It's time for the MAC bloggers round table. It's a weekly Q&A with mangers of some of the most active Mid American Conference Blogs out there.
This season the following Blog's take place
Eagle Totem: Eastern Michigan
Falcon Blog: Bowling Green
Let's Go Rockets: Toledo
Temple Football Forever: Temple
The Chip Report: Central Michigan
Getting this together in week one is always a challenge. Many of the writers contributing are scrambling to get their own sites ready for kickoff so I'd like to thank them all for coming through!
1) There are several new coaches in the conference, which coach was the best get and why?
Eagle Totem: Don Treadwell was easily the best get. After Michigan State’s success last year, and especially his performance as interim head coach against Wisconsin, I think Treadwell was on a lot of head coach watch-lists, and if the Spartans perform as expected this fall and if Treadwell had stayed, he could have found himself interviewing for AQ program head coach positions this winter.
Falcon Blog: Darrell Hazell. If Hazell had stayed around, I think he'd be coaching the Scarlet and Grey, and I think there's a decent chance he will be next year. I like Hazell to effect an immediate improvement in an under performing team.
Let's Go Rockets: We think Steve Addazio is probably the best pick up in the round of new coaches in the MAC. He has surrounded himself was a staff that has the best chance to position Temple to be successful in the next few years. Hard to say if it’ll take some time for him/them to get up to speed but we think the pickup will pay dividends down the road.
Temple Football Forever: I don't think that's possible to tell now but, hypothetically, the best coach should surround himself with the best staff. If that's the most important thing, it's hard to argue against Steve Addazio and Temple. Chuck Heater was the defensive coordinator for Utah went it went 11-0. He was the co-defensive coordinator for Florida last year. Urban Meyer called him "Mother Theresa because he's been a miracle-worker for us." Scot (one T) Loeffler is the new offensive coordinator. He was quarterbacks coach at Michigan for Tom Brady. He was QB coach at Florida for Tim Tebow. If Daz lets these coaches coach and he takes over the motivation, these SEC coaches are the best in the MAC.
The Chip Report: When start talking about who will have the most success you have to consider the position the team is in when the new coach takes over. That’s why my pick as the "best get" has to be Dave Doeren at Northern Illinois. Doeren was Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator before taking over and had plenty of success both recruiting and coaching with that position. He also inherits a team that many have winning the MAC West in 2011.
NIU has the ability to run the football and stop the run which is usually a recipe for success and Doeren should find the transition to the head man rather pleasant.
2) Which current coach is the most likely to be dumped after the season and which is most likely to be plucked away by a big AQ school?
Eagle Totem: He won’t be dumped, but I think Frank Solich may announce his retirement this year — though the retirement might not actually occur for a few more years. The only other coach who’s been around more than three years is Bill Cubit, entering his seventh season as head coach of Western Michigan. Cubit has never gotten the Broncos over the hump — they’ve twice finished second in the West and lost their bowl — but unless this season goes really badly, I think they’ll give him one more year.
I’m never going to predict a second-year coach getting hired away, though as we saw with Michael Haywood, it does happen. The third-year coaches are Dave Clawson (Bowling Green), Ron English (EMU), and Tim Beckman (Toledo). I think Clawson and English will do well enough to keep their jobs for another year, but barring miracle seasons, will not get any interest from other schools. Beckman seems to have Toledo turned around nicely, and I think a lot of athletic directors will be watching him closely this year.
Falcon Blog: You know....I have a shocking prediction. No MAC coach will be fired after this season. How about that? The only one I can see is Cubit, but the other coaches are all pretty new. Almost every coach in the conference is in their first three years.
Let's Go Rockets: Unless Ron English can chalk up some more wins with EMU, we think he might be on his way out. We’ve argued time and time again that a coach needs adequate time to install his schemes and get his players in the pipe-line, but at some point, you need to win a few game to secure your stay. In 2010, EMU won 2 games which is 2 games more than they won in 2009 (English’s first year), but unless they can hold that trend and move to 4+ wins this season, time may be short for English.
