Tag:Eastern Michigan
Posted on: September 16, 2011 9:59 am
Edited on: September 16, 2011 10:02 am
 

Son of Weekend Watch List

Team/coach/player/name of the week: Iowa State/Paul Rhoads/Steele Jantz. In his three seasons the Cyclones' coach Rhoads has picked off Nebraska, Texas and, last week, Iowa in overtime.

The plucky Cyclones are guided by Jantz whose All-American name is only slightly less noticeable than his quarterback talents. Jantz went to high school in California, played scout team for a season at Hawaii, then went to City College of San Francisco before winning the job at Iowa State.

As for the name, Steele's grandmother started the tradition that carried over with his father (Fox), a brother (Wolf) and an uncle (Truk).

Rhoads has become the toast of Ames as Iowa State goes to Connecticut Friday night with a chance to go 3-0 for the first time since 2005. The former Missouri Western defensive back grew up a few minutes from Jack Trice Stadium. When Iowa State called him at Auburn following the end of the 2008 season, Rhoads would have crawled to Ames.

With conference realignment swirling, he may be single-handedly holding the program at the BCS level.


The road to Atlanta for the SEC title game goes through Nashville: Or another way to identify surprising 2-0 teams.

Vanderbilt: The administration whiffed on Gus Malzahn. James Franklin has brought a steadying hand. A 3-0 start is doable with the SEC opener at home against Ole Miss.
Kansas: A shootout win over MAC power Northern Illinois sets up Jayhawks for a trip to Georgia Tech. Two of the top passing teams in the country.
Northwestern: Dan Persa's injured Achilles could have wrecked the season. Instead the Wildcats have rallied around backup Kain Colter heading into Army.
Illinois: One of the more entertaining games of September Saturday night in Champaign vs. Arizona State.
Colorado State: For the first time since 1941 the Rams plays Colorado with a record of 2-0. For the first time since 1939, the Buffs come into this game 0-2 or worse.
Eastern Michigan: The Eagles first 2-0 start since 1986 gets a test -- a big one -- at Michigan. At least Eastern won't have to travel far from Ypsilanti to get whipped.
Washington State: Lose starting quarterback? No problem, Cougs lead the country in scoring offense.
Florida International: After beating Louisville, Mario Christobal is the nation's new "it" coach.


Scorching SEC: Now the Strength Everywhere even leads the country in scoring offense averaging 39.12 points per team. Two of the top four scoring teams include Arkansas (51.5 points) and South Carolina (50.5). The Big 12 is second at 36.66 points per team.

Best wishes: Minnesota's Jerry Kill is expected to coach Saturday against Miami (Ohio) after suffering seizures last week during the New Mexico State game. Kill has a history of seizures, one of which led to the discovery of his kidney cancer in 2005


More Bobby Bowden on Jimbo Fisher and Florida State: "Jimbo is an excellent football coach. A lot of people forget I was the one that hired him. I've known him since he was a child. He played for my son Terry in college. Terry told me 20 years ago this kid is going to be a great coach.

"I do not feel like Oklahoma's players they're superior to Florida State's. They might be more mature.
"We've been out of that [national picture] for the last 10 years. During the '90s we were up there every year. During the 2000s, we'd gone 10 wins every year for 14 years. Then we fell to eight, went to nine, went to 10. I said, 'Oh boy, we're back.' But instead we went kind of down."


Quote of the week: Tennessee's Derek Dooley describing what it means to go into SEC play (this week against Florida). "How many scars do you have?"


Meaningless stat: Wisconsin and Georgia Tech are first and third nationally in passing efficiency this week. Russell Wilson you can kind of understand making a difference for the ground-based Badgers. But Tech starter Tevin Washington has passed only 21 times in two games. (The Jackets have thrown 26 passes overall.)

Two traditional rushing powerhouses, Georgia Tech finished first and Wisconsin was 12th in that category in 2010.


Signal-stallers: Going into Week 3 Miami, Texas, Penn State and Notre Dame all have quarterback issues. Those schools have produced a total of four Heisman-winning quarterbacks.


