Way, Way Too soon preview of MAC teams in 2010

ESPN recently published their SWAG about who in the MAC will go bowling. Just to show that I too can throw darts at the wall to predict what fans should start making travel plans for December.

It's never too early to get ahead of ourselves

Graham Watson at ESPN breaks down the teams as follows
Bank on it: Temple, NIU, Ohio, Kent
Most Likely: Toledo
Outside Shot:  CMU, WMU
Better Luck Next Year: Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Miami, Ball State, EMU
I'll stick to her convention and fill in for four of the MAC's five bowl games (Bank on it) Assume that they get their fifth tie in (Most Likely),  the teams who may either beat out the most likely team or back into an at large (outside shot), and then those with little hope of making a bowl.

It's hard to disagree with NIU and Temple bowling, or some of the lower tier teams not bowling. Initially I did not think Kent belonged in the 'Bank on it' category but the more I look at the flashes the more I realized that for them to not go bowling would constitute a monumental failure. Ohio, on the other hand, may not be as much a given as everyone thinks they are.

My 'Rankings' Are:
Bank on it: Temple, NIU, Kent, Toledo
Most Likely: Ohio
Outside Shot:  CMU, Buffalo, Bowling Green
Better Luck Next Year: Akron, WMU, Miami, Ball State, EMU

Akron: 

The Team: The Zips will be breaking in a new coaching staff who have, hopefully, gotten their only major gaff out of the way. The Zips are a young team but last year Patrick Nicely really developed as the season wore on. The Zips have solid talent have solid potential just about everywhere save the defensive backfield.

The Schedule: Syracuse(?), Gardner-Webb(W), Kentucky(L), Indiana(L), Northern Illinois(L), Kent State(?), Ohio(L), Western Michigan(?), Temple(L), Ball State(?), Miami (OH)(?), Buffalo(?).

The Result: Six very likely losses, one very likely win and too many toss ups (I would almost call Syracuse a sure loss but not quite).

Verdict: Better luck next year, and with the talent in the pipeline (not to mention the need to win after recent investments) the Zips really may be making noise after this season.

Ball State:


The Team: MiQuale Lewis getting another season saves the Cards from having another embarrassing season. They have a very talented incoming Quarterback in Kelly Page and now they have an experience running back for him to lean on. The offensive line is still going to be a concern but the biggest worry on offense is going to be at wide out.

The Schedule: Southeast Missouri State(W), Liberty(W), Purdue(L), Iowa(L), Central Michigan(L), Western Michigan(?), Eastern Michigan(W), Toledo(L), Kent State(L), Akron(?), Buffalo(?), Northern Illinois(L).

The Result: Playing two FCS teams will help with the wins but not their chances of getting to a Bowl Game. There are three games they have almost no excuse to lose (though only two can count). They have Six Games that they should be big underdogs in and a couple of toss ups.

Verdict: Better luck next year, They will need to knock off all of their toss up games (Buffalo, Akron, WMU) and beat at least one of the teams that have to be favorites over them (CMU, Toledo, Kent, NIU) in order to go bowling this year.

Bowling Green:

The Team: So did NCAA all time leader Freddie Barnes make the clawfense or did the clawfense make him? Despite the press that Barnes got last year the real loss that the team is going to struggle overcoming is at quarterback. Aside from the QB position the Falcons are looking at a solid unit.

The Schedule: Troy(L), Tulsa(L), Marshall(?), Michigan(L), Buffalo(?), Ohio(L), Temple(L), Kent State(?), Central Michigan(?), Miami (OH)(W), Toledo(?), Western Michigan(?)

The Result: The Falcons have a very lukewarm schedule. They don't have too many games that are out of their reach (especially if they settle up at quarterback) but the also lack any give me games. If things pan out at QB the falcons should separate themselves out from the middle of the conference.

Verdict: Outside shot, all the pieces are in place for the Falcons to make it to a second consecutive bowl except a seasoned quarterback. If their quarterback situation does not pan out they will have a lot of trouble getting to six wins.

Buffalo:

The Team: New offense, new defense, new quarterback, new receiving corps, despite all the excitement around the new staff this is a massive rebuilding year. Even without the coaching changes losing Roosevelt, Hamlin, and Rack (80% of UB's receiving yards) would have made for a difficult year, about the only thing UB has going for it is their schedule.

The Schedule: Rhode Island(W), Baylor(L), UCF(?), Connecticut(L), Bowling Green(?), Northern Illinois(L), Temple(L), Miami (OH)(W), Ohio(L), Ball State(?), Eastern Michigan(W), Akron(?)

