MAC blogger roundtable, The MAC-Laughlin Group

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It Bull Run's turn to host the round table. Given the nature of a round table it seemed proper to combine two of my most frequently watched items, College Football and political banter shows.

This weeks panel is populated by:

Eagle Totem: Eastern Michigan

Falcon Blog: Bowling Green

Let's Go Rockets: Toledo

Temple Football Forever: Temple

The Chip Report: Central Michigan

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MACLaughlin - Issue number one: Parity friend or foe to the MAC? Outside of Toledo at the top and Akron, Kent, Miami, and Buffalo at the bottom every team has looked about equal. Is this a good thing for the conference or would it be better to have just four very prominent teams?

Over The Pylon: Parity doesn’t bother me this year, because Ball State is one of the teams that could benefit from that parity and knock off teams that the "experts" had penciled in as losses for the Cardinals. Assuming that parity maintains for the next four weeks, it could set up a de facto MAC West title game between the Rockets and BSU, and I’m ok with that. Realistically, parity hurts the power conferences because then their champion has a couple of conference losses and demeans the conference as a whole in the national purview. For the MAC, I would argue that the opposite is true. Parity means you have a majority of the conference with something better than an awful glaringly bad record, and that helps boost the MAC profile.

Temple Football Forever: I'm a big fan of the NFL, so I love parity. Heck, I loved it when the Giants beat the unbeaten Patriots. That said, I'd love to see Temple go unbeaten just once before I pass on to the great unknown. I think it's a good thing for the conference, but a bad thing for my imaginary wallet (I don't have money to bet) since I've been taking a beating predicting MAC games.

Falcon Blog: This is one of the great questions facing humanity.  Some people will tell you the sports are more popular when there is a clear villain.  And, some will tell you that having a clear pacesetter makes all the other teams better.  Others will tell that parity helps to keep everyone interested.  I'm in the second group.  I'd prefer it if there was parity at a higher level, but I do think that this kind of parity makes every game interesting and keep people following through those disappointing November weekday games.

Lets Go Rockets: On the national stage, having strong MAC teams is good for the conference. But internetally, and from a fan standpoint, having equally matched teams leads to "better", more exciting football games. While strong teams helps the MAC gain traction on the national scene, closely contested games are more rewarding for the folks in the stands.

Eagle Totem: Yes, it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

First consider it from the fan perspective. If you’re a fan of the teams at or near the top, such as Temple and Toledo, parity is a bad thing. Your team is just one mistake or one big play by an opponent away from not only not winning your division but potentially not getting a bowl invitation. Don’t believe me? Just ask the 2010 Temple team, they’ll tell you all about it. If you’re a fan of a team in the middle of the pack or near the bottom, you get the flip side of that, which is that your team has less distance to go to respectability or even sneaking in to the championship. For examples, just look at Buffalo in 2008, Miami in 2007, and Akron in 2005, all of which were beneficiaries of divisional parity.

The other way to look at it is from the perspective of what is best for the conference. Here, I think the first priority is membership stability, the second is exposure, and the third is money (though exposure and money will generally come together, in the form of television contracts and bowl appearances). I think parity is unequivocally good for membership stability. It means that no team falls so far behind that they’re forced to drop to FCS (or lower) or drop football altogether, but also that no team is consistently so good that they become an attractive target to be poached by a higher-profile conference. For exposure and money it’s more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, parity makes for unpredicatable outcomes and close, exciting games. On the other hand, having one school dominate the conference can raise the profile of both the school and the conference, and bring more money as broadcasters wanting to show that team’s games are required to make package deals.

MACLaughlin: Whenever you have more winning teams that losing its a good thing. This years Parity in the West is hopefully a harbinger of things to come.

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Issue number two: Is it just me or is it a bit warm in here? The Following MAC coaches are showing up on the ever popular coaches hot seat list. Who should, or should not be on this list?

(12) Rob Ianello, Akron
(13) Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
(15) Dan Enos, Central Michigan

Eagle Totem: I absolutely agree with Quinn and Enos being high on the list. Each took over a program that had recently won a MAC Championship, and neither has won more than three games in a season. Enos bought himself some cover his first year by retaining the Michigan MAC Trophy, but that’s a distant memory now, paved over by a 44-14 humiliation at Western Michigan and a Homecoming loss to EMU. In at least one regard Quinn may be in a slightly better position; the expectations at Buffalo are lower than they are in Mount Pleasant. Dan Enos took over a team that had just won a MAC Championship and had won three of the last four, while the Bulls were a year removed from their only conference title. Also, having no heated rivalries means Quinn gets no bump from winning certain games in an otherwise bad year, as Enos got in 2010, but also no extra flack for losing those games.