Noting: Georgia Tech (hosting Kansas) has five plays of at least 70 yards. No other conference has produced that many ... USC (vs. Syracuse) has outscored its opponent in the fourth quarter only twice in the last 11 games ... Didn't you used to be the Holy War? Utah and BYU meet early this year due to the Cougars' move to independence and the Utes migration to the Pac-12. Something has been lost in this rivalry with no conference implications ... Jimbo Fisher claims that Doak Campbell Stadium has the most bricks of any building in North America. Will Oklahoma be another brick in the wall?


Heisman picks going into Week 3: 1. T.Y. Hilton, FIU: 2. Denard Robinson, Michigan; 3. Robert Griffin, Baylor; 4. Kellen Moore, Boise State; 5. Tyrann Mathieu, LSU.
Posted on: January 2, 2011 6:46 pm
 

TCU's legacy both BCS and non-BCS

On the same day TCU received its first Rose Bowl bid, its stadium was demolished.

The two occurrences on Dec. 5 are actually related. In a strange way, the Frogs were in Saturday's Rose Bowl because Amon G. Carter Stadium was being demolished. The win over Wisconsin was a culmination of events that might have elevated TCU to being the best non-automatic qualifier in existence.

Part of the stadium was torn down as part of a $100 million facilities upgrade. Call it an overall upgrade, the biggest in school history. With the Rose Bowl win and a 13-0 season, TCU is on the edge of breaking into college football's elite. It certainly has passed Utah and Boise as the best non-BCS programs of the BCS era (since 1998). World's tallest midget status is a bit meaningless now, though, with TCU joining the Big East in 2012.

It will leave behind quite a legacy before starting a new one as one of the game's haves. Gary Patterson is a defensive savant but his teams have been tremendously balanced. Departing senior Jeremy Kerley was a dual threat as a receiver and returner. Quarterback Andy Dalton leaves as the winningest active quarterback in the game. His placement will be either Casey Pachall, a redshirt freshman, or Matt Brown, an Allen, Texas star who changed his commitment from Arizona in February.

Only 10 starters return with the loss of 26 seniors in 2011. But Patterson has been good at replenishing and rebuilding. Most of the 2010 recruiting class redshirted. Only three true freshmen played any significant time. This season marked the program's fifth in the last six with at least 11 wins. The residual gift from those victories will benefit both the Mountain West and Big East. BCS executive director Bill Hancock confirmed Saturday night that the leagues will each get credit for TCU's records in 2010 and 2011.

A four-year evaluation period for automatic BCS conference qualification has been adjusted to match up with TV contracts. That's why TCU will most likely help the Big East keep its BCS status and aid the Mountain West in getting its shot. If the MWC meets a series  of benchmarks it will get temporary automatic qualifying status in 2012 and 2013. That would help sustain the league despite the losses of Utah and BYU next season and TCU in 2012. Boise State joins the MWC in 2011. Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii (football only) will arrive in 2012.

As TCU AD Chris Del Conte said, that wasn't the MWC that TCU had joined or wanted to be part of in the future.

Some dope tweeted Sunday about TCU's weak schedule. While the MWC has been damaged by defections, it is on the brink of BCS automatic qualification because of the accomplishments of TCU, BYU and Utah. The Frogs have actively sought a tougher schedule in the Big East. Meanwhile, in the non-con Boise State comes to Fort Worth in 2011. Oklahoma and Virginia follow in 2012. There's a home and home with LSU in 2013 and 2014.

Let's see Ohio State (Marshall, Ohio and Eastern Michigan this season in the non-con) match that.

Posted on: October 15, 2010 4:04 pm
 

Mailbag, 10/15

A wise man once wrote ... "They are numerous and belligerent. They are fervent and many. They are passionate and unmoving. They are misguided they are scarlet and gray."

That wise man is me.

There seems to be this movement afoot to rationalize Ohio State's No. 1 ranking with a result from last season. Yeah, I know, seems weird to me too. While I understand that the polls are half reputation, you don't earn the No. 1 ranking in October based on a game that was played in January. But that certainly seems to be the feeling in Columbus where the Buckeyes not ARE No. 1 in both polls but, damn it, deserve it over every other team in the country.

