It's my turn to host the round table again and that means its time for the MACLaughlin Group. This week we have Temple Football Forever, Falcon Blog, Let's go Rockets, Eagle Totem, and Over The Pylon... so away we go:
MACLaughlin - Issue number one: Who is the best of the rest? In the MAC there are five teams who are all bowl elidgable and running away with the conference there are two others who cling the slim hope of a bowl birth. With it looking like htere will be under 72 Bowl elidgable teams nation wide there is a very good chance that six wins gets you a Bowl game. Looking at the remaing schedule which one of the teams still fighting for that sixth win will be playing football in december?
Falcon Blog: I'm going to say that Kent does not make it. They actually have 5 losses, but I think they lose to OU and beating both Army and @WMU is unlikely. (Side note: the Kent front 7 against the Army Run-Only attack has the potential to be a very interesting matchup).
Western could win out and get to 6 wins. They have EMU and Kent at home, each of which I like their chances in, and then they finish at BG, which you'd have to think they have a better than even chance of winning. These late season games for teams not in the title hunt are very tricky to pick though, because you don't know how much people will show up.
Let's go Rockets: We don’t see either team making a bowl game this year. WMU has a good chance of winning out beating EMU, Kent and BGSU but that won’t be enough to get to a bowl game. Even if they do win out, 3 MAC losses will not equal a bowl game. Kent has Army, WMU and Ohio on their schedule – all games they could lose. Neither team is going to earn a bowl berth this season.
Eagle Totem: A lot of it will come down to the game between these two teams. The loser of that game will probably be eliminated from bowl-eligibility, while the winner might still have a shot. If I had to put numbers on it, I’d say there’s a 1% chance of both teams becoming eligible. There’s about a 65% chance of neither becoming bowl-elibigle, a 30% chance of just Kent State becoming bowl-eligible, a 25% chance of just Western Michigan becoming bowl-eligible, and a 1% chance of both becoming bowl-eligible. Yeah, I know that adds up to 121%. Deal with it.
OTP: I think a bigger question is whether or not a 6-6 MAC team will actually be invited to participate in a Bowl, and the answer is "of course not". For the actual question, though, I’ll say WMU has a better chance of hitting up 6-6.
TFF: I think WMU slips in there because one of the other conference tie-in bowls will have non-qualifiers. Plus, I like Bill Cubit.
MACLaughlin: The answer is Neither. Western Michigan has been way too inconsistent this year to pull off three straight wins. The loss against CMU sealed their fate. Kent will finish 6-6 but be left out.
Issue number two: Which MAC coaches will graduate and which will be sent to detention? In the past two years three coaches from the MAC have "moved up". Brady Hoke in 2008 and Turner Gill / Butch Jones in 2009. Which Coach or Coaches more out in 2010. Also which coaches get tossed on the garbage heap of failed and fired MAC coaches.
Falcon Blog: Moving up: Al Golden, Jerry Kill. Moving out: Doug Martin, Bill Cubit
LGR: We don’t predict any MAC coaches to move on. With Temple in the talks to move to the Big East, Al Golden will stay put and to try and ride that wave. Though he probably should, Stan Parrish has dug Ball State into a deep hole, but he won’t be let go, at least this season.
Eagle Totem: The most likely MAC coach to get a "promotion" is surely Jerry Kill. He’s got the Huskies competing at a high level in his third year at Northern Illinois, and this is his seventeenth season as a head coach. At 49 he’s also reasonably young (yes, he got his first collegiate head coaching job at age 32!), so he’s got time to take on a project. The only possible concern I see is that he has a history of health problems, including seizures on the sideline of a game in 2005 (he was subsequently diagnosed with kidney cancer) and a hospitaliztion for dehydration this fall. But all in all, if I were an AD at a top-tier football school, and you told me to hire a MAC coach to lead the program, I’d try to get Coach Kill.
OTP: I can’t see any coach getting fired this season. As for who moves on, I also don’t see anyone really heading anywhere. No one is doing a kick ass enough job, though Al Golden probably could make a case, but something tells me he isn’t going to be leaving Temple in the near future. The next few years for the Owls could be extremely good, and they may be one of the schools poached when the Big East expands.
TFF: Everybody will come asking Al Golden (Minnesota, Colorado) but those aren't the areas in Al's recruiting footprint. I think he would be extremely uncomfortable recruiting there. Some pretty influential PSU backers have let Al know he's president's Graham Spanier's top choice as replacement for Joe in one or two years. He can stay put at Temple for that move, plus Temple sweetened the pot by raising his salary from 575K to $1.2 mil. That's a pretty damn sweet pot.
