Tag Archives: Ball State Cardinals

The Oversaturation Killing the NFL is Good for College Football

All this time, the NFL has seemed so bullet-proof, but we’re seeing vulnerability in the armor. People aren’t watching as much, and they don’t like the way the product is being dispersed.

What plagues the professional game actually seems to aid college football. While we understand Saturday remains the best day to see the best games, we don’t feel like the occasional Thursday or Friday games are scheduled to do us dirty.

You want to play one of these games on the moon at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday, College Football fans will adjust. Just tell them when/where the tailgate is, and they’re cool.

Tell an NFL fan that Sunday Ticket is only offering a game that his antenna won’t in the late spot on Sunday, and they’re livid with London and Thursday Night Football. The presentation of the NFL game is too clean for fans to adapt to these random game-time windows.

College Football fans see Thursday, and now also Tuesday and Wednesday, as an opportunity to showcase a game that might be buried on ESPNU or some dreaded streaming option at noon on Saturday.

Western Michigan is the “Other” Team

Last Tuesday, the nation’s “other” unbeaten team had the undivided attention of the College Football diehards in Muncie. Maybe a 32-point win over Ball State isn’t that sexy on paper, but did you see what Corey Davis did?

Do you feel anything was flukey about Western Michigan’s 9-0 start? Maybe you understand the pecking order, and where the Mid-American Conference gets pecked. Maybe there’s an obligation to qualify the two road wins over the Big Ten by reminding everyone that Illinois was one of those wins. Maybe you wonder if the MAC juggernaut deserves to be on the field with a mid-major darling like Boise State.

Friday night, by the way, a nationwide audience was given a chance to watch the other Broncos bounce back from their first loss of the season, which happened on October 29.

Remember the 80s?

Just for kicks, you could have watched games involving Oklahoma and Colorado last Thursday. Maybe something like that would have excited you more 25-30 years ago, but those games affect the outcome of the Big 12 and Pac-12, because the present is weird.

You love it, and it takes nothing away from Saturday afternoon or evening.

Election Threads and Football on the Diamond

This coming Tuesday, Eastern Michigan will continue a semi-annual MAC tradition of paying homage to democracy with Election Day uniforms, back in Muncie–for #MACtion. Speaking of everyone’s favorite non-defense-playing conference, you’ll be sure to see Cubs fans from DeKalb to Northern Ohio trolling Guaranteed Rate Field on Chicago’s south side this Wednesday.

It’s football at a baseball stadium. Yeah, Northwestern and Illinois got Wrigley on a Saturday, and GameDay went to Wrigleyville. This next chapter in the great Toledo-Northern Illinois saga might get Roy Philbott, Rocky Boiman, and an ESPN2 production crew to urban Illinois on a school night.

Does Anyone Get Pac-12 Network?

Thursday, we get Utah in the Valley of the Sun, for the FS1 weekend preview. It’s up to the Utes to prove that anyone other than Washington is worth a damn in that conference. This game isn’t being stolen from ABC at 3:30, but more likely from a channel you don’t get, even if you live in Phoenix or Salt Lake City.

NBC is Glad It’s You, Not Them

CBS gave you three games on Saturday, just as they would when they have London and the 1 PM/4 PM doubleheader on Sunday. They got Notre Dame because they have Navy rights. Notre Dame lost again; great moment for Navy. Is College Football worse off for the Irish’s 3-6 campaign?

I doubt CBS or Navy care. They’re going to care about records a lot more in December when they’re selling some lousy SEC East team’s upset potential against Alabama in Atlanta.

Hurts Donut?

Speaking of the Tide, Jalen Hurts may have provided the only offensive spark for Alabama in a 10-0 win in Death Valley at night. There’s a joke to be told including Alabama’s quarterback’s last name and a breakfast food that looks like a zero, but I’m striking out.

The networks are hitting it out of the park though and in doing so, they’ve won us over with quantity over quality. More may mean too much on Sunday, but we love it on Saturday, Thursday, and sometimes Tuesday.

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

College Football Shames Schools With Directional Names

What’s in a name? Sometimes, it’s mostly the name that sells the perception. The name of the state is good, and in most cases, it’s still good when you throw a “State” suffix on the end. In the cases of Alabama and Ohio State, adding or dropping the “State” can mean a serious downgrade to the caliber of football we’re talking about. For the most part, State Name U and State Name State give the book a decent cover, if you’re prepared to judge it that way.

Cities are a good bet too, especially if that city is Houston, or perhaps one of the three cities in the ACC that host schools that occupy a spot in this week’s Top 10.  However, there are a few types of school names that create a seed of doubt.  If the word “directional” can be used to describe your favorite university’s title, it automatically means bad news for that school’s football program.

For example, with a win over the San Diego State, the University of South Alabama (USA) picked up their second name-brand win of the season on Saturday. They had previously shocked the College Football world in Week 1, upsetting a school with that Southeastern Conference pedigree, at Mississippi State.

Why is it so shocking, though? South, West, East, and North are great for navigation, but serve as a poor verbiage for the name of a power house.

Southern California Gets Away With Being Directional

Maybe it’s just that it’s easier to use three letters, because University of Southern California is such a mouthful, but you never think of USC as directional California. I guess, at 2-3, there isn’t too much reason to spend time thinking about the Trojans in 2016.

The Battle of Directional Michigan

With all respect due the team that plays on the grey turf in Ypsilanti, the directional Michigan schools did battle in Mount Pleasant on Saturday.

