1. It's rivalry week with Bowling Green taking on Toledo and Miami taking on Ohio. What is the best rivalry in your opinion in the MAC and why?
Bull Run: As someone who's team has no MAC rival I am going to have to go with Central and Western Michigan.
I just see a lot more chatter between those two fan bases regardless of the sport or how evenly the teams may or may not match up. There were also quite a few years when the only thing between WMU and the MAC West was CMU.
Maybe it's because of the MAC rivalries Central and Western Michigan are the most alike. Those two schools could literally switch campuses and it would take the students a week to notice (It might take another week for them to care).
Ohio and Miami and different types of institutions, Toledo and Bowling Green are in different settings, Ball State and NIU are in different states, and Akron and Kent....
Hmmm Akron and Kent..
Ok maybe there are *TWO* pairs of relationships in which the schools are almost identical. Still I am going to go with CMU and WMU.
Let's Go Rockets: The best rivalry in the MAC is the Battle of I-75 between Toledo and BGSU. With few exceptions, both programs have been consistently good throughout their history. While Ohio and Miami have had some really good seasons, they have also fallen prey to some dreadful years as well. The Toledo vs BGSUcks rivalry matches up two schools, separated by just 25 miles, that genuinely dislike one another and is, by far, the top rivalry in the MAC.
FalconBlog: Well, I'm a little biased, but I think the BG-UT rivalry is a great one...lots of history, a heated rivalry, passion on both sides, long-standing competition. BG and UT are not OSU-UM in terms of history, but the rivalry is every bit as intense. Having said that, I suspect everyone else has their favorite, and Miami-OU and Kent-Akron certainly are also big rivalry games. The underrated one might be CMU-WMU. From what I see, those guys really don't like each other.
Eagle Totem: For some reason we seem to be somewhat obsessed with rivalries here in the MAC. Perhaps it's because, while some schools measure their seasons by national championships, final rankings, and the like, short of a conference or division title, the rivalries are how we gauge success.
It's been a quarter-century since EMU went to a bowl game, but they've held the Michigan MAC Trophy the last two years, and despite a terrible showing so far in 2013 it's not unthinkable that they could manage the three-peat. And the Eagles had a lock on the Ontario Sandwich Trophy until this just this year, having defeated then-Buffalo-now-New York the last five times.
Over The Pylon: Of course the best rivalry is the one between the beloved Ball State Fighting Football Cardinals and OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU. It's for a trophy for chrissake. I don't see a trophy for the WMU-EMU game, though perhaps they should be. Might I suggest a log? What rolls down stairs, alone or in pairs, or rolls over your neighbor's dog? What's great for a snack and fits on your back? It's log, log, log. It's log, log. It's big, it's heavy, it's wood. It's log, log. It's better than bad, it's good! Everyone wants a log. You're gonna love it, log. Come on and get your log. Everyone needs a log. Log. Log. Log. From Blammo! But really, I can't think of a great MAC rivalry as it really is contingent on who is good, and at least in recent memory, that's been BSU and OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU. There's a lot on the line when these two meet, and hell, twice in the last five years, a loss would have meant the end of BCS dreams for the programs.
Log Commercial (via soccer2fun1266)
2. NIU has opened up in the 18 spot in the last-first BCS standings, albeit behind Fresno State. If both teams manage to win out, should both teams bust the BCS or just one of them and which one? (put aside the MAC bias for a moment)
FB: Well, I don't think both teams end up busting in, but I didn't think one would last year and I was wrong about that. The biggest thing for Fresno is that they have the win over Boise for the conference games are pretty soft. NIU won at two Big 10 teams--albeit bottom tier teams. If I had to guess, though, I think the formula would put Fresno in.
OTP: I have to veto the premise of the question as OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU will not, as stated, "win out". If, and it's a big if they both do, then OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU will probably land the BCS bid, more so because they at least played a couple of decent teams before their flaming garbage pile of conference play. Fresno's entire schedule has been said blazing trash, so neither has a strong case but OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU has the least crummy of the two. But again, it's a moot point because the Huskies are getting beaten on November 13th.
