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: Jan 26, 2008
Posted on: May 24, 2009 10:42 pm

Picking the MAC

What's the MAC got to do with anything?

Since: Oct 7, 2007
Posted on: May 24, 2009 10:12 pm

Picking the MAC

Abosuletly correct in picking Temple to win the MAC this year. Golden has had the top  recruiting classes in the conference for three straight years. 

The team needs to learn how to win and not give away games like they did to Navy, CT , and Buffalo last year.

Golden is a hot coaching prospect, and despite coaching the lowly Owls, was actuall a finalist two years ago  for the UCLA job.

Temple has cut into PSU, Rutgers, and Maryland's harvesting of players from Se PA and MD. 

If one of the QBs comes through  we could be looking at a 7-4 seaon and a bowl game. 

Both lines are solid, and Twmple has speed along with depth with theior ends. The running game will only get better with the two backs Golden brought in this year.

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

Golden has manged to keep his coaching staff in tack , something former Owl choaches had difficulty in doing. This years edition should match on a talent level the squad which Bruce Arains inherited when he became the Owls coach. In his first game , they actually beat the Cuse when they weres still an upper echelon program.

Not since the days of Harden , haS Temple entered a season with such high expectations and the polayers to bring those exectations to fruition.   

Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: May 24, 2009 10:02 pm

Picking the MAC

Those "Four wins over Big Ten teams" is a somewhat misleading statistic to brag about.

2 of those wins were against the Big Ten's worst team, Indiana (3-9), and the other 2 were against Illinois (5-7), and the worst team Michigan (3-9) had in over 40 years.

Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: May 24, 2009 9:58 pm

Picking the MAC

Since: Jan 19, 2007
Posted on: May 24, 2009 5:00 pm

Giddy for Gill!!

Maybe I'm being swayed to much by the man, but my guess is that Gill will continue to move this program up.  One more year of his recruits, and his character rubbing off on the team and I believe they will replace those losses and have a slightly better season.

Since: Jan 9, 2009
Posted on: May 23, 2009 9:46 pm

Picking the MAC

The west division of the mac is tough

best of luck to my old HS qb at Northern Illinois next season... hopefully he doesn't have to carry the load again this year

I would also like to see BSU come back and have another sucessful season... 8 wins should be acheivable with their schedule and the talent they have coming back

and I would have to agree that the division (and most likely the MAC title) will come down to Central and Western... those are 2 tough programs

Since: Mar 14, 2009
Posted on: May 22, 2009 5:16 pm

Picking the MAC

Definitely right about NIU, Larry English was the heart to the teams success.

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