You know why? It beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Oregon, without the quarterback who played in that game. Oregon, which is stronger now than it was in Pasadena. Oregon, which is a season older and wiser.  Last season's Oregon.

Guys and gals, is that the best you can come with in making your argument? Ohio State is better than No. 2 Oregon because of a game played 10 months ago, but you can't tell me why Ohio State is better than the 12 other undefeated teams in I-A? Way to settle an argument.

You people destroy your own argument. Boise beat Oregon last season too. Shouldn't it be, at least, a co-No. 1 with the beloved Buckeyes?

Cue the myopic, Buck-hater e-mails. I know they're coming. My point if you can calm down for a second, Brutus: There is nothing you can tell me that Ohio State has done this season to convince me it is the clear-cut No. 1. That's why I ranted Sunday.

I'm not hating on the Bucks. I happen to like The Senator in a nebbish, Firestone-regional-manager kind of way. It's hard to anger him, which is probably why his teams play so well. They're consistent and, mostly, unflappable. But let's all take a deep breath here in the middle of October. Ohio State may be No. 1 in the three polls that matter right now. That doesn't mean it should be. I believe in poll diversity. I've seen Boise State just as much as Ohio State. I marvel at what Oregon has been able to accomplish without that quarterback who played in the Rose Bowl (Jeremiah Masoli). Who's faster than Nebraska's Taylor Martinez?

Look outside the boundaries of Ohio, Ohio. There is some great football being played out there. Maybe you'll find out Saturday night in Madison. Maybe you won't. Just don't come at me with 10-month old arguments. There's a fantastic season being played out there too.


From: Ed Champagne

Is Bama good or is Penn St. BAD?

Bubbly:

The answer lies in the middle. Until the Clubbing In Columbia, I thought Alabama was a world-beater. After getting through Arkansas and Florida, it looked like South Carolina would be the easiest task in the three-game slog. I was wrong. South Carolina was better than we thought and, suddenly, Bama has troubles running the ball. For now, the best team in the SEC is Auburn.

As much as that upsets Alabama, it's true. Teams change throughout the season. Penn State was way overrated. As Alabama and others have proved, Joe Paterno doesn't have a playmaker on either side of the ball. The Nits are 3-3 halfway through the season and have a ways to go to get to bowl eligibility (six wins) which would net Joe is 400th career win. Penn State isn't bad, it's just not good. To paraphrase a former Arizona Cardinals coach:  "Penn State is who we thought they were."



From: Tim


Dennis, I know you guys like to create controversy but when it starts to hurt your credibility I have to try to redirect your marketing efforts. Boise State would absolutely get hammered playing a Big Ten schedule. The best teams in the overrated WAC would only be mediocre in the Big Ten. Treasure your job - they are hard to come by these days. Good luck.

Large 11 Honk:

Sorry you made bail, but I'm going to burst your bubble. I've been saying publicly for a while that Boise State could win the Big Ten this year. SEC East too. Big 12? Tell me they couldn't line up with Nebraska. I don't know how much of Boise you've seen in person but give them the eye test. That would require you watching them play. Get back to me. I'll help get you a ticket.



From: Sarah


Dear Dodd, Did you not have Ohio State at No. 2 in your pre-season poll? All they've done is kick the crap out of people, with a dominating defense and a Heisman-contending quarterback. What else would you have expected them to do so far that warrants your whining? Boise's win over Virginia Tech is not the least bit impressive after VT goes down to James freaking Madison. Put Boise in a real conference and let them play a real schedule, then we'll talk. This whole fascination with Boise is a joke and a cop out by writers, like yourself, to continue hating on Ohio State.

Just Another Mypopian:

"Kick the crap out of people"? If you want to call Eastern Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Marshall and Indiana "people", that's a stretch. They are body bags. Air. They've renamed themselves "The Lettermen" because they mail it in. You conveniently forgot about that little struggle in Champaign. And I don't mean Ed Champagne.

 Nice win over Miami, by the way. The Canes are so far out of the polls, they have to look up to see the bottom of West Virginia's cleats.