Central Michigan, you might recall, stole that win in Stillwater over Oklahoma State, and hosted Western Michigan on Saturday. PJ Fleck’s Western Michigan Broncos came away with the 49-10 road win, improving to 5-0 on the year, building on their Group of Five résumé, which already included wins over Northwestern and Illinois. You may not care about about “a couple of directionals”, but at least one of the coaches involved does.

“I would rather go through eight weeks of chemotherapy radiation again then lose to that team the way we lost tonight. That’s the truth to how I feel.”

-CMU Head Coach/Cancer Survivor John Bonamego

Not Just a Name, But Some Person’s Actual Name

When James Madison upset Virginia Tech in 2014, it was brought to my attention that it’s bad to lose to a school named after a person. You’ll only find first and last names in the FCS ranks and below, but the FBS features strong academic institutions named after Cornelius Vanderbilt, Washington Duke, and R.E.B Baylor.

By their full names, the schools would sound worse than they already are. If Stephen F. Austin was just Austin, I’d respect their name a lot more. It’s just good that Leland Stanford didn’t live to see what happened to the Cardinal in Seattle on Friday.

[Name of City] State Universities Are So Mountain West

You hear about these a lot more in basketball than football. If you think your team is a contender and they’re playing Something State, but the “Something” isn’t the name of the state, your team better win. Four such teams play in the Mountain West.

Before the hiccup at South Alabama, the San Diego State was rolling. At 3-1, with a win over Cal, look for the Aztecs to contend in the Mountain West.

Boise State is the only team in this group that occupies a prestigious spot in the Top 25. They started their Mountain West schedule with a win over Utah State this weekend, and they have two wins over Pac-12 competition in their back pocket. Neither Fresno State, nor San Jose State, have a win over an FBS opponent yet.

The MAC is Directional (So Is the SEC, But Shut Up)

Bowling Green doesn’t use their “State” often, but they’re in the previous group. Having been outscored 249-86 on the year, the Falcons don’t look like promising favorites to return to the MAC Championship for a fourth straight year. Quite frankly, neither does Northern Illinois, who went to Muncie with an 0-4 non-league record.

Ball State, named after the Ball family, fit in the “named after a person” category, as well as the “Not The State…State”.  It’s no wonder they gave Directional Illinois their first win of the season.

The Ampersand, Agriculture, and Mechanical

It’s not like we don’t respect institutions that specialize in Agriculture and Mechanical. Believe me, we do, but it has to be in Texas. We’re not digging the ampersand that comes with their A&M counterparts in Alabama and Florida. As for the Aggies, if they’re truly the SEC West darkhorse we need, they ought to be the ones to expose Tennessee next Saturday, despite the horseshoe Butch Jones’ proctologist has probably been warning him about.

E-mail Jeff at jeff [dot] rich [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter, @byjeffrich
Photo Credit: Gregory Vamum via Wiki

CIT Tournament Round 1 Recap

Believe it or not, there is college basketball to be played outside of the NCAA Tournament. For those who finish the year on the wrong side of the bubble, the National Invitation Tournament, College Insider Tournament, and College Basketball Invitational provide many mid-major and Power 5 schools the opportunity to gain some well deserved momentum going into next season.

On the other hand, programs that finish the season amidst internal turmoil might have mixed feelings about appearing in a tournament other than the big dance. Regardless, there are games to be played and money to be had, as the College Insider Tournament gives 26 mid-major programs the chance to hoist a trophy at the end of the year, as a selection committee that is headlined by ex collegiate basketball standouts turned football stars Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson picks what teams qualify for the field.

First round action of the CIT kicked off Monday with two exciting games that both were decided in the final moments. Jackson State was able to upend Sam Houston State on the road, 81-77, in overtime. Grand Canyon improved to 26-6 on the year when they defeated South Carolina State, 78-74, behind five double figure scorers. The two will face off in a second round contest that will take place on March 17th.

Play resumed on Tuesday with three more intense first round contests. Coastal Carolina upended Mercer, 65-57 behind 18 points from junior guard Elijah Wilson. Furman was able to defeat Louisiana-Monroe on a buzzer-beating putback from sophomore Daniel Fowler. The most intense game of the first round also took place on Tuesday when Ball State pulled off the upset over Tennessee State on the road, 78-73 in two overtimes, for the Cardinals first postseason victory in fourteen years. Sophomore guard Jeremie Tyler led the way for the Cardinals with 25 points and 5 rebounds.

A majority of first round games took place on Wednesday, as New Hampshire picked up a win over Fairfield, 77-62, Texas-Arlington topped Savannah State, 75-69 and Boston University advanced with a close victory over Fordham, 69-66, New Jersey Institute of Technology got by Army, 79-65, Columbia shined in a decisive 86-54 win over Norfolk State behind four double-digit scoring efforts, and Tennessee-Martin squeaked by Central Michigan, 76-73, to close out the early games. The night cap saw Louisiana-Lafayette pull the upset over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in dominant fashion, 96-72, and UC Irvine avoid the upset in a thrilling overtime victory over North Dakota, 89-86.

Round two will tip off Thursday, and go through March 20th.

While it may be easy to overlook the CIT and other postseason tournaments like it as the NCAA Tournament gets a lion’s share of media coverage, there’s even more great basketball to fill the cravings of hardwood junkies across the country.

Email Alec at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @alec_kwait.

Image via Vimeo

The Final Week of Basketball MACtion!

Get ready for the last week of #MACtion.

As the regular season starts to enter its final week in the Mid-American Conference the top seeds are starting to fall into place.