The Result: UB has a somewhat reasonable shot at six wins this season, with EMU, Miami, Akron, Ball State, and Rhode Island on the docket the Bulls have five games they should either win, or be favorites in. Of the two most challenging toss ups both Bowling Green and UCF are possible wins.

Admittedly, I might be wearing 
my blue tinted glasses

Verdict: A very outside shot at landing 6-6 but in addition to quickly picking up their new schemes UB will need to sneak road win against Bowling Green or UCF to make a bowl.

Central Michigan:


The Team: Hmm Lost arguably the best QB's to come out of the MAC in years, check. Lost the best all around offensive weapon in the conference, check. Lost the most successful coach in the MAC over the past three seasons, check. Offensively the Chips are as close to starting from scratch as a team can get without having been handed the death penalty. Their Defense should be solid, and may carry the team, but like Buffalo they have so much rebuilding on offense that it's hard to imagine them in the post season.

The Schedule: Hampton(W), Temple(L), Eastern Michigan(W), Northwestern(L), Ball State(W), Virginia Tech(L), Miami (OH)(W), Northern Illinois(L), Bowling Green(?), Western Michigan(?), Navy(L), Toledo(?)

The Result: A Challenging draw from the East (Temple/Bowling Green), and a pretty respectable non conference schedule are going to make a bowl run hard for the Chips. They have four games that they should walk away with but five in which they look to be dogs in.

The Verdict: Outside shot. On the back of their defense the chips should compete against the middle tier of the MAC teams and that may be enough to get them over the top.

Eastern Michigan

The Team: The soft underbelly of the MAC is still located in Ypsilanti. Between player attrition and coaching staff changes this is almost another 1st year regime situation for the Eagles. The team will be lucky if they sneak a win in this year, if they fail to do something good this season (like win a game) His two years without a win may make 2011 a hot seat year for Coach English. Last years team may actually have been better than this seasons team.

The Schedule: Army(?), Miami (OH)(?), Central Michigan(L), Ohio State(L), Ohio(L), Vanderbilt(L), Ball State(L), Virginia(L), Toledo(L), Western Michigan(L), Buffalo(L), Northern Illinois(L)

The Result: If the Eagles are going to win any games they need to do it in the first two weeks. After that their schedule is pretty ugly with Ball State and Maybe Buffalo as the only teams they have a prayer of being in the game with.

The Verdict: Better luck next-next, year. Right now the Eagles are two years away from being a year away from a bowl game.

Kent

The Team: Kent returns a good deal of talent that was one choke (at Akron) away from being in the Bowl mix last season. If Coach Martin does not do it this season I can't imaging how the flashes keep him on board any longer. Jarvis will be the key to taking pressure off of promising sophomore Spencer Keith who enters his second season as the quarterback.

The Schedule: Murray State(W), Boston College(L), Penn State(L), Miami (OH)(W), Akron(W), Toledo(?), Bowling Green(?), Ball State(W), Temple(L), Army(W), Western Michigan(W), Ohio(?) 

The Result: Six games that Kent should win puts them right in the Bowl picture between  Ohio, Bowling Green, and Toledo they should pick up one game which makes them almost a sure thing.

The Verdict: Most Likely going to win six games, that should sneak them into a bowl if recent history is any indication.

Miami

The Team: The RedHawks showed a few sparks of life here or there last season especially when  Zac Dysert was playing at his best. The freshman took what was a joke of a season and make the Hawks a team who at least competed in some of their conference games. I still don't think all the pieces are in place for Miami but the losses they suffer won't be nearly as ugly this season.

The Schedule: Florida(L) , Eastern Michigan(?), Colorado State(L), Missouri(L), Kent State(L), Cincinnati(L), Central Michigan(L), Ohio(L), Buffalo(L), Bowling Green(L), Akron(?), Temple(L)

The Result: They may not walk away with a record that screams improvement but they should look better in every game and have the potential to upset just about anyone they play (except Florida, Missouri, Cincinnati).

The Verdict: Better luck next year. In 2011 the Hawks should be in the hunt for a bowl but their schedule this year and the lack of support for Dysert is going to keep them in the bottom third of the conference.

Northern Illinois

The Team: Aside from a few minor questions on defense this team is good to go. The Huskies are easily my favorite to win the west and should give Temple a run for their money in Detroit (and Deklab). The only big offensive question going into this year is the durability of Chandler Harnish.

