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The MAC Returns A Boatload Of Quarterbacks For 2011

Here's a quick stat to consume if'n you're missing college football. It's, what, more than four months away, but if you have reason to believe the conference will be a little stronger, consider: From 2009 to 2010, five of the six top quarterbacks exited as seniors. This meant that the 13 lining up under center were going to be collectively greener than desired.

And while the inexperience showed in the nonconference games, a few stars materialized as the season progressed. Chandler Harnish had an unbelievable season. Miami and Toledo showed its depth after Zac Dysert and Austin Dantin gave way to Austin Boucher and Terrance Owens, respectively. Inconsistency bit Ryan Radcliff, Alex Carder, Matt Schilz, Spencer Keith, Alex Gillett, Jerry Davis, and Patrick Nicely. Mike Gerardi and Keith Wenning became starters midseason, and that leaves OHIO's Boo Jackson — the only quarterback in this entire paragraph who was a senior last year. Everybody else I just mentioned is coming back.

No, they're not all going to be great, and some may even be a year away. But much like the Basketball Return Matrix, this should only be used to gauge returning experience:

Mid-American: 12 of 13 (92%)
Conference USA: 10 of 12 (83%)
Sun Belt: 7 of 9 (78%)
Big East: 6 of 8 (75%)
Mountain West: 6 of 8 (75%)
Independents: 3 of 4 (75%)
TOTAL: 80 of 120 (67%)
Atlantic Coast: 8 of 12 (67%)
Pacific-12: 8 of 12 (67%)
Southeast: 7 of 12 (58%)
Big 12: 5 of 10 (50%)
Big Ten: 5 of 12 (42%)
Western Athletic: 2 of 8 (25%)

(Percentages and total teams reflect 2011 realignment)

So no, it's not going to necessarily be a down year for the Big Ten, because backups in that conference are still probably more talented than this year's MAC starters. But what does happen is that the performance margin narrows somewhat. And even OHIO will have Phillip Bates, who wedged himself into the game for about 100 plays last year as "the running quarterback."

Then there's also the daunting question of who the heck the starters will be. There are some mighty fine open races in the conference, from Ball State to Buffalo. And if any of them start a freshman, you may as well throw that percentage right out the window. But I don't see any redshirt freshmen getting the ball to start the year.