The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 19, 2012

2012 Mid-American Conference Preview

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

 

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

 

Akron: Charlie Frye

Bowling Green: Tyler Sheehan

Buffalo: Drew Willy

Kent State: Josh Cribbs

Miami (O): Ben Roethlisberger and Josh Betts

Ball State: Nate Davis

Central Michigan: Dan LeFevour

Northern Illinois: Chandler Harnish

Toledo: Bruce Gradkowski

Western Michigan: Tim Hiller

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

MAC East

Votes

 

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

 

1

Ohio U

17

119

(5)

2

Bowling Green

0

91

 

3

Miami (O)

0

84

 

4

Kent State

0

76

 

5

Buffalo

0

52

 

6

Akron

0

31

 

7

Massachusetts

0

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAC West

Votes

 

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

 

1

Toledo

7

87

(3)

2

Northern Illinois

5

83

(1)

3

Western Michigan

4

79

(1)

4

Ball State

0

42

 

5

Eastern Michigan

0

34

 

6

Central Michigan

1

32

(1)

 

 

 

 

 

Number in ( ) indicates votes to win MAC title game

 

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

 

PiRate Ratings

Rank

MAC East

PiRate

1

Ohio U

94.8

2

Miami (O)

93.5

3

Bowling Green

93.0

4

Kent State

88.7

5

Buffalo

82.6

6

Massachusetts

69.5

7

Akron

69.2

 

   

Rank

MAC West

PiRate

1

Western Michigan

94.6

2

Toledo

93.6

3

Northern Illinois

92.1

4

Central Michigan

89.3

5

Ball State

88.6

6

Eastern Michigan

87.2

 

 

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

 

Vintage Ratings

Rank

MAC East

Vintage

1

Ohio U

98

2

Miami (O)

93

3

Bowling Green

92

4

Kent State

87

5

Buffalo

87

6

Akron

84

7

Massachusetts

79

 

   

Rank

MAC West

Vintage

1

Western Michigan

96

2

Toledo

94

3

Northern Illinois

92

4

Central Michigan

91

5

Eastern Michigan

90

6

Ball State

88

 

 

East Division

Team

Akron Zips

               
Head Coach

Terry Bowden

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Akron, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