The Schedule: Iowa State(W), North Dakota(W), Illinois(L), Minnesota(?), Akron(W), Temple(?), Buffalo(W), Central Michigan(W), Western Michigan(W), Toledo(?), Ball State(W), Eastern Michigan(W)

The Result: The Huskies have an outside shot at ten wins this season, only Temple and Toledo will likely hold pace with Northern Illinois.

The Verdict: Bank on it, Jerry Kill will be taking the Huskies to their third straight Bowl appearance, and maybe their first conference title in some time.

Ohio

The Team: The Bobcats in 2009 remind me of the Bulls in 2008, despite having a potent offence what really made the team was an opportunistic defense and solid special teams. Like Buffalo last season the Bobcats will have to compensate for a new quarterback and a new star offensive skill player (UB lost Starks, Ohio Loses Price). Like Buffalo The Bobcats will tempt the take away gods a year after going +7, pundits like Phil Steele point out these things tend to even out.

The Schedule: Wofford(W), Toledo(?), Ohio State(L), Marshall(L), Eastern Michigan(W), Bowling Green(W), Akron(W), Miami (OH)(W), Louisiana-Lafayette(?), Buffalo(W), Temple(L), Kent State(?)

The Result: Six should win games and a whole gaggle of games that that Cats should either win or compete in.

The Verdict: It's very likely that Ohio will make the six win mark, they may actually manage to defend their division title if they manage to come even close to their turnover margin from last season.

Temple

The Team: This may finally be Temples year. The Owls will be breaking in a new quarterback but its not like Vaughn Charlton (now a tight end) had much to do with their success last season, that was all Pierce. If Bernard Pierce stays healthy and the Temple defense performs near the level they were at last season it's very hard to see Temple not taking the Eastern Division.

The Schedule: Villinova(W), Central Michigan(W), Connecticut(L), Penn State(L), Army(W), Northern Illinois(?), Bowling Green(W), Buffalo(W), Akron(W), Kent State(?), Ohio(?), Miami(OH) (W)

The Result: I almost, and perhaps should have, marked Villinova a toss up game but I'm giving the Owls the benfit of the doubt this season. Putting Villinova aside there are only two games I expect the Owls to lose and three where they are toss ups.

The Verdict: If you had to bet on just one team from the MAC playing a December/January game it's going to be the Owls. This is probably their most difficult cross conference draw since joining the MAC and their out of conference schedule is very respectable but they have fewer key losses than any of the MAC east contenders this season.

Toledo

The Team: Coach Beckman raised the bar very high during the first half of last season but Toledo fell apart in conference play, they have lost some of their finest players (and leaders). Despite the disappointing finish the Rockets have a solid trajectory for the future. Toledo had a solid recruiting class last season and may retain enough of the team to crash a bowl game.

The Schedule: Arizona(L), Ohio(?), Western Michigan(W), Purdue(L), Wyoming(?), Boise State(L), Kent State(?), Ball State(W), Eastern Michigan(W), Northern Illinois(?), Bowling Green(W), Central Michigan(W)

The Result: The good news for the rockets is that they are a lock to get five wins, the bad news? This is not a team that played too well in toss up games last season.  The Rockets have five in conference games that they should win, if NIU gets beat up by Temple (and Toledo manages to take them down) Then the Rockets are in the hunt for the Western Division.

The Verdict: Bank on Beckman coaching during the Bowl Season, This may be the first time, in a long time, that the MAC West is the weaker of the two divisions and Toledo is poised to take advantage of that.

Western Michigan:

The Team: Losing Hiller and West is huge for the Bronco's, perhaps the only team more bitten by the graduation bug is Central Michigan. Still Coach Cubit, who is quickly becoming one of the more tenured MAC coaches, has been in this situation before (2008). Alex Carder, or somebody, is going to have to step up if the Bronco's have any home of six wins.

The Schedule: Michigan State(L), Nicholls State(W), Toledo(L), Idaho(?), Ball State(W), Notre Dame(L), Akron(W), Northern Illinois(L), Central Michigan(?), Eastern Michigan(W), Kent State(L), Bowling Green(?)

The Result: A lot is up in the air for the Broncos right now, they have a pretty hard OOC draw but even though I have them pegged as losing to the Irish I would not be amazed if they gave Notre Dame a game. If they manage to take out Idaho and ND they would head into Northern Illinois riding a four game winning streak which would be huge.

The Verdict: Better luck next year, Hiller is way to hard to replace especially with the departure of West.


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