Fellow MAC fans,
If you're like us, you think this conference is one of the unique treasures hidden amongst the crowded college football landscape. Like treasure, quality MAC coverage is invaluable and sometimes difficult to find - unless you know where to look. We want this to be the place you look. Welcome to Mid-American Monday, a weekly column where Kaleb Carter and Justin Coffin place the the finishing touches on the week that was, and continue the conversation into the week to be.
Summer is great and all, but actual football games start soon, and we can hardly wait to talk about those games. Each week, we will reflect on a range of topics related to the previous week of play as well as those that relate to the future. Of course, we know there weren't any games played this past week, but we're really, really excited, okay? Plus, this is a great way to shake off the rust and be ready for what should be an unpredictable year in the MAC. That said, here's a few topics we plan to discuss/debate/yell about in the near future:
- "Seriously, look at EMU's schedule. They're TOTALLY going to win six games. Aren't they? AREN'T THEY?"
- "Does anyone know if Akron is really good or not? Asking for a friend."
- "Does WMU deserve any of this hype?"
We'd like to think we're pretty creative, but we know we're probably going to miss something you want to talk about. After all, we're here to talk with you (because talking to ourselves is boring, and also a great way to be avoided in public), so please, if you feel there's a reason for us to broach a particular topic, tell us in the comments/on the Twitter. Let's keep the conversation going all season.
So without further ado, here's our first topic:
Which MAC team has the best chance to go undefeated Out of Conference?
The "no chance in hell" group
JUSTIN (JC): Miami, Kent State, Akron, Bowling Green
KALEB (KC): Bowling Green, KSU, Miami
JC: Kaleb and I won't always agree, but we do agree that the out of conference schedules can be divided into four groups of varying difficulty. My early thoughts on this group were that Kent State clearly has the most difficult schedule, but I think I just got a little carried away seeing Alabama on there. Truth is, the Flashes have two games they should expect to win sandwiched between Penn State and ‘Bama. Should expecting to be 2-2 earn the "most difficult" distinction? Definitely not, but considering beating Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa is a literal impossibility and not a figurative one, they have the lowest chance of getting to 4-0
KC: I laughed when I remembered that Kent State has to play Alabama. Nick Saban, why you wanna do your old school like that? As for Bowling Green, a date with Ohio State will mean nightmares for the Falcon defense which leaves no hope for a win. Then there's the RedHawks. Even though Iowa seems to always find ways to play close games against lower-level D-I opponents, Miami doesn't have near the fire power to put up much offense against a stiff Big Ten defense. Maybe in a fantasy world could Miami defeat WKU or Cincy (though I acknowledge the latter game was close last season).
JC: So we agree on Kent State, but we've got to talk about Akron. Before I outwardly declare that Akron has no chance in hell to go 4-0 to start the season, let me preface by saying Akron is easily the best team in this group. That said - Akron has no chance in hell to go 4-0 to start the season. The Zips have a very difficult road game week two against Wisconsin, and then as tough a back to back Group of Five slate as anyone, playing Marshall on the road and App State at home. Akron is good, but I don't think we'd be foolish to think they'd be favored in any of those final two games, and equally foolish to think they win both of them after upsetting Wisconsin.
KC: NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND. Or are you foe? Anyway, I believe there IS a chance in hell that Akron manages to win four straight, and that includes a Saturday afternoon game at Camp Randall. This isn't the fantastical Wisconsin team of old (perhaps that isn't the proper word usage for a team that went I-form power/lead stuff more than anyone just a few years ago). The Badgers will be coming off of what should be a brutal showdown the week before with LSU, and could very well be beat up. No sane person should think Akron is the favorite, but I'll still give an Akron team that should contend for a MAC East crown, a chance to keep it low-scoring and interesting for four quarters.
The "So you're saying there's a chance?" group
JUSTIN: Ball State, Ohio
KALEB: Akron, Ball State, EMU, Ohio
JC: For one reason or another, I think many of us expect Ball State to regress in Mike Neu's first year, despite the high level of talent they have at the skill positions. Count me as one of those people. While Ball State's schedule isn't exceptionally difficult, it would shock me if they came out unscathed specifically because of the game at Indiana. I know that last time the Cardinals played in Bloomington they came out with a win in dramatic fashion. I also know that Indiana makes a habit of losing to MAC teams. But I don't think it's the same Hoosier program from previous years. The Cardinals could do well for themselves to beat more evenly matched teams in Florida Atlantic and Georgia State, getting to 3-1 before the MAC schedule.
