Over the summer, Jesse Collins from Off Tackle Empire and I decided that in spite of our different allegiances (he, loyal to the throne of B1G, I, loyal to the house of MACtion) we needed to start working together. We're both Midwestern-ish football fans, with a taste for Eastward manifest destiny. The B1G and the MAC have a big brother, little brother thing going on, and SO MANY B1G MAC PUNS TO BE HAD!
After some brainstorming we came up with the idea of examining relegation and promotion in college football from a B1G - MAC perspective (two all-American conferences on a Mid-Western bun). Each week Jesse and I will get together to hypothetically promote one MAC team to the B1G, and demote one B1G team to the MAC. The weekly series will be split into two parts: the discussion of the demoted B1G team here, and the promoted MAC team over at OTE.
This first week was fun because I got to promote a team that may never get this opportunity again, and restore an old ball coach to his status as one of the Big Boys of college football.
Bryan: If Ohio is moving on up, someone's got to come on down to the MAC. Who is it? PLEASE TELL ME IT'S PURDUE!
Jesse: Well, as we continue down this road this season, let's just agree that Purdue will most likely be hanging out in the MAC at some point or another. Fortunately for them, they notched a win.
Bryan: Well, is beating WMU really a "win"? If not our old pal Darrell Hazell, can we get a crack at Northwestern and the fightin' Pat Fitzgeralds?
Jesse: Eh? Tomato. Tom-ah-to... WMU might not really be a ‘win' for most people, but it had been a while for Purdue since they beat a FBS school. We'll let this one slide.
No, we're going exactly where you were hoping next. The Fighting Fitz's. Now, to be fair, let's give Northwestern these caveats. 1) The Union stuff - no matter what anyone says - was probably a bigger distraction than anyone has let on to. It pitted Coaching vs. Players, and that always sucks. 2) The California Golden Bears are a P5 school. 3) Losing Venric Mark right before the season sucks. There's just no real way around it. This was a textbook trap game, and Northwestern fell into it.
That in mind, the Wildcats looked terrible for the greater part of three and a half quarters. I try to make it my job to watch as many B1G games as possible (don't let OTE know, we're trying not to let our readers know we actually watch football). Watching Northwestern's passing offense was pretty painful for most of that game, and while you can tell there is a lot of talent in the RB department, things are definitely still trying to gel. Trevor Siemian and the Wildcat offense makes its living on dink and dunk, and he went 23/44, which just won't fly. I worry for them.
Even more scary, that defensive secondary looked positively lost at times. On the nail-in-the-coffin TD by Cal, Northwestern's DBs just got burned. I would expect the rest of the B1G to take note. So, there you have it. We're giving you those nerds from ‘Chicago'. Wait until they tell you they're Chicago's MAC team.
Bryan: Chicago's MAC team? I think we already have one of those. Northwestern can't defend the pass you say? Oh boy, then this will be fun.
First, a non-football ranking. Nearly every MAC program has a journalism school So does Northwestern, and while those purple quilled Evanstonians may believe they have the best J-School in the B1G, when they come down to the MAC, they're not Top Dog. That'd have to go to Ohio. I'll give NW No. 2.
But in terms of football, NW would probably be a bit lower. Yes, they have better athletes than most MAC schools. Sure, they have nicer facilities. But their secondary is suspect, and with the likes of Toledo, Akron, Bowling Green and even Ball State, that could cause some serious issues. If I had to place them in our current power rankings, it'd probably be somewhere in the four to five range.
None of the directional Michigans would be able to get it done against NW. UMass doesn't even know how to play football. Miami can't run the ball worth a damn, and NW would feast on these lower tier schools. Ball State is breaking in a new quarterback, and I think Lembo may be a better coach than Fitzgerald, but I think the Wildcats would win that matchup most of the time. It's when you start talking about Toledo's potent spread, BG's Baylor-style offense, Akron's gun-slinger and NIU's ability to put a traffic cop in the backfield and let him run for four touchdowns that NW starts having issues and would lose the majority of the time. So No. 4 seems about fair.
Jesse: I think you're being generous on the facilities piece, although the ‘Cats are doing some really nice rebuilding. Anyhow, the way you explain it, you're probably right. While most Northwestern fans are doing their best to not freak out too much, pointing out my above caveats, I do believe you're right in worrying about them against a solid MAC offense. As this season progresses, I'm sure we'll see those really start to show their stuff. Also, sorry about having UMass, we're still trying to convince ourselves that Purdue knows how to play football, so I get it.
So to recap, we have Northwestern as the 4th best team in the MAC and Ohio as the 11th best team in the B1G. Any final thoughts we missed?
Bryan: Everyone has better facilities than the MAC, when MAC teams consider a giant white trash bag to be an indoor practice facility. But nope, everything seems to be in order. Frank Solich gets to go back to a bigger conference, and NW fans get to freak out when Toledo's former ‘Bama QB blows up their secondary. All seems right in the world.
For Part I where we discussed which MAC team would get promoted, head on over to Off Tackle Empire.