Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008 College Football Preview: MAC Conference

What do we really know about the MAC? I’m willing to bet that the average college football fan couldn’t name all 13 teams in the conference and they would struggle naming half of them. However, there is some good football found here in the likes of Central and Western Michigan, Bowling Green, Miami (OH) and Northern Illinois. You won’t find any BCS Busters here but that doesn’t mean we won’t find some good football.

MAC West Predictions

Western Michigan – In 2005 the Broncos started 17 freshmen which was an NCAA record. In 2008 those 17 seniors will comprise the best defense in the conference and one of the best offenses.

Ball State – The Cardinals were the beneficiaries of a +17 turnover ration in 2007 which led them to a winning record and a bowl appearance for the first time since 1996. This year they have their set their goal even higher.

Central Michigan – The three time defending West Champions will have a high power offense but could still be passed up by the up-and-comers of the conference. CMU has 16 returning starters but lose their two leading tacklers on defense.

Northern Illinois – Last year the Huskies were ravaged by injuries and were -17 in turnovers. It would be hard to believe that both of those trends would continue in 2008 and that alone should make NIU a better team.

Eastern Michigan – The Eagles end the season by playing three of their final four games on the road. They haven’t been to a bowl game since 1987 and that four game stretch to close out the season will most likely prevent them from going again in 2008.

Toledo – Road games against Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan plus hosting both Miami (OH) and Bowling Green puts the Rockets in a very difficult situation.

MAC East Predictions

Miami (OH) – The Redhawks have 17 returning starters in 2008 and will boast one of the top defenses in the conference. The October 18th game against Bowling Green should be their primary obstacle to winning the division. Considering they beat the Falcons 47-14 last year they should be the favorites even if the game is at Bowling Green.

Bowling Green – The Falcons went 8-5 in 2007 but were embarrassed by Tulsa 63-7 in the GMAC Bowl. They return 17 starters and could be the most experienced team in the conference. If they defend their home turf they’ll be playing for the conference championship but there are some defensive concerns to address. Giving up 32.1 points per game won’t cut it in 2008.

Buffalo – Turner Gill is doing an amazing job with the Bulls and it is about to pay dividends. They return 18 starters this year and are just a few breaks away from going to their first ever bowl game.

Kent State – The Golden Flashes were hampered by quarterback injuries last year which directly contributed to their -11 turnover ratio and four losses by just a touchdown. Staying healthy in 2008 should help resolve that.

Temple – Typically you’d be excited about a team returning all 22 starters from the previous year but when the team only managed 16.4 points per game while giving up 26.3 you enter the season with guarded optimism.

Ohio – A home game against Akron will save the Bobcats from finishing last in the division.

Akron – The Zips have only 13 returning starters which is the fewest in the conference. It will be very difficult for them to improve from their 4-8 record last year.

My Pre-Season All Conference Team

QB – Nate Davis, Ball State
RB – Eugene Jarvis, Kent State
RB – Justin Anderson, Northern Illinois
WR – Stephen Williams, Toledo
WR – Dante Love, Ball State
WR – Jamarko Simmons, Western Michigan
TE – Branden Ledbetter, Western Michigan
C – Dan Gerberry, Ball State
G – Dave DiFranco, Miami
G – Jeff Niedermier, Buffalo
T – Robert Brewster, Ball State
T – Andrew Hartline, Central Michigan

DE – Larry English, Northern Illinois
DT – Andre Neblett, Temple
DT – Craig Rusch, Northern Illinois
DE – Diyral Briggs, Bowling Green
LB – Clayton Mullins, Miami
LB – Tim McCarthy, Northern Illinois
LB – Boston McCornell, Western Michigan
CB – Londen Fryar, Western Michigan
CB – BJ Hill, Ball State
SS – Alex Kube, Northern Illinois
FS – Louis Delmas, Western Michigan

Special Teams
K – Alex Steigerwald, Toledo
P – Chris Miller, Ball State
KR – Bryan Williams, Akron
PR – Andre Jones, Akron