Each week after the clocks hit zero and the stadiums are cleaned out, I'll take a look back at the week that was and share my takeaways from what we just witnessed. Let's get right to it:
5) We're really not good against other non-MAC FBS teams.
If you've been paying attention to MAC football for a few years now, you've noticed something: a disturbing trend of losses against other FBS teams outside of the MAC. If 2-10 in bowl games over the past two seasons wasn't enough to cause worry, how about this: Since 2009 the MAC has only won more than 10 games vs. FBS foes in non-conference games once, 2012 (16). It's won 10 twice (2013, 2011) which is still less than one win per member. The MAC may produce a handful of 10-win teams each year, but there's an argument to be made that there's a lot of beating up on one another inflating those totals.
Those looking for signs of improvement this season won't be happy with the 0-4 record the MAC put up against FBS foes outside of the MAC in Week 1. The average margin of loss in those games was a shade under 19 points a game, and the smallest margins of loss actually came from Miami and WMU. The worst margin of loss? 28 points by the 2013 MAC Champion Bowling Green Falcons Friday night in a 59-31 beat down by WKU.
4) Bowling Green lost its defense.
Speaking of Bowling Green, the Falcons' offense may be fast, but the defense seems to have been lost in transition. BGSU's defense has been the best in the MAC for a few seasons now, and while a lot of attention was given to the Falcons' offense in 2013, it was the defense that got them in place to win a MAC Championship. The defense allowed just 15.9 points a game last season, and shut down Jordan Lynch in the MAC Championship.
But Friday night, on the road in bowling Green, Kentucky, the Falcons were a completely different team under Dino Babers. For all the hype of the offense—which struggled at first, but did eventually get rolling—the defense was awful. Western Kentucky moved the ball at will against the Falcons, and senior quarterback Brandon Doughty set several Hilltoppers records in his 569 yard, six touchdown performance. There was a stretch in the middle of the game where he went 19-for-20. he finished the game 46-for-56, and WKU managed 40 first downs.
It was WKU, not BGSU, that came close to 100 offensive plays (96 to be exact.). BGSU's defense gave up 708 total yards, and spent nearly 36 minutes on the field. We knew the Falcons lost some pieces up front and in the secondary, but this defense didn't even resemble the one we've come to know, the one that still returned six starters. It won't matter how fast the offense can score if it's always trying to dig its way out of a hole.
3) Toledo has a quarterback.
There were quite a few great individual performances this weekend: Jarvion Franklin showed he's a freshman to contend with for WMU, Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks made it clear Ball State is a run-first team now, NIU's Joel Bouagnon had four rushing touchdowns against Presbyterian, etc., etc. But the one performance the MAC should really take notice of is Phillip Ely's debut as Toledo's starting quarterback.
Against the No. 4 FCS team in the nation, New Hampshire, Ely orchestrated a 54-20 stomping. He started off slow, but quickly settled into a groove, finishing the night 24-for-34 with 337 yards and four touchdowns. He had command of Toledo's offense, and spread the ball around efficiently, completing passes to nine different receivers, and no more than six to one.
Terrance Owens was a good quarterback, don't get me wrong, but he was more of a game manager, and certainly was never able to spread the ball around for Toledo like this. The Rockets still had a potent rush attack against New Hampshire—306 yards and three scores—but if they can add a potent passing attack into the mix, they may just jump to the front of the pack.
2) Honey, we have a kicking problem!
Kicking is not MACtion. A field goal for three points is not what spawned the term to begin with, but for some reason, the MAC loves to kick field goals. This would be OK, if the MAC didn't suck at kicking field goals. Sure, Toledo's Jeremiah Detmer is near perfect. Ball State's Scott Secor and Ohio's Josiah Yazdani are great too, but overall, as a conference, this opening week kicking blunder after kicking blunder.
In total, 11 field goals were missed by MAC kickers, and three extra points. Eleven field goals missed their targets, and many of these were from under 30 yards. The boinked off uprights, sailed wide left, missed just right. These kicks did just about everything but sail through the uprights.
Even with Detmer going 2-for-2, and Secor going 3-for-4, the MAC managed to connect on 62 percent of their field goals. With success rates that low, why not just go for it all the time? It's not like you're actually giving up an points. just please stop missing 27-yarders. PLEASE.
1) It's still early.
Sure, Bowling Green's defense looked terrible. UMass' overall play was bad, EMU almost lost to an FCS school, NIU still doesn't have a starting quarterback, and Ohio's running backs fumbled four times in one half, but it's still really, really early. We have 14 weeks to go until the MAC Championship game in Detroit. So while it's easy to freak out, or shoot your expectations through the roof after the first week, let's remember, it's a Marathon, not a sprint.