1 - There is a definite perception that the MAC has gotten over the slump that set in half way through the last decade. NIU crashed the BCS party, Several MAC teams ranked at different points in the season, and a spell of respectable out of conference wins. Does what happened in 2012 have some staying power?
Hustle Belt - Yes and no. Of course, last year was huge. Between the mid-season upsets, the numerous rankings, and NIU, it was a great year for the MAC. However, with realignment severely hampering the Big East/American conference's image (not that it already wasn't great to begin with, but still. . .), half of last year's upsets will lose their luster. Beating UConn, Rutgers, and Cincinnati will no longer be as great. But still, they'll be good wins.
Ultimately, it will depend on how well the MAC can keep churning out coaches, or more importantly, keeping them. In the past couple seasons, the conference has produced Jerry Kill, Tim Beckman, Darrell Hazell, Dave Doeren, Butch Davis, Brady Hoke, and Mike Haywood (poor guy). None of those guys have stayed, yet Dan Enos, Jeff Quinn, and Ron English still have jobs. But if the MAC can keep producing quality coaches, and they can continue to build the programs, the MAC could become the best non-AQ conference in a couple years (over that pesky Mountain West Conference).
Falcon Blog - That is the real question. I think the MAC did emerge from the slump last year and finally had a good product on the field. At the same time, though, in the past there have been bigger upsets and BCS wins--especially during the last heyday--and there is still some room to grow. To me, the question is whether programs have been set on to a sustainable course, one that can survive after losing star players and coaches. For example, contrast the post-LeFevour/Kelly/Jones CMU Chips with the post-Harnisch/Novak NIU Huskies. In my opinion, OU, Toledo and NIU can be confidently said to have this rolling right now. I think BG and Ball State are in the docket but it would remain to be seen how they would survive a coaching change. Kent is probably in the same boat. Miami should be able to sustain success. As for the others..Buffalo, UMass, Akron, and EMU have never sustained success in this conference and remain question marks until they do. Finally, WMU is a total wild card. PJ Fleck is either the next Urban Meyer or a dangerous lunatic.
Eagle Totem - There’s staying power in perception only if there’s staying power on the field. In 2013, it’s a what-have-you-done-lately world, and you’re only as good as your most recent showing. Notre Dame was undefeated in the regular season last year, but after getting shellacked by ‘Bama in the BCSNCG 42-14, they start this fall down at #14 in the AP poll.
The MAC’s slump is certainly broken, but Northern Illinois’s 31-10 Orange Bowl loss didn’t particularly help the MAC with that whole "respect" thing. Ultimately, the top MAC teams are going to have to put up some non-conference wins. What if, instead of losing by 1 to Iowa, Northern Illinois had defeated them last year, or if Toledo had been able to finish off Arizona? Going back another year, imagine if the Huskies had held on against Kansas, if Toledo had held on against Ohio State. And remember this?
Put a few of those what-ifs together and you have something that starts to look serious. You have NIU ending back-to-back seasons ranked, and probably have Toledo achieving mid-season rankings in back-to-back years as well.
Instead, we had a Northern Illinois team that lost to 4-8 Iowa and, for their signature non-conference win, beat 1-11 Kansas. We had a Kent State squad that beat Big East Co-Champions, but lost to Kentucky, and ended the season with a pair of close losses on the national stage.
If this looks like I’m blaming the good MAC teams…well, to an extent I am. The SEC is perceived as the best conference in football based on the top several teams (Alabama, LSU, Florida, Texas A&M, etc.). Those top teams have done so well that few fans care that Kentucky and Auburn combined for three FBS wins. In other words, EMU, Akron, and UMass can continue to struggle, but the conference can be respected if the top teams do just a little more.
2 - On the Bowl Picture - The MAC looks to have four Bowls knotted up (Boise, Mobile, Montgomery, and The Bahamas). There are rumors that a fifth Bowl, likely the replacement to the Little Ceasers Bowl, will be coming out soon. How has the MAC front office done?
Let's go Rockets - While it’s important to secure spots for MAC teams to be featured in bowl games, it appears to us that it’s quality, not quantity, that really matters. We would rather see pairings with high quality opponents for a fewer number of very strong MAC teams than seeing half the conference get placed against weaker teams and run the risk of a poor showing. The proper way to showcase the conference is to get our 3-4 best teams out in the spotlight against strong opponents. This is our best chance to improve the perception of the MAC and really spotlight our talented teams and athletes. - See more at: http://www.letsgorockets.com/?p=13625#sthash.dldmGCzG.dpuf
Hustle Belt - On a strictly football standpoint, good. Losing the LCPB was a crushing blow. Losing the closest bowl game to our homes is always tough. Replacing that 1 game with 2 or 3? Win. Guarantee that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th (or 6th) MAC team gets a guaranteed spot in post-season play whereas before, 8-4 Temple sits a home having beat an 8-4 UConn who plays in the Fiesta Bowl. Bowls suck. Lets not have this happen again. Ever.
Falcon Blog loves the Job done by the MAC front office..
Falcon Blog - Look, say what you like about the MAC leadership, but for right now I think they are on a pretty good roll in football. The level of play is higher, we survived conference re-alignment essentially untouched, and the league is maintaining its bowl connections.
