Well, here we go. The season starts tonight, and the Mid-American Conference represent 5 of the 18 games on the ceremonial opening night of NCAA football. Finally, a nation of summer-worn, baseball-shunning zealot fans can blow their homeristic, ritualistic wads on the merger of different colored helmets in attempt to dictate where the brown Stewie Griffin-shaped object is headed. And for those of us whose baseball teams are eliminated from playoff contention ... the "is it football season yet?" question no longer needs to be asked. It's time.
Also, I will be live chatting here on Hustle Belt during all the action. An open thread will be posted later. It'll be grand. So in the meantime, let's do some previewin'.
Last year Ball State was 2-10. SEMO was 2-9 in the FCS, but Ball State was also 0-1 in the FCS (losing to New Hampshire). However, UNH was sort of a bigshot in the Colonial Athletic Association. SEMO is simply a hilarious acronym for a football team. So prepare for some huge numbers by either MiQuale Lewis or his alter-ego, MIQUALE MAN.
Kelly Page has no alter-ego. This won't matter, thankfully, until they start playing Bowl Subdivision teams. So stay human. Guess: Ball State 38, SEMO 10
@ Central Michigan Chippewas
Thursday, Sep 2, 2010, 6:00 PM CDT
Yargh. Visiting Hampton was 5-6 in the ME-ACK, and that could be the type of season CMU has this year. Gone are coach Brian Kelly, thrower Dan LeFevour, catchers Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson, rusher Bryan Schroeder, tackler Frank Zombo and thousands of young fans who got diplomas over the summer. Because that's what colleges do: they bring in young, naive teenagers who can't do laundry and morph them into still-naive humans but with an acute understanding of what "responsibilities" are, and perhaps a student loan. This happens all the time, and in this case the senior departure is felt worst for the Chippewas more than any other team in the conference.
But there will be no 08-to-09 Ball State-type dropoff. Currently Ryan Radcliff is the quarterback. Dan Enos is the coach. Kito Poblah remains the No. 1 threat at wide receiver. Tthere's also these chaps named Nick Bellore, Matt Berning and Sean Murnane, a cerberus of turnover creators. Things will be fine, but things will be better. Guess: CMU 41, Hampton 10
No, a Murray State Racer is not a snake, as originally thought by me. Instead it's a thoroughbred horse, although it hasn't been verified if the jockey is part of the mascot entity. Nonetheless, you may remember Murray State as the team that upset fourth-seeded Vanderbilt in the 2010 NCAA basketball tournament, only to barely lose to mid-major heartthrob Butler in the second round. So they have pretty good basketball. They have not-so-good football (3-8 in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2009). And despite their nickname, they have no NCAA equestrian team.
But Kent State's the team you care about. And if you care enough, you might see them blossom into perhaps the most balanced team on offense and defense. We know they'll be prepared, especially in the event that their quarterback goes down with an ACL injury. They also prepared enough to know that, most of the time, a guy named Eugene Jarvis will be lining up behind the quarterback during offensive plays, and occasionally it'll be a good idea, not to throw it over carnivorous linebackers and pass rushers, but instead gently stuff the ball in Jarvis' maw and let him use his sixth-year of eligibility for Golden Justice. Guess: Kent State 28, Murray State 7
If you're lucky enough to get Time Warner Cable SportsNet -- and I don't, which might explain why pulling up their website crashed my browser and ate about half of this post -- then you'll be able to witness the same-old rebuilding MAC football team with a new-old football coach.
Although you won't learn anything, except that the score will be atrociously lopsided. URI was 1-10 in the CAA, and no matter how many gobs of touchdowns UB can greedily hoard, it won't really change people's minds that they're going to be anything but a MAC East also-ran. So it's a tune-up. And it's on TV, so you'll watch.
Also relevant to Buffalo football: the spiffy UB blog Bull Run is hosting a MAC Blogger Pick 'em game throughout the season, and with nine other invited participants, they brought me on board to (likely) finish 10th out of 10 teams. How nice of them to organize this, although we do seem to be missing the ceremonial "monkey pulling bananas out of a wading pool" contestant that most radio stations use. Guess: Buffalo 26, URI 0
Northern Illinois Huskies
@ Iowa St. Cyclones
Thursday, Sep 2, 2010, 7:00 PM CDT
Jack Trice Stadium
This one's known in sewing circles as "tonight's fun game." Or, the only MAC game with two Bowl Subdivision programs. That could explain why it'll be aired on Fox Sports Net in certain locations, so check your area TV Guide dot com.
In an attempt to dodge wheel reinventions, SBN's Iowa State blog Clone Chronicles has the game preview, and they foresee an Iowa State victory. Blogger Mark Kieffer recognizes the danger that Kill's Huskies brings to them — really, NIU could upset any sub-.500 AQ team on any given day — but ultimately calls for a low-scoring Cyclones win. And that's probably what'll happen. Chad Spann will get his chance to singlehandedly wear down a Big XII defense, but this may not be true, because (a) it's not possible to wear down a Big XII defense as one man, and (b) not all scholars agree that Iowa State has a Big XII defense.
HOWEVER. Here on the Hustle Belt, I face a logical fallacy brought upon by no one other than myself. On my big-ass chart, I have Iowa State. But in my Bull Run pick 'em, I went for NIU. I assure you this was an inadvertent miscue in continuity, not unlike the plentiful instances in the South African-made sci-fi classic Space Mutiny.
Therefore, No additional guess will be made, because I've already done both, assuring a guaranteed correct assumption. And besides ... it was nice of me to give that dead woman another chance.
See everybody in tonight's open thread. And I do mean everybody. If you're tardy, I'll know.