As for your beloved Bobcats, Kaleb, I expect them to be 3-1 as well, but Tennessee didn't lose to Bowling Green last year, and aren't losing to Ohio this year with a better team. But there's a chance, because it's Tennessee, after all.
KC: I may be saying there's a chance for these squads, but I find the likelihood of any of them winning four straight games to win the season ludicrous. Akron has to go into Camp Randall. The Zips would have to be better than last year and the Badgers would have to crap their pants. Akron has App State too. Good luck with that. Ohio goes to Tennessee and that game lingers in my nightmares. Team speed kills ya know. EMU In some whacky world could actually win two or three games to start the year, but a solid rule of thumb would usually be: "don't pick EMU to do anything overly well."
It is Tennessee though. That it is.
The "Wouldn't surprise me" group
JC: WMU, CMU, EMU, Toledo
KC: Buffalo, CMU, WMU
Finally this blog will have something nice to say about Eastern Michigan. Here's the bottom line: EMU is not a bad football team, and has an out of conference schedule loaded with potentially bad football teams. Missouri is the major hurdle EMU must clear to shed - at least for a season - its reputation for doing EMU things. I'm not convinced we've seen the best of Brogan Roback, and I believe his play will lift the Eagle offense outside the MAC. I am officially on the EMU hype train. Please @ me.
Central Michigan just has to beat a not-as-good-as-you-think-they-are Oklahoma State team to get to 4-0, and WMU is supposed to be on the verge of a major breakout. Supposed to be. Toledo is very, very good, and has its big test week five at BYU. I'm giving them a great shot in that game coming out of the early bye week.
KC: Buffalo, CMU, WMU
Could the Bulls really win four straight to start the year? I mean, the best team the Bulls have in the non-conference might be Boston College, but it's probably Nevada. Bless you Brad Bates (shoutout Charlie Laplante). CMU after the loss of Romello Ross will probably have to go for 5,000 yards through the air this year, and a new-look Virginia squad under Bronco Mendenhall likely poses the hardest test for the Chips. Western? Matchups for the Broncos against Northwestern and Georgia Southern are very winnable and the fighting Flecks might just row their way to 4-0.
The "Best Shot" group
JC: NIU, Buffalo
KC: NIU, Toledo
JC: NIU has to go 4-0 with this schedule. Of course, a more likely scenario is they drop a head scratcher, causing the band wagon to hemorrhage members while we literally write them off until they go to Detroit for a 7th consecutive year. Now, in Buffalo's case, I'm a little more hesitant to expect them at 4-0, but despite the fact I know very little about the Licata-less Bulls, I think they pull it off. Lance Leipold is an excellent coach, and should get the most out of his team.
My very scientific method is basically "who has the most boring out of conference schedule" and then predicting them to win all of the games.
KC: NIU, Toledo
Everyone who picks against the Huskies come MAC time is stupid. That includes me. The schedule shines favorably on what should be a strong squad in 2016. South Florida and San Diego State should both pose strong tests for the Huskies, with the former being on the road and the latter at home. If we are to see the emergence of a powerful Huskie offense that thunders with Joel Bouagnon, strikes like a bolt of lightning with Kenny Golladay, and does a bit of both with Drew Hare, it will have to come against what should be a strong 4-2-5 South Florida defense. An undefeated NIU OOC schedule runs through Tampa.
As for Toledo being here, I think I surprised even myself with this pick. But let's explore it for a second. The toughest matchup for Toledo will easily be BYU in Provo, where the Cougars will be reasonably projected to win. Whether it's Tanner Mangum or Taysom Hill lined up at QB for new coach Kalani Sitake, the BYU offense will be hard to stop for new Toledo defensive coordinator Brian George's group. But imagine the shootout we could seen in this one. If Logan Woodside isn't too rattled by the Provo crowd, we could see a coming out party on national television for guys like Logan Woodside and Cody Thompson. I personally would love to see Terry Swanson and Kareem Rush rampant all over the Cougars. Could we see the Rockets at 4-0 after conference play too? I say yes.
That's all from us this week. Be sure to let us know of any topics you'd like to see discussed.