This last one is a less accomplishment, even if you are willing to admit that the whole system is meshugenah. With so many bowls, they need us. Anyway, I think the MAC leadership is getting results in football.
Eagle Totem - We’ve had significant improvement in the bowl situation since Temple got left home with an 8-4 record in 2010. In 2011, the only bowl-eligible MAC team passed over was 6-6 Ball State (EMU was 6-6 but not eligible because two of those wins were over FCS teams — only one such win can be counted toward bowl eligibility), and in 2012 all seven bowl-eligible teams got bids. The expansion to four — and possibly five — primary bowl tie-ins only strengthens that.
The next frontier for the MAC office is to improve the league’s television contracts. Money matters, and TV is money in while bowls are usually money out.
3 - Ok onto football Which MAC team has the best shot at a meaningful upset this week? Which MAC team is most likely to suffer a shameful loss? Why?
Hustle Belt NOTE: I do not count NIU over Iowa as an upset given where both teams are. If it is an upset, is it truly that meaningful? Really? If I had to say which MAC team could beat a top 25 team, it'd be Toledo over Florida. Yes, the game is in The Swamp. Yes, Florida's defense was amazing last year. But Florida's offense stunk. Even in the SEC, they were royally bad as shown by their Sugar Bowl performance when a good, not great Louisville team smashed the Gators. So, Toledo.
As for the loss, I'm really tempted to go with Eastern Michigan. Looking through the games, the following teams wouldn't be shamed too much in a loss: WMU (@ MSU), Ohio (@ Louisville), Toledo, Akron (@ UCF), Buffalo (@ OSU), and CMU (@ Michigan). Barring blowout losses, Miami, BGSU, and NIU should be fine as well. That leaves Ball State (vs Illinois State), Kent State (vs Liberty) and EMU (vs Howard). Kent State should take care of business easily. Ball State should win too, but a loss to a decent ISU team wouldn't be too shameful as a whole.
If EMU were to lose to Howard, it would create a string of horrible jokes about the Eagles' futility that wouldn't end until (a) Ron English was fired almost on the spot or within 3 weeks, (b) EMU had another decent season and, (c) Akron or UMass struggled and lost their own FCS game. No team has more to lose in my opinion from an image standpoint, especially given their attendance issues.
Bull Run Note - No jokes would be created, they are all ready out there.
Falcon Blog - Well, depending on what you mean by meaningful (is it NIU beating Iowa? I wonder). Anyway, I don't believe Buffalo, CMU, WMU and UMASS have real shots. The best shot at a real upset (beating Marshall doesn't count either) is OU at Louisville. I also believe that under the right circumstances, UT has a shot at beating the Gators. As for the ignominious defeat, let's say it would be if Howard beat EMU.
Eagle Totem - The first step toward answering that question is, of course, identifying potential upsets and shameful losses. Wins by Akron over Central Florida, Western Michigan over Michigan State, Buffalo over Ohio State, Massachusetts over Wisconsin, Toledo over Florida, Central Michigan over Michigan, and Ohio over Louisville would all be meaningful upsets; losses by Kent State to Liberty, Ball State to Illinois State, and Eastern Michigan to Howard would be shameful. Northern Illinois at Iowa and Miami at Marshall should be reasonably balanced.
Of the meaningful upsets, I think Ohio over Louisville may be the most likely. The Cardinals are a fairly one-dimensional team (Teddy Bridgewater) and possibly a bit overrated at #9, and they lost to two mid-Big East teams last year, only defeating a single ranked team. On the other side, Ohio under Frank Solich always seems to start their season strong. As for losses, Liberty finished 2012 strong, winning six of their final seven games, and Turner Gill certainly knows how to win games against MAC teams. Illinois State is also a dangerous FCS team, but I have a good amount of confidence in Pete Lembo to have his team ready — much more than I have in Paul Haynes.
4 - Aside from your team what is the game of the week and why?
Hustle Belt - NIU vs Iowa, and it's a no-brainer. Jordan Lynch and Company looking to avenge their lone regular season loss on the road at Kinnick Stadium where a 7-6 CMU team won last year. Iowa and Kirk Ferentz are fighting to stay relevant in the Big Ten and a loss to Iowa would be horrible. If NIU can win this one, and then beat Purdue 3 weeks later, they would be set up perfectly to bust the BCS again.
Falcon Blog - Aside from BG and Tulsa (which might be the game of the weekend), I'm going to go with NIU-Iowa. Iowa may not be good, but any win over a Big 10 team is a feather in the MAC's CAP.
Eagle Totem - Two MAC games this weekend stand head and shoulders above the rest: Northern Illinois at Iowa and Ohio at Louisville. In my estimation, each one is a winnable game that could clear the way for a MAC team to run the table and become a potential BCS buster in the final year of that system. Northern Illinois at Iowa is a more likely win, but coming on a moderately crowded Thursday night (17 games) and against a relatively weak opponent (Iowa finished at the bottom of the Leaders Division last year, and is expected to be about the same this year. On the other hand, Ohio at Louisville is one of just two games this Sunday, the only game in its time slot, and the only game featuring a top-25 team, but the Cardinals will certainly make a much tougher opponent than the Hawkeyes. In the end, although they’ll both be big games, I have to go with Northern Illinois. Iowa is not a great team, but Kinnick Stadium is always a tough venue to visit.