The standings are flipped from the 2014-2015 season. Last year’s bottom-feeders, Ball State, are sitting at number three in the standings (first in the West). Ohio, which last year was the 11 seed last year in front of only Ball State, finds itself in second place going into the final week of play. Akron, which last year finished .500 in the MAC at 9-9 and got the seventh seed in the 2015 conference tournament, sit atop the standings. But as you know, anything can happen in college basketball. Each of the 12 teams have two games left. That’s plenty of time for someone to gain ground on the Zips.

On deck on Tuesday are some key games.

The first game starts at 7:00 p.m. in Muncie, Indiana as Ball State takes on Central Michigan. In the 2014-15 season Central was on fire, finishing 12-6 in the conference and securing the top seed in the 2015 MAC Tournament. However, in spite of bringing back all five starters and shooting well from beyond the arc as last year (hence being dubbed 3MU), the Chippewas have not had the same success they did a year ago. In fact, in their losses poor three-point shooting proved to be their undoing.

Another key factor for Central’s subpar performance may be the loss of senior Blake Hibbitts for the season in November due to a knee injury. Even though he only averaged 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds a game in an average of 15 minutes of action last year, the loss of a senior leader, as well as his presence on the floor, have had their effects.

CMU has been led so far by former Detroit Country Day star Chris Fowler. Fowler is averaging 16.1 points per game. junior guard Braylon Rayson also averages 16 points per contest. The final scoring Chippewa is 6’4″ senior guard Rayshawn Simmons. Simmons has 12.9 points per contest.

Ball State comes off its 115-79 curb-stomping of Eastern Michigan. The Cardinals had six players in double figures on Saturday. The leading scorer was Sean Sellers who had 26, far above his normal average of 5.8. Ball State uses a balanced attack that so far this year has done well. They enter Tuesday with a 19-10 record and only three players averaging double figures, no one above 11 points per game.

Although Central is a veteran group, I have to take Ball State in this one. Central is just 2-8 away from home and Ball State is 12-3 on its home floor. Look for the Cardinals to jack a ton of threes and hit the open man in a win over Central.

The second big game on Tuesday features the number one and number two teams in the MAC East. Ohio and Akron will get together at 8 p.m. in Akron. Ohio will come into Akron hot off a 103-96 win over Buffalo. Ohio has four of its starting five averaging 10 or more points per game. Sophomore Jaaron Simmons had 31 in the win Saturday. The Bobcats will also look to shoot from outside as they have three starters that shoot over 40% from behind the three-point arc.

If Akron can pull this out, it guarantees itself the top spot in the East division. Like Ball State, the Zips will send out a balanced attack, led in scoring by junior Isaiah Johnson who has 13.3 points per game. It is worth noting however that three other Zips average 10 or more points per contest. Akron also goes deep into its rotation with 10 players who play nine or more minutes per game. The Zips also gang-rebound with eight players having two or more rebounds per game. This prolific team offense and effort has Akron sitting 22-7 on the year and 13-0 at home. Because they play so well at Rhodes, I expect Akron to speed past the Bobcats. Watch Zips guard Josh Williams versus Ohio, he had 20 last time they played and was 4-5 from downtown.

On Friday, the big game will be in Akron once again as Kent State comes into town. This game, if Akron stumbles on Tuesday, could be for the number one seed in the MAC Tournament. Kent State is led by redshirt junior Jimmy Hall, who averages 16.4 a game. Of late, Hall has been hot and will need to stay that way this week to keep the Golden Flashes in the MAC race. Akron, however, lost on the road to KSU earlier in the year and will have something to prove on its home court. Look for Akron to get points from the reserves who contributed 31 points in the last contest versus the Golden Flashes.

MAC tournament prediction: Akron is the number one seed, followed by Ball State and Ohio.

E-mail Karic at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Kirky313.

Photo: Wikipedia

Leaders of the MAC

Earlier this season I warned you all not to sleep on the Mid-American Conference this fall.  If you didn’t take my advice you missed an interesting first half to the 2015 college football season.

Let’s recap.  Through seven weeks the following has happened:

Toledo and Bowling Green hit the road and beat Arkansas and Maryland in week two.  Northern Illinois went the distance with top-ranked Ohio State in week three, falling to the Buckeyes 20-13 in the ‘Shoe.  In week four, Bowling Green beat Purdue to earn its second road win over a Big Ten team.  The last three weeks have seen #19 Toledo and Bowling Green go undefeated in-conference.

These two Northwest Ohio schools are off to a great start this season.  While the Falcons and particularly the Rockets have enjoyed the bulk of the overall success, just about every team has something to be happy about.  Here are some of the impressive ways that members of the MAC are standing out nationally.

Defensively

(Photo: Toledo Blade / Jeremy Wadsworth)
(Photo: Toledo Blade / Jeremy Wadsworth)

Toledo is one of 10 teams in the nation that have surrendered less than 100 points this season (Duke, Michigan, Appalachian State, Wisconsin, Boston College, Toledo, Temple, Missouri, Florida State, NC State), and one of only six that’ve allowed fewer than 80.

The Rockets have given up just eight touchdowns this season.  Only Duke has given up fewer.  Of those touchdowns only two have come through the air, tying Toledo with Northwestern for the least in that category.

Kent State is one of only 10 teams that have held opponents under a 50 percent completion rate.  They and Northern Illinois are tied for seventh in the nation with 11 interceptions.

Linebackers Austin Valdez and Trenton Greene of Bowling Green, and Dylan Evans and Jatavis Brown of Akron are the only pairs of teammates in the FBS with at least 60 tackles each.  All four are in the top 20 in tackles.

