Blog Entry

Picking the MAC

Posted on: May 21, 2009 10:54 am

Four wins over Big Ten teams. A 12-win team ranked in the top 12. Five bowl teams.

It will be hard to replicate the MAC's 2008 season. Even with all that success, five schools had to replace their coaches. Included in that group is 2008 (almost) BCS buster Ball State. Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and Toledo also changed coaches.

The storylines are overflowing again in 2009. It's almost guaranteed to be another record-breaking year. Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour and Western Michigan's Tim Hiller are both chasing MAC career yardage and touchdown records.  The baby Bulls of Buffalo enter their 11th year in I-A as defending MAC champs.
Temple is, gulp, a factor. Ball State has won 14 regular-season teams in a row. And you've got to believe there is at least one more Big Ten victim ready to be knocked off.

How the mighty MAC stacks up in '09 ...

East Division

1. Temple -- What? Temple? Call me crazy but this is the Owls' time. They lost three games on the last play and were within a Hail Mary against Buffalo from winning the division last season.

Coming off a second-place finish and its most wins (five) in 18 years, Temple returns 21 players who started a game. Coach Al Golden has to find a new quarterback but redshirt junior Vaughn Charlton and redshirt sophomore Chester Stewart have experience.

If Golden, a former Penn State assistant, is going to replace Joe Paterno (someday), he'll have to win a conference title and go to a bowl. He might do both this season.

2. Akron -- J.D. Brookhart won a MAC title in 2005, his first season after leaving Pittsburgh. He hasn't had winning season since.

Either the Zips contend for the East this season or big changes might be coming. Akron has a new stadium, a new offensive coordinator (former Miami coach Shane Montgomery) and a powerful offense.

The defense was horrid (90th or worse in total defense, scoring defense, sacks and tackles for loss), but defensive tackle Almondo Sewell is one of the league's best players. Third-year starting quarterback Chris Jacquemain will play behind four returning starters in the offensive line.

3. Bowling Green -- Dave Clawson at Tennessee was a bad fit, sort of like Rosie O'Donnell in the Miss America pageant. It wasn't going to work from the start.

Fortunately, being part of the train wreck of Phillip Fulmer's final season didn't sully Clawson's rep. Bowling Green was lucky to get this offensive mind on the rebound. Clawson inherits the league's most accurate passer Tyler Sheehan (66.8 percent, 20 touchdowns). That's a good place to start for the Falcons who won six and finished second in the East last season.

4. Buffalo -- That crash you heard was the Bulls falling back to earth. Lost in the gushing about coach Turner Gill was that his defense gave up the second-most points in the league. Gill had to almost totally rely on an offense winning four games by six or less.

Quarterback Drew Willy (3,304 passing yards) is being replaced by sophomore Zach Maynard (three attempts in '08). Three starters must be replaced on the offensive line.

In a good year, Buffalo is a tough project. It might never get as good for Gill as it was in 2008. Don't forget the Bulls did lose six last season.

5. Ohio --  It's been a hard slog for Frank Solich since winning the East in 2006. The Bobcats are 10-14 since then. At least Solich has a choice at quarterback. Seniors Boo Jackson (school-record 19 touchdowns) and Theo Scott (one before being injured) will continue to battle in the fall.

The Bobcats were terrible in turnover ratio while giving up almost four touchdowns per game.  If Ohio is going to a bowl, it's going to be on Jackson and/or Scott. Both are dual threats.

6. Kent State -- Golden Flashes everywhere are hoping that early enrollee Tyshon Goode can become a go-to receiver. Actually, just becoming an average receiver would acceptable. The eight receivers in the spring two-deep caught all of 29 passes last season.

7. Miami (Ohio) -- A first-time head coach (Mike Haywood) trying to improve the league's worst offense in a program that is coming off a 10-loss season. Not a good combination.

West Division

1. Central Michigan --  Flip a coin between Central and Western but I'll go with the Chips. Central has posted four consecutive winning seasons, the longest streak in the league. Butch Jones has 18 starters back from an eight-win team that tied for second in the West last season.

LeFevour is poised to become the MAC career leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Best reasons to like the Chips? Jones already has won a MAC title (2007) and the program is shooting for its third in four years. Oh, and Central has won three in a row over Western.

2. Western Michigan -- Be in Kalamazoo on Oct. 17 for the Central game that might decide the West.

The two top players are Hiller and linebacker Austin Pritchard (17 tackles against Central). The receivers and the secondary are a bit lacking but after a nine-win season, the Broncos should challenge for the division title again.

