Darius Jackson is the best running back in the MAC. There, I said it so you wouldn't have to. I know you disagree with me, and that's fine. You could tell me that it's Kareem Hunt, but he's been hurt, he's not better than much of anything when he's not on the field. Or that Darian Green -- he's having a good season but hasn't scored since Texas A&M. Anthone Taylor leads the conference with 474 yards, but Jackson has one less yard on 19 less carries.
There's been some disappointing team results, but the individual efforts on this team is better than you might expect. Jackson wasn't a high-profile name heading into the season with a little less than 300 yards all of last season and a pair of senior running backs in front of him, but he's arguably the most threatening back. He's got a great mix of size and strength, with some agility but would rather go straight upfield than try to cut and get the edge and make it into a track meet.
The unfortunate part about Jackson's skill is how limited his play can become. Two carries in the second half against Ball State. Four in the second half against Army. The first game he clearly just should've been given the ball more. But the Army game started getting so lop-sided that they had to develop a passing attack, and not just screen plays.
Shaq Vann sat out his first year on campus, now playing a great compliment to the Eagles' rushing attack. Against Wyoming, Vann had his first 100-yard game and one of his touchdown runs was for 74 yards (the other was for 15). Vann, similar balanced approach, has been used just as much as Jackson in the passing game as they both have 12 receptions this season. The South Bend, Indiana native is fourth in the MAC with 6.3 yards per carry while Jarvion Franklin's average is at 4.8. These two are the biggest reasons for why EMU has the fourth-best rushing attack (168.4 yards/game) in the conference but ninth in attempts (164), but the most touchdowns (12).
But when you're forced to pass the ball and there hasn't been the established playmaker at receiver, it doesn't make the uphill battle of these games any easier to play in. Brogan Roback has seven interceptions to his name, which is the most by any quarterback in the conference. If we take a gander at his splits, then you'll see where the bulk of these interceptions came in: the fourth quarter. Usually by now, he's looking to throw the ball down field and make some plays before time expires.
In the first three quarters, Roback has 33, 30 and 19 attempts, but come fourth quarter, he's always put into a situation where he needs to throw the ball with 61 attempts. He'll go from having a 14.1 yards per attempt in the third quarter to going just below five in the fourth. His completion percentage also dips from nearly 80 percent to 54 percent. He's also been unable to throw a touchdown in the fourth, but has three scores in the third. Some of these mistakes have been mental, others physical. The offensive line has only allowed him to be sacked five times, but Roback's done a lot of meandering about and hasn't quite been the most sound and hasn't been able to have his feet and rest of his body work together on his throws.
MAC Football Power Rankings: Toledo unanimous no. 1, Huskies fall to 6
The Huskies find their way out of the Top 5 while Central Michigan moves up to No. 4.
Some quarterbacks also get the luxury of having a go-to receiver to always throw to or string a bunch of passes to on a drive. Like Matt Johnson has Roger Lewis, Zach Terrell has Corey Davis, Blake Frohnapfel has Tajae Sharpe. Eastern's leading receiver is Eddie Daugherty, a 5-foot-7 true freshman that weighs under 160 pounds. At some point you have to wonder if and when the upperclassmen like Dustin Creel and Kevin Davis are going to take their leaps into being true leaders of this offense.
Better to have these losses early? The Central Michigan Chippewas had a 1-3 record which was nothing to be worried about. The defense held their own against Oklahoma State, then played well at Michigan State, now they beat Northern Illinois at home to open up MAC play. Sure, the Chippewas beat NIU in DeKalb last year but that didn't stop them from winning the title in Detroit, but this is a different season. We were all looking at the MAC West as a deep division full of talent and promise because of three schools. The Chippewas are shuffling around different receivers, using new play books with a new proud head coach, but they still have Cooper Rush.
Rush's yards per attempt has gone down from 8.3 to 7.3 from last year and his leading receiver is a tight end. There's also not much of a run game to work with since they're the only team in the MAC that averages under 100 yards per game on the ground, but they've got one of the best defenses in the conference, they have the experienced leader at quarterback, and they just beat NIU for them to go on a 3-game losing skid. Now, they take on Western Michigan, whose defense has given up a MAC-worst 6.8 yards per play.
The Huskies should be fortunate to lose now and not later. That's just the way I see it. Look, the offense isn't stellar, but there's good pieces. The defense is still good, you just lost a bad game with some late boo-boos. This weekend is a rivalry matchup for them as well with Ball State coming to town. The Huskies still own one of the better pass defense with nine interceptions and has gotten eight sacks. After that, they take on Miami on the road and EMU at home. The real test comes in November where they have to face Toledo and Buffalo on the road, but at least finish up with two home games against Western Michigan and Ohio.
There have been some exciting freshmen so far. We've heard more than enough from Riley Neal and James Gilbert, making immediate impacts on the Ball State roster. How about Antwan Dixon for Kent State? This guy came to Kent because he wanted to be better than what Dri Archer was. He's touched the ball 14 times and has three touchdowns to his name.
I'm not saying he'll be the Freshman of the Year, he's just fun to watch. That's all.