Offensively

Bowling Green is one of just six teams in the nation that have scored more than 300 points (Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, Western Kentucky, Ole Miss, Bowling Green).  The same six are the only ones who’ve scored 40 touchdowns or more.

Northern Illinois has rushed for 21 touchdowns, tied for fifth in the country.  With 13 rushing touchdowns, NIU’s Joel Bouagnon is just one behind FBS-leaders Leonard Fournette and Greg Ward Jr.  Eastern Michigan’s Darius Jackson is tied for eleventh with 10 rushing scores of his own.

Quarterbacks

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

The MAC has some of the most prolific passers in college football.

With BG’s Matt Johnson, Central’s Cooper Rush, UMass’s Blake Frohnapfel, and Western’s Zach Terrell, the MAC has three of the country’s top 20 passers in terms of completions, completion percentage, passing touchdowns and passing yards per game.

Frohnapfel is a single passing yard shy of being the third MAC QB in the top 20 in that category as well.

Receivers

(Photo: AP)
(Photo: AP)

Somebody’s got to catch those passes for the quarterbacks to be so successful.  The MAC is also home to some of the most statistically impressive receivers.

BG’s Roger Lewis is one of two players in the nation with over a thousand yards receiving.

Tajee Sharpe (UMass) and Daniel Braverman (W. Mich) rank one-two in the FBS in completions, and nine-ten in receiving yards.  Lewis, Sharpe and Braverman are third, sixth and seventh in receiving yards per game.  Sharpe and Braverman are two of only three players who average 10 catches a game.  Lewis comes in ninth with almost eight.

Braverman and Lewis are tied for fourth in the FBS with nine touchdown grabs.

Akron’s Jerome Lane and Toledo’s Cody Thompson are two of six players averaging north of 23 yards per catch.

Special Teams

Five of the nation’s top 20 kick returners, in terms of yards, play in the MAC.  Freshman defensive backs James Olipahnt (UMass) and Emmitt Thomas (C.Mich), NIU’s Aregeros Turner, Western Michigan’s Darius Phillips and Ball State’s Darian Green have all done an excellent job fielding kicks.

Ball State’s Morgan Hagee has made more kicks than any other freshman in the country.  His 12 made field goals tie him for sixth in the FBS.

Bowling Green’s Tyler Tate is tied for third with 39 made extra points.

Playmakers

Joel Bouagnon, Darius Jackson, Daniel Braverman and Roger Lewis are all in the top twenty in total touchdowns.

Roger Lewis and Darian Green are responsible for at least 1000 all-purpose yards.  They’re two of only fifteen who can say that so far this season.

Cooper Rush is twelfth in the nation in total yards.

Matt Johnson leads all FBS players in total yards and yards per game. He needs two measly yards to get to 3000.

Basically, by not watching MAC football you’re missing out.  Not to worry though, in just a couple weeks we’ll start dedicating Tuesday nights to watching all the aforementioned teams and players go head-to-head.

#MACtion starts Tuesday, November 3 with Northern Illinois at Toledo.  Then two weeks later Toledo heads to Bowling Green for a probable conference championship preview.

You’ve officially been warned, again.

The End of an Era: Brady Hoke

And so the end of the Brake Hoke regime has come and sooner than anyone would have expected it. The University of Michigan announced that head coach Brady Hoke would not be returning for next season. What seemed like a good fit between coach and school in 2010 has fallen apart, resulting in the firing of both former athletic director Dave Brandon and now head coach Brady Hoke.

Perhaps Hoke just wasn’t ready for this kind of spotlight just yet. His successes before were at Ball State and San Diego State, hardly household names outside of their respective areas. There was not nearly as much pressure to succeed nor the national scrutiny. At Ball State and San Diego, simply bringing in superior talent would be enough to win games in weaker conferences.

But we can’t pretend like Hoke just suddenly forgot how to coach. Even with slightly superior talent at his previous stops, that doesn’t guarantee 10-win seasons like he managed to produce. His first year at Michigan he won 11 games. That doesn’t just happen by accident. He also did it mostly with guys recruited by someone else for a different system. Hoke coached those kids to Michigan’s first bowl win since 2008 before starting to really bring in his own players.

That is one thing that Hoke did well in recruiting. No matter what his overall record might reflect, Brady Hoke was a hell of a recruiter. He brought in top-tier talent after talent, year after year. His recruiting classes were always highly ranked by both ESPN and Rivals. His teams at Michigan were never starved for talent.

That is also where Brady Hoke fell short. Despite bringing all this highly coveted talent, they did not develop. Very few players showed noticeable improvement while Hoke presided over the team. The much maligned quarterback Devin Gardner is the best example. A highly coveted player that had been brought in by Hoke’s predecessor, Gardner never really seemed to improve from year to year.  This is not all Hoke’s fault but since he is the man in charge, he takes the blame for it.

In a way, Gardner and Hoke’s careers are very similar to one another’s.

Brady Hoke and Devin Gardner
Brady Hoke and Devin Gardner

Each of them arrived in Ann Arbor with a lot of hype.  Gardner was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country and Brady Hoke was being hyped as the second coming of legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler. Early on in their careers at Michigan, both of them lived up to the hype. After taking over for Denard Robinson halfway through 2012 and into the start of 2013, Gardner was putting up big stats. Hoke started his first season with 11 wins and a Sugar Bowl win. For Michigan fans, it was a dream come true.

Then things started sliding backwards. Gardner began to become prone to turnovers. Michigan began to lose. They went from 11 wins to 8, to 7 and finally to 5. Gardner’s stats continued to drop even to the point where he was benched for a game in favor of Shane Morris. Gardner’s health also began to deteriorate at the same rate as Michigan’s win totals.

