Hello again, loyal readers!
We liked how last week’s YORT went with the observations, so we’ll be doing that once again here, with our thoughts on all six games from Week 11! It was a fairly straight-forward week in #MACtion, with one true upset in Ball State overcoming Northern Illinois.
But ah, we’re getting ahead of ourselves! Let’s get right into it:
Ball State vs. Northern Illinois observations
James H. Jimenez: I was the lone writer to predict Ball State over Northern Illinois in our Pin ‘Em Down last week, and felt pretty vindicated when I saw the result come down the pipeline. Ball State showed against Central Michigan a few weeks prior their run defense was good enough to stuff what NIU does well— and NIU’s run defense was not good enough to stop what Ball State does well. Combine that with NIU’s nightmare season playing at home so far (2-3, with a loss to an FCS team) and it was a recipe for an upset. I have to admire Ball State’s tenacity to continue playing so hard even after losing an opportunity for the postseason; it’s an indication of their character despite their record. There’s still a few weeks before they have to make a decision about Mike Neu, but if this game is any indication, it certainly seems like the players haven’t given up on him yet.
Drew Pearson: This loss makes it two in a row for Northern Illinois and you could argue they should have won both games. Rocky Lombardi put the ball on the ground three times, the last one directly leading to the winning field goal. The Huskies have to win out to make a bowl game which seemed like a given after the Ohio win. Mike Neu’s job security is trending in the wrong direction and may not be salvageable since a bowl game is off the table. I don’t know if winning the Bronze Stalk can stop what is coming down the tracks, but it’s never a bad thing.
Keith Gregorski: A couple of jobs where the coaching seats may become warm if not already. NIU’s inconsistency this year has to be tough for fans as they lose another game they were fully capable of winning. After sloppy and/or ineffective offensive games like Tulsa and Southern Illinois appeared to be in the rear-view mirror, three turnovers in this one doomed the Huskies. The win needed versus Western Michigan next week to stay on track for bowl eligibility is far from the gimme it may have seemed at the beginning of the season as the Broncos gain momentum. Big win for BSU to grab the Bronze Stalk. I like what I have seen from Coach Neu personally and if no decision has been made regarding his status the Cardinals have a chance to finish the year with three wins as they face 1-9 Kent State next and a Miami RedHawk team that may have clinched the East and be playing backups in the final game of the year.
Central Michigan vs. Western Michigan observations
James: Central as they are currently constructed are simply incapable of consistency. They’re an immensely frustrating team to watch; in-game adjustments are almost non-existent or come too late, players are either undisciplined or don’t have the experience quite yet to match up. They’ve survived by living in the margins this season (sitting at 5-5 despite one of the worst offenses and defenses in the NCAA), but their weaknesses came home to roost here. Western immediately identified CMU’s soft coverage and lack of pass rush and attacked it for big gains early, then leaned on the running game late to run down the clock once they built up a lead. CMU’s 21-point rally was more desperation than design, and they could not maintain that pace as soon as WMU punched them back in the mouth. WMU has looked much improved in recent weeks, and now control their own postseason destiny. They’ve absolutely exceeded any preseason expectations.
Drew: Around the third quarter I started feeling that dread that I’ve felt many times watching the Broncos. This game is getting away from them and there’s nothing they can do to get out of the tailspin. Jalen Buckley and Leroy Thomas hit the big plays and the defense did their parts to get WMU back in front and the defense held CMU in check. After the game, the rivalry game made both fanbases feel things. A bowl game in Lance Taylor’s first season gets more and more real with each win.
Keith: WMU continues to improve and teams that got the Broncos earlier in the season should feel lucky. A win next week versus NIU next week puts the Broncos on the cusp of bowl eligibility with a win over the MAC East’s most improved squad, Bowling Green, needed in the final game of the season to get to six wins.
Ohio vs. Buffalo observations
James: This was a prove-it game for the Ohio Bobcats, and despite the result, I still don’t feel terribly confident in what they’re putting out right now. While they’re not completely out of the MAC East race (they need Miami to lose twice), they’re making things harder than they should be, scraping by opponents they should beating soundly quite often. But a win is a win and right now, they’re still technically in contention, and I think Ohio is perfectly fine with that. As for Buffalo, this was a must-win game to stay relevant in the MAC East and remain eligible postseason contention and instead, they were swimming for answers to an anemic offense before ultimately drowning in a lackluster loss. Mo Linguist will probably get at least another year to show he’s right for the job— and there are signs to point to that they’re establishing something— but this is a division which should be wide-open and he hasn’t taken the opportunity when it’s offered.
Drew: I have no idea what is up with Ohio’s offense. They have an excellent defense, but they struggle to find wins despite their efforts. The Bobcats got the points they needed in the end and got the expected result. Ohio was without Sam Wiglusz but there should be enough playmakers, including maybe the best true passer in the MAC, to score more than 20 points. The last time they broke that barrier was October 7th against Kent State.
