We're now in the best month of the season: freaking conference games.
Yes, this does mean fewer overall games, but this is a good thing. For one: fewer previews for me to write, and I know how you're all lookin' out for me. And secondly, enjoy this month while you can, because all games are on Saturdays. It's not until November that the MAC starts whoring itself out to national cable networks for the chance to be seen on curious weeknights.
The worst part, however, is that fewer games are now going to be on national TV. You can try to, however, picture the games in your mind. Or shell out the money for MAC-Sports.com's video feeds, which is probably a little pricey, but probably the most foolproof way to see everything.
All 13 teams are playing, and those who haven't experienced a conference game this year will. The out-of-MAC overcards bring us two teams from the mountains where the WAC and Mountain West reside, plus a road trip to Army, which I guess in the grand sense is not really an "opponent." At least I hope the Army is on our side. That would be really scary if they all suddenly changed allegiances. I suppose the only course of action would be for Chad Spann to save the region.
Below are previews, paragraphs, and picks. And maybe some additional appetizing alliteration.
Known as the Ohio-State-Battered Victims Bowl. Or maybe the Battered Shrimp Bowl. Sounds delicious either way.
One week, OHIO was destroyed by 36 and beat up Brutus Buckeye. The next, EMU was killed by 53 but took a shred of dignity away because now all year the Buckeyes' detractors are going to say, "well, sure, but they gave up 20 points to Eastern fucking Michigan." Badge of honors, both of 'em, boys.
If you extrapolate every non-Columbus game out of the equation, you basically have two teams with a tendency to lose the close one, mostly because of turnovers and generous defenses. This may be the best points-per-ticket-price value in town. Guess: OHIO 37, EMU 31
Well, the Temple fans aren't all that comfortable with this game. After all, Army was a last-minute turnover away from being 4-0 on the season. (Blasted Hawaiians and their dropsy-inducing haka.) As is fitting with a Westpoint institution, all their business is done on the ground. Their wide receivers are, to use a war metaphor which is OK in this context, decoys. And they have a quarterback named Trent Steelman who is, sure, a great triple-option general, but his name is also Trent Steelman. That's a tough subset of factors to overcome.
So is the possibility of a limited-or-missing Bernard Pierce. It's not like they're gonna win this game with their passing prowess. So ... get ready, defense! Hope ya like three hours of misdirection! Guess: Army 21, Temple 16
Wake up, dreamers. Kent State is all rested after that bye week, and we all know what it's like to sleep in on the weekends, like, a bunch. Sometimes you're less functional than if you didn't get enough sleep. You're just sort of ambling around aimlessly, with bed head and pajama pants half-covering your heinie. Then you realize it's 4 p.m., and you've done nothing except watch an hour of DVR. Ain't it grand?
Then again, I suppose Miami would take a bye week over a buh-bye week. If you're looking for Ryan Kennedy and Jordan Gafford on the defense, look toward the sidelines. They'll be wearing jeans, which is unpleasant. This is KSU's chance to shine, and maybe even try to run the ball for more than 66.3 yards per game. Try it. You'll like it! Guess: Kent State 34, Miami 17, but if I'm wrong, then suddenly the RedHawks are 2-0 in the conference, and you'll be taking notice, while being slightly delirious.
When the MAC last saw Idaho, they were traipsing about Boise State's blue turf after ekeing past BGSU in the Humanitarian Bowl, and suddenly the stadium was a sanctuary for Gem State football teams. Since then, they started out decently, but the Vandals — whose best road victory of all time was in Rome 16 centuries ago — took a noticeably worse turn at Colorado State, where the Rams snapped their 12-game winning streak in a 36-34 win over Idaho. They're going to go even farther away from home, in Kalamazoo, where there are no mountains and the only thing blue in Kalamazoo is the fact that they haven't been featured in a popular song in about 60 years. So between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of WWII-era big band, both of these programs are not exactly in their glory years.
But they are each in their great offensive years. Idaho: 299.3 passing yards/ game. WMU: 332. Neither of these teams can run worth a lick, so you're gonna see slants, posts, outs, stop-n-gos, screens, dump-offs, checkdowns, underneath passes, and possibly the halfback toss. Guess: WMU 45, Idaho 42
The Cardinals have lost five of their last six games against the MACaroons, with the sixth time being That One Awesome Year. I've been trying to construct practical scenarios where Ball State wins this game. All of them involve half the CMU football team coming down with smallpox. Guess: CMU 43, Ball State 14
This one is relevant to my interests.
The good news for the Falcons is that Rimington-watchable center Ben Bojicic will be back, and quarterback Matt Schilz is ... well, they're still not saying, the little teases. The great news for both teams is that, hey, the brutal nonconference games are all over. And they both have a winnable game ... in the same game! They both may be 1-3 but they're just 0-0 where it comes ... in our hearts. (And also in the MAC East standings.)
Buffalo scores about as well as BG stops people from scoring. So it's like a Level-70-character World of Warcraft freshman going to their first college Halloween party. Guess: BGS(You!) 38, Buffalo 30, and I put away like four hot dogs before the game begins.
The last time Akron football was highly relevant, they beat NIU for the 2005 MAC Championship. That was five years ago, so it looks like they're going to try and remember the time they did that. Hopefully they remember how many years of eligibility the NCAA gives student athletes before realizing when they all graduated.
I realize that NIU is no Gardner-Webb (although Minnesota may as well be) but something tells me I got a good feelin' about these DeKalbians, since they're not the team who is 0-4. Guess: NIU 33, Akron 16
What is it with the large, dry, mountainous state-based football teams traveling to the same Great Lakes region on the same weekend? Maybe Idaho and Wyoming are splitting a plane. Or Conestoga wagon, or however the heck they get over here. And I'm not sure if they're going to be bringing any type of ball movement strategy. "Prayer" might work — it's been better than whatever the heck they've done this year to post 13.8/game. The Cowboys are lacking in points, yards, turnover margin ... really, looking down the line, their entire pile of stats looks like a ranch of sadness.
Just for shiggles, however, I looked at Wyoming's last three games played in the Eastern Time Zone, because you know how there's this stigma about West coasties eating it big time on the other side of the manifested-destiny nation:
2009: at Florida Atlantic, won 30-28
2008: at Tennessee, won 13-7
2007: at OHIO, won 34-33
They did drop two such games in GMT -5 back in '06, so that's where the abberant stat ends. The streak also probably ends here, although we'll give them a close one just for fun. Guess: Toledo 27, Wyoming 24, and then some very interesting murmurs about next week's Toledo-Boise State game will be mentioned. BUT DON'T LOOK AHEAD, GUYS.