Our fears are that Tim Beckman gets the call from a big AQ school and is tempted away from the Toledo program. The resurgence that he has spurred at UT in his short time with the program has been dramatic and there’s no reason to believe that the transformation will stop this season. After proving himself a capable coach and recruiter, Beckman will be the most likely choice to be called up to the next tier.
TFF: I think Ron English is most likely to be dumped. I think Frank Solich gets another chance at an AQ school.
The Chip Report: Bill Cubit has to be on the hot seat in Kalamazoo. The Western Michigan Broncos have had winning seasons but have also not met expectations when they were expected to be good. He also has failed to beat their rivals, Central Michigan in the last 5 tries. With an expiring contract looming, this could be the perfect time to cut ties with the underachieving front man.
Toledo head coach Tim Beckman has to be the obvious choice for bigger and better things. He has really taken that program to the next level. That being said, Beckman seems comfortable and just inked a new deal so he may not be packing his bags for greener pastures just yet…
3) Which somewhat realistically winnable non-conference game would give the MAC the most publicity? What are the odds of the MAC team winning that game?
Eagle Totem: Several MAC teams have winnable games against AQ-conference foes. Miami should have a fair shot at beating Minnesota, and I can easily imagine Ohio beating Rutgers. I think Northern Illinois may have a fair shot against Kansas also. If all three win, it should go a long way toward MAC football gaining national respect.
Falcon Blog: The best opportunity will come on September 16, 2011, when the UT Rockets play the Boise State Broncos. Boise is the darling of everyone's eye, and they have a legit shot at making the BCS game this year. In fact, in a lot of ways, they have an odds-on shot. For this to work, they need to beat Georgia in the opener, and then head to UT. The Rockets are very tough at home, have a solid team, and the place will be rocking. How about the Rockets be the ones to take Boise out of contention?
LGR: There are several high profile non-conference games which could be winnable by the MAC teams involved. Two games stand out as legit shots for the MAC to take care of business: Miami / Minnesota and Toledo / Syracuse. In our estimation, if the MAC team shows up ready to play, there isn’t any reason why they can’t win this game. Two more games which may be more interesting that most people are giving credit (at first glance) WMU / Illinois and Toledo / OSU.
TFF: Penn State vs. Temple. 50/50. Last year's game was a 22-13 PSU win before 106,000 in State College. This year's game will be before 70K in Philly (30K Temple fans, 40K PSU fans). Temple is much better this year. I'm sure Chester Stewart won't get a chance to throw three picks like he did last year.
TCR: This might be a dream but I like Toledo against Ohio State this season. Call me crazy (I am a little) but OSU is down and Toledo is up. An upset would be huge for Toledo and just as big for the MAC. That being said I give Toledo only a 15% chance at winning this one but lets dream big.
4) What do you think of the UMass addition and how would you realign the divisions?
Eagle Totem: I’m ambivalent on this point. From a purely football point of view, it’s probably a win for the MAC — Massachusetts is well-positioned to become a minor FBS power, and they might raise the profile of the MAC similar to the way Boise State and TCU raised the profiles of the WAC and Mountain West. The men’s basketball games are also a plus, though I would have liked to see more required basketball games. Ultimately, however, the MAC will succeed or fail on the strength of full members, not single-sport affiliates.
As for divisional alignment, assuming that additional members aren’t forthcoming, the most sensible approach seems to be moving Bowling Green to the West Division for football only. That would work well geographically, keep rivalries intact (making the Peace Pipe a divisional rivalry), and balance the divisions at 7 each. After that, of course, you face the challenge of scheduling two 7-team divisions. If each team plays all six divisional foes, that leaves only two games against teams from the other division, but uneven scheduling within a division has its own set of problems.
