It Bull Run's second time of the season hosting the round table so I thought I would break out my once a year John McLaughlin imitation. That's right it's the return of the MAC-Laughlin group
This weeks panel is populated by:
Issue Number: One MAC-Laughlin - The MAC's standard barer, Northern Illinois, has busted back into the top 25. Should the Huskies manage a second trip into the BCS bowl scene does that mean the MAC has proved itself as strong as any Group of five conferences.
Hustle Belt: I think they do finish in the top 12. They would have two wins over BCS schools (albeit against Iowa and Purdue, but still), late wins over good teams in Toledo and Ball State, and a win over the MAC East Champion (presumably Ohio). Hell, we could even see something like the 2008 season where two non-AQ teams finish in the top 10 of the BCS (OK, so TCU and Boise State finished top 5, but still). Either way, if NIU stays focused, another BCS bowl should be theirs for the taking.
As for what it would mean, let's start for the program. Suddenly, NIU becomes the "Boise State of the Midwest" with two BCS Bowl games. They rival the best of the Mountain West (if they can keep up the strong play in the post-Lynch years), and should the American regress like we expect it to, they are fighting for the "Group of 5" bid in the playoffs. They could also be poached by the Big Ten or Big 12 really easily, although the latter seems more likely even with the odd geographies.
For the conference? Well, it would be nice, but let's go back to the Boise State example. The WAC was just awful otherwise, with occasional challenges from Nevada, Fresno State (once or twice), and Hawaii (under June Jones only). Hence, the conference was never taken seriously. The MAC would need more strong teams to fully rival the American or Mountain West as the powerhouse non-AQ conference. But, putting one representative in the big picture is a start.
Falcon Blog: I think NIU could easily end up in the Top 12 again. They are far from out of the woods--they have to play Ball and UT and those will be very tough games. Having said that, they certainly appear to be a very, very good team. A second straight trip to a BCS bowl would be great for #MACtion and maybe NIU would be able to do the unexpected in their second game. They played the game tough last year, so maybe with a year under their belt, they could make it happen. Either way, good for the MAC.
Eagle Totem: Your question draws attention to a likely problem for Northern Illinois — and any other non-AQ BCS hopefuls this year. Last year the Huskies got an assist from the Big East, whose conference champion, Louisville, finished the year at #21 in the BCS rankings. This matters because the highest-ranked champion of a non-AQ conference gets an automatic berth if they’re ranked in the top 12, or if they’re ranked in the top 16 and higher than at least one AQ conference champion. To put it another way, if the Big East had been less terrible last year, Northern Illinois would not have gone to the Orange Bowl.
At this point, it seems most likely that none of the AQ conference champions will finish below #12 — current leaders are #1/1 Alabama, #2/2 Oregon, #3/4 Clemson, #4/3 Ohio State, #8/8 Louisville, and #12/10 Oklahoma. So in all likelihood, Northern Illinois not only needs to push ahead of Fresno State in the polls, but finish the year ranked #12 or higher. To get there the Huskies probably need to go undefeated and have no more than one or two close finishes.
If they can manage it, of course it would be huge for Northern Illinois. From a conference perspective, the only thing better than the Huskies breaking into the BCS in back-to-back years would be a different MAC team making it, but the other likely candidates have probably already blown any shot they might have had.
Over The Pylon - It’s a question that I think has an invalid premise, because OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU isn’t going to win out. They have a date with destiny on November 13th. And by "destiny", I mean "destruction". I’m serious. It’s going to be epic. My only hope is they win out until then, so the defeat will be that much sweeter. Much like the Dementors at Hogwarts, I thrive on ridding people of their joy and happiness. It’s like fuel to my soul. (And yes, that’s a Harry Potter reference. Trying to get in that virgin nerd demographic like whoa.)
MAC-Laughlin - NIU Waved bye bye to Ball State in 2009.
When the Bulls cut down Cards in their prime BSU was left without the fortitude, or the gonads, to beat Northern Illinois.
Since then the cards are 0-4 against the Huskies. When UB While BSU is a great team I would not start dusting off that spot for the Bronze Stalk trophy just yet, it may be staying in Dekalb.
With a quality win against Ball State NIU will continue to climb in the polls.
Issue Number Two: MAC-Laughlin - Treadwell gets the Ax and Quinn gets an extension. Ron English is still coasting at EMU while WMU fans are calling for flecks head. Is a big part of the problem for the poor performing MAC football schools tied to their expectations?
Falcon Blog: I don't believe so. I mean, if Treadwell loses his job at 3-2 we have an expectation problem but at 0-5? That's a performance problem. I believe that every program can expect a coach to make the team competitive in the MAC. Since 2000, 6 current MAC members have won the conference and 5 additional teams have played in the title game. That is 11 out of 13--and UMass is new, so it is 11 out of 12. There is no place n the MAC where having a competitive team is not a realistic expectation--least of all Miami.
Over The Pylon: No, a big problem with MAC football programs is when they think they are a football school and they aren’t. I appreciate Miami’s "Cradle of Coaches" song and dance, but those days are done. The rest of the MAC has stepped their game up and everyone is pitching a "Come be noticed" kind of sale. They should stick to what they know… QBs getting a little handsy in a bathroom stall.