Rob Ianello is a different story, and I don’t think he should be on this list just yet. Akron is even farther removed from their one conference championship (2005), and they hardly won it in a dominating fashion, going 6-5 overall, 5-3 in the MAC, getting into the championship game on a tiebreaker over Miami and Bowling Green, and then edging out Northern Illinois 31-30 with a furious fourth-quarter comeback. Since then the Zips have failed to put together a winning season, going 3-9 in 2009, J.D. Brookhart’s final season. All of their current offensive skill players are freshmen and sophomores, so we’ll probably see a huge improvement in their performance next year as they continue to gain experience.

One MAC coach that probably should be higher on this list is Western Michigan’s Bill Cubit (currently #49). The Broncos were expected to challenge for a MAC title this year, but after back-to-back losses to Northern Illinois and EMU, and their next two games against a resurgent Ball State team and at Toledo, the new goal is probably just 6-6. At this point, just halfway through the conference schedule, Western Michigan would need to win out, and have Northern Illinois and EMU lose two games each, and have Toledo lose an additional game. That would put them into a three-way tie with Ball State and Toledo, but the Broncos would then win the tiebreaker over each based on head-to-head wins.

Over the Pylon: For me, the name on that list that has to be front and center is Jeff Quinn. Ianello only gets the pass because of how bad Akron was when he took over. Quinn got the reigns to a Buffalo program that was MAC Champions and has turned that around in near record time. Enos gets a pass because of who CMU had to replace, even though that logic didn’t work for Stan Parrish replacing Nate Davis. The good news for UB fans is again that parity. It’s highly likely that Buffalo can notch at least one more win this season, and that will be good enough for Quinn to keep his job.

Temple Football Forever: TFF: Enos doesn't deserve to be there. Central Michigan has done some good things.

Falcon Blog: From your list, I'm going to say that Enos is in the most trouble.  There were people screaming for his removal last year in his first year.  The program seemed pretty solid and fell apart pretty quick, and he might be in over his head.  If you want my guess, none of these guys lose their job.  Should Cubit be on the list?

Let's Go Rockets: In our opinion, it’s too early for Rob Ianello from Akron to be on the hot seat. Sure, he’s been unable to get his feet under him and get some stability and direction to his program, but sometimes these things take longer than two years. Ianello’s pedigree would suggest that he knows how to put a successful football program together but he may need more time to get the right group of coaches and players around him that can all get on the same page. Akron has been under-whelming the last two seasons but it’s too early to get calling for Ianello’s head.

MACLaughlin: All three might be deserving but Buffalo is playing better than its record, Just Ask Northern Illinois, and Central Michigan can match up with a lot of teams on any given day. Akron, is completely moribund, and it's recruiting classes don't give Zips fans hope for the future.

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Issue Number Three:  Welcome to the party! Best new hire. Of the new coaches in the conference who, at this point, seems to be the best hire.

Over The Pylon: I mean, of course I’m going to say Pete Lembo. Coach Lembo has taken a team that has had its share of failure, attrition, and drama and made them a confident winning team. In just his first season, Lembo has been able to beat in-state rival Indiana, land some BCS transfers, and make inroads with recruits that I’d venture to say we had no shot at last season. Most importantly, he’s Hoke-like in the area of possession control and limiting penalties, two things that more often than not in the MAC means you’re winning more than you’re losing.

Temple Football Forever: Steve Addazio. I love the guy. I love the way he competes. I love the staff he's put together. I love what he's done despite the fact that Golden's Achilles Heel was his inability to recruit a quarterback. I will go from loving him to liking him if he loses to Ohio. If he loses to Ohio and Miami, I will go from liking him to tolerating him. If he loses to Ohio, Miami and Army, I will go from tolerating him to loathing him.

Eagle Totem: Less than one season in is pretty early to say. One way to gauge this is by the expected regular season win delta from the prior season.

I feel a table coming on…

Team 2010 wins (7/8 games) 2011 wins to date Delta 2010 wins 2011 expected wins Delta
Kent State 3 1 -2 5 1 -4
Ball State 2 5 +3 4 6 or 7 +2 or 3
Northern Illinois 6 5 -1 10 6 or 7 -3 or 4
Temple 6 5 -1 8 8 or 9 0 or +1
Miami 4 2 -2 8 4 to 6 -2 to 4

 

We’ll know more in a few weeks, but at this point, based solely on the record/expected record, it looks like the best hire is Pete Lembo, followed by Steve Addazio. However, I strongly believe that, except in truly exceptional cases, you need a full 2-3 years to evaluate a new head coach. At that point, I still think Lembo will look good, and he’ll be joined by Don Treadwell and possibly Dave Doeren. I’m not convinced that Addazio is going to be able to get Temple to where the fans think they should be, and I’m not convinced of anything about Darrell Hazell’s coaching. But, give them a few years, and we’ll see what happens.

