Like you, we're all pretty sick and tired of all the not-football that's been going on in the world. The Olympics were cool and all, but we all know that's just a palate cleanser for the main event, which is four whole months of college football. Finally the opening week is upon us, and there's 12 games featuring MAC teams spread out over the entire weekend, starting with Central Michigan and Presbyterian on Thursday and ending with a late night clash between NIU and Wyoming on Saturday going into Sunday.
We've got a few things we're looking out this week, and we go into a bit more detail about those things below. We'd be remiss if we didn't, you know, talk about these games at least a little bit, and we're glad you're here to join the conversation.
Thursday, September 1st
Presbyterian @ Central Michigan - 7:00 p.m.
Justin: Full disclosure, as a WMU alum, I have a very difficult time getting excited to watch this game, even if it's the first MAC game of 2016. It's Central Michigan, who I am programmed to loathe with every ounce of my being, and it's an FCS home opener. Yawn.
However, a development I'm actually interested in with this Chippewa team is the running game. It's no secret the Chips struggle to run the football, and the injury bug has struck once more with Romello Ross sidelined for the season. It may just be presbyterian they're running against, but John Bonamego's squad could use any positive momentum they can get.
Kaleb: All I'm saying is, I will only watch this game if it's on and nothing else is. However, I am also curious if CMU will be able to run the ball. Maybe Cooper Rush will go for 600 yards through the air. I mean, if Miami can beat Presbyterian by 19, there's no reason for this one not to be a stinker.
I'll look to see if we see some sort of explosion from a Chippewa running back we know nothing about yet, That'd be a cool story going forward.
Friday, September 2nd
Mississippi Valley State @ Eastern Michigan - 6:00 p.m.
Justin: I should probably thank Brogan Roback for making this game interesting. Two weeks ago this is a game many would completely ignore, and how could you blame them? But now, It's a must watch on Friday to see how the team responds without its starting quarterback. It's not like I'm expecting an EMU loss or anything, nor do I expect this to be the ushering in of the Todd Porter era at The Factory, but this is an Eagle team with a ton of opportunities in the out of conference schedule. It's important they get off to a hot start.
Kaleb: MVS is still going to lose. I look forward to the Shaq Vann show that is about to greet us all and give the Eagle fans that much-maligned sense of hope that they should fear.
Go watch a high school game this night people! (Unless you're a fan of one of these two teams, then go nuts.)
Albany @ Buffalo - 7:00 p.m.
Justin: This is the first look at a Buffalo team that is nearly unrecognizable compared to a year before. Anthone Taylor, Joe Licata and Ron Willoughby are gone, to name a few, and seeing how the newcomers make an impact in week one is interesting enough for me to turn away from the Eastern game for a little bit. I'm really excited to see Tyree Jackson, the true freshman from Muskegon, MI. He's a three-star recruit and a dual threat. This game shouldn't be close for long, meaning we could see Jackson regardless if he starts or not.
Kaleb: Buffalo, like the two of us discussed before, could go 4-0 out of conference. It's not too absurd. I don't think it's likely, but it wouldn't blow me away.
With Taylor gone, Jordan Johnson has a chance for a breakout year. More than anything, I'd like to see a strong defense from Buffalo that doesn't yield too much ball movement to an FCS program, especially to a Great Danes team that went just 3-8 last year.
Ball State @ Georgia State (-3.0) - 7:00 p.m.
Justin: It seemed pretty bad when Ball State lost to Georgia State a year ago, but turns out we were just unfamiliar with the Panthers. Turns out they were a bowl team while Ball State was, well, not. But Pete Lembo is gone now and it's a "Neu Era" in Muncie with head coach Mike Neu. I'm not expecting much out of the Cardinals this year, but the pains of rebuilding will seem much less severe with a week one win.
Kaleb: I might watch a bit of this just to point out any neu flaws I find in this Cardinals team to fellow Hustle Belter, Keith. All aboard the Riley Neal parade right? Anyhoo, hoping to see KeVonn Mabon make some dudes look silly.
Toledo @ Arkansas State (-3.0) - 9:00 p.m.
Justin: This is the game on the week one schedule. You can't call yourself a fan of G5 football if you're watching something else on Friday night. Toledo is a better team than many think, and Arkansas State is both good and perhaps a bit pissed off about being bested by the Rockets multiple times recently. At least the Red Wolves weren't the only team from Arkansas to lose to Toledo in 2015.
I'm looking for Logan Woodside to have a big game. He was good two years ago and should be better this season following his brief sabbatical as a backup to Phillip Ely. I also want to see how Jason Candle handles his first game as head coach. History shows Toledo won't miss a beat after an internal hire, and we should see if that's true Friday night.
Kaleb: One thing I continue to find interesting in having access to our notifications on the Hustle Belt twitter account is the fact that several Arkansas State fans have followed us fairly closely since that high-scoring 63-44 matchup between these two in the GoDaddy bowl (R.I.P.).
Toledo just has the state of Arkansas's goat. That much seems obvious. Bill Clinton, don't you dare step foot in Toledo anytime soon. You'll have what's coming to ya. And it'll have something to do with jet fuel (not a real threat, Secret Service please don't show up at my house or place of employment).
Wait was I supposed to analyze something here?
Hunt, Swanson, a PLETHORA OF ATHLETES. Toledo puts up 50+ and over 450 yards. Book it.