LGR: At this point, neither team has played an opponent that is generally perceived as a strong team. NIU beat Iowa and Purdue but those teams are a combined 5-9. NIU won't be tested again until the end of the season against Ball State and possibly Toledo. Fresno's most prominent win is against a 5-2 Boise State team. If both teams can remain healthy and are undefeated at the end of the season, we think the BCS game could go to Fresno instead of NIU, but if either team gets an invite, we'd be surprised.
ET: What we "should" have is the Dan Wetzel playoff plan: all conference champions plus at-large bids for a 16-team playoff with the first two or three rounds hosted by higher seeds before finishing the tournament at a neutral site (or sites). In that world we wouldn't even be talking about Northern Illinois versus Fresno State; they could both be in the playoffs and have a fair chance to settle the matter on the field.
BR: The rules are the rules. If both teams finish in the top 16 and the AAC champ is lower than both should BCS bust. Who deserves it more? That is a little more difficult to figure out.
For NIU to get there they have to go through Ball State, Toledo, and whoever wins the east. For Fresno they will likely have to beat Boise again in the MWC championship. That right there is a very nice feather in the cap for the California dogs over the Illinois Dogs.
3. What has been your biggest surprise/storyline thus far this season and why?
OTP: Obviously I'm biased, but BSU's performance has been pleasantly surprising. I think most thought the Cards would be good, but nowhere near the level of dominance they've shown. Short of an unimpressive speedbump againt Kent, and the North Texas loss, the Cardinals have looked as dominant if not more so than OUR MOST HATED RIVAL NIU and everyone is collectively messing their pants over Jordan Lynch and the Huskies both in conference and on the national level. We talked about it before, but it's a damn shame the nation apparently only has eyes for one MAC player at a time, because Keith Wenning has looked just as good though different, from Lynch. Only one gets Heisman mentions. Only one gets ESPN splash pages. Only one gets Gameday mentions. Of course, as mentioned above, that could all change on November 13th, which makes that game and the run up to it the biggest storyline of the year in the MAC. These two programs are on a collision course for a MAC West title and it's about to go down like a drunk freshman.
LGR: Up to the Navy game, the biggest story line for Toledo has been that our spread offense has featured a very strong and productive running game. Fluellen's contributions to the effort to this point in the season cannot be overstated. He's put the offense on his back, at times, and run with it. He has also made his presence known by adding a bevy of receptions along the way. During the Navy game, the story shifted to injuries. First, we saw Fluellen go down, then Russell, then Voss. In the end, Russell was able to return to the game but Fluellen's injury may keep him from the BG game and Voss will lose the rest of the season with a broken arm. If Fluellen cannot return immediately, the question will be whether the Rockets can survive without their most potent weapon and if the receiving corp and young backs can pick up the slack.
BR: So far it would be Adam Redden
Redden was converted from a Safety to something of a hybrid line backer in Lou Teppers scheme. Going into the season I really had my doubts about Adam but he has been serving up big plays, and crow all year long.
Lou Tepper has a reputation for being a guy two involved in his own system. He has historically used it no matter what his teams personnel looked like. LSU fans consider his name a four letter word for how he tried to mold their defense.
It seems Redden is the last piece of the puzzle he needed at Buffalo for the scheme to work. Redden's level of play has twice won him player of the week awards from the conference and it has has really allowed Khalil Mack free reign to be a wrecking crew on the other side of the defense.
FB: For BG, it has been the emergence of Matt Johnson and Travis Greene to perform as well as they have while replacing long-time starters.
For the MAC, I'd say it is the absolute suckitude of WMU. Thought it might be a tough year, but this is beyond what I would have expected.
ET: The biggest surprise to me in the MAC has been the utter collapse of Western Michigan. I was dubious from the start of the whole "row the boat" thing - because, you know, they're the Broncos, and what does that have to do with rowing a boat except that a horse could never grip an oar with it's hooves - but I hardly expected them to be as bad as they've been. Then again EMU has been pretty terrible this year too, so November 9 could be interesting.
Closer to home, I've been surprised by just how bad EMU has been, and disappointed by the continuing silence from new AD Heather Lyke regarding the future of Ron English.
I'd like to thank the fellow blogs for their participation this week in answering our questions.