Back and better than ever, it's the triumphant return of the Hustle Bag, where we take the time to answer your questions about anything Mid-American Conference related. Starting today, you can expect a new Hustle Bag post each Friday, where we will break down answers to the tough questions, like which football coach would win a Royal Rumble. Without further adieu let's get right in:
Well, if it isn't our old Friend, Conference Realignment rearing his ugly head again. For some strange reason, the MAC has been a 13-team football conference since Buffalo became a member in 1998, with the exception of the 2006 season. Since then the MAC seems to have been content with having a 13th school in football, and nothing more (well, while UCF and Marshall were here, it was a 14-member football conference). But, I'm not buying it. I think what's happening is that the MAC is waiting to pull the trigger on a 14th member until it can find a school with long term intentions.
The MAC is a beautiful conference. It's unique, and for the most part, has one of the strongest geographical identities (Buffalo and UMass kind of ruin this). The people running things realize this and they don't want to ruin that, but I think it also likes the idea of having a 14th member. James Madison, and a slew of other FCS teams moving up to FBS football, means that time could be very soon.
If the MAC were to do it, I think the member would need to join fully. UMass currently does nothing for the MAC as football-only school. It's a joke on the gridiron, and waters down the product for the whole conference. The MAC can't really afford to take on another one of those one-way relationships. It needs a reciprocal relationship , and James Madison might be able to provide that. The Dukes' football program has shown it can compete with the conference's low-level teams already. James Madison fields all the required teams in order to become a full member of the MAC, and sports very competitive men's and women's basketball programs, along with good women's field hockey and soccer programs. James Madison would be an attractive fit from an academic standpoint as well. It's a public research university, with an enrollment hovering around 20,000 annually, nearly identical to the rest of the MAC.
To sum it up, if James Madison is serious about jumping to the FBS, I think the MAC would be open to discussing it, and would be smart to pull the trigger if it could get the Dukes to join as a full member. I'd put the chances somewhere around 50 percent.
Oh, tough one here. I'm sad to admit this, but when it comes to soccer, I'm beyond ignorant. I've never really given it a shot, which is part of the reason. Sadly our soccer coverage here at the Belt is less than ideal as well (interested in covering MAC soccer? Get a hold of me), so this answer will be more of a wild guess than a true prediction.
Men's-Akron has a loss in the conference standings for the first time in what seems like forever. The Zips actually lost a conference match to Hartwick just last week. But even with that, Akron is still the best team in the MAC, by a long shot. It's current 8-3 record includes victories over Rutgers, VCU, Ohio State, West Virginia, and a slew of other good programs. The Zips three losses have came on the road at St. Louis and St. John's (N.Y.), and home against Hartwick. Akron will bully most of the MAC and should have little problems capturing the MAC crown for a ninth straight season.
Women's-This one is a bit more interesting. Last year's champion, Miami, has had a rough go at it so far. The 'Hawks are currently 5-6-2, but have fared well since the start of MAC play. They currently leas the East with a 2-1-2 mark. Kent State looks like a dark-horse threat in the East though. Out West, both EMU and WMU have dominated MAC play so far, with Ball State not far behind. At some point those three will beat up on each other, and whoever comes out with the fewest scrapes should be a favorite to capture the MAC.
Ohhh, this is interesting. In case if you're wondering, these are the Awful Rankings. Basically right now there are five schools that are dwelling in the cellar of the MAC, with no ladder out. They are: Akron, Eastern Michigan, Miami, UMass and Western Michigan. Together the five schools have two wins on the season, and are 0-fer against FBS-level competition.
But if we combined the best players from these squads into a new team, you'd actually have something. Kyle Pohl (Akron), Tyler VanTubbergen (WMU) and Tyler Benz (EMU) would be an interesting 3-way quarterback battle. Rob Blanchflower (UMass), Corey Davis (WMU) and Tyreese Russell (EMU) would provide the team with some nice weapons in the passing game. If you took the best O-linemen from each squad with Bronson Hill (EMU) and Brian Fields (WMU) in the backfield, it's be a scary good rushing game, up there with the likes of Ohio's two-headed attack.
Akron's linebacker Justin March would definitely make the squad, and would be a force. Miami's Chris Wade and Dayonne Nunley are two of the better defensive players in the MAC, and newcomer Kent Kern would be a solid addition to this new squad as well. Take the mysterious Pat O'Conner, along with C.J. James, Nico Caponi and C.J. Mizell and you'd have a formidable front line. Johnnie Simon (WMU), Malachi Freeman (Akron) and Ronald Zamort (WMU) and you'd have a loaded secondary. Zac Murphy (Miami) would single-handily make this team's punting game the best in the conference and kicker Andrew Haldeman (WMU) would provide some consistency in the kicking game (he hasn't missed a field goal yet this year).
Basically, you'd have a stacked team that would compete for a MAC title. Would the Awfuls win it all? Probably not, because you still wouldn't have any one player who is a true game changer, like NIU has in Jordan Lynch, and Ball State has in Keith Wenning. But, it would be a fun team to watch.
Now we get to what I'm a real expert on: Food. I'm guessing ham sandwich is the low point on this scale (which I may add, is unfair. Ham is a glorious thing) with Chicken Parmesan being the top. Well, I'd say Jordan Lynch (who's Heisman campaign centered around sending out lunch bags to writers) is a like a nice rack of slow cooked baby back ribs, with some sweet and smoky Kansas City BBQ sauce lathered over them, and washed down with an ice-cold Budweiser to wash it all down.
Give me a second while I wipe the BBQ sauce of my keys...OK, we're good.
And we have a question from Hustle Belt's founding father, the legend him self, Matt Sussman. Matt, Miami's already down more to sabotage its own program than any Bowling Green fan ever could.. But, if you really want to subject yourself to all that pain, I'm sure you're qualified. Hell, seeing as John Klacik was the offensive coordinator there I'd say anyone who posses opposable thumbs is qualified for what the RedHawks' standards have dropped to.
Man oh man would this be interesting. Ron, being the wrestling fan that he is, would not be above some dirty play on the field. With a new tenacity, and Ron's affinity for trickery, the UMass offense would be dangerous. Like Bobby Petrino on a motorcycle dangerous. Sussman, being the witty man that he is, would whip the RedHawks' offense into a powerful unit, full of quick blasts of pure football genius. Under Sussman, the Miami would be quirky, but highly sound technically, resembling the love child between Omar Jacobs and a copy of Super Tecmo Bowl.
Points would be plentiful in this game. I'd expect to see an XFL style rule book, with tables, ladders and chairs all being available for use as well. Ten minutes in to it both coaches would abandon the idea of playing defense entirely, and it would be a game of sweet chaos as the offensive units went head-to-head, on the field at the same time, causing a small rift in space, and a black hole would swallow the game just before the clock hit zero.
That's it for the Hustle Bag this week. Remember to send in your questions throughout the week by tweeting them using the hashtag #HustleBag for a chance to have them answered next week.