Saturday, September 3rd
Western Michigan @ Northwestern (-5.0) - 12:00 p.m.
Justin: WMU football doesn't look too good after this weekend's crime allegedly committed by two of its now former members. It now has a big game to play against Northwestern and has plenty to prove if it's to live up to all the preseason hype. I'm looking to see if this team plays with the swagger and explosiveness that's expected of a favorite in this conference. I'm very interested to see if the Broncos can run their offense like normal against a very good Northwestern Defense, and it's all going to come down to whether or not Zach Terrell makes big throws and keeps the ball out of the hands of the team in purple.
Kaleb: Not so fun circumstances surrounding this program. But WMU is a popular pick among our staff to win the conference, so let's see if Northwestern's pretty strong defense can hold Corey Davis in-check. I specifically want to see how Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin look as a tandem in this one, and if the Broncos O-line can push the Wildcats around a bit. It's all about the trenches for this one.
Bowling Green @ Ohio State (-27.5) - 12:00 p.m.
Justin: Lots of firepower from last year missing on this Bowling Green squad. James Knapke on his best day is no Matt Johnson, and Roger Lewis isn't walking back through that door. But it's Bowling Green, and they'll still have plenty of weapons at Knapke's disposal. I'm curious to see how the quarterback whose situation is much like Logan Woodside's just a few miles north in Toledo steps up in a pretty hostile environment. The Falcons are also filling holes on the offensive line, which could damage their running game - something they sorely need to keep up with the Buckeyes.
I want to see Joe Burrow play more than anything. I was a volunteer assistant on a team that got lit up by his high school team two years ago.
Oh yeah, as for the Falcons, I'm looking to see if the somewhat dilapidated O-line can hold up against the OSU pass rush, Injuries to BG's O-line could really hurt it in this one.
Texas State @ Ohio (-21.0) - 3:30 p.m.
Justin: The departure of JD Sprague makes me reconsider picking Ohio for the MAC East crown. Hopefully Windham can pick up the slack. That's pretty much all I've got for this game. The Ohio defense should be good as always, and I don't really see Texas State hanging in this one. Wake me up when it's over.
Kaleb: YOU TAKE THAT BACK COFFIN. Just kidding, I have some worries myself. Hopin Quentin Poling is enough of a playmaker to make teams shake in their collective boots and that Texas State offense isn't prepared. Ohio won't be a favorite in any type of shootout this year.
Kent State @ Penn State (-21.0) - 3:30 p.m.
Justin: Readers are going to get sick of me saying this once or twice a week, but Kent State's defense is really, really good. Is it good enough to beat Penn State? Probably not, but this game could definitely be close well into the third quarter at Beaver Stadium. But it's not the defense I care about - they'll be fine - it's the offense. Regardless of which quarterback starts for Kent State, the offense has to have a pulse, or they'll be in big trouble. Who's going to step up at wide receiver with Antwan Dixon out for the season? Will it be Colin Reardon?
Kaleb: Demetrius Monday will have to make this Saturday look much like a Sunday, and by that, the Nittany Lions' offense will have to have a day of rest if the Golden Flashes are going to pull off a miracle in their opener. Terence Waugh will have to wreak havoc in the backfield (which Big Ten defensive lines have been known to do in recent years. As George Harrison once said: "WAHH WAAAAAAAHHHH."
More than anything, I think the Golden Flashes need to create turnovers to stand any chance of making this one competitive.
Miami @ Iowa (-27.5) - 3:30 p.m.
Justin: MAC teams have gone to Kinnick recently and left with mixed results. In 2014, Ball State left with just a four-point loss. A real missed opportunity. In 2013, Western Michigan went there and, well, I try to block out the entire 2013 season so it feels more like a bad dream, but they lost by 100 I think. I'm pretty confident Miami's experience will be more like WMU's in 2013, though they should be much better defensively than that Bronco team. I'll be watching this game to see if Chuck Martin's team begins to show some obvious improvement.
Kaleb: I will be at this one. Can't wait to experience Kinnick for real. Meanwhile, Miami is going to lose. I just want to see if Miami can put up any semblance of an offense whatsoever. Where's that O-Line at Coach Martin? Let's see it.
VMI @ Akron - 6:30 p.m.
Justin: Akron's schedule is super-tough after this VMI game. What I need to see from Akron is if they have the firepower on offense to put an inferior opponent away early and keep everyone healthy for the upcoming date with Wisconsin.
Kaleb: Is Tommy Woodson one of the top quarterbacks in the MAC? Some people on HB staff seem to think so. I expect a super-efficient game from him if this is the case. Time to find out if the Zips are contenders or pretenders.
Northern Illinois (-10) @ Wyoming - 10:30 p.m.
Justin: Why is this spread only 10? Is Wyoming hoarding some super talent I've never heard of? Should I say bad things about NIU until my Twitter mentions literally melt my cell phone?
The only thing keeping me in on a Saturday night for this game is Drew Hare. It's unfortunate for NIU that he went down with injury last year, but as always they seemed to squeeze a division title out of it anyway. The Huskies aren't the most exciting watch in the world, but they have a great deal of talent on offense that could blow this game open, and I want to watch it.
Kaleb: NIU WILL RUN FOR LOTS OF YARDS. Let's see how game-ready Drew Hare is. The combination of Hare, Kenny Golladay and Joel Bouagnon is frightening.
The Huskies start their quest of going undefeated out of conference, something that Justin and I both agreed they have a good shot to do.