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I have no idea why a game in Boise has the MAC as a primary tie-in. But that's how business gets done, and the very name of the bowl and its chive-loaded carby logo speaks to the spectacle and ridiculousness of this bowl season, and that's kind of why we love it. Enter Utah State, the team that lost to OHIO in this game last year on a series of flummoxing referee announcements. They might be even better this year, having played a perfect WAC season and enjoying a six-game winning streak.
Toledo has had their issues staying healthy defensively but they're still a sound offensive machine who are able to win using a multitude of methods (remember: no offensive TDs when they beat Cincinnati). And when the bowl game in Boise is routinely a blast, they picked an excellent tandem of teams to collide. They play on the first day of bowl games (December 15), ergo they need to set the standard for the rest of the nation.
Oh, Ball State's been a terrific watch all year, and watchability is something any bowl team loves to have. That 9-3 record was helped by them being 6-1 in one-touchdown games and finished the season with six straight victories following losses to NIU and Kent State. And their reward is beef. Lots and lots of beef.
And they get good old UCF. Our extremely brief former MAC brothers down in Orlando lost the Conference USA championship to Tulsa, but other than that loss and their regular season loss to them had little trouble in the conference. Their scoring offense and defense are both ranked in the top 30 nationally. Coupled with Ball State's spotty defense, this game may not bode well. But never count out a Pete Lembo-coached team. This team will do well.
This is how you fight the power. After Georgia Tech's baffling 6-7 bowl waiver was granted, I thought for sure CMU would spend the season bowl-less. A 6-6 season would've been a fine finish to their season, matching their combined 2010-11 win total.
But the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl said "bollocks" to the system. According to legend, the GoDaddy.com Bowl got their first pick (Kent State) and the LCPB, with strong MAC relations, understood that if they didn't take the Chips, nobody would. Ergo they selected CMU as well as Western Kentucky, who is playing in its first bowl game ever.
But the pick also makes sense from an attendance perspective. We noted how the MACCG attendance always went over 20,000 during the CMU/Dan LeFevour era and had they brought in someone like Ball State or Ohio, then theoretically there'd be more open seats and fewer MAC teams in bowls.
As a result, this honestly might be the weakest bowl matchup of the 35. Both teams are about average on offense, CMU's defense is rather weak and WKU actually has a negative turnover margin. If momentum is a thing that can exist through a December 26 bowl game, Central Michigan are winners of three straight while the Hilltoppers lost four of their last six.
I had seen this as a possible destination for the Falcons, but there was also speculation that they may get nothing. All they got was the $2 million combined payout bowl in Washington D.C., the third-richest bowl in which a MAC team will participate.
The task at hand is a tough one. SJSU finished second in the WAC, snuck into the Top 25 and has won their last six games. They have one common opponent: Idaho, who lost to both of them, although the Spartans blew them out far better. The Military Bowl is going to be your standard excellent offense vs. excellent defense game. SJSU puts up 35 points a game; BGSU allows about 16 a game and usually keeps teams about 10 points below their average.
Bowling Green hasn't won a bowl since 2004; they've lost their last two matchups and sadly I don't particularly like their chances against this team.
A week ago I was seriously wondering if the Ohio Bobcats may not play in a bowl game, given that they lost three of their last four games and suffered numerous key injuries about their roster. This may have been the case ... until Louisiana Tech refused to play ULM in the Independence Bowl for whatever reason. And that's how Frank Solich got OHIO to a fourth straight bowl game.
(Maybe they'd have gone somewhere else. Who knows.)
It's important to remember that this is not the same Bobcats team that beat Penn State, just like it's not the same ULM team that took down Arkansas in the first week. Potentially the Bobcats defense could heal up and rebound back to their peak performance. They'll need to, because ULM can score fruitfully.
Understandably lost in the commotion of Northern Illinois cornering the FCOJ market: Kent State is officially playing in their first bowl game since 1972. It's a bittersweet moment but January 6 is their date with Sun Belt champion Arkansas State. Barring a sudden move to another school, which is possible, Darrell Hazell will be rewarded with leading this team in a very special moment in Mobile, Alabama.
The Red Wolves are no stranger to the Domain Name Invitational. They lost to NIU in this game last year 38-20 and have a terrific offense, mostly on the heels of their passing game, something KSU has been suspect stopping from a yardage perspective. Since both teams score about 35 a game and give up 25, this one's a very even matchup.
After I predicted NIU to finish 17th and miss out on an Orange Bowl bid, Sports Illustrated has now said that NIU has actually finished 15th and made the Orange Bowl against Florida State. The article also goes on to list the other 4 BCS match-ups, with the only real unveilings being the Oregon vs Kansas State Fiesta Bowl and the Louisville vs Florida Sugar Bowl.
As for the updated bowl projections, I'll be quick.............
Pizza Bowl - Kent State
GoDaddy Bowl - Ball State
Potato Bowl - Bowling Green
Military Bowl - Ohio
Beef O'Brady Bowl - Toledo
In non-BCS bowl watch action, UConn collapsed in the 2nd half while Pitt steamrolled USF to notch the final bowl eligible mark to 72 teams. While we all assume that CMU and their weak schedule will be sitting at home, the speculation now begins as who is the magical #2 that sits back.
We look at all of the other 6 bowl eligible teams in the MAC and guess where they are going.
Prediction: Pizza Bowl. I do believe they will be snubbed and finish right at #17 or possibly #18. The computers don't favor the MAC teams, and it appears NIU didn't jump enough (and didn't get enough help) to move into #16. Plus, voters now know Dave Doreen is out at NIU at head coach. 2 points away from a perfect season, 12 game winning streak, and NIU will probably play a weak team in Detroit. But who knows? Maybe they draw San Jose State, a team that lost to Stanford by only 3 to start their season!
Prediction: Potato Bowl. I have a hunch that the GoDaddy Bowl goes with a different team at #2, but we shall see. The MAC runners-up will still make a bowl, but with Detroit out of the running, anything else is just "meh". However, for a team that hasn't gone bowling since the 1970's, a bowl will be well welcomed!
Prediction: GoDaddy Bowl. Yep, the high flying Ball State team looks like they might get the GoDaddy bid. Not sure why, but they might have the better appeal. Plus, they put up offense and play in the MAC West, which helps with SOS. Remember, these are only predictions.
Prediction: Military Bowl. While the two losses to Ball St and NIU hurt, Toledo still has an impressive resume. They have a good offense and a decent defense. They should be fine enough to earn the new Military Bowl bid.
Prediction: BBVA Compass. This would be vs an SEC team, and the Falcons have already faced one. In fact, they hung with the now #3 Florida Gators well in their first game of the season. Let's see what that defense can do against an SEC team.
Prediction: Liberty Bowl. That's right, the Bobcats just sneak in ahead of Western Kentucky. They have a better win, a better schedule, play in a better conference, and have more attention than the Hilltoppers. Both teams are 2-6 in their 2nd half of the schedule, so neither gets a "momentum edge"
The MAC just announced in a release that they reached an agreement with the Military Bowl in Washington DC that they'll send a team to play in that game. Earlier in the day they said that San Jose State will be the other team.
San Jose State went 10-2 and finished second in the WAC (RIP WAC) and are ranked 25th in the latest BCS standings.
The Military Bowl is December 27 in RFK Stadium. Hypothetically, you'd probably watch Kent State and SJSU. You'd also watch Ball State-SJSU, Toledo-SJSU, Bowling Gr— well, you get the point.
This was just released by MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher regarding Georgia Tech being allowed to play in a bowl even if they finish 6-7:
"I am disappointed in the NCAA's decision to issue a waiver. I could not disagree more with the rationale provided. One of the reasons for the development of the policy covering this matter was to clearly create a selection order to manage just this situation.
"These selection orders were developed with NCAA staff input and approved unanimously by the NCAA Board of Directors last July. To suggest that that the NCAA staff or task force working on bowl policy did not contemplate such a circumstance, when this same situation occurred last year, is incorrect. The policy is clear and understandable.
"What is lacking is the willingness to enforce NCAA policy and that is regrettable. All the Mid-American Conference asks is that the rules that have been approved by the member institutions of the NCAA be enforced. That did not occur in this instance.
I wasn't really expecting a statement on this, but here we are. This waiver probably can't get reversed now, but it's great to see the commish looking out for the likes of Central Michigan, and maybe even the eight-winned Ohio and Bowling Green. But it's the NCAA. Shrug all you want, what are you gonna do.
Sorry, Chips. Fire up the offseason machine.
Even if Georgia Tech loses the ACC Championship, which they most likely will, and finishes 6-7, the NCAA will let them play in a bowl game, making 71 eligible teams. I've said that 6-6 CMU is probably the weakest of those 71, and you might be able to argue Louisiana-Lafayette or Western Kentucky is worse, but both have seven wins and I'm pretty sure this ends the season in Mount Pleasant at 6-6, barring some strange turn of events.
But, hey, how about Zurlon Tipton and that offensive line!?
After reading the comments here, abounded by Kent State fans who are giddy of their team's success, I wonder: What of NIU? What happens if NIU wins on Friday and throws the MAC into a complete chaotic mess? Well, let's look at the scenarios, and let's say there are two of them. But before we get to them, let's look at who is ahead of NIU in the BCS:
#20 Boise State - (9-2, @ Nevada this week) Boise State will not jump into the top 16. After losing to San Diego St, the usual BCS busters have fallen out of contention and can ruin NIU's hopes here. Nevada is 7-4 but has a bowl bid waiting due to the 5 contractual obligations owed to the MWC.