Falcon Blog: I'm for it. I know people object to the football-only nature of their membership. Well, OK. But here in the real world, we have to know this. I cannot imagine that either school wants to move all their sports to the MAC---both for competitive reasons and for travel. Both have strong basketball commitments, and the A-10 is a top flight conference. (UMASS plays in the CAA for football.)
And, by the way, do you think the MAC wants to be sending its baseball teams to Amherst, MA. Didn't think so.
It is still good for the MAC. First, if for no other reason, we are getting to an even number of teams, which means 7 in each division, which is logistically much more manageable. And, UMASS can raise the competitive level of the conference, as Temple has and will. It gives us bigger geography.
Is UMASS just using us as a stepping stone, ala Marshall and UCF. Honest to god, who isn't?. We're all in it for ourselves. Who's using who? Got me...
Finally, we will get some solid basketball dates out of UMASS just as we did with Temple.
West: NIU Ball State WMU CMU EMU UT Miami
East: Umass Buffalo Temple Kent Akron BG OU
LGR: The addition of UMass to the MAC has it’s advantages. While creating parity in the divisions is an added bonus, the largest benefit that we can see is the expansion and exposure of the MAC more into the New England markets; both with television exposure and recruiting. As far as divisions go, swapping BGSU to the West (and putting UMass in the East) would make the most sense to us, geographically and with balance while still keeping the UT/BGSU rivalry intact.
TFF: I wish they would have gotten Marshall back instead. It's one thing for Temple fans to drive 4 miles south of the Main campus to a 70K stadium. It's another thing for UMass fans to drive 105 miles from their main campus for games in Gilette Stadium.
TCR: I am luke warm on the addition of UMass—I felt the same way when Temple joined. I think both programs are on the rise but I hate single sport conference entries. Give us those sweet hoops teams and we have a deal!
My conference realignment is non-controversial to say the least but in the MAC, it has to make sense from a logistics stand point.
Akron Buffalo Kent State Miami (OH) Ohio Temple UMass
Bowling Green Ball State Central Michigan Eastern Michigan Northern Illinois Toledo Western Michigan
5) Who wins the East and what is their key game along that journey?
Eagle Totem: My preseason pick a month ago was Miami, and I’m sticking with that. Their key games will be on the road, October 22 at Toledo, and November 22 at Ohio. I’m sure RedHawk fans will also have September 17 circled, when they’ll go to Minneapolis hoping to remind Jerry Kill that, while Minnesota might offer Big Ten pay, their football team is usually MAC quality.
Falcon Blog: Kent wins the East. Their key win is in Athens on October 1.
LGR: We believe Ohio will win the East division. The key games for the Bobcats are November 2nd against Temple, their toughest conference game, and November 22nd against Miami, which could also be a challenge. Even with 1-2 conference losses, Ohio should advance to the MACC.
TFF: Temple. Ohio at Temple. Solich and his read option confounded Golden and Mark D'Onofrio. Heater won't even be fazed by it.
TCR: Ohio wins the East and the biggest match up for them could fall on the last day of the regular season when they play Miami. This game could have the MAC East title on the line.
6) Who wins the West and what is their key game along that journey?
Eagle Totem: Northern Illinois has a slight edge with an easier schedule against the East Division, but again I’m sticking with my pick of Toledo from a month ago. Their key games will both come at home, October 22 against Miami University, and November 1 against Northern Illinois.
Falcon Blog: NIU wins the West. Key win....Glass Bowl, November 1.
LGR: Toledo should win the West division while not overlooking games against Miami and Western Michigan. The Rockets will be tested early in the season with games against Ohio State, Boise State and Syracuse, but, barring any major injuries, should be favored to win the remaining 8 games and advance to the MACC.
TFF: Northern Illinois.
TCR: Toledo wins the MAC West title and their biggest matchup will be NIU. This might be one of the best MAC games all season and if Toledo can win this one, they might be well on the way to a MAC title.
Current MAC Power Rankings: