high enough to compete in the division.  TU should be able to consistently run the ball, but teams may frequently put eight defenders in the box to force the Rockets to beat them through the air.  After losing nine times in 2008, we expect Toledo to improve, but by no more than one game.  Their non-conference schedule does them no favors, as they open with Purdue on the road, host Colorado, face Ohio State in Cincinnati, and venture to Florida International, where they will render in the Florida steam.

Northern Illinois: This is a program that is about to head downhill in the short term.  First year coach Jerry Kill guided the Huskies to six wins and a bowl bid, but NIU lost too much on defense and just enough on offense to prevent improvement this year.  It all adds up to a possible overall last place finish in the MAC.  Cheer up Huskie fans; your team is really young with enough talent to be really good in two years.  For now, hope NIU takes care of business against Western Illinois and Idaho and finds a way to pull off a conference win at home.

Next up: A quick look at the Independents.  Can Charlie Weis keep the fans happy at Notre Dame?  Will Army finally beat Navy?

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