3. Ball State -- Stan Parrish, the former offensive coordinator and mentor to Nate Davis, got the gig after Brady Hoke bolted for San Diego State. The Cardinals will score but can they win 12 again?

Doubtful. This is Parrish's first head coaching job since leaving Kansas State in 1988. In the interim, he has helped win a national championship (Michigan) and Super Bowl (Tampa Bay). Without Davis at quarterback, Parrish will rely heavily on a veteran defensive front and tailback MiQuale Lewis.

4. Northern Illinois --  Jerry Kill won six games and went a bowl with all-everything defensive end Larry English. What can the second-year coach do without him?

Sophomore tailback Me'co Brown hopes to take the pressure off quarterback Chandler Harnish who led the Huskies in rushing.

5. Toledo -- You're probably familiar with the words "scandal-ridden" coming before the Toledo name lately. The Rockets have played some football too in the middle of a point-shaving scandal.

Hopefully new coach Tim Beckman doesn't bring all of his mojo from Oklahoma State.  Beckman oversaw a Cowboys' defense that allowed the second-most points in the Big 12 South. Hybrid "Star" linebacker Barry Church will be all over the field.

6. Eastern Michigan -- If Ron English was just looking for a job, any job, he found it. The trick for him in Ypsilanti will be keeping it for any length of time. The Eagles have lost 77 games this decade and have become the MAC doormat.

English, Lloyd Carr's former defensive coordinator,  is right down the road from Ann Arbor. That won't help him to avoid the basement in his first year as a head coach.


Since: Oct 29, 2008
Posted on: July 22, 2009 7:11 am

Picking the MAC

absoultely! UB had several games that they won in the last seconds, but they also had many that they lost in the last seconds.  And like you said, there were many controversial calls in both cases.  I think this prediction seriously underrates UB.  A team coming off on an incredible season, with a nearly identical backfield for the defense which forced so many turnovers.  Not to mention, the D line is going to be much improved this year with more experience and new players offering a better pash rush and hopefully better run support.

The offense is going to put up similar results.  Even Gill has said that he expects Maynard to have tremendous growing pains.  But he is supported by 2 amazing backs in Starks and Thermilus, both of whom have great hands too.  He still has Roosevelt and Hamlin to throw to.  Altogether, as long as he can run a succesful option and jsut get the ball out there, he has some terrific targets to help him grow into his position.

I think UB is being very underestimated here.  Nobody picked them to have the level of success they had last year, and this year it seems that they are being underrated and written off as getting lucky.  When you get lucky week in and week out its generally because you're making youre own luck, and you are just good!  UB should go 8-4 this year with a MAC championship win and good bowl bid, probably in Toronto again.  They have a pretty comfortable schedule this year, with PITT being their most challenging out of conference opponent.  They will have another very succesful year so long as Gill is their coach.  And dont forget, when Gill played for Nebraska, he was an option quarterback.  He was nearly identical to Maynards playing style.  He knows how to groom this style of quarterback!


Since: Apr 24, 2008
Posted on: July 13, 2009 6:34 pm

Go Hawks?

I gotta say, I suppose I am not too surprised by my RedHawks facing a last place prediction.  The program itself is a joke because no one actually goes to the games.  The only time I've ever seen that stadium filled is when Ben Roethlisberger was throwing the ball... even then, it took awhile to catch on.  A team with no fans can't hope to succeed, it's just a fact of life.  At Miami, people have seemingly more important things to do on a Saturday than go see the game... mostly, they are just too hung over to do so.  Plus, the losing doesn't help much either.  The school itself does not draw too many formidable athletes, and improving the coaching staff has not be a priority for years.  Upgrading the student section of the stadium did nothing, and the school itself is so deep in debt, they will probably never get out.  Until the students get behind their team even when they are doing poorly, nothing will improve.  Wish I could say differently, but Miami is a party school, not a sports school.

Since: Mar 13, 2008
Posted on: July 9, 2009 2:58 pm

Picking the MAC

It's good (for me anyway) to see Akron get some respect in this "make or break" year for JD Brookhart.  Much has been made of the "name" offensive coaches (OC Shane Montgomery and QB coach/passing coordinator Walt Harris) the Zips have added in the off-season.  There's no question that the sky is the limit with these guys runnings things and the returning talent on that side of the ball.  But the coaching hire that I believe will have the biggest positive impact is new LBs coach Vince Okruch, former DC at Illinois, Colorado and Northwestern.  Defense has long been the achilles heal of this program, but improved coaching coupled with a fair amount of available talent (Ryan Bain, Chris Henderson, Almondo Sewell, Phil Tonga, Mike Thomas, Aaron Williams, Diamond Weaver, Miquel Graham and Jalil Carter among others) could be just enough to propel the Zips to the East crown.  The opening of brand new InfoCision Stadium shouldn't hurt in this quest as well.