Keith: Hats off to the ‘Cats for bouncing back from the heartbreaking loss to their rivals Miami the week prior. Although they no longer control their MAC East title aspirations, they did come out and beat Buffalo on the road which isn’t always easy. Many players in the MAC play hard but no one wants it more than the Bobcats as seen by their efforts on the field. There were a lot of reasons why Ohio’s offense was perhaps not scoring earlier in the season but at some point they are what they are and the Bobcats are eighth in points scored in 2023 after ranking first in 2022 with most of the same personnel. Different circumstances to a degree but they have gone big stretches in the last four weeks without much happening. The Bobcats clearly miss Jacoby Jones, who was a difference maker in the explosive play department but was lost earlier in the year to injury versus Bowling Green.
A tip of the cap to Buffalo who tried two quarterbacks and generated some offense on the ground courtesy of QB CJ Ogbonna.
Bowling Green vs. Kent State observations
James: Scoreboards can only show the results, but box scores and film can sometimes tell you more. Some large scoring gaps are revelatory for either one team or both teams. Other, similar results might confirm your priors. This game, however, doesn’t really unveil anything new about either side. Kent State is a team who currently doesn’t know how to win at the FBS level, and BGSU (already one of the NCAA’s best at generating takeaways) took advantage of their miscues with efficient drives to stack up the numbers. Games like this can go from boring to sad to amusing, and I think for KSU’s sake, this is a result they should probably laugh about and bury. Next week is a new week.
Drew: Terion Stewart did not play for Bowling Green, but Ta’ron Keith filled in and went bananas. He lead the Falcons in rushes and catches for 17 total touches, 233 yards and two touchdowns. Bowling Green took care of business and became bowl-eligible with the win. Bowling Green pass rush specialist Cashius Howell has five sacks in the last three games, including two against Kent State. He has 7.5 on the year with only 20 total tackles.
Keith: After a debacle performance versus Ohio, the Falcons have really turned things around winning five of six games including the win over Georgia Tech.
Akron vs. Miami observations
James: Am I the only one who thinks Miami could seriously compete in the Big Ten West? This team is certainly built like it plays in that division, as they’re all about defense, special teams and ball control offense. It’s a formula which has found them success a few times, and it looks to be the case this year as well. What’s most impressive is they’re doing it with Aveon Smith at quarterback. This isn’t a knock on Smith necessarily as he has been admirable in spot starter duty, but the team doesn’t reach their ceiling when he’s under center. Although... it should be noted that Chuck Martin simply does not take risks or press the accelerator, so we’ll never see the true scoring potential of this team no matter who is at QB. Rashad Amos should get his flowers at the end of the season as as all-MAC running back, with his single-handedly winning the game vs. Akron being a case-in-point.
Drew: The Akron defense is better than you think it is. I still can’t tell if holding Miami to 19 points is good or not because Chuck Martin takes his foot off the gas when he feels he can kill the clock all the way to the win. We’re talking about a man who punted on 4th and 5 from the Akron 37-yard line in this game. Rashad Amos has come on as their #1 running back and ran for 118 yards and two scores. Linebacker Ty Wise got to Akron’s quarterback for three sacks and the Zips couldn’t get anything going a week after winning the Wagon Wheel.
Keith: I have not looked at the MAC numbers as a whole but I sense this year we are seeing somewhat better defense in the MAC at times. Akron has had some weeks where the defense played well like this week. Newcomer CJ Nunnally IV continues to shine for the Zips in his first year with the squad with ten tackles and a sack last week. Nunnally IV should finish the 2023 campaign as an All-MAC selection.
Eastern Michigan vs. Toledo observations
James: As I said before, there are some large scoring gaps which reveal something about both teams and other results which can confirm priors. The 49-23 win for Toledo confirms what we already knew: Toledo is the best team in the MAC by a pretty good margin, and EMU just had nothing for them. I’m sure the other will discuss Toledo, so I’ll go deep on EMU, who I feel are the most disappointing unit in the MAC this season. I really expected more from a team who was returning most of their experienced players and adding in some dynamic playmakers to supplement that talent. Instead, this is a team which has had a “dead man walking” feel to it since late September, and the last two games have cemented their 2023 campaign as a lost one. With a lot of what makes this team tick departing in a few weeks, I cannot help but wonder what the future of the Eagles looks like. It certainly does feel like the window has closed for them, even if there could be a few moves in the division going forward.
Drew: Toledo left no doubt and put Eastern Michigan away immediately. They scored on their first five possessions and took a 35-3 lead into halftime. Dequan Finn only threw four incompletions in the game and Peny Boone rushed for three touchdowns on 11 carries. Eastern Michigan’s offense has not been good this season but Toledo’s defense made them look terrible. Toledo has been the odds-on favorite to win the MAC for the majority of the season and I would suggest getting on board with that and rooting for them to be the highest-rated G5 champion. Next year that would get them into the playoff!
Keith: Congratulations to the MAC West champs, as Toledo stomped EMU 49-23 for the easy win. QB Dequan Finn had a field day with over 400 yards passing. Excited to see what happens next week versus the Falcons; with the division clinched, do the Rockets play starters and continue to grow top-25 talk or do they play reserves against a surging Falcons squad.
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Thanks for reading!