However, there is one thing that cannot be taken away from Brady Hoke or Devin Gardner: they were both all about the team. Hoke always did his best to protect his player from the media, never blaming them for anything. He always put the blame on his own shoulders and the gave credit to the players for success. Devin Gardner’s commitment to the team can be demonstrated by his performance against Ohio State in 2013 when he gutted out a broken foot to lead the Wolverines to within a 2-point conversion of a win.

Although this is the end of his time here at the University of Michigan, this is not the end for Brady Hoke. The man will coach again somewhere, of that there is no doubt. He is simply too good of a recruiter to go unhired. Hoke may just need to go cut his teeth on a program that is less of a national focus but bigger than his previous teams. Perhaps somewhere like a Kentucky or a Virginia, someone in a Power 5 conference.

I, for one, will be a little sad to see Brady Hoke go. As far as coaches go he wasn’t the greatest but he was far, far from the worst. The one thing that everyone said about him was how good of a person he was. Players, the media, the administration and the fans all talked about what a good guy he was and that’s rare. Todd Graham of Arizona State is very poorly thought of, as is Nick Saban at Alabama. Hoke was a good ambassador for both the school and the sport and for that I thank him.

Brady Hoke was definitely out of time at Michigan but I was to remind fans of one thing: getting a better coach isn’t a sure thing. Things can get much, much worse.

 

The Campus Corner: 2013 MAC Prevew

MAC LogoA week ago, after doing a mini-MAC preview, I promised a full version for the loyal fans of the teams I did not cover. As you can see, I am a man of my word and this is that promise fulfilled.

Home to some of the best talent in America, the MAC is looking to take the stage as a legitimate conference rather than a non-BCS afterthought.

Last season was a step in the right direction, as it produced multiple Cinderella-type stories and a BCS bowl berth, but this year is all about proving that this conference will be consistently competitive and last season wasn’t a fluke.

Can the Ohio Bobcats complete their undefeated run, rather than crumble and fall?

Can Northern Illinois earn another BCS bowl bid?

Can Kent State fulfill the dream they were oh-so-close to last season?

Or will another team come running out of the masses and onto the national stage?

Let us begin.

 

Northern Illinois Huskies

Projected Record: 11-1

Projected MAC Record: 8-0 

Steve Bigach, Jordan LynchAll of the hype, national and local, around the Northern Illinois Huskies is real. Plain and simple. When you have Jordan Lynch at QB, it’s easy to see why.

Lynch had an unbelievable 2012 campaign that will certainly earn him Heisman hype in 2013. As a passer, Lynch completed 60.2% of his passes for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns, while only throwing six interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 1,815 more yards and an additional 19 touchdowns.

Add that all up and you’re looking at maybe the best statistical player in the country, with 4,953 all-purpose yards and 44 total touchdowns. You’re not going to find production like that anywhere else in the country.

The scariest part about Lynch and this offense? They could be better in 2013.

Defensively, the Huskies are a little more of a liability. A young group that lost some talent at each position- including three defensive linemen- will need to learn on the fly if they’re going to contend for another BCS Bowl. Even if they struggle, they may get by in the MAC, but that certainly isn’t the goal.

The Huskies could certainly go undefeated this season and we’ll know very early on what they are made of. The opener against Iowa and a battle in West Lafayette against the Boilermakers will decide the fate of this Northern Illinois team. If they can pass both test, no matter how narrowly, they could be well on their way to a second-straight BCS Bowl berth. Should they stumble against either or both opponents, their national notoriety could be very well in jeopardy.

After a one-point loss to the Hawkeyes last season, the Huskies will be ready for their opener. The problem may lie with Darell Hazell and the new-and-improved Purdue Boilermakers. If they go to West Lafayette and rock Purdue, Northern Illinois will be on a fast track to their second straight BCS bowl berth.

 

Ohio Bobcats

Projected Record: 11-1

Projected MAC Record: 8-0

Remember when the Bobcats started last season at 7-0? That wasn’t a fluke. This team is very talented.

This season could be much more of the same, but will hopefully end much better for the fans of Athens, Ohio.Beau Blankenship

Offensively, the talent and the experience are there. QB Tyler Tettleton will lead an avid air attack while also running around and showing off his incredible athleticism. RB Beau Blankenship will try to replicate his 1,604, 15 TD performance on his way to another career year in the MAC. The Bobcats are going to score points and score them readily.

The defense is very experienced and ready to attack, but needs to stay healthy. Last season, the Bobcats were continually bit by the injury bug, which- as their record showed- hurt them tremendously. If the Bobcats can stay healthy on defense, they may be one of the most balanced bunches in the entirety of the MAC.

The season starts in Louisville, Kentucky against the 9th ranked Cardinals, but is very manageable from there. They don’t have a Northern Illinois on the schedule until the MAC Championship Game- should they make it- and seven of their 12 games are at home.

If there’s one thing that will hold the Bobcats back, it’s going to be the reemergence of the injury bug. While it’s out of their control, they’ll certainly do their best to keep everyone healthy.

Should that happen, the Bobcats and Huskies will be on their way to an epic MAC Championship Game.

 

Toledo Rockets

Projected Record: 8-4

Projected MAC Record: 7-1

Coming off of a nine win season, the Toledo Rockets are looking forward to trying to rekindle that magic in 2013. Unfortunately, their rough schedule may not allow them to do so.

