It's that time of year again. The smell of football is in the air and your humble Mid American conference bloggers can stop focusing on "The Worst Moment's In Buffalo Sports History" or "Past MAC Championship Rings".
Don't get me wrong, as off season community building those things are a little fun but it's not talking football. Articles about The best place to eat or drink bring us together when college sports are in their slumber but those words are pale shadows of forgotten games.
The time has come to talk of many things, of games, and players, and preseason rankings.
The Mid American Blogger Roundtable was launched years ago by Over The Pylon and it is still going strong. Alan passed the torch to me a couple of years ago and after some awkward fumbling Carter Adler from Eagle Totem picked it up. This week I was asked to throw the questions out and here are their answers.
The MAC Season kicks off this week with Ohio at Kent State. Who wins the first MAC Game of the year?
Hustle Belt ( All Hustle Belt Answers )
I'm going to go with Ohio. I know Dix Stadium will be an emotional place with Jason Bitsko's death still lingering over the program and the Golden Flashes looking to bounce back from last year's disappointment, but I think Ohio is a better team, even without Tettleton and Blankenship.
Frank Solich is a solid coach and I'm still not sold on Paul Haynes. Dri Archer and Roosevelt Nix are both gone as well, and Colin Reardon doesn't have too many weapons to throw to. It's just a bad combo. And the people in the Pick'em agree, with a 60-40 split favoring Ohio this weekend.
Falcon Blog ( All Falcon Blog Answers )
Nothing like a season opener/MAC opener to clench the coach's buttocks. And then, you take a team with some title aspirations and send them on the road...Frank has got to be heavily squinting out there. Anyway, I like Ohio in the game. They are traditionally ready to go early and then fall off later. They are going to miss Turdletton, but I think Vick will be OK and I think Kent might be turning back into Kent again.
Let's Go Rockets ( All LGR Answers )
It’s good to see a MAC matchup to start the season. We figure that Kent State has the advantage in this game and can likely pull of the win. The home crowd should help give Kent State the edge and with the emotional fuel and inspiration from remembering their fallen brother Jason Bitsko, we expect Kent State to give Ohio all it can handle as QB Reardon picks up where he left off last season.
Eagle Totem ( All Eagle Totem Answers )
Do I really even have to defend that statement?
The Bobcats have been in the running in the East Division almost every year for the last decade. Meanwhile the Golden Flashes have managed just one winning season in the last 26 years. Sure, that was just two years ago, but Darrell Hazell is gone to Purdue, while Frank Solich is still hanging around in Athens, by far the most senior coach in the MAC.
Paul Haynes may turn out to be a good coach, and Kent State may turn out to be a good team, but they’ve both got a long way to go to prove that, and against Solich’s Bobcats — especially early in the season — I’ll take the Bobcats, hands down.
Is this the year Toledo finally gets over the hump? NIU is entering the post lynch era and they have been the biggest thing in the rockets way these past few years.
I have picked the Rockets to win the West, and I stand by it. While they remain my mortal enemy, I believe Campbell is a good coach and is continuing to assemble the talent that will make them difficult to beat. NIU's history of excellence is pretty rare in our conference, and I think the Rockets will catch them this year.
It’s hard to gauge. Northern Illinois, Toledo, and Ball State have been the best in the MAC West for a few years, and they may have the coaching to stay there, but all three lost talented leaders at quarterback.
Lynch was a big loss for the Huskies — seemingly irreplaceable — but that’s what I said about Chandler Harnish too. Remember him? He was pretty awesome too, but when he left, Northern Illinois hardly missed a beat.
That said, I’m going to say no. This is not the year Toledo finally gets over the hump, but in the end, I don’t think it will be the Huskies who stand in the way. With the loss of so much talent across the board, it’s going to come down to coaching…and if I had to choose among Rod Carey, Matt Campbell, and Pete Lembo, no question that I’d take Lembo.1
Lets go Rockets
It’s way too early for us to declare that this is the season — there are simply too many unknowns. Toledo has to replace guys like Fluellen and Owens and if that transition doesn’t go smoothly, this may not be the Rocket team we’re used to seeing. We’re cautiously optimistic that the team can gel early and pick up where the last team left off, but we’re not willing to make claims for the end of the season yet.