0-8

Overall

1-11

               
PiRate Rating

69.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

124

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

84

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

116

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

2-10

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Team

Bowling Green Falcons

               
Head Coach

Dave Clawson

               
Colors

Orange and Brown

               
City

Bowling Green, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

5-7

               
PiRate Rating

93.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

82

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

92

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

93

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

7-5

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Team

Buffalo Bulls

               
Head Coach

Jeff Quinn

               
Colors

Royal Blue and White

               
City

Buffalo, NY

               
2011 Record              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

               
PiRate Rating

82.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

110

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

87

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

109

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Team

Kent State Golden Flashes

               
Head Coach

Darrell Hazell

               
Colors

Navy and Gold

               
City

Kent, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

5-7

               
PiRate Rating

88.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

98

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

87

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

110

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

5-7

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Team

Massachusetts Minutemen

               
Head Coach

Charley Molnar

               
Colors

Maroon and White

               
City

Amherst, MA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

FCS Member

Overall

5-6

               
PiRate Rating

69.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

123

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

79

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

122

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

1-11

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Team

Miami (Ohio) Redhawks

               
Head Coach

Don Treadwell

               
Colors

Red and White

               
City

Oxford, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

               
PiRate Rating

93.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

81

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

93

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

92

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

6-6

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Team

Ohio Bobcats

               
Head Coach

Frank Solich

               
Colors

Green and White

               
City

Athens, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

6-2

Overall

10-4

               
PiRate Rating

94.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

76

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

98

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

72

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

10-3*

* Picked to win MAC Championship Game

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

West Division

Team

Ball State Cardinals

               
Head Coach

Pete Lembo

               
Colors

Red and White

               
City

Muncie, IN

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

6-6

               
PiRate Rating

88.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

106

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

3-9

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Team

Central Michigan Chippewas

               
Head Coach

Dan Enos

               
Colors

Maroon and Gold

               
City

Mt. Pleasant, MI

               
2011 Record              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

               
PiRate Rating

89.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

91

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

100

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Team

Eastern Michigan Eagles

               
Head Coach

Ron English

               
Colors

Dark Green and White

               
City

Ypsilanti, MI

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

6-6

               
PiRate Rating

87.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

90

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

102

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

6-6

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Team

Northern Illinois Huskies

               
Head Coach

Dave Doeren

               
Colors

Red and Black

               
City

Dekalb, IL

               
2011 Record              
Conference

7-1

Overall

11-3

               
PiRate Rating

92.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

85

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

92

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

94

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

8-4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Team

Toledo Rockets

               
Head Coach

Matt Campbell

               
Colors

Midnight Blue and Gold

               
City

Toledo, OH

               
2011 Record              
Conference

7-1

Overall

9-4

               
PiRate Rating

93.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

79

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

94

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

88

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

6-6

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Team

Western Michigan Broncos

               
Head Coach

Bill Cubit

               
Colors

Brown and Gold

               
City

Kalamazoo, MI

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-3

Overall

7-6

               
PiRate Rating

94.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

77

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

79

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

9-4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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August 16, 2011

2011 Mid-American Conference Preview

2011 Mid-American Conference Preview

 

The MAC just may be the most exciting conference in FBS football.  In what other league can a team go 1-7 in league play and 1-11 overall one year and win the conference championship the next?  Miami of Ohio did just that last year.

 

Only one MAC team has recorded winning league marks for the last three years, and that team is Northern Illinois.  However, NIU has not won the MAC title in those three years.

 

2011 should be another great year for this league, and it would come as no surprise if the MAC records multiple victories against Big Ten teams.

 

East

Miami (O) will be the hunted rather than the hunter this season, and we believe the Redhawks will be up to the task most weeks in league play.  New coach Don Treadwell steps into an excellent situation.  He was the offensive coordinator at Michigan State, and the Spartans were consistent on offense during his four seasons as OC.

 

Quarterback Zac Dysert returns for his junior season, and Dysert could be the next Miami quarterback to play in the NFL.  He missed five games last year, but he still passed for more than 2,400 yards.

 

The Redhawk running game was subpar last year, and the leading returning rusher this year had just 41 rushing yards in 2010. 

 

The passing game should be strong once again thanks to a veteran offensive line and the return of four of the top five receivers.  However, MU must replace Armand Robinson, who caught 94 passes last year.  Look for the Redhawks to continue to throw the ball for 250+ yards per game and hope to average triple digits on the ground.

 

Miami did not win with great offense last year; it was the defense that got the job done.  Nine starters, including the top eight tacklers, return to a stop unit that gave up 18 points and 300 yards per game in MAC action.    If the defensive line can come up with 35 sacks again, the Redhawks will have the top defense in the league, because their back seven is hands down the best.

 

Linebackers Jerrell Wedge and Evan Harris wreaked havoc on enemy offenses, combining for 195 tackles, 5 ½ sacks, and 24 ½ tackles for loss.  Cornerbacks D. J. Brown and David Nunley combined for 25 passes defended, eight of which were interceptions.

 

Miami plays at Minnesota on September 17, and the Redhawks will have a chance to give the MAC a win over a Big Ten team.

 

Temple also welcomes a new head coach.  Steve Addazio replaces Al Golden, who took the Miami (Fla) job.  Addazio was the offensive coordinator at Florida the last two seasons, and he brings Chuck Heater with him from Gainesville to serve as defensive coordinator.

 

We believe Temple underperformed last year, and many times a team will outperform expectations the next year after failing to live up to expectations the year before. 

 

The Owls should be quite a bit improved on the attack side in 2011.  Quarterback Mike Gerardi will battle Chester Stewart and Chris Coyer for playing time, but we believe Gerardi will win the starting nod for game one.  Whoever wins the starting job will be able to hand the ball off to two excellent running backs, both of whom are capable of topping 1,000 rushing yards.  Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown teamed for 1,558 yards and 17 touchdowns last year.

 

There are some holes to fill on the offensive line after losing two all-MAC performers, but Temple played a lot of linemen last year due to injuries. 

 

Defensively, the Owls have some rebuilding to do, but we believe enough talent returns to keep this side from becoming a liability.  Gone are the four leading tacklers from 2010.  Pass defense could be a concern as the pass rush was not all that great, and the Owls did not pick off a lot of passes.  The run defense should be just fine, but in the MAC, you have to be able to stop the pass to win.  The Owls will come up a bit short and have to settle for something close to a repeat of last year.  They were the only 8-game winner to be shut out of the post-season bowls.

