Alright folks, my compadre and degenerate brother-in-arms Keith Scheessele got the party started with the slate of early MAC games. I'm going to take a stab Saturday's games.
Western Michigan @ Purdue
When: Saturday August 30, 12:00 pm EST
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, W. Lafayette, Indiana
Line: Purdue -10.5
Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell's move from Kent State to Purdue has been anything but rosy. Indeed, the Boilermakers suffered what some might say was their worst season in program history (1-11). After they snuck past the Sycamores of Indiana State - an FCS school mind you - the Boilermakers proceeded to lose 10 games in a row. The season was a debacle by any objective measure. In fact, the Boilermakers actually scored fewer points per game (14.9) last year than the Broncos. Sophomore Danny Etling is expected to lead the charge at QB, and he'll have help with 7 other returning starters on offense. Defensively, Purdue will be without senior safety Taylor Richards, who was suspended for the first two games, and safety Landon Feichter who is suspended for the first half for fighting in in the season finale against Indiana.
On the flip side the Broncos were also 1-11 last year under another first year head coach in P.J. Fleck, who incidentally served with Hazell as a grad assistant at Ohio State. They struggled on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Broncos ranked 116th in scoring offense nationally. Fleck has settled on sophomore Zach Terrell as the starting quarterback, and there's hope in Kalamazoo that an experienced line should help improve the Broncos' offensive woes.
The Broncos' defense wasn't much better surrendering 3,000 rushing yards, and only recording seven sacks last season. The offense can help things along by taking care of the ball though, as a quarter of the points they surrendered last year were off of turnovers.
Items of interest:
The Broncos have lost 19 straight road openers by an average of 23 points per game
Ultimately we've got two teams here hoping to rebound from bad seasons. Even with the Boilermakers' offensive woes last year, I see them as at least a two touchdown favorite. Throw in the fact that they're playing at home and they've been preparing for Western all summer, and this game has all the makings of a blowout.
Boston College @ Massachusetts
When: Saturday August 30, 3:00 pm EST
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts
Line: BC -17
BC head coach Steve Addazio hopes to build on the Eagles' 7-6 season last year. An improvement of five wins from the previous year, which culminated in a bowl berth. But it won't be easy with only 10 starters back (4 offense, 6 defense). The Eagles will rely heavily on running backs Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse as Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams is gone. Also gone is quarterback Chase Rettig, who will be replaced by graduate transfer Tyler Murphy, who comes over from Florida. Defensively they lose linebackers Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto. While there is a lot of youth on the team, they also have 15 fifth-year seniors to add leadership.
Conversely, the Minutemen have their work cut out for them. Arguably one of the weakest teams in all of FBS, they return 12 starters from last year's 1-11 team. Mark Whipple returns in his second stint as head coach of the minutemen. There's hope that Marshall transfer Blake Frohnapfel can improve on A.J. Doyle's 6-11 td/int ratio last year, but that of course is not saying much.
Items of interest:
The Minutemen are 5-18 all-time in this series and have been shut out five times as an FBS program, including the last two season openers in which they were outscored 82-0 by Connecticut and Wisconsin, respectively.
To say 17 points is far too generous would be an understatement.
Marshall @ Miami
When: Saturday August 30, 3:30 pm EST
Where: Yager Stadium, Oxford, Ohio
Line: Marshall -24
The Thundering Herd come into town with a lot of preseason hype. Amongst the chattering class, they are mentioned as one of the favorites among the Group of Five conference team that could play their way into a BCS bowl. They will be led by senior quarterback Rakeem Cato, who has generated a lot of hype, and much deserved. Cato is coming off of back-to-back seasons of at least 3,900 yards and 37 touchdowns. They lose their leading rusher from last year, Essray Taliaferro, but they have some experience and production out of the backfield returning with Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms. They also return senior receiver Tommy Shuler who led the team in receiving yeards with 1,165, and is only one of eight FBS players to catch 100 receptions in two different seasons. Defensively, the Herd return their three leading tacklers from last year's 10-4 squad. In sum, the RedHawks have their work cut out for them as they face a team predicted by many to win the Conference USA title.
Like several other MAC schools, the RedHawks return this year with a new coach. Coming off of a 0-12 season, there's only one way to go, which is up for Chuck Martin, who comes over from Notre Dame, where he was the offensive coordinator. Martin will try to implement more of a spread look, similar to what he ran in South Bend. Help comes in the way of Notre Dame transfer Andrew Hendrix, who is expected to start at quarterback. Defensively, the unit is experienced, bringing back 7 returning starters from last year. Unfortunately, at 35.7 ppg allowed, it's unclear whether that means more of the same or marked improvement.
Items of interest:
Miami has lost 14 straight road openers by an average of 24 points
Last four road openers were loss by 38 (OSU), 21 (W. Virginia), 35 (W. Virginia), and 38 (Marshall) points, respectively
With a gun to my head, it's tough to look past last year's rout. Still, I wonder if 24 points may be a little too much, especially on the road. The RedHawks may be on to something with Martin, who compiled a 74-7 record at Grand Valley State, winning back-to-back National Championships.
Ohio @ Kent State
When: Saturday August 30, 3:30 pm EST
Where: Dix Stadium, Kent, Ohio
Line: Kent -3
Some say payback's a bitch. That may hold true in this case. Surely the Bobcats have been thinking about this game all summer, as they were eviscerated by the Golden Flashes 44-13 at home, in the second to last game of the regular season. They suffered a similar fate in 12' losing 28-6. In fact, the Bobcats have lost by a combined 26.5 points the last two years. Thankfully for the Bobcats, Dri Archer is now in the NFL, which might explain last year's debacle. Somehow, though, the Flashes have managed to get the better of the Bobcats winning 4 of the last 5. Chalk it up to one of those rivalries that can't be explained by any statistic. Head coach Paul Haynes may lose Archer but he gets another year of maturation with quarterback Colin Reardon. The Flashes also return their second and third leading tacklers, along with Malcolm Pannell who led the team in INTs last season.
On the other side of the coin, the Bobcats are no doubt in good hands with head coach Frank Solich, the dean of MAC football coaches (well other than their record against Kent State). That being said, last season ended rather unceremoniously for Solich, losing 2 out of the last 3 including the Beef O'Brady Bowl, where they lost to East Carolina 20-37. Gone is quarterback Tyler Tettleton, along with leading rusher Beau Blankenship. Recently Solich named redshirt junior Derrius Vick as the starter. Defensively, they do return their two leading tacklers from last year, and the defense overall brings back 8.
I see the Bobcats as a 2.5 point favorite, but Vegas is clearly giving the Flashes the benefit of the doubt, given recent history. While the past is never a guarantee of future events, I'm not one to buck a trend, so lay the points.
Four for the road:
Ball State -25.5 vs. Colgate: Ball State. 5-0 in home openers under Lembo. Colgate coming off a 4-8 season.
Buffalo -28 vs. Duquesne: The Bulls. They've won 5 straight against FCS schools by 25 points per game on average.
EMU -18 vs. Morgan State: Eastern. A lot of points for EMU but NH was 5-7 last year losing to WKU by 41.
Toledo -10 vs. New Hampshire: Toledo. Line here reflects NH 10-5 record last year and appearance by NH in FCS semifinals.