MACLaughlin: Jerry Kill will get an offer and, if its sweet enough, will be departing NIU this season.
Issue Number Three: Those were the days! Right now three MAC teams are getting votes in various polls (NIU, Temple, and Ohio). Is the MAC finally starting to upswing off of the (real or perceived) fall off from 2004-2009?
TFF: Only Bowl wins will tell. I see NIU and Temple winning bowl games this year.
OTP: I think it’s only going to be perceived as an upswing if it’s continual with one particular team. If Temple, NIU and Ohio can maintain this success then they could become the next Marshall, which elevates the conference as a whole. Additionally, having winless teams doesn’t help. The rising tide of a great program will hopefully lift all the boats.
LGR: It might be an upswing, or teams are losing left and right once they enter the poll. Though those teams are getting votes in the polls, they aren’t quite there yet to actually be ranked. That won’t happen until they schedule tougher out of conference games and win them consistently.
Eagle Totem: I think the difference this season has been that the MAC has four percieved teams clustered at the top, rather than a single dominant team (or even a single dominant team in each division). So even if voters considered a MAC team, which would they consider? Now that Northern Illinois owns convincing wins over both Temple and Toledo, and the memory of their two non-conference losses has faded behind a seven-game winning streak, I think they are starting to gain more attention. In particular, their 65-30 pounding of a good Toledo team on national television should push them into the next set of top-25 rankings.
Falcon Blog: First of all, the downswing was real....I don't think there is much debate. Now, as for any upswing, I'm not convinced of that yet. I watched NIU last night, however, and I was very impressed. That is a good MAC team that could have competed with a lot of teams over the past 10 years. There are still very few real upsets--the MAC has only 3 wins over BCS teams (Temple over UConn, NIU over MN, and UT over Purdue) and none of those against teams having great seasons.
I do think the conference is getting a little deeper. UT and OU are probably better than the #3 and #4 teams in recent years.
To believe there is an upswing, I'm going to need to see some bowl wins.
MACLaughlin: This years success may be the beginning of a period of parity between the divisions which will lead to a better conference. With two strong teams in each Division the MAC will be more compelling to watch.
Issue number four: 2010 in sixty seconds! If you had just one minute to describe this years Mid American Conferece Football season what one story would best communicate the year? Which player, team, or mascot's news headline is most representative of the conference as a whole.
TFF: I think Mike Gerardi defines the MAC. With him, there's no doubt in my mind Temple goes 10-0 so far. No doubt.
It's shocking to me that Golden stayed with Chester Stewart out of loyalty and hurt his team's chance at true greatness. But Al is a stubborn guy so I admire his change of heart/head as much as I'm shaking my freaking head (smfh is the facebook abbreviation) over sticking with a guy who couldn't complete a play-action pass to save his life.
OTP: Unfortunately, the lack of success by certain programs has defined the conference for the worse. People point to Akron and EMU and the fall off of Ball State as some sort of indictment of the conference as a whole. It’s totally ridiculous, but it is what it is.
Eagle Totem: A few schools (e.g. EMU) aside, we’ve seen the conference get jumbled and even flipped upside down. No team typifies that more than Central Michigan. After bowl trips for the last four years, and MAC championships three of those four years, the Chippewas are 2-7 against FBS opponents this year and are currently in fifth place in the MAC West Division. They did manage to win the Michigan MAC Trophy for the third year in the row, which I guess just shows the meaninglessness of that award.
Let's Go Rockets: Bandwagon defines the MAC. A team wins and suddenly they’re the best in the conference. Are they the best team? Maybe, maybe not. First it was Temple. Every one was in love with Temple. They lose to NIU and suddenly everyone is in love with NIU. Toledo would love to play North Dakota, Minnesota, Akron and Buffalo in one season, a combined 6-32.
Falcon Blog: I'm going to say Miami, and for one reason. The story of the MAC is a story of non-permanence. No program has shown the ability to sustain excellence beyond the presence of a specific coach or star player or hot recruiting class. Miami was dreadful last year, and competing for the East title this year with a very young team. UT is also very young and very good. This is a conference in constant upheaval, and Miami represents that. (So, in their way, does CMU).
MACLaughlin: Two sub 500 teams battling for a potential at large Bowl bid defines the MAC this season. In previous years there was so much separation at the top that the lower tier battles had implications on the auto tie ins. This year NIU, Temple, Ohio, and Toledo had the high ground on the MAC's Auto Bids weeks ago.
Issue number Five: So how would you rank the MAC right now?
Issues number six: Better Luck Next year? with the season winding down its time to start thinking about which of this years ugly ducklings are going ot be next years Swans.