Terrance OwensWhen Tim Beckman was hired away at Illinois, Toledo brought in Matt Campbell to lead an explosive Rockets offense and has done so thus far. Senior quarterback Terrance Owens will try to fill the massive hole that was left by Austin Dantin, who was one of the better QBs in Toledo history. Owens has the athleticism of a great dual-threat QB, but it remains to be seen what he’s capable of thanks to his lack of experience. In the backfield is the speedy David Fluellen who is certainly more than capable of rushing for over 1,500 yards. Bernard Reedy is set to be Toledo’s speedy-receiver who is capable of turning on the jets and scoring big-time touchdowns. Everything for this offense is set, it’s now just ready for launch.

As for the defense, there’s a ton of turnover. With seven defensive players leaving, the Rockets may be reeling for answers as well as production going into 2013. As was previously mentioned, Campbell was brought in to produce an explosive offense, not an explosive defense. The point is, however, that the Rockets should be able to win shootouts against their opponents and more often than not will do so.

Then comes the brutal schedule.

Toledo starts off the season in Gainesville, Florida against the mighty Gators of the SEC. They then travel to Columbia, Missouri to take on yet another mighty SEC foe in the Tigers. Later in the season, they play the Navy Midshipmen in the Glass Bowl, but even that might be too much to handle. And finally, they take on the mighty Huskies of Northern Illinois in their second to last game of the season. They will lose all of these tough battles and finish a win shy of last year’s total.

While some would consider that successful, the Rockets would not like to take a step back in 2013.

 

Kent State Golden Flashes

Projected Record: 8-4

Projected MAC Record: 6-2

The Kent State Golden Flashes are coming off of a heartbreaking 2012 in which they were just a couple of plays away from clinching their first ever BCS bowl bid. From that point, however, it seems as if years have gone by. First year head coach Darrell Hazell was hired by Purdue, leaving them listless and without direction in the immediate aftermath of the tough MAC Championship loss.

This year, it’s all about redemption. Oh, and Dri Archer.Dri Archer

Archer is was the all-everything for the Flashes last season and will do his best to make sure that is the case in his senior campaign. Last season, the speedy Archer ran for 1,429 yards on just 159 carries- 9.0 yards a touch- and 16 total touchdowns. He also caught 39 passes out of the backfield for 561 yards and 4 additional touchdowns. He’s already getting preseason Heisman hype and will certainly be the weapon to look out for in the MAC.

Meanwhile, the star on defense is end Roosevelt Nix, who is returning for his senior season. The 5’11, 264 pound monster had 13 tackles for loss, including six sacks, and 34 solo tackles on the season. He’s already getting plenty of NFL looks, but is focused on the task at hand and winning the MAC in his last year in Kent.

The Flashes have a tough out-of-conference schedule that includes a battle with LSU in Baton Rouge and a meeting with the Nittany Lions and Penn State, but in the MAC is business as usual. It’s the battles against NIU and Ohio that will determine just where the Flashes go, but the loss of Hazell is certainly going to hurt.

While it’s not impossible to best last season’s success, the Flashes are certainly going to have a tough time with the four games that highlight their schedule.

 

Bowling Green Falcons

Projected Record: 7-5

Projected Conference Record: 5-3

The Bowling Green Falcons got the season started off with a moral victory over the Florida Gators, in which they lost 27-14. From there, the momentum took them to eight wins and a streak of six in a row in the middle of it all. This season, there schedule might not be as tough, but the talent in their own conference is definitely better.

Matt SchilzFor the Falcons offensively, Matt Schilz returns for his senior year and will try to lead the offense while keeping his own job. Normally, a senior wouldn’t have much of a problem keeping his place on the field, but Schilz’ drop in numbers last season forced the Falcons coaching staff to make a competition.

After a sophomore year in which he threw for 3,024 yards and 28 touchdowns, Schilz only passed for 2,585 yards and 14 TD passes in his junior campaign. The drop in numbers can be contributed to a lack of accuracy, as Schilz’ completion percentage dropped from nearly 60% to just over 55%.

Schilz narrowly won the starting over Matt Johnson, but will need to step it up in the first couple of games if he wants to finish the year as the starter.

While Schilz needs to be the guy, Bowling Green can also rely on redshirt sophomore running back Travis Greene, who won the starting job over three experienced backs. The explosiveness Greene displayed in camp was too much for the Falcons to overlook and will hopefully allow them to take some pressure off of their QB.

The defense should be an absolute strength for the Falcons, but losing four starters is no easy task to replace. The secondary is definitely the best part of this defensive group, which is good considering the many passers that the MAC shows off.

Their schedule is very laid out and balanced, but could still give them fits. After spending their second weekend of the season in Kent, the Falcons head to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers, who are primed for a good year of their own. Three laughers in a row- Murray State, Akron, and UMass- are followed by a matchup with the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. The rest of the season includes a home game with Toledo, a trip to Oxford to face the Miami Redhawks, a senior night meeting with the Ohio Bobcats, and two final away games at Eastern Michigan and Buffalo. If they could somehow pull out a W against Ohio and/or Kent, the Falcons could match last seasons win total of eight.

Overall, the Falcons are a good team, but maybe not good enough to compete for a MAC Championship.

 

Central Michigan Chippewas

Projected Record: 7-5

Projected MAC Record: 5-3

Things looked mighty bleak for the Chippewas with four games left in 2012, but after four straight W’s, the Chips are looking to build upon the streak and improve upon their .500 record.