The reality is that Boise has accomplished more ON THE FIELD than Ohio State has this season.


From: Keith

Dennis, You are smarter than me, so please find a way to talk about an elephant-in-the-room topic for all of the reasonable, rational college football fans. Don't know how many of those are left, but there are at least a few of us.

Here's my topic: Much of the controversy surrounding BCS vs. non-BCS teams is pedigree. But riddle me this: how many current Alabama players -- or insert your favorite traditional power players or coaches -- were there when Bear Bryant was there? How many current LSU players were on the squad in 2007 when the title was won? Point: players, especially starters, are different every year. Five years ago all of them were in high school, or even junior high! Coaches change all the time, etc. What Alabama did ten years ago means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING today, and what they did last year still matters very little.


Time Traveler:

You've been reading my mind, Mr. Spock. A lot of the polls are built on reputation. It's why Lindsay Lohan continues to get acting roles. She might have her snoot halfway up a brick of cocaine, but she sure does look good on screen.

Few want to give Boise cred because the program has been good for 10 years. Alabama has been good for 10 DECADES! That's the difference. Line 'em up on the field and let's see what happens. Better yet, line 'em up in NCAA 11. I still haven't bought my copy yet.

Coaches and players change all the time but voters don't, it seems.


From:
  Rick

Oregon reminds me of a Little League Pop Warner type team! They are a controlled group that have gone berserk! I believe their players truly believe that they can outscore anyone! Like great golfers, they play their game - and then some, not worrying about what their opponent does. It would be interesting to see them play Boise State, followed by Alabama! Opinion? They would outscore both.

Acid Washed:

Dude, you're so all over the board I'm afraid you've had too much organic coffee (or something) out there in Eugene.

You besmirch Pop Warner teams everywhere suggesting they don't play any defense. You ever see Snoop Dogg's team. They beat the heck out of you. There's a league in central New York that leads the country in torn ACLs caused. I'm insulted at your blanket reference to Pop Warner football. It's better than you think. Ask Eastern Michigan.

 

Posted on: October 14, 2010 5:15 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2010 1:31 am
 

Son of Weekend Watch List

Watch Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon at Texas Tech. He just might be the best receiver in the country. The problem is OSU is 0-6 in Lubbock during the Big 12 era. Overall, the Cowboys haven't won in Lubbock since 1944 ... The remaining 59 teams in I-A will have played half of their regular-season schedules after this weekend, including USC which will play its seventh of 13 games ... If Ohio State is able to hold on to the No. 1 ranking for four more Sundays this season it would pass Oklahoma to become the most-frequent No. 1 in AP poll history. The Bucks became No. 1 for the 94th time this week. Only Oklahoma (97) and Notre Dame (95) have been No. 1 more often ... If anyone had told you Louisville would be 4-2 halfway through its first season post-Kragthrope would you have laughed? The Cards would be just that if they win Friday night against Cincinnati...

Miami (3-2) reaches the halfway point in its season this week at Duke a candidate for the nation's most disappointing team. The record isn't terrible, it's more where the program stands right now -- No. 3 in the state. Jacory Harris has been uneven. FSU ran the Canes out of their own building. You look at the talent and just think Miami should be better. You can have your argument between Florida State (5-1) and Florida (4-2) right now but it's clear the Hurricanes -- in the middle of a comeback -- are in danger of finishing back in the pack in 2010's in-state race ...

Bad game of the week: Eastern Michigan (0-6) at Ball State (2-4). The teams are a combined 4-32 since the beginning of 2009 ... Army and Rutgers play the first college game in new Meadowlands Stadium ... Utah (at Wyoming) has scored at least 56 in three consecutive games ... Jim Tressel is the first Big Ten coach to win 100 games in 10 seasons ... Alabama continues a rather remarkable streak not having allowed a 100-yard rusher in 40 consecutive games ... Mississippi State (at Florida) is shooting for its first four-game winning streak since 1999 ... Something to consider while boarding the South Carolina bandwagon: Stephen Garcia is 11-2 at home, only 1-5 on the road heading to Kentucky ... Steve Spurrier is 18-0 vs. the Wildcats combined at Florida and South Carolina ... Oregon State has lost one turnover this season ... TCU is back in a familiar spot leading the nation in total defense. That's where the Frogs finished the last two seasons ... Denard Robinson's Heisman season -- and maybe Michigan's season -- hangs in the balance. Robinson is facing the country's No. 2 rush defense in Iowa ... Michigan State (vs. Illinois) is going for its first 7-0 start since its 9-0 start in 1966 ...