Really, what’s complicating their problem is that the people they have hired (a la English, Quinn, Treadwell, etc.) I wouldn’t trust to coach a three-car funeral, much less my football team. MAC coaches are by nature a crap shoot. Sometimes you have all the pedigree in the world and you end up being a failure. Other times, you’re a relative unknown and you end up being someone most people would name a child after. Coaching in general is a gamble, but in the MAC, it’s even more so, and that’s what makes it fun. Sure, anyone can be monogamous and live a quiet life like a BCS AQ school picking up a coordinator from a fellow "name" program. In the MAC, we’re trolling the casino buffets mid-morning looking for afternoon delights that we can’t bother with trivial things like protection or first names. Sometimes, you hit it big. Other times, you die of the AIDS. That’s just how it goes.
Hustle Belt: Possibly. That and money. When you see EMU not win in forever, and sign anyone as their coach, AND have nobody at their games, there is no way you can fire a coach and afford his buyout and a decent new coach. It is probably a similar thing at the other smaller schools. I mean, Akron did fire Ianello after 2 seasons as well too. I don't know. Blame the ADs?
MAC-Laughlin: It is indeed a problem for the Conference that many of the poorer football teams suffer a losing coach for far too long. Miami fired Treadwell, Ball State parted with the dumpster fire that was Stan Parrish (who cant coach his way through a game of ten yard fight). Already in Kalamazoo fans are tiring of PJ Flecks act, and if Fleck only wins a couple of games this year and next he will be gone as well. Even Dan Enos, who took his team to a Bowl last year, is in danger.
It's hard to balance stability versus performance but it's easy to see that three years of losing should not be rewarded with a fourth year of coaching.
Issue Number Three: MAC-Laughlin - Will there be any earthquakes in the conference this week? Off all the games coming up this week in the MAC which one should give us the best indication of how each division, and the conference will play out.
Over the Pylon: Honestly, this whole week of MAC play gets a collective "Woof" from me for a slate of games that I can’t imagine tell us anything. That, of course, changes if there’s a massive upset of BSU, NIU, or Toledo, but if I knew in advance one of those things would happen, I wouldn’t be writing this blog, I’d be in Vegas. Betting on games. And trolling the aforementioned buffets. I think this is a very status quo weekend in the MAC and that’s ok. I want OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU to be fat, drunk, and happy when their time comes.
Hustle Belt: Pick one? Well my obvious choice is Kent State at Ball State. The question basically asks for a cross-over game, with this game being the only one that should look somewhat respectable (Akron @ NIU, UB @ WMU, CMU @ Ohio the others). Akron, WMU, and CMU are bad. Two are on the road, and Buffalo should run all over the Broncos. Meanwhile, Kent State seems to have found their offense again with the return of Dri Archer and go against a suspect defense in Ball State. Keith Wenning is a monster, but will face a decent defense in the Golden Flashes. Get yo' pop-corn ready! Upset alert!
We'll see if Kent State is ready to throw a monkey wrench in the MAC East picture despite a shaky, tough start. We'll see if Ball State can truly contend with NIU for the MAC West Title. We'll see so much more stemming downward. It should be that ideal game.
Eagle Totem: At the top of the conference, the game to watch is Kent State at Ball State. Another loss would drop the Golden Flashes to 1-3, all but ending any hope they might still have of repeating as MAC East Division champions. Bowling Green at Mississippi State may also be interesting, but obviously will have less bearing on the actual conference race.
But for all that, the most interesting game of the week is probably Miami at Massachusetts, in a matchup of what may be the two worst teams in the last four years of MAC football — you have to go back to EMU’s 0-12 2009 season to find another team that might be this bad. Mix in the off-field drama of Don Treadwell being fired from Miami after just two-and-a-half seasons, and UMass’s Charlie Molnar coming under fire from both faculty and program alumni, and you’ve got the makings of a fascinating, if appallingly bad, game.
Falcon Blog: The conference schedule this week suck's a dog's ass. Frankly, I don't think any game this week will tell us very much.
MAC-Laughlin: This is indeed a dog rear sucking week. But in the spirit of trying to turns lemons into lemonade here is what everyone has to prove.
Eastern Michigan - Can prove that Ron English is safe until the season is over if they leave West Point with a loss which looks anything like the other games they have played this season.
Ohio - The Bobcats can prove that the Central Michigan Dynasty is not only gone, but long forgotten. CMU can prove they may not rise again with Enos at the helm.
Buffalo - Can prove Row Boats don't win football games. Jeff Quinn can prove certain bloggers calling for his head after week three were a bit premature.
Miami - Can prove they were right to fire Treadwell. UMass can prove they are not the worst team in the MAC for the second straight year.
Kent State - Can prove that Dri Archer does indeed make all the difference.
NIU - Well they actually have nothing to prove this week. Short of a loss to Akron this game will reveal nothing.
Bowling Green - The Falcons can prove the disaster against Indian was a fluke by winning, or even by playing Mississippi State tight.