At the outset of this season, all eyes were on the QB competition between junior Cody Kater, sophomore Alex Niznak, and freshman Cooper Rush, and now that Kater has won the job the offense is looking to move forward. A talented runner in addition to an efficient passer, Kater’s ability to be a dual-threat QB is going to make this Chips team that much more dangerous. Of course, it always helps to have a good group of receivers to help out the first year QB and that is exactly the case with Central Michigan.NCAA Football: Navy at Central Michigan

Truly the biggest question for this Central Michigan team comes on the offensive line.

How on earth do you replace the number one pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Eric Fisher?

Fisher was absolutely the biggest star on this Central Michigan team just a year ago and leaves a giant hole on the left side of the line. That duty will be taken by the almost forgotten sixth-year lineman, Jake Olson, who has battled injuries throughout his career. The monstrous, 6’8, 305 pound Olson was a freshman All-American six years ago and had it not been for injuries, Fisher may never have gotten the chance to be the star that he was.

The problem overall is not the offense, however. It’s the defense and especially the secondary. After allowing 3,129 of the 5,621 total yards of offense from opponents, the secondary is going to need to step up and make plays should the Chippewas want to make any sort of run this season.

Opening against Michigan in Ann Arbor, the Chippewas may actually have a chance in their other three out-of-conference opponents- New Hampshire, UNLV, and NC State. Should they pull out W’s in two of those three games, the Chips could be looking at an 8 win season in Mt. Pleasant. To top things off, the Chips should again win their final four games against Ball Tate, Western Michigan, UMass, and Eastern Michigan.

 

Ball State Cardinals

Projected Record: 7-5

Projected MAC Record: 5-3

Lead by three offensive weapons- Keith Wenning, Willie Snead, and Jahwan Edwards- and a favorable schedule, the Ball State Cardinals are primed for a very successful season in the MAC.

Wenning is coming off of knee surgery as well as a very successful 2012 campaign, and his ability to rebound from both will determine where this Cardinals team is headed. Heading into his senior year and his fourth season as the Cardinals starter, Wenning has thrown for 7,254 yards, 57 touchdowns, and 35 interceptions. His best year yet in 2013 would put him amongst the greatest Ball State players of all time.

Keith WenningAs for Wenning’s weapons, the first is the small, speedy wide receiver Willie Snead, who caught 89 passes for 1,148 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. If Snead can add upon those statistics in his junior year, he could very well become the best receiver in the MAC.

Then there’s junior running back Jahwan Edwards- who is also one of the MAC’s best. In 2012, Edwards ran for 1,410 yards on 232 carries and scored 14 TDs, which gives him a total of 25 thus far in his career. The big power runner will look to keep things between the tackles as Wenning and Snead spread the ball through the air.

The Ball State defense is certainly not on the prolific level of the offense and in fact has plenty of question marks that could prevent the Cardinals from winning a MAC Championship. Allowing 30 points per game last season, those numbers will certainly not suffice in 2012. They also have to deal with three new starting linebackers who will be responsible not only in the running game, but in the passing attack as well.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, their schedule is most definitely on their side. A home game against Army and a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia to take on the Cavaliers are the only two tests outside of the MAC. The MAC itself isn’t all that bad, as they don’t play Ohio or Bowling Green.

This could be the team to beat in the MAC or it could be a simply good team. That’s for this defensive unit to decide.

 

Buffalo Bulls

Projected Record: 5-7

Projected MAC Record: 4-4

The Buffalo Bulls are looking to bounce back from their four win season in 2012, but a tough schedule may forbid them from doing so.

Things started pretty terribly for the Bulls last season, but as soon as sophomore QB Joe Licata took over the offensive reigns, the Bulls had new life. Winning three out of the last four games, Licata finished 2012 with 86 completions on 163 attempts for 1,045 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions.

Joe Licata

The big performance from Licata brings about the dilemma of how to deal with senior QB Alex Zordich.

Zordich lost the starting job last season after throwing just nine touchdowns in eight games- including four in one game against Morgan State- and seven interceptions. While he was bad through the air, he was great on the ground. In those eight games, Zordich ran for 500 yards on 100 carries, proving that he could still lead the offense if need be.

The Licata passing efficiency and the Zordich change of pace running attack could be lethal for the opponents of the MAC, but it’s important for head coach Jeff Quinn to balance them well if they are going to be efficient on offense.

While there is a two-headed monster that will roam the backfield on offense, there’s just one monster on defense, but he’s a big one.

Outside linebacker Khalil Mack is coming off of a banner 2012 in which he made 94 solo tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and 8 sacks, all while leading one of the best defenses in the MAC Conference. He’s joined by fellow linebackers Jake Stockman and Lee Skinner to make up the best ‘backers in the MAC.

This season should be absolutely no different for the Bulls, as they will once again be one of the best defenses in this conference.

The problem with the Bulls this season is their out of conference schedule, in addition to the questions on offense. The Bulls start the season in Columbus this Saturday and then take a trip to Waco to take on Art Briles and the mighty Baylor Bears. They then come home to face two very different opponents in Stony Brook and Connecticut before beginning MAC play.

That’s where the offense comes in. If the offense can gel with Licata and Zordich in the backfield, this team could be a much different one than we saw a year ago. Should they not, they’ll be looking at the same record as they had last year.

Something in the middle would be more likely than a replication of last season or a sudden burst of efficiency from the offense.

 

Miami Redhawks

Projected Record: 2-10

Projected MAC Record: 2-6

This whole season for the Miami Redhawks will be spent missing the QB of yesteryear, Zac Dysert. You don’t replace 12,016 yards, 73 touchdowns, and nearly 1,000 completions. It’s just that simple.