#19 Michigan - (8-4, waiting) How does an 8-4 team wind up in the top 20 of the BCS? Look at their losses: neutral field vs Alabama (11-1), @ Notre Dame (12-0), @ Nebraska (10-2), @ Ohio State (12-0). They may have struggled, but they are owed their due. However, it's hard to believe voters will push UM up on a bye week, so no huge threat here as I see them jumping to 18 as the max.
#18 Texas - (8-3, @ #6 Kansas State this week) OK, how is Texas still this high? They have lost to West Virginia and TCU, and have only really beaten Texas Tech and OK State. C'mon computers! The good news? Texas does have a Kansas State team that is coming off a bye and trying to play their way into a BCS game. This is one to watch, as Texas should fall out.
#17 Kent State - (11-1, vs NIU in MAC Championship Game) Winner moves into first place in the MAC BCS, simple as that. Kent State just has to win to secure their spot, as I see them jumping Oregon State or UCLA with a win over another top 25 team. A loss? They are down into the 20's, barely in.
#16 UCLA - (9-3, @ Stanford in PAC-12 Title Game) Stanford KILLED UCLA last week. However, the Bruins may not have been trying knowing they could either (a) try, possibly win, and go to Oregon in the PAC-12 title game or (b) lay down, lose, and go to Stanford having seen them a week prior and know some strategy. However, I still think Stanford is the best team, and this is another key match-up for the two MAC schools to watch.
#15 Oregon State - (8-3, vs Nicholls State) Really? End your season with a cupcake? This is the same Nicholls State team that WMU has almost annually played (and crushed) the past few years. This will be a win by OSU, but the FCS team will hurt the Beavers as voters may be inclined to vote a team that actually played a game that mattered over a payout game.
Other notables to keep an eye on.......
#11 Oklahoma - Highly unlikely to fall that far, but if TCU wins, Oklahoma will fall. Enough to knock the Sooners out of the BCS picture? Damn you OK State for not beating Oklahoma when you had the chance.
#12 Nebraska - Wisconsin has been to the B1G Ten Title Game before, but Nebraska should be fine here. Still a loss would propel the Huskers out of the BCS picture and probably give the MAC more hope.
#13 Florida State - FSU has the easiest game (sans Oregon State) this week in 6-6 Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. However, a loss would knock Florida State down to around 20, and a spot would surely open up as the MAC Champion vs Georgia Tech Orange Bowl would be on (oh God, that really is the possibility isn't it? MAC wins their first BCS game anyone?)
On to the scenarios:
(1) Kent State and NIU battle to a thrilling tug o' war battle with NIU winning in the end, Jordan Lynch has an average game. Probably not the most ideal situation that can happen. Everyone in the country will love this, except voters. They will vote NIU up, but probably not far enough, just getting snubbed at #17. Boise State would probably move with NIU, all the way to #16, but wouldn't win their conference. Michigan at #18, with everyone else filling in behind them.
(2) NIU dominates, crushing Kent State. Probably most unlikely to happen. However, this would almost surely power the Huskies to #15 and that magical spot in the BCS bowl. A solid victory and they are moving up fast.
(3) NIU and Kent State battle hard, with Dri Archer and Jordan Lynch showcasing their skills to the world. NIU wins in a close one. This would be epic, and would probably vote NIU into the top. Why? Because despite the close score, you have a player that you could market the s*** out of in Lynch leading up to the bowl game. Voters would be more inclined to vote Lynch and Co. than NIU in a close game. It is what it is. They get in, just barely.
Either way, exciting times for the MAC West Champions, but a lot of scoreboard watching as well. If you only could have scored 2 more points against Iowa, or had a better punt and not gave up that TD, or................................
All of a sudden Kent State was ranked 17th in the BCS, one spot away from potentially grabbing a premiere bowl game.
Unless Jason Kirk's bowl projections are a systematic long con designed to hurt the MAC's feelings, he has Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. He feels that based on NIU's style of play and their computer rankings, a win over Kent State would put the Huskies in the top 16, giving them their first BCS bowl in conference history.
But don't discount Kent State's chance to win it either, meaning that this MAC championship could have implications beyond our regular imaginations, and the best part: you don't have to root for anyone else.
Here's the cold math: after today there are three teams who still need a win to become bowl eligible, two of them being Big East teams who orchestrated surprising wins over ranked teams.
• Georgia Tech is 6-6, but has two FCS wins (think Eastern Michigan last year). They play 10-2 Florida State in the ACC Championship. This is entirely fascinating; it's either a BCS bowl or no bowl at all.
• UConn beat Louisville 23-20 in three overtimes, which sounds as atrocious as it looks. They still need to beat 8-3 Cincinnati to get to 6-6.
• Pittsburgh got the hard part done with a win against Rutgers, kind of sullying Kent State's feat, but now the Panthers just need a win at 3-8 South Florida to draw to 6-6.
A Pitt win seems the likeliest of the three, but if any one of those teams wins, we have 71 eligible, and CMU's likely the odd one out.
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