 

Ohio should contend for East Division honors this year, but the Bobcats are probably not going to be strong enough defensively to stop the high-octane offenses in this league.

 

Coach Frank Solich has two inexperienced quarterbacks vying for starting honors.  Tyler Tettleton will get first crack to replace Boo Jackson.  Tettleton is a dual threat player like Jackson was.

 

Solich believes in using a lot of players, so even though the top two receivers depart, there are plenty of experienced players returning, including tight end Jordan Thompson and wideout Riley Dunlop.  Former QB Phil Bates is actually the leading returning rusher and passer, but he will be strictly a receiver this season.

 

The running game will be better this season, not because of a great runner, but because the entire offensive line returns intact.  Three of those linemen, guards Eric Herman and A. J. Strum and tackle Joe Flading could all make all-MAC.  With the top blocking corps in the East Division, look for Ohio to top 30 points per game in 2011.

 

All is not fine and dandy on the other side of the ball.  The Bobcats’ top four tacklers and top three pass defenders are missing.  The entire front four will be new in 2011.  The next line of defense is as experienced as the front four is inexperienced.  Middle linebacker Noah Keller would have been the leading tackler on the team last year, but he was felled by a season-ending injury in September.  When healthy in 2009, he was the top MLB in the league.  His return to 2009 form is a must for the Bobcats.

 

Ohio will benefit from a relatively easy schedule.  The Bobcats do not play a Big Ten team, and they could go 3-1 before conference play begins.  Look for the Bobcats to earn another bowl bid in 2011.

 

Kent State has been knocking on the door in recent years, but they have always come up a bit short.  The Golden Flashes have not been to a bowl game since 1972, when Don James guided them to the Tangerine Bowl before moving on to Washington.

 

2011 could be the year the long drought comes to an end, but like Ohio and Temple, KSU must plug some holes on the defensive side of the ball.

 

There are few questions that need to be answered on the offensive side of the ball.   Kent Should field its best attack since 2004, when Joshua Cribbs was the Cam Newton of the MAC.

 

Spencer Keith is no Cribbs, but the junior signal caller should top 60% completion percentage this year and top 2,500 yards through the air.  The only fly in the ointment could be the adjustment to new head coach Darrell Hazell’s offense.  Hazell comes to Kent from Ohio State.

 

Keith will benefit from having a terrific tandem of receivers in Tyshon Goode and Sam Kirkland.  This dynamic duo teamed for 115 receptions a year ago.

 

New defensive coordinator Jon Heacock is a Jim Tressel disciple, and he will try to implement an attacking one-gap defense.  He won’t see anybody resembling Brian Rolle or Cameron Heyward.  However, he does have some talent to work with.  Nose tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen should plug the inside with his big 300+-pound frame.  End Roosevelt Nix is the best defensive lineman in the league, as he comes off a season in which he recorded 10 sacks and 20 total tackles behind the line.

 

In the secondary, corners Norman Wolfe and Josh Pleasant return after teaming for seven interceptions and 20 passes defended.

 

Kent State has won five games both of the last two years.  This team has just enough talent to win an extra game or two and become bowl eligible, but they could still lose out in the bowl bonanza.

 

Bowling Green is the toughest team to figure.  Coach Dave Clawson’s Falcons fell on hard times in 2010 after playing in a bowl in 2009.  The 2-10 record saw BGU drop off from 400+ plus total yards in 2009 to less than 300 last year.  Injuries played a large part in the tailspin, so there is optimism that with a healthier season, the Falcons could bounce back.

 

Quarterback Matt Shilz was thrust into the starting job as a freshman, and he completed better than 60 % of his passes last year.  His only problem was a propensity to throw to the wrong colored jersey.   Clawson’s passing game can be difficult to grasp, but when a quarterback learns the system, it can be tough to stop.

 

The running game under Clawson has been a major problem.  After rushing for less than 90 yards per game in 2009, the Falcons averaged less than 65 yards on the ground last year.  35 sacks against the QBs had something to do with that, but even using NFL statistical rules, BGU rushed for just a tad over 80 yards per game.  There are no real stars in the backfield, so the Falcons will have to rely on the passing game once again.