I'd have to think so. Even though NIU has the better conference schedule (see not having to face Bowling Green), Toledo really just has to beat the Huskies and not screw up in their other 6 games. Couple that with an incredibly weak MAC West this year, and the West should be Toledo's to lose.
That said, this is NIU we're talking about, who doesn't rebuild, but reloads. But, NIU has a brutal three-game stretch that has the Toledo home game sandwiched between trips to Muncie and Athens. Still, NIU gets Toledo at home, and they never lose in the Wind Tunnel.
I'm going with yes, Toledo does make the jump to Detroit this year. Now I'm moving on before I change my mind again.
3) What is your team's biggest game of the year?
I’m going to say Buffalo…and not just because Bull Run is hosting this week’s roundtable.
After more than a month on the road, EMU will return home for just their second home football game of the fall on October 11. It’s Homecoming, and EMU should draw a decent crowd (at least by Ypsi standards).
The Eagles should be able to defeat their FCS season-opening foe, Morgan State, and with a win at either Old Dominion or Akron, they’ll be playing for .500 when Buffalo comes to town. (Yeah, I know, in most places .500 is nothing to get excited about, but if you’d suffered through as many years of bad football as we have, you’d find the prospect pretty exciting.) And with games remaining against UMass, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan, getting to 3-3 against Buffalo could pave the way for a 6-6 finish, and EMU’s first bowl-eligible finish in nearly two decades. (Am I optimistic? You almost have to be to still be an EMU football fan.)
Plus, there’s that whole trophy thing.
Lets Go Rockets
The Missouri game looms large on the Toledo schedule due to the nature of the matchup (SEC vs MAC). Pinkel brings his Tigers to the Glass Bowl, which is the highest profile opponent the Rockets will face this season. Realistically, this isn’t the most important game of the season, while it is very visible and we want to put our best foot forward, it ultimately won’t define our season. The Cincinnati and Iowa State games, which doesn’t carry the same marquee, are important games for the Rockets to show how they can perform against quality OOC opponents. The defining stretch of games for the Rockets is probably the Ball St-CMU-WMU run (Sept 20 to Oct 4) where the Rockets will set the tone for the MAC portion of the schedule. After those three games, we’ll have a good idea of how the team will compete with other MAC schools and the stage will be set for the last run of 5 MAC games to close the season.
As a WMU fan, I have to go with the EMU game for a couple reasons. Firstly, Idaho, Miami, and Murray State don't carry the rivalry factor, so despite being winnable games that you'd expect the Broncos to come away with wins from, if they lose to Idaho or Miami, it isn't as bad as EMU. Murray State is an FCS game and clearly shouldn't warrant discussion, but after last year's game against Nichols State. . . [chugs]
NIU, Purdue, Va Tech, Ball State, Toledo, BGSU, and Ohio are all tough games that wins would be nice, but not expected. I can't include them in "biggest game".
That leaves us with CMU and EMU. The Central game is in Mt. Pleasant, and the Chips should be somewhat decent this year. Also, the Broncos have beaten CMU in recent years, so that helps ease the pain in case of a loss. A loss to EMU, at home, would be killer. Remember that the Eagles have beaten the Broncos THREE YEARS IN A ROW. It's time Fleck and Company put everything together and put the ugly cousin back in its place!
On the flip side, a loss would almost assuredly be the mark of the season. The two remaining games would be the aforementioned CMU game and then hosting NIU at home, both would be losses if WMU falls to the Eagles. It would also mean that the season would probably end up 1-11 or 2-10 again, with little to no progress made. It'll be the make-or-break moment.
BG has a few big games. We close with Ball State, we have to play @OU in November, and we play @Akron. All of these are tough games. But, after the last four years, the biggest game for BG will take place at the Glass Bowl. Not only does BG need the win for competitive reasons in the East, but BG needs to turn around the struggles against UT. This could change--if, for example, the Ball State game is required to win the East--but for right now, in late August, it is the Rockets