Austin BoucherSenior Austin Boucher has had some past experience in this Miami air raid attack, but again it’s not enough. Boucher may be serviceable, but he’s certainly not going to take this Miami team to the next level.

In terms of a rushing attack, forget it. Last season, Dysert had the most carries on the team, just above Jamire Westbrook who ran for just 361 yards on the season.

The saving grace of this team is their defense, but that’s not going to be enough. They bring back a ton of talent and are deep in experience, which definitely helps. The problem is, in a league with extraordinary offensive talent, you’re going to need to win shootouts and the Redhawks won’t.

 

 

 

Western Michigan Broncos

Projected Record: 3-9

Projected MAC Record: 2-6

One could feel bad for the Western Michigan Broncos in a way. QB Alex Carder was supposed to lead the Broncos to a successful season on the way to a nice career in the NFL, but an injury forced him to miss six straight games in the middle of the season.

After a 2011 in which Carder produced 3,873 passing yards and and 31 touchdowns, Carder was well on his way to similar numbers when he injured his hand and missed those six straight games. The Broncos, at 2-2 coming in, lost four of their next six and were never fully able to recover.Tyler Van Tubbergen

Tyler Van Tubbergen did fill in quite nicely for Carder, but did have a problem keeping the ball out of the hands of the other team.

This season should be a decent one for Tubbergen and the Broncos offense, but without Carder it’s not the same.

The defense has always been the problem in Kalamazoo and this season should be no different. They have little depth and experience up front and are working on a new scheme in the secondary, all of which lead to a rough and tumble season on the defensive end.

Maybe the worst thing about this Broncos season is their out of conference schedule. Three Big Ten opponents- two of which are very quality opponents- round out the games outside of the MAC conference. Once in MAC play, the Broncos biggest game may come against their rivals to the east when they play Eastern Michigan. That game may decide which team has one or two wins in the MAC.

 

Akron Zips

Projected Record: 3-9

Projected MAC Record: 1-7

In 2012, Terry Bowden was given the assignment of guiding this football program back to relevance and in year one, things didn’t seem all that different. Again, for the third year in a row, the Zips won just a single game. Something, however, was different.

Bowden brings an energy and a plan to Akron and that plan will start it’s nascent stages in 2013.

With a glaring hole at the QB position, the Zips will look to running backs junior Jawon Chisholm and Conor Hundley to carry the offensive load, but that’s still not going to be nearly enough for the offense to be a productive one.Jawon Chisholm

The defense is going to be an experienced one and that is what may win them more than their one-game-a-year average. They have a decent front seven, but it’s the secondary that’s the concern.

After finishing last in the MAC in touchdowns allowed and interceptions, the Zips are going to have to defend the pass if they want to have any chance of winning more than a single game.

As previously mentioned, while three wins may not be a ton, it’s a much needed step in the right direction. For the Zips and Bowden, 2013 will certainly be considered a success.

 

Eastern Michigan Eagles

Projected Record: 1-11

Projected MAC Record: 0-8

Ron English is trying to turn things around for the Eastern Michigan Eagles, but that may just have to wait another year. The talent in this conference is just too much for the Eagles to handle right now and it will show.

Tyler BenzThe good news is that the Eagles have their QB of the future, Tyler Benz, and he is ready to take the reigns of the EMU offense.

In just his sophomore season, Benz completed 114 passes for 1,506 yards and 14 touchdowns while leading the Eagles to a win over Western- only their second of the season.

Look for Benz in the future, but give him a year to figure it out and develop his skills in English’s system.

Defensively, the Eagles are no better and could even be quite worse. They dropped from the 34th total defense in the country in 2012 to the 112th ranked total defense last season. Sure, experience helps, but it’s still going to be pretty bad overall.

A win against Howard may be the only W on their schedule, but look for a good game between Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan after last year’s upset.

 

UMass Minutemen

Projected Record: 1-11

Projected MAC Record: 0-8

The University of Massachusetts Minutemen are still trying to adjust to life in Division I football and that’s perfectly ok. Hey, they even beat the Akron Zips last season to get their first FBS W.

This season for UMass is going to be another tough one, but it’s all part of the process.

Head coach Charley Molnar, in his just his second year with the Minutemen, has already started hard on the recruiting trail and those recruits are going to be thrown into the fire right away.Charley Molnar

On both offense and defense, the Minutemen are going to be young and inexperienced, which again, is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it sets them up for a great future of experienced veteran leaders.

Unfortunately, UMass only plays one opponent that could set them up for a win and that’s a game with the University of Maine. Every other game is going to afford them a very serious challenge.

UMass could certainly steal a game in the MAC, but don’t expect too much from Molnar and his recruits in year two.

 

How They’ll Finish:

MAC East

  1. Ohio Bobcats 11-1 (8-0)
  2. Kent State Golden Flashes 8-4 (6-2)
  3. Bowling Green Falcons 7-5 (5-3)
  4. Buffalo Bulls 5-7 (4-4)
  5. Miami Redhawks 2-10 (2-6)
  6. Akron Zips 3-9 (1-7)
  7. UMass Minutemen 1-11 (0-8)

MAC West

  1. Northern Illinois Huskies 11-1 (8-0)
  2. Toledo Rockets 8-4 (7-1)
  3. Central Michigan Chippewas 7-5 (5-3)
  4. Ball State Cardinals 7-5 (5-3)
  5. Western Michigan Broncos 3-9 (2-6)
  6. Eastern Michigan Eagles 1-11 (0-8)

MAC Championship Game: Ohio Bobcats vs. Northern Illinois Huskies.

35-28 Northern Illinois over Ohio.