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2017 MAC Football Preview: Rockets and Chips Open with FCS Appetizers

Two MAC West frontrunners with high expectations and a lower tier opponent

Fresno State v Toledo Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images

Far be it for those who support the Mid-American Conference to trumpet a lack of equal talent as a the reason why a team shouldn’t get respect. We normally defend the corner of “all teams are created equal” or a poker-ish “chip and a chair” opportunity mindset when it comes time to make our picks or pique your interest. Go ahead and give us a table for one in the hypocrite section, because your Thursday night MAC schedule is shaping up to be a bit of a laugher.

Two of the three MAC-involved games on Thursday night see FCS opponents travel to the Rust Belt for the season-opener for all involved. On paper, it’s going to be a good night for the MAC. Overmatched, outgunned, and facing two of the toughest outs in the MAC doesn’t an upset make. Rather, it should be a coming out party for two championship contenders as both the Toledo Rockets and the Central Michigan Chippewas begin their Detroit Drive with appetizers of the FCS variety.

Elon Phoenix @ Toledo Rockets

Usually when an unstoppable force meets and immoveable object, fireworks ensue. It’s those sort of best-on-best matchups that make for the tastiest morsels of the football season. Unfortunately, for fans making their way to the Glass Bowl on Thursday night, it’s a best on worst matchup as the Rocket offense goes up against a defense that is inexperienced, in the middle of an overhaul, and wasn’t all that great to begin with.

There are times when a plucky upstart will go on the road and shock the world (or at least their hometown) and knock off a FBS program. It happens every year, and more than a few times against someone in the Mid-American Conference. But don’t get confused or scared, Toledo fans, as this Elon team is most assuredly not an FCS contender that has a smaller talent gap than normal.

Elon is overmatched, outgunned, and facing a Toledo offense that is capable of scoring at will, early, and often. Toledo QB Logan Woodside can garner some national attention with an eye-popping stat line, and that is entirely possible given the talent difference he’s going to be facing. Bottom line for the Rockets isn’t if they’ll win, but by how many, and when (if ever) Coach Candle will call off the dogs and put a bow on the first Rocket win of the season.

HB Prediction: Toledo 52 Elon 10

Rhode Island Rams @ Central Michigan Chippewas

CMU fans are hoping the Rhode Island Rams find it to be Mount Unpleasant as they take on the Chippewas at Kelly/Shorts Stadium Thursday night. The good news for CMU is that they are able to ease into the post-Cooper Rush era for the Chips against a Rams defense that should be an excellent starting point for former Michigan Wolverines QB Shane Morris to make the Chips offense his own.

The Rams have their own transfer to lead them, as former UCF Knights QB Tyler Harris will make his debut. While the worry level is low for this, how the Chips defense does against Harris will be an indicator of what sort of MAC season Central Michigan fans are in for. If, and it’s a big if, Harris has a good day against CMU that does not bode well for later in the MAC season against high-profile signal callers who feast on weak defenses. A shutdown effort from the Chips and the pieces may be in place for a run to Detroit and a MAC Championship.

Extrapolating results from an FCS matchup is always a dangerous game, but for CMU fans, there are things to be on the lookout for. Keep an eye on the flow of the offense under Morris and his on-field command. Rhode Island’s defense should offer little resistance. Keep an eye on the Chips offensive line and hope for a clean jersey for Morris. Watch the defensive front seven for pressure on the Rams. If all three things happen, it’s a statement start to the season for CMU, regardless of their opponent’s division.

HB Prediction: Central Michigan 44 Rhode Island 14

Kickoff for both is 7:00PM tonight, and you can find all your need to know info for how to stay up to date here for Toledo/Elon and here for CMU/Rhode Island. We’ll have our Open Thread here at the Belt for all your commenting needs and MACtion brotherhood so look forward to that as well. We’ve come a long way since January and football is finally back. Welcome, home.