 

Schilz has one of the top receivers in the league as his top target.  Kamar Jordan narrowly missed recording 100 receptions last year with 96 for 1,109 yards and four scores.  Look for tight end Alex Bayer to have more receptions this season.  Bayer looked like another Mike Ditka on the field at times last year.

 

The offensive line is experienced but not the most talented.  Any improvement in the offense will require considerable improvement in the trenches.

 

The BGU defense has regressed the last two seasons.  Last year’s edition surrendered 34 points and 430+ yards per game.  There was very little pass rush, and the run defense was even weaker. 

 

The secondary will be the strength on this side of the ball, but without any help up front, enemy quarterbacks will still find open receivers.  At linebacker, Dwayne Woods is a bit undersized, but he has excellent lateral quickness and can pursue well to both sides.  He led BGU with 134 tackles, but too many of those came after backs had already gained five yards.

 

This team could finish as low as 2-10 again, but if the offensive and defensive lines show enough improvement, we could see them challenging for a bowl.  In the wacky MAC, you just never know.

 

Buffalo took a major step backward last year with new coach Jeff Quinn.  The Bulls finished 2-10 and brought up the rear nationally in scoring at just 14 points per game (just 13 in league play).  Nothing clicked on offense, as neither the running game nor the passing game excelled.

 

Quinn would like to implement a hurry-up offense, but it is hard to hurry up when your quarterback throws one incomplete pass after another.  The problem may be solved this season with the arrival of former Cincinnati quarterback Chazz Anderson, who played at UC when Quinn was the offensive coordinator there.  Anderson is getting a big challenge from sophomore Alex Zordich, but we believe Anderson will be under center when the Bulls play at Pittsburgh in the season opener.

 

Anderson will have a full complement of receivers available this season, as almost every player that caught a pass last year returns this season.  Marcus Rivers and Alex Neutz both have big play potential.

 

The running game has no big play backs.  Starter Branden Oliver averaged less than three yards per carry last year and failed to score a touchdown.

 

The biggest problem last year was the offensive line, and it will be a major liability again this season.  None of the offensive linemen will challenge for all league honors, as they are a bit on the small side without a lot of quickness.

 

The Buffalo defense was decent last year, but the stop troops frequently were forced to defend less territory than average due to poor field position given them by the other side of the ball.

 

Things do not look so rosy for this side of the ball this season, as eight of the top 10 tacklers from last year are gone.  The strength of last year was the secondary, but all four starters used up their eligibility.  The second line of defense will be the strength this year; linebacker Khalil Mack has all-American potential.  He produced 4 ½ sacks, 14 ½ total tackles for loss, eight QB hurries, and 10 passes defended.

 

The front three will be adequate this season, but don’t expect a great pass rush.  Without a great pass rush, the green secondary will get burned many times.

 

Akron won five games in 2008, three in 2009, and just one last year.  Second year coach Rob Ianello’s Zips were zipless last season.  Akron averaged just 15.6 points and 269 total yards per game, and the Zips lost to Gardner-Webb.  Only a finale win over an equally inept Buffalo team kept Akron from going winless.  The Zips could be looking at another one-win season, because the talent level is not on par with the better teams in this league.

 

Quarterback Patrick Nicely will get a stiff challenge from Juco transfer Clayton Moore.  Nicely completed just 49% of his passes last year, as he had little time to pass.  This year, the offensive line should be a little better, but the receiving corps will take a big step backwards.  The top four pass catchers from last year have moved on, leaving tight end Richard Hall as the leading returning receiver.  Hall caught only 16 passed for 149 yards.

 

The running game is not as weak as Bowling Green’s, but it will not be confused for Temple’s either.

 

Defensively, Akron yielded better than 35 points and 425 yards per game in 2010.  Those numbers should improve some this year, but we do not believe they will improve enough to lead the Zips out of the East Division basement.  The secondary will still be a problem and may allow better than 60% of enemy passes to be completed for the fifth year in a row.  The Zips gave up almost nine yards per enemy pass attempt.

 

The defensive front four should be a little better rushing the quarterback, and we believe the Zips will improve on their paltry sack numbers of 2010 (17).

 

Akron fans better circle September 24 on the schedule.  The home game with weak FCS team VMI is the only sure win on the schedule.

 

West

Toledo returns every running back and receiver that contributed in 2010 plus quarterbacks Austin Dantin and Terance Owens from an offense that averaged 28 points and 365 yards per game against a difficult schedule.  This year’s offense looks like the class of the league, or at worst the co-class of the league.