Falcon Blog: I'm going to say Lembo.  Doeren took over a team where the Coach moved up, which means he jumped into a situation where things were pretty good.  Lembo, on the other hand, has taken over a program where the Coach was fired and improved things pretty much right away.  Treadwell and Hazell are paying their dues.

Let's Go Rockets: Addazio at Temple is probably the best hire of the bunch. Seems like he has the necessary tools to help his team get it together and be strong competitors. Now, which conference that’ll be in might be more uncertain.

MACLaughlin: Anyone could have Coached Temple to a 5-3 record this season. But to move Ball State into position for a Bowl Run? Lembo was clearly the best hire based on the profile of the job, the money available, and the standing of the team.

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Issue number four:  Ron English is flying high and the EMU *EAGLES* might be going to their first Bowl if they take care of Business. Surely their Coach is going to start getting some looks from other programs (if you can win at EMU right!). Is Turner Gill's experience in Kansas a cautionary tale to schools who look for that one new up and coming coach? How many years of winning should a mid-major coach put forth before a big time program drops millions on them.

Eagle Totem: Major schools have generally been too fast in hiring upcoming coaches, but they’ve also been too quick in firing their old coaches. It generally takes 3 years for a new coach to start to show results, and 5 years to really know what they can do, particularly when they’re taking over a non-elite program like Kansas. Hiring a coach who’s been at a school for less than that is generally a mistake, as is firing a coach before that much time passes.

Over The Pylon: One good year does not a good coach make, and we learned that the hard way with Turner Gill. The old adage says that some coordinators make lousy head coaches. See: Stan Parrish, Steve Kragthorpe, etc. The same is also true for levels of schools. For every Brady Hoke who catapults his midmajor success to a premiere job, there’s three Turner Gills or Dan Hawkins who fail at it. Sometimes life in that bigger fishbowl is a little harder than the MAC. For English, yes, he’s winning, but I’ve yet to see anything consistent from him. The Eagles beat WMU, and that’s all well and good, but let’s see how they do with the rest of their schedule. You don’t want to cream on your date before you see them naked now do you? General rule of thumb is three good consistent years and I’d say success is a much better bet.

Temple Football Forever: TFF: I would think a three-year sample is better than a one-year wonder. I think that's the way most BCS programs will approach it going forward. The fact that Ron English recruited Ryan Brumfield shows me he has a keen eye for talent.

Falcon Blog: It is a very good question.  Lots of coaches have discovered that things are not necessarily better at that bigger school.  On other other hand, you get paid a LOT of money to find out.  I have been pretty shocked how quick some of the coaches get plucked up--Mike Haywood for example.  It seems to me that you'd want to see a coach at least win through one recruiting cycle before you'd go moving them up, but I don't expect it to happen.  With the money in college football, guys can always just be bought out after a couple of years.

Let's Go Rockets: We don’t feel like there’s a set time limit on being worthy of the jump. This has to be based on individual factors for each candidate. Certainly, more that one strong year is necessary to prove to the other teams/conferences that you’re the real deal but there may be exceptions where the prowess of a coach is exemplary and other teams cannot afford to wait and risk someone else snatching him away. Turner Gill seems to be a good coach but it’s impossible to suggest how much of his success was actually his doing. Gill won’t be the first coach in the league to benefit from things beyond their control that may not work out in the end, and he won’t be the last.

MACLaughlin: Many a coaching career has been ruined when a coach, beginning to find himself and nail down the job is swept away by a big budget school looking to cash in quick. Until a coach puts together three winning seasons, with players he recruited, any move is a risky one.

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Issue Number Five:  In the Game of Bowl Game Musical Chairs where would you sit? We all know the MAC does not necessarily award Bowls to the best teams. In MAC contracted bowls the bowl committees, not the conferee, get to pick their representative. Assume the MAC is going to get four Bowls but there are five bowl eligible teams. Make a case for your team, or a team you think is likely to be that 5th wheel.

Let's go Rockets: Toledo will be bowling. Case closed. Bowl committee’s don’t always pick the best team (BCS for example) so there can always be a debate for you respective team. We feel that EMU could win 8 games this year — games against Ball State, Buffalo and Kent are certainly winnable game for the Eagles (that’s not something you write every day). However, the entire body of work, though impressive for a typical MAC bottom dweller, the Eagles will not go bowling.

