1 - There is a definite perception that the MAC has gotten over the slump that set in half way through the last decade. NIU crashed the BCS party, Several MAC teams ranked at different points in the season, and a spell of respectable out of conference wins. Does what happened in 2012 have some staying power?
Yes and no. Of course, last year was huge. Between the mid-season upsets, the numerous rankings, and NIU, it was a great year for the MAC. However, with realignment severely hampering the Big East/American conference's image (not that it already wasn't great to begin with, but still. . .), half of last year's upsets will lose their luster. Beating UConn, Rutgers, and Cincinnati will no longer be as great. But still, they'll be good wins.
Ultimately, it will depend on how well the MAC can keep churning out coaches, or more importantly, keeping them. In the past couple seasons, the conference has produced Jerry Kill, Tim Beckman, Darrell Hazell, Dave Doeren, Butch Davis, Brady Hoke, and Mike Haywood (poor guy). None of those guys have stayed, yet Dan Enos, Jeff Quinn, and Ron English still have jobs. But if the MAC can keep producing quality coaches, and they can continue to build the programs, the MAC could become the best non-AQ conference in a couple years (over that pesky Mountain West Conference).
2 - On the Bowl Picture - The MAC looks to have four Bowls knotted up (Boise, Mobile, Montgomery, and The Bahamas). There are rumors that a fifth Bowl, likely the replacement to the Little Ceasers Bowl, will be coming out soon. How has the MAC front office done?
On a strictly football standpoint, good. Losing the LCPB was a crushing blow. Losing the closest bowl game to our homes is always tough. Replacing that 1 game with 2 or 3? Win. Guarantee that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th (or 6th) MAC team gets a guaranteed spot in post-season play whereas before, 8-4 Temple sits a home having beat an 8-4 UConn who plays in the Fiesta Bowl. Bowls suck. Lets not have this happen again. Ever.
3 - Ok onto football Which MAC team has the best shot at a meaningful upset this week? Which MAC team is most likely to suffer a shameful loss? Why?
NOTE: I do not count NIU over Iowa as an upset given where both teams are. If it is an upset, is it truly that meaningful? Really? If I had to say which MAC team could beat a top 25 team, it'd be Toledo over Florida. Yes, the game is in The Swamp. Yes, Florida's defense was amazing last year. But Florida's offense stunk. Even in the SEC, they were royally bad as shown by their Sugar Bowl performance when a good, not great Louisville team smashed the Gators. So, Toledo.
As for the loss, I'm really tempted to go with Eastern Michigan. Looking through the games, the following teams wouldn't be shamed too much in a loss: WMU (@ MSU), Ohio (@ Louisville), Toledo, Akron (@ UCF), Buffalo (@ OSU), and CMU (@ Michigan). Barring blowout losses, Miami, BGSU, and NIU should be fine as well. That leaves Ball State (vs Illinois State), Kent State (vs Liberty) and EMU (vs Howard). Kent State should take care of business easily. Ball State should win too, but a loss to a decent ISU team wouldn't be too shameful as a whole.
If EMU were to lose to Howard, it would create a string of horrible jokes about the Eagles' futility that wouldn't end until (a) Ron English was fired almost on the spot or within 3 weeks, (b) EMU had another decent season and, (c) Akron or UMass struggled and lost their own FCS game. No team has more to lose in my opinion from an image standpoint, especially given their attendance issues.
4 - Aside from your team what is the game of the week and why?
NIU vs Iowa, and it's a no-brainer. Jordan Lynch and Company looking to avenge their lone regular season loss on the road at Kinnick Stadium where a 7-6 CMU team won last year. Iowa and Kirk Ferentz are fighting to stay relevant in the Big Ten and a loss to Iowa would be horrible. If NIU can win this one, and then beat Purdue 3 weeks later, they would be set up perfectly to bust the BCS again.
5 - Rank them
|1.||NIU||Really? This is a no brainer|
|2.||Ball State||Because of that offensive firepower, they should be able to hang with anyone. Their defense will come as well. Trust me, they came together late and will continue to be stellar.|
|3.||Ohio||Beast of the East. Just have to get through Kent State and BGSU to get to Detroit|
|4.||Toledo||Can their defense hold BSU and NIU? If yes, then they can win the MAC. If not, they will still be fun to watch.|
|5.||BGSU||Anyone else hugely excited for the Battle for the Peace Pipe? Unstoppable force vs Immovable object|
|6.||Kent State||Sure Hazell is gone. Dri Archer, Trayion Durham, and Roosevelt Nix are still there though. The question will be, can offense move under a new QB?|
|7.||Buffalo||Jeff Quinn gets to show he's worth that extension he signed this offseason, Khalil Mack gets to show he's worth a 1st round draft spot, and Joe Licata gets to prove he is actually good against decent competition|
|8.||CMU||Dan Enos, it's your time to shine! Methinks Zurlon Tipton will be dead by the end of the year from carrying this offense.|
|9.||WMU||Ahoy mat........screw it. I just can't. P.J. Fleck better be able to coach a team or it will be a LONG tenure under him. I hear the jokes already.|
|10.||Miami||There's perks to being in the East. Like being as bad as Miami can be (without Harwell) and yet still not being even the 2nd worst team in your division!|
|11.||EMU||Ron English has to win now, and even with a monster like Bronson Hill, I'm not sure that's possible.|
|12.||UMass||A young team, with experience, in their 2nd year in the FBS. I like their chances to not finish last again.|
|13.||Akron||Oh Akron! Even when the MAC adds a team, you can't avoid being last. Saving grace, you do get another chance at UMass this year.|