 

Dantin and Page could alternate at quarterback, as both are listed as number one on the depth chart after a week of practice.  Dantin is more of a dual threat quarterback, while Owens is the better pure passer.  Opposing defensive coordinators will have to prepare for both styles, and that will cause headaches.

 

Eric Page will contend for the national reception lead this year after grabbing 99 passes for 1,105 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago.  There is so much depth with the addition of Illinois transfer Cordale Scott, and some of last year’s starters could end up as reserves this year. 

 

As if the passing game was not stacked, the running game is in even better shape.  Adonis Thomas returns after gaining nearly 1,100 yards and averaging better than six yards per rush.  All of his running back teammates from last year are back as well. 

 

The offensive line has a couple holes to fill, but we look for this unit to be just as strong as last year, and we look for the Rockets to top 30 points and 400 total yards per game.  We believe Toledo is capable of topping 300 yards on the ground if need be and 350 through the air if need be.

 

The defense improved by leaps and bounds last year but still surrendered more than 28 points per game.  Defense has prevented UT from winning the MAC title in recent years, but this side of the ball should be a bit better in 2011.  The one question mark is at linebacker.  First team all-MAC Archie Donald graduated, while hybrid safety/linebacker Isaiah Ballard was dismissed after being arrested for felonious assault.  Middle linebacker Dan Molls could be a 1st team all-conference selection.

 

The secondary returns the other four starters to the fold.  It will improve if the defensive line can pressure the quarterback more this year than last.  End T. J. Fatinikun recorded 13 tackles for loss, including five sacks, while end Malcolm Riley added 5 ½ sacks as well as nine QB hurries.

 

The UT schedule will be difficult once again.  Out of conference trips to Ohio State and Syracuse will be wrapped around a home game with Boise State.  If the Rockets can emerge from that three-game swing without major injuries, they should have smooth sailing in the West Division.  They host their top two competitors, and that should be enough to get them over the top.

 

Western Michigan looked a lot better than the 6-6 team they were last year.  The Broncos are probably the best skilled team at the offensive skill positions, but their offensive line is not as talented as their top two West Division competitors.

 

Quarterback Alex Carder tossed 30 touchdown passes last year while completing 63.1% of his passes for 3,334 yards.  Wideout Jordan White is back after catching 94 passes for 1,378 yards and 10 touchdowns.  White is a threat to break a long one every time he catches the ball.

 

The running back situation is one of excellent depth because there were injury problems here last year.  Tevin Drake averaged more than 10 yards per carry, playing mostly just the last three games.  Brian Fields averaged 6.5 yards per rush when he was healthy.  Look for WMU’s rushing totals to resemble the production of their final four games (194 yards per game).

 

The offensive line has some rebuilding to do, but it is not without talent.  Tackles Dann O’Neill and Anthony Parker will protect Carder and open holes for Drake and Fields.  This looks like an offense capable of averaging better than 35 points per game.

 

The WMU defense toughened in the second half of the season, surrendering 17 points per game in the final six games.  The front four will be a big positive this season with all four starters returning.  The strength of the DL is at tackle; Drew Nowak and Travonte Boles can free up the linebacker and ends to make the big plays.  The two bulldozers will make it hard for opposing backs to run between the tackles.

 

The secondary is led by all-MAC cornerback Lewis Toler.  Toler picked off five passes and knocked down nine others last year.

 

Mitch Zajac returns at inside linebacker after leading the Broncos with 97 tackles in 2010.  However, with the loss of Jamail Berry, this unit will be a concern in 2011.

 

Northern Illinois dominated the league last year until they ran into Miami in the MAC Championship Game.  The Huskies recovered to blow out Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise.  NIU will not repeat as West Division Champions for two reasons.  First, head coach Jerry Kill took the Minnesota job, bringing first year coach Dave Doeren to replace him.  Doeren put together some really good defenses at Wisconsin, but he will have to learn on the job. 

 

More importantly, the Huskies lost nine defensive starters as well as many of their top reserves.  Only four of the top 15 tacklers return this year.

 

The secondary returns just one major contributor.  Safety Tommy Davis could vie for All-MAC honors, but he may be called on to make a lot of breakaway-saving tackles this year.