Since: Jan 9, 2007
Posted on: June 20, 2009 11:21 am

Picking the MAC

Temple has cut into PSU, Rutgers, and Maryland's harvesting of players from Se PA and MD. has Penn State's current recruiting class ranked #6 in the country, the Owls are no where in the top 40, if that's cutting into their "harvesting of players"  I think the Lions will be just fine.

If the PSU game were to be played in Phiily vs. Happy Valley, Temple would have shot of winning it this year.

Whoa Tiger, any more talk like that and I'll have to call those big men in white coats.

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: June 13, 2009 12:44 pm

Picking the MAC

Good point!  We'll only count the games where the Big Ten wins, therefore the Big Ten was undefeated versus the MAC in 2008.  I am reminded of the radio announcer for Illinois who actually said on the radio at halftime (in a game vs. Michigan State) that if it wasn't for the Spantan scoring plays, the Illini would be winning the game!  Now he was a genius!!

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: June 13, 2009 12:37 pm

Picking the MAC

Regardless of whether Temple is good or bad, improving or not improving, they don't belong in the MAC.  The people in charge (at the MAC office and the conference presidents and ADs), should require Temple to become a MAC team in ALL sports or take a hike!  Personally, I'm glad to have them and it's good to have MAC exposure in the Philly market.  But, if the MAC is a good enough league for Temple football then it should be good enough for their other sports. 

Since: Jun 7, 2009
Posted on: June 7, 2009 10:39 pm

Picking the MAC

I think what is completely forgotten about the Bulls were that we lost Ohio, WMU, CMU on the last play.. Some of the calls were ridiculous (1st down and the game clocking kept running with at CMU where we could have gotten 1 more play for the field goal that hit the upright, Int TD return due to a penalty call that I do not know how they could have called it which would had the Bulls winning WMU, and Ohio fumble at the goalline to score the winning TD)...

I think to we barely won, there are many situations where we barely lost as well... Also, what was shown with the team is that the offense was good but the defense got better (even with a defensive front that was lacking). To add further, our secondary has matured another year and our recent sign-ons have shown the defensive front has improved. I think our defense would be the best in the MAC... Also, our RBs are one of the best with Starks, Thermlius, and Henry... Though Drew Willy was an important key to our success, so was Stark and Thermlius... Then there is Roosevelt who will help with our dual threat QB Maynard... I think that we would not drop as many people believe.. I believe we will win it again.. Not because other teams won't improve but rather UB has the nucleus intact and lost primarily in QB (Willy) and offensive line..

Since: Apr 16, 2009
Posted on: May 26, 2009 9:07 am

Picking the MAC

I have a feeling Ohio will be the darkhorse this year..... The only thing they really need to take care of is the turnover margin.... This alone was the main reason why they lost so many games last year.  Also if you take a look at the 8 losses, 5 of them were close & went right down to the wire.....

Wyoming 21, Ohio 20
Ohio State 26, Ohio 14 (Keep in mind Ohio led this game going into the 4th quarter).
Central Michigan 31, Ohio 28
Northwestern 16, Ohio 8
Temple 14, Ohio 10

Keep an eye on this team, I really feel like this year will be very similar to the 2005 team that won the MAC East & went to a bowl game..... If Solich can't turn things around this season, I'm not quite sure he ever will

Since: Sep 30, 2008
Posted on: May 25, 2009 11:32 am

Picking the MAC

What's the MAC got to do with anything?And of course, fans from BCS conferences can't leave fans from non-BCS conferences alone. Utah, Utah, Utah.

Since: Sep 30, 2008
Posted on: May 25, 2009 11:30 am

Picking the MAC

Central Michigan and Western are going to be hard to topple in the MAC West. However, I don't think you can count Ball State out of the running for it. Even though we lost a great quarterback in Nate Davis, Kelly Page is very good in a spread offense setting, which is what Parrish will continue to run for Ball State. Page can make plays with his feet, and also has a good arm. Throw in MiQuale Lewis who will probably lead the MAC in rushing yards, and Ball State will have a very potent offense. On the defensive side of the ball, we are switching to a 3-4 scheme and have a new defensive coordinator, but we are loaded with a lot of experience which will show by the end of the season. 

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