I thought we'd gotten over this: The replay official in last week's controversial Oregon State-Arizona game was an Arizona grad. How can that be?

 

Posted on: September 26, 2010 1:54 pm
 

The Day After in college football

As the month of September closes, Texas is out of it, Boise State is in it and Notre Dame is, well, Notre Dame with a defense so suspect it ought to be arraigned.

Surprises? Shoelaces and Michigan. Oregon and its offensive napalming. Jim Harbaugh and his piling on.  Georgia slumping, Auburn soaring. "Little Giants" and one big giant -- Alabama remains No. 1 and looks like it isn't going to nudged from that spot for a while ...

**Just in time for Alabama, Florida may have found a) itself and b) a reasonable facsimile of Tim Tebow.

Celebrated freshman Trey Burton scored six times (five rushing, one passing) against Kentucky in a 48-14 win. Burton lined up mostly in the Wildcat, spurring memories of Tebow during his freshman year. The freshman had changed his number from 13 to 8. That at least gave him the mojo to go for the joy of six. Rex Grossman and Percy Harvin also wore the number. It also gives Alabama something to think about this week when the Gators come to Tuscaloosa.

More good news for the Gators: Florida is 21-4 against coaches with a national championship on their resume since Urban Meyer arrived.

**Way to wreck a Red River party: In its last two meetings to Austin, UCLA has outscored Texas 100-15 including Saturday's 34-12 decision. It was the infamous "Rout 66" in 1997 (UCLA 66, Texas 3) that paved the way for Mack Brown to come to Austin. Between the two UCLA visits to Texas, the Longhorns have been to (and won) two Rose Bowls. UCLA has been to one. Texas, of course, leads UCLA in national championships 1-0 during that time.

"I don't feel right now that we're very good at anything," Brown said after the game.

It may not get better anytime soon. Texas next two games are against Oklahoma and at Nebraska. The loss likely drops Texas out of the national championship race before the calendar turns to October. If OU wins next week, the Big 12's national championship hopes may be up to Big Ten deserter Nebraska.

**The Big Ten's lost weekend produced some predictable results -- blowouts and embarrassments. Wisconsin (over Austin Peay) and Ohio State (over Eastern Michigan) each scored 70. Purdue (to Toledo) and Minnesota (to Northern Illinois) both lost to MAC teams. Add it up and the Big Ten went 8-2 against a compilation of eight MAC teams and two I-AAs. Shameful schedule.

**Don't blame Notre Dame's Manti Te'o. After getting 21 tackles against Stanford, the Irish linebacker leads the country with a staggering 13.5 per game. ND is back, though, where it has been for the last few years in total defense -- 103rd. Only two BCS-level teams are worse, Oregon State and Wake Forest.

The No. 2 tackler is Hawaii's Corey Paredes, meaning the nation's top two tacklers are from Oahu

**Don't care if Terrelle Pryor if got six touchdowns against air (aka Eastern Michigan), he moved to the top of my Heisman list this week: 1, Pryor (four passing, one rushing, one TD reception); 2, Kellen Moore; 3, Mark Ingram; 4, Andrew Luck; 5, Denard Robinson.

Posted on: September 30, 2009 11:14 am
Edited on: September 30, 2009 8:10 pm
 

National notes 1/4 of the way through the season

The best of September

Who would have thought by the end of the month …: USC would lose to Washington a week after a heart-stopping, game-winning drive at Ohio State? [Ok, maybe by now there are a few of you.] … Unranked the preseason, the Big East would have two marquee teams – Cincinnati and South Florida … Houston would have the best Big 12 record [2-0 after beating Oklahoma State and Texas Tech] … Two Heisman winners would be knocked out of games … NC State’s Russell Wilson would have a career touchdown-to-interception ratio of 29-1 … Auburn’s Chris Todd would lead the SEC in touchdown passes [11] … Not that the SEC would have three teams in the top 10 in total defense but the Pac-10 would have two … The only three teams yet to allow a touchdown pass would be winless Eastern Michigan, undefeated South Florida and USC [3-1].