 

Things are not much better at linebacker, where three new starters will line up due to one expected starter being shot in April and another who was suspended for the season.

 

The defensive line returns just one key player from last year.  End Sean Progar earned 1st team All-MAC accolades in 2010 after proving to be both a good run stopper and pass rusher.

 

The NIU offense was the best in the league last year, and it could be so again this year.  Quarterback Chandler Harnish earned 1st team all-conference honors last year and should improve on his 2,530 passing yards as a senior.  Harnish had an incredible 21/5 TD/Int. ratio last year while completing almost 65% of his passes.  Harnish is not just a passer; he is the best runner on the team as well.  He rushed for 836 yards (over 900 when you factor out his sacks) and seven touchdowns.

 

The top three receivers from last year are back again this year.  Willie Clark, Nathan Palmer, and Martel Moore combined for 111 catches, 1,659 yards, and 17 touchdowns.

 

There is a little question at running back with the loss of Chad Spann, who rushed for 1,388 yards and 22 touchdowns last year.  New starter Jasmin Hopkins averaged better than nine yards per carry last year in limited action, but he is small at 5-9 and 172 pounds.  He will not be able to take the pounding to carry the ball 20 times per game.

 

The league’s top offensive line returns intact this year, and this is why we believe NIU can score as many as 40 points per game.  Center Scott Wedge, guard Joe Pawlak, and tackle Trevor Olson all earned 1st team all-MAC honors last year.

 

NIU should win three of their four non-conference games.  The Huskies have a chance to repeat as MAC West Champions if they can win by scores of 56-42, but we believe they will come up a little short this year.  Still, NIU should be playing in December or January.

 

Central Michigan nosedived last season with the loss of Coach Butch Jones to Cincinnati and quarterback Dan LeFevour to the Chicago Bears (now the hapless Cincinnati Bengals).  The Chippewas fell from 12-2 to 3-9, saw their offensive numbers drop by almost 10 points, and gave up a touchdown more per game.  With a difficult schedule in September and early October, CMU could be looking at having to win six consecutive games to have any chance to make it back to a bowl.  We don’t see it happening.

 

Quarterback Ryan Radcliff was a bit too generous with the ball last year, tossing 17 interceptions.  Radcliff’s top receiver from 2010 returns this year.  Cody Wilson grabbed 83 passes for 1,137 yards. 

 

The running game is still going to be a liability this year, even with the return of leading rusher Paris Cotton.  Cotton rushed for 651 yards and six scores, but the rest of the team average just 2.6 yards per carry.  A rather weak offensive line will keep those numbers low again this season.  At least there is depth in the trenches thanks to numerous 2010 injuries.

 

The defense is not particularly endowed with talent, but there are some quality players, especially in the backfield.  CMU intercepted just four passes last year and recorded less than 30 knock downs.  Those numbers will keep any team from winning seven games.  Look for safety Jahleel Addae to emerge as an all-league performer and make at least 2nd team all-MAC.  Addae is an asset in both run and pass defense.

 

Ball State has not been the same since Brady Hoke left for San Diego State three years ago.  Two years under Stan Parrish produced a 6-18 slate.  Pete Lembo is the new coach after guiding FCS Elon to a 35-22 record in five seasons.

 

Lembo steps into an improving situation in Muncie, as nine offensive starters return.  The loss of running back Eric Williams after spring practice was made all the more worse after the next two running backs on the dept chart turned up lame.  That leaves Northern Illinois transfer Barrington Scott to take most of the snaps this year.

 

Lembo’s teams at Elon were known for passing the ball more than 50% of the time and running to gain two yards on 3rd and one or at the goal line.  Quarterback Keith Wenning should benefit from the new offensive philosophy.  Wenning could more than double his 2010 passing numbers (1,313 yards), but he needs to cut down on his interceptions.  His 14 picks gave him an interception percentage of almost 6%.

 

Wenning has his top three receivers returning this year.  Jack Tomlinson, Briggs Orsbon, and Otis Brown only teamed for 76 receptions and 1,026 yards.  Look for true freshman Willie Snead to eventually emerge as a starter and top target.

 

The best part of the 2011 offense could be the offensive line.  Four starters return as well as a fifth part-time starter.  Ball State should improve from 22 points to about 27 points per game this season.

