It's my turn to run the roundtable again so I came up with three questions for the elite members of the MAC Blogosphere.The usual suspect Hustle Belt, Eagle Totem, Over They Pylon, Falcon Blog, and Let's Go Rockets all took turns answering the question. I highly recommended you head to their sites to see every answer.
I felt like the loss to Bowling Green has the potential to be a season defining game for Buffalo. With the season half over out ceiling may have been fixed at runner up in the east and bowl team. I wanted to know how the other writers felt about their programs and the MAC in general.
1 - For most of the MAC the season is half over. Bowing Green/Akron leads the East and Toledo/NIU lead the west how do you think the rest of the season plays out?
Hustle Belt - This is tough. Let's start with the West, because that seems more clear-cut.
Obviously, the Toledo/NIU game is going to decide the MAC West Champion barring something incredible happening to WMU or CMU. 3rd place is going to be settled in Mt. Pleasant when WMU heads to face the Chippewas in my opinion as well. Ball State and EMU will bring up the rear in that order. I think the home team takes both of the deciding games above, meaning NIU, Toledo, CMU will finish at the top half of the West in that order.
In the East, you have a mess. I think BG, Buffalo, and Akron can win the East. Miami and Ohio will contend for a #3 spot. Kent State and UMass will fight to not finish last, but I could see all 7 teams finishing within 4 games of each other (6-2 vs 2-6). Let's just say that Akron will win because they actually have a defense and Kyle Pohl will look better against the MAC East defenses.
Either way, the West wins the MAC Championship because the East still blows.
Over the Pylon - Honestly, the first time in a while, I think it’s about anyone’s race. I think when the dust settles it will be Toledo and BG, but that’s more of an educated guess than some sort of substantive informed opinion. Frankly, I’m more concerned with our own little situation at BSU to worry about the conference as a whole. Mostly because I’m a selfish prick, but also because Ball State’s ability to even impact the conference race is almost entirely slipping to spoiler. That is, of course, fine by me, as I’m a firm believer in shitting all over someone else’s season while your mired in the weeds of your own not-so-awesome situation.
2 - Looking ahead to the second half of the season what is the best realistic scenario you see for your team.
Let's Go Rockets - Toledo is headed into our final OOC game of the season — matched up against Iowa State. The Cyclones are 1-4 (0-3, Big 12) but have played three teams ranked in the Top 25, so the results are a little skewed. After the Iowa St game, the rest of Toledo’s schedule is manageable with important games against NIU (likely to decide the MAC West) and BGSU (currently leading the MAC East). Of the six games remaining, we think the Rockets will drop 1 or 2 to the bad guys, but should not be too shaken by the others barring any significant injuries.
Falcon Blog - Best and realistic...interesting combination. Based on what I have seen thus far, I don't think BG can win every week with the white knuckle express. Now, the defense might have started to get some traction last week and that would help, but based on the body of work over the first half of the season, I think the best case is BG finishes the MAC season 6-2 or 5-3. Any game on the schedule can be lost by the team we have seen for the front half, but the most likely are Akron and Toledo, followed by OU, WMU and Ball State followed by Kent.
Eagle Totem - Define "realistic"?
I can come up with hypothetical scenarios where Rob Bolden suddenly starts clicking as a quarterback, the new passing game opens the running game back up, and the defensive backs learn to play closer than 10 yards to receivers. In this scenario, I could imagine EMU winning as many as five games, which means 6-6 and bowl eligibility for the first time in almost two decades. But is that really realistic? (No.)
If I’m being brutally honest, there are five games that could be winnable for the Eagles, and I probably would be satisfied if they can manage to take two of those five. I wouldn’t be surprised if they only won one.
3 - Many of the P5 programs are seeing their attendance start to fall, the more popular mid majors are also starting to fall off. What has your program done to help bolster your attendance and what do you believe they should do next?
Hustle Belt - Honestly? Not much. PJ Fleck has been very vocal about trying to get fans to the games, but when you're the 3rd favorite team in your own town, you're going to have a very hard time trying to get fans to the games when the other two play the same day less than two hours away.
The only way to really combat this is to (1) win, obviously and (2) cut the deal with ESPN3. The fact that I can either (a) pay $20 to go sit in somewhat chilly weather or (b) sit on my ass in my living room to watch that same game in an atmosphere that isn't electric anyways isn't good. Most fans will pick (b) every time. You have to cut off the easy stream to games and force fans to attend if they want to see their teams play. It's a double-edged sword.
Falcon Blog - This is always the tough issue. I think the bubble is bursting a little bit on college football and I believe you will see things retreat to a more sustainable level. Having said that, I have been watching Bowling Green football at the Doyt since 1971 and over that time I have seen every possible attempt to increase attendance. There's been advertising, promotion, price breaks, lights and night games, tie-ins with grocery stores, flexible ticket packs...every possible thing has been tried and produced...well...a result with has not changed very much. (Gregg Brandon once called the crowd for a weeknight game against Buffalo "pathetic."). Also, the ESPN accommodations work against good crowds. UT and Miami draw well, Big 10 teams draw well, but once the weather turns bad, our fans turn away. I do not believe there is a long-term fix for this...we just have to enjoy the support we do have.
Over The Pylon - They’ve done some well-needed things like putting in a video board on one end of the stadium. They’ve increased premium seating in recent years. They also allow kids and families to sit on the hillside where there inflatables and those sorts of things. I think it’s more about what they haven’t done. There is still archaic tailgating time restrictions and policy enforcement. There is still a significant lack of stadium amenities like a decent bathroom:fan ratio or some decent stadium food options. Most disheartening of all, though, is the half-assed way that BSU even counts their attendance. It’s at best an estimation and they don’t even do that right, going significantly under what it looks like is there. If we’re going to be dishonest, let’s not hurt the reputation in the process.
Eagle Totem - Attendance has been a topic of conversation in Ypsilanti for many years, and many of us are experiencing some serious schadenfreude at what’s now happening at the big school next door. For EMU it’s pretty simple. The administration has done just about everything they can do to try to bolster attendance, including hosting band days, Boy Scout days, women’s football clinics, youth football clinics, giving away tickets, giving goodies to game attendees (including iPads, computers, 1 year of rent, and cars), and paying grade schools to send people to games just to name a few.
For EMU, the formula for better attendance is simple. Former Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw put it best years ago during a similar discussion: "We haven’t tried winning yet. I think we’ll do that next."
Let's Go Rockets - Unfortunately, Toledo has seen the same empty stands that have plagued MAC programs for years. Even when the team is winning and on a roll, the number of fans in the stadium is lower than we’d like to see. Having MAC games mid-week for the television exposure certainly doesn’t help the situation. Most fans would rather these games stay on the weekends where they have an option to attend as many of the midweek games are not viable for anyone who has to travel/work. Toledo invested significant resources in improving the facilities for student athletes and upgrading the video board and sound system at the Glass Bowl, but have yet to see any kind of attendance correlation.
The first step in getting attendance numbers turned around, in our eyes, is making the games accessible to the largest number of potential participants. We would like to see the mid-week MAC games go by the wayside and those games move back to Saturdays where they belong.