Coach of the month: Oregon’s Chip Kelly. On the night of September 3, his world was falling apart. LeGarrette Blount threw a punch and almost started a riot after Oregon looked punchless losing its season opener to Boise State.

Almost four weeks later, the Ducks might be the team to beat in the Pac-10. They have won three in a row, two over ranked teams and have a new lean-on tailback in redshirt freshman LaMichael James.

Team of the month: Miami. Playing September schedule in the country, the Hurricanes beat two ranked teams [Florida State, Georgia Tech] and showed signs of being its old self. Losing to Oklahoma this week wouldn’t be a disgrace. Coming out its death march 2-2 could be a jumping off point for an ACC title.

Also considered: Texas A&M, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, South Florida, Stanford, UCLA, Idaho.

Player of the month: [tie] You’re gagging on this by now but Florida would not not undefeated with Tim Tebow. His 24 rushes for 76 yards against Tennessee on Sept. 19 were the difference.

LSU safety Chad Jones is this season’s Charles Woodson. Against Mississippi State on Saturday, he single-handedly stopped Tyson Lee on back-to-back plays inches from the goal line. He also provided the eventual game-winning 93-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Worst conference: Based on previous accomplishments, it’s the MAC. The nation’s largest conference [13 teams] has only one team with a winning record coming out of September. [Central Michigan, 3-1]. The league is 13-29 in the non-conference, 7-27 against I-A competition and 3-19 against BCS conferences.

Best conference: SEC by a hair. The Big 12 has six ranked teams vs. the SEC’s four. But the SEC is 23-2 in the non-conference, a national best 6-2 against BCS conferences.

If you think the SEC has padded its schedule with I-AA teams, actually only the Sun Belt and Pac-10 have played fewer games against “inferior” competition. The SEC is 5-0 against I-AAs. The Big 12 is 9-0. Almost a third of its non-cons have come against I-AAs.

Best trend: Smaller offensive linemen. Boise has been doing it for a while but the Broncos are soaring toward a BCS berth with a line that averages 285 pounds. Remember those hog mollies at Michigan? They weigh in at a svelte average of 295 under Rich Rod who likes ‘em lighter and lively.

Worst trend: This month it had to be the coaches’ poll. It went into the season not exactly on the same page with the BCS commissioners. As long as the coaches are going to go completely  underground [hiding all their ballots] beginning in 2010, the possibility exists that the poll will be jettisoned from the BCS process next year.

As for now …

Steve Spurrier gave us a glimpse of his voting habits in July when he admitted that his football ops guy had filled out his preason all-SEC ballot. That caused a huge stir when Spurrier/ops guy didn’t make Tebow a unanimous choice. Spurrier/ops guy picked Ole Miss’ Jevan Snead but was allowed to change to Tebow after it became an issue.

Following convincing wins by No. 3 Alabama and No. 2 Texas on Sept. 19, Florida got all the first-place votes [55] for the first time this season after struggling to beat unranked Tennessee.

Then, there was this week. What a mess. 

No. 12 Oklahoma State is ranked three spots ahead of Houston, which beat the Cowboys by 10.

Cal, which just lost to Oregon by 39, is ranked seven spots ahead of the Ducks.

Penn State had beaten doggies Syracuse, Akron and Temple. After losing at home to Iowa it is No. 13, four spots ahead of the unbeaten Hawkeyes.

Keep it coming, fellas, can’t wait to see how this effects the BCS standings.

Team schizo: Florida State. Do you have to have it explained?

Say goodbye to:  BYU [in the BCS], Al Groh, Ralph Friedgen, Steve Kragthorpe.

Posted on: May 21, 2009 10:54 am
 

Picking the MAC

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.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com