Falcon Blog: That's a toughie.  If the Falcons were 7-5 and had a shot at the bowl, I'd argue that they were one of the comeback teams in the country with a 5 game improvement over 2010, making it a good story.

Temple Football Forever: I think Temple's case was solidified by a 38-7 win at Maryland that could have EASILY been 45-0. Addazio took three knees on the Maryland 1 to end the game after putting his third-team defense in on the prior series, allowing Maryland to score. Addazio has been Mr. Nice Guy, maybe to his detriment. He's had three backup quarterbacks play in shutout wins without any of them

Over The Pylon: To be honest, there is no good argument for BSU to make a Bowl game unless we’re one of only four teams who are eligible and there are four spots to fill. While there would be the angle of redemption if they approach it from the undefeated-to-dog-shit-to-not-bad angle, there really isn’t a redeeming quality for the Cardinals. We don’t travel well, there isn’t a large national following, and as we’ve seen with MAC teams in the past, financial issues with bowls makes the Cardinals not a really attractive sort of participant. However, that may be the case at most every other MAC school as well, I just don’t have the intimate knowledge of every other school’s situation like I do with the Cards.

Eagle Totem: I’m currently projecting Toledo and Temple as the MAC Championship Game participants, both of whom will get bids. Ohio, Northern Illinois, EMU, and Ball State also look likely to be bowl-eligible. If I had to guess, I’d say that Northern Illinois will be the third team picked and EMU will be fourth, based partly on the "feel-good story" of the first bowl trip in 24 years. Ohio will get the fifth MAC bid if there is one — I think there will be — while Ball State will be bowl-eligible but stuck in Muncie for the holidays.

MACLaughlin: If the Eagles hit Eight wins it will be all but impossible to move them the the fourth team. This has nothing to do with them deserving it more than Ball State, for example, its about the better story and publicity.

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Issue Number Six:  Take off your shoes and stay awhile. It's looking more and more like either (a) Temple won't be going to the Big East or (b) there won't be a big east football space to even invite Temple. Is the MAC, even with UMass and Temple, a stable football conference for the next year or two?

Temple Football Forever: I think the MAC is stable, with or without Temple or UMass. I don't think UMass is going anywhere.

Falcon Blog: For a year or two?  Yes, I think the MAC is stable for a year or two. Eventually, the big boys are going to force all the mid majors into dropping into FCS or they will form their own non-NCAA football association and then keep all the money for themselves.  That could take longer than two years, but I think that's where everything is going.  There would be worse things for the MAC than this.

Let's Go Rockets: The jury is still out on whether UMass and Temple are permanent members of the MAC. The rumor mill has slowed down, but it may never go away. The MAC will be stable because at least one team, if not two or three will win a big out of conference game. With the surge of the EMU Eagles, the apocalypse might be coming

Eagle Totem: In the short-term, I think UMass and Temple make the MAC less stable. They’re football-only members that don’t really meet the institutional or geographical (particularly UMass) profile of the rest of the conference, and they cause problems with the East-West divisional breakdown. But, aside from that, and even with that, because the rest of the MAC has so much in common, the worst I see happening is that one or both of those schools might leave at some point.

Over The Pylon: I think the MAC is pretty well set, even if Temple leaves. Worst case, they go somewhere else and we’re at the same 13 teams we have now. Best case, they don’t and we finally have a balanced even number of teams. Both things are fine with me, and honestly, the fact that we’re stable is a good indicator of where we’re at as a conference. It isn’t that schools are loyal to the MAC or there’s some great reason to stay, it’s more like no one wants anyone in it. You don’t get a lot of credit for being a virgin because no one wants to screw you.

MACLaughlin: The Conference has limped along for new

7) Rank'em

Points Total OTP ET TFF FB LGR
5 Toledo Toledo Toledo Toledo Toledo Toledo
14 NIU NIU NIU Temple NIU Temple
17 Temple EMU Temple WMU Ohio NIU
23 Ohio BSU EMU Ohio BGSU Ohio
30 EMU Temple Ohio NIU Temple BSU
31 BSU Ohio BSU EMU BSU WMU
31 WMU WMU BGSU BGSU WMU BGSU
33 BGSU BGSU WMU CMU EMU CMU
47 Miami Miami Miami Miami Buffalo EMU
50 CMU Buffalo Buffalo BSU Miami Miami
61 Buffalo CMU Akron Buffalo CMU Buffalo
62 Akron Akron CMU Kent Kent Kent
62 Kent Kent Kent Akron Akron Akron
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