 

A porous defense in 2010 prevented the Cardinals from contending from bowl eligibility, and it could prevent BSU from doing so this season.  The Cardinals gave up more than 30 points and right at 400 yards per game last year, and while this year’s defense returns some talented players, the new offense may force that defense to be on the field for more than 70 plays per game.

 

The strength of this side will be in the secondary.  Safety Sean Baker made seven tackles behind the line last year and defended 10 passes, six as interceptions.  Cornerback Jason Pinkston had 11 passes defended.

 

Two of the three starting linebackers return this season, but there are no stars in this unit.  The linebacking corps looks like all-Americans compared to the quartet lined up in front.  Ball State will be weak in the trenches, and opponents will exploit that weakness.  After giving up 4.6 yards per rush and recording just 14 sacks, there is nowhere to go but up for this unit, but we do not see much improvement here.

 

Ball State plays at Eastern Michigan on November 5, and last place should go to the loser of that game.

 

Eastern Michigan finished 2-10 last season, which was actually a two game improvement over 2009.  Coach Ron English is on the hot seat, and another 2-10 season will probably send him to the unemployment line.

 

The Eagles should continue to show some improvement on the attack side with a better passing game.  Quarterback Alex Gillett completed 55.5% of his passes for 1,633 yards and 13 touchdowns.  Gillett led EMU in rushing with 786 (more than 900 without sacks).

 

What makes Gillett’s passing numbers all the more worthy was the fact that he did not have any speedsters running pass routes.  Defenses knew he could not go deep, because is receivers could not separate from defenders and get open deep. 

 

The running game outside of Gillett will be a major question this season.  True freshman Ryan Brumfield could emerge as the eventual starter, but he will still share the load with Dominique Sherrer and Javonti Greene.  With Gillett a threat to keep the ball, this trio of backs should top four yards per carry.

 

The offensive line is no longer a major liability.  It is at least mediocre, and that could be enough to bring EMU out of the basement in the West.

 

The defense has a long way to go to respectability.  The Eagles gave up 44 points and 450+ yards per game last year, and they could neither stop the run nor pass.  Seven starters return to this side of the ball, but four newcomers could all start and help improve EMU’s numbers by as much as 10 points per game.

 

Linebackers Justin Cudworth, Sean Kurtz, and Blake Poole will all start after transferring from junior colleges.  Cornerback Marlon Pollard will immediately become the star of the secondary, and he could exceed the number of interceptions EMU had as a team last season.  Okay, the team only intercepted two passes in 2010.

 

The defensive line is still a major problem.  It is small and slow.  After dumping enemy quarterbacks just 10 times and giving up an eye-popping 6.1 yards per rush, the four returning starters have some easy numbers to improve upon.  However, we believe opposing teams will still line up and run the ball down EMU’s collective throats.

 

The Eagles should start the season 2-0 with wins over Howard and Alabama State.  After that, there are two or three winnable games.  If EMU fails to finish 4-8 or better, look for a coaching change at the end of the season.

 

MAC Official Preseason Poll

 

East

1st Place Votes

Points

Miami (O)

4

97

Ohio U

8

96

Temple

4

88

Kent State

 

57

Bowling Green

 

48

Buffalo

 

37

Akron

 

25

 

 

 

West

1st Place Votes

Points

Toledo

8

83

Northern Illinois

5

81

Western Michigan

2

77

Central Michigan

1

55

Ball State

 

27

Eastern Michigan

 

24

 

 

 

Championship Game Winner

 

Toledo

 

5

Northern Illinois

 

3

Miami (O)

 

3

Ohio U

 

1

Western Michigan

 

1

 

MAC PiRate Ratings

 East

PiRate #

Prediction

Miami (O)

89.4

6-2/7-5

Temple

84.1

6-2/7-5

Ohio U

80.8

7-1/9-4

Kent State

80.6

4-4/6-6

Bowling Green

78.9

1-7/2-10

Buffalo

71.9

2-6/3-9

Akron

69.7

0-8/1-11

 

 

 

West

 

 

Toledo

91.4

7-1/9-4 *

Western Michigan

89.4

6-2/7-5

Northern Illinois

88.5

7-1/8-4

Central Michigan

83.4

3-5/4-8

Ball State

76.3

2-6/2-10

Eastern Michigan

69.6

1-7/3-9

 

 

 

* Toledo picked to win MAC Championship Game

Next: The Conference USA Preview, Wednesday, August 17

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?

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