Many congratulations to the Falcons of Bowling Green. The boys in orange captured themselves a MAC Championship over Northern Illinois, knocked the Huskies out of the BCS conversation, and handed me a second consecutive losing week against the spread.
As I gave you both a game pick against the spread as well as a pick on the over/under, the 0-2 week ran my 2013 record to 39-33. Now, we have 5 schools in our beloved conference that were invited to bowl games. Since I don't bet on the Ball State game, mathematically I could just give 4 games against the spread and be assured a winning year. That however, is not in the spirit of MACtion.
I'm going to give you each game against the spread, and we will look at the over/under a little later. These are merely early odds, and we will be revisiting each game before it's played. Every year underachieving BCS AQ schools head to the MAC to find their next head coach. Change has already come. Former Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson is headed to Wake Forest, and former Ball State offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky is taking over the football program at Elon. That uncertainty makes games difficult to call. The possibility exists that other dominoes will fall, chiefly Ball State head coach Pete Lembo. So check back for updates. Often. Daily. Unless of course enough dominoes fall that I take a coaching position. I did routinely take the Miami Dolphins and the Detroit Lions all the way in Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES, and I know the best time to run a fake punt. Right after you've run a fake punt. So pick up the phone, let the family know that you've decided to make a charitable donation this holiday season in lieu of giving gifts, and then bet obscene amounts of money on Mid-American Conference football.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (December 21st, Boise, Idaho)
Buffalo (-2) vs. San Diego State
Bulls and Aztecs on the smurf turf! Let's get one major factor out in the open right now. This game kicks off 3:30 local time in Boise. 3:30 on Friday, December 13th, it will be 28 degrees. So I'm going to go out on a limb and say that perhaps that's not the best weather for San Diego State to be successful. First Buffalo though. You already know the Bulls well. Buffalo has done it with defense. The Bulls field the second stingiest defense in the MAC, yielding 22 points a game. Leading that defense is a monster named Khalil Mack. Mack appears to be a unanimous top 10 pick in next years NFL draft according to the haircuts who prognosticate such things. This is his last real opportunity to show what he can do on the field before that day, and expect the big dog to eat. Buffalo has weapons on the offensive side as well. Branden Oliver was second in the MAC in rushing yards per game behind some dude named Jordan Lynch, quarterback Joe Licata was third in passing yards a game, and leading receiver Alex Neutz finished just shy of 1000 receiving yards and caught 11 touchdowns. As for the Aztecs, it's a minor miracle they qualified for a bowl game. The start of the season was brutal. San Diego State was blown out by FCS foe Eastern Illinois, and followed that up with losses to Ohio State and Oregon State. From there on they went 7-2, included losing a heartbreaker to Fresno State on October 26th. The Aztecs rely on the passing game. Nationally they rank 34th, with quarterback Quinn Kaehler throwing for just north of 262 yards per game and tossing 17 touchdowns against 9 picks for the season. The defense gives up 132 yards on the ground, and it will be interesting to see how Oliver responds. We've seen he's capable of putting up big numbers. This will be a close one, and I'm going to say Buffalo weather versus San Diego weather is worth 2 1/2 points in Boise. Take the Bulls, lay the points.
Beef O'Brady's Bowl (December 23rd, St. Petersburg, Florida)
East Carolina (-13) vs. Ohio
At the risk of upsetting the boss, you know Ohio shouldn't be here. No, in fact you know damn well the Bobcats shouldn't be here! Toledo you got jobbed, but better you than me. If Ball State had been victim to such injustice, I'd burn the Internet's premiere website for Mid-American Conference analysis straight to the ground. Let's not blame the Bobcats though. You get invited to a bowl game, you accept, and go get beat up on by the Pirates. Or maybe not....no really, the Pirates will roll. Ohio has been the MAC's most inconsistent team. After winning a 41-16 decision over Miami on October 26th, OU dropped three straight, being outscored by Buffalo, Bowling Green, and Kent State by a combined score of 123-16. Evidently however, based on the strength of a 51-29 victory over Massachusetts on November 29th, Ohio earned themselves a bowl invite. Tyler Tettleton is short on flash, but an efficient passer, throwing for 218 yards a game and a TD to INT ration better than 2 to 1. The Bobcats can give up big points though. The 23 Massachusetts scored marked just the second time this season the Minutemen topped 20 points in a game. East Carolina may have made a formidable ACC opponent this season. The Pirates knocked off both North Carolina and North Carolina State, and fell to Virgina Tech 15-10 on September 14th. East Carolina boasts the 11th ranked passing offense in the country at better than 331 yards per game and can score, score, score. Five times this season the Pirates topped 50 points, including hanging 63 on UAB on November 16th. Shane Carden has a 3 to 1 TD to INT ratio, and Vintavious Cooper finished just 5 yards short of 1000 on the season. This could get ugly unless Ohio can be the team that beat North Texas on September 7th. I say take the Pirates, lay the 13.
Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl (December 26th, Detroit, Michigan)
Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green (-5.5)
Congratulations Falcons! You pulled off the upset nobody thought you could, and you have been rewarded handsomely. With a return trip to Detroit. The day after Christmas. We of course know that's not the real treat. No, the real treat is a shot at the big boys. Pittsburgh finished 6-6 in the ACC this year, hardly a sparkling resume. The Panthers most impressive win was probably a 58-55 shootout with Duke on September 21st. Offensively they're dreadful. The Panthers offense ranks 104th in FBS. The Panthers probably shouldn't be playing in a bowl game, they struggled at home against a Virginia team that was blasted by Ball State in Charlottesville. They beat Notre Dame....who cares. It's a taking a lot of restraint not to go on power conference versus mid-major rant for several thousand words right now, so let's talk about your conference champions. Bowling Green has talent, and a lot of it. Matt Johnson threw for 393 yards and 5 touchdowns in the championship game against Northern Illinois. Travis Greene rushed for 133 yards and a pair of scores, and as impressive as these two have been all season long, it's not even the Falcons biggest strength. Bowling Green has the best defense in the MAC by a mile, and the number 8 defense nationally. Coach Clawson is gone, that's unfortunate, but Bowling Green could be led by anyone not named Ron English and handle the Panthers. Free Crazy Bread for everyone. Take the Falcons, lay the points.
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (December 26th, San Diego, California)
Utah State (+2.5) vs. Northern Illinois
Congratulations Northern Illinois! You were dump trucked in the conference championship game and you've been awarded with a trip to sunny San Diego! Do you need the rundown on the Huskies? Do you need me to remind you who Jordan Lynch is and what he does? Ok, he does everything. Except beat Bowling Green. The Huskies played some tight games this year. A weird one against Akron at home, and games with Ball State and Toledo that were touch and go in the second half. They were soundly beat by the Falcons, and Bowling Green exposed all of the flaws in Northern Illinois we had speculated about but not seen all season. The Huskies looked listless in the second half as the Falcons piled it on, and it felt eerily similar to the back end of Ball State's 2008 campaign. Unfortunately for NIU, Utah State matches up very well with the Huskies. The Aggies have the 10th ranked rushing defense in all of FBS and nearly knocked off Fresno State in the conference championship game. I hope we are able to see Jordan Lynch go out on a high note, a spectacular game that reminds you of the athlete that broke the record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback, waited a couple of weeks, and broke it again. He'll struggle to do that against the Aggies though. For those attending the game though, worry not. There are plenty of fantastic San Diego breweries to drown your sorrows. Take the Aggies and the 2 1/2 points.
GoDaddy Bowl (January 5th, Mobile, Alabama)
Arkansas State vs. Ball State (-9)
Do yourself a favor and Google Jay Mohr clowning GoDaddy spokesperson Danica Patrick, it's worth the search. This game already has seen a couple of coaching changes. Bryan Harsin left Arkansas State for Boise State, and Ball State offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky, is now the head man at Elon. Arkansas State should be praised for their ambitious non conference schedule. The Red Wolves went toe to toe with both Auburn and Missouri. (Yes, they were blown out by both). They actually tied for the conference lead with Louisiana-Lafayette, but as a result of a tiebreaker I can't be bothered to look up right now (I think it was a dizzy bat race) the Ragin' Cajuns are conference champions. Fine I looked it up, ULL beat the Red Wolves on October 22nd. By all accounts this isn't a particularly flashy team, they don't turn the ball over, and they've a nice balance of run versus pass. The Fighting Pete Lembos will enter Mobile looking to secure the first bowl game victory in school history. This is the most prolific offense ever at Ball State, and Keith Wenning in particular could catch the eyes of NFL scouts. The buzz is already out there. Cardinal faithful have been holding their collective breath as Lembo's name has been continuously linked to open head coaching jobs around the country. Fingers crossed he sees the season out. There could be some fireworks in this game. Every MAC fan knows that no team airs it out like Ball State. Conversely, their secondary remains suspect. In any event this has all the makings of tremendously entertaining way to close out the MAC season. Chirp, Chirp!