As we unveiled a few weeks ago, the best and brightest in the MAC Blogosphere are members of an elite group of bloggers who know the MAC like the back of their hands. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to answer questions weekly posed by a member of the group. This week, OTP takes the mic and poses the questions to the group of elite bloggers know as…
1.) The first few weeks of the season features several major games for MAC schools. Give your best possible shot at the MAC delivering a fatal blow to a BCS conference school in an upset. Why? Conversely, what MAC team is most vulnerable to getting upset themselves?
Red and Black Attack, NIU: I see the Ohio Bobcats making a statement in week one upsetting the UConn Huskies on their home turf. I believe that Solich needs this win to set the tone for the season. WMU could go Big 10 headhunting if they upset the Wolverines and then the Hoosiers in Week 2. I’m extremely skeptical of every other team in the MAC right now. And CMU doesn’t care about non-conference games.
Rasor on the Zips, Akron: WMU over Michigan. CMU over Ariz. Kent State is the only team that might lose a game it shouldn’t, but I’d still take the Flashes.
Temple Football Forever, Temple: Western Michigan, I believe, has the best chance of delivering a fatal blow. I also think Ohio has a decent chance against UConn. I think Troy will beat Bowling Green, but I would not consider it an upset.
Fire Up Chips, CMU: Toledo has a really good chance of getting in a fist fight with Purdue and coming out on top. I have seen Central Michigan push Purdue to the limit twice, only to come up short in the final minutes of the game. The difference in those games was QB Curtis Painter making critical throws late in the game to overcome his bonehead mistakes. With Purdue breaking in a new QB, maybe Toledo can sneak out of West Lafayette with a win, just as the did at the Big House in 2008.
I think the Black Knight’s of Army should be able to heel stomp an Eastern Michigan team which just preformed a lobotomy on itself by throwing out the spread offense in favor of the pro-style offense.
Eastern has one of the best spread QB’s in the country with Andy Schmitt and they want to start running the ball more?
Let’s Go Rockets, Toledo: Two good chances for upsets in the first few weeks: CMU over Arizona and Toledo over Colorado. Arizona, while facing a new set of problems from last season, won’t be terribly strong and a CMU team firing on all cylinders and riding the arm/brain of QB Dan LeFevour has a strong shot at shutting them down. The Rockets, always tough at home, have had success recently against Big 12 opponents, beating Kansas 37-31 in 2006 and Iowa State 36-35 in 2007. Beckman’s new schemes, plus a solidified defense and more efficient offense will lead to an upset of the Buffaloes.
FalconBlog, BG: I’m differentiating this question from the pre-season by looking at the words “fatal blow,” in other words, a game that ruins a team right off the bat, much as BG did at Pitt last season. So, games against Indiana don’t count, because they are already broken by the universe. Same rule applies to Iowa State, Baylor, Connecticut, only less in the extreme.
With that in mind, I am going to say CMU has the best chance of delivering a fatal blow to MSU. As a back up, either of the two teams playing Boise could really deliver a fatal blow since their season requires them to go undefeated to be a sucess.
Finally, I left UM out of this simply because their year is pre-ruined. However, it deserves an asterisk mention here. If WMU beats UM on Saturday, social order in Ann Arbor could break down, in what would amount to a Katrina-like meltdown that could well require UN peacekeeping. In no small way, there is as much pressure on Richrod to win as any coach as felt at UM in a long time.
As for the team most likely to be an upset victim, I would pick New Hampshire to defeat Ball State, with an honorable mention to Villanova to beat Temple.
OverThePylon, BSU: The most likely upseter would be the Chips against Arizona. Despite the national press and pub for LeFevour and CMU, I cannot fathom Arizona taking them seriously. That bodes well for the Chips. In terms of getting upset, I would think Buffalo stands a great chance of dropping one to UTEP.
2.) Who do you believe is the most underrated offensive and defensive players in our conference? Who do you look to to make a name for themselves this season?
RaBA: EMU QB Andy Schmitt could put up ridiculous numbers because he’s got a solid line and a ton of weapons around him. Not to mention Eastern has a hapless defense that will force him to pass and accumulate more yards than the usual QB. Also, Kent State RB Eugene Jarvis is flying way under the radar because he got hurt last year. Pick a player on NIU’s defense. They’re vastly underrated.
RotZ: I wish I followed defensive players closely enough to answer that intelligently. I like Brian Lainhart from Kent State a lot. Defensive end Almondo Sewell from Akron is a madman in the weight room. He will get some hard looks at the Combine in two years.
TFF: Most underrated offensive player? Thermilus of Buffalo, simply because he was behind a top-rated guy. Must underrated defensive player? Andre Neblett, nose guard/tackle, of Temple. Many Owl insiders think Neblett was the superior player last year to Terrence Knighton and Knighton was a third-round pick in the NFL draft.
FUC: I’ll throw a little love to Eastern Michigan and say Andy Schmitt doesn’t get the press he deserves. Could you imagine playing QB with as many spare parts as he has to play with…and still lighting up a team like Central Michigan or hanging tough with Michigan State?
On defense a name you will start hearing around the MAC this year is CMU defensive tackle John Williams (Miami, FL). Sure, he may be built like a cinder block at 6-foot 280, but he is alligator fast — he can get his 280 pounds going in a straight line in a hurry.
LGR: The most underrated defensive player is Toledo’s Barry Church. With most of the talk around the league being about offensive players, namely CMU’s LeFevour, not much gets said about the other side of the ball. Church will be a 4 time all MAC player after the end of the season and will absolutely be playing on Sundays.
The most underrated offensive player is WMU’s QB Tim Hiller. He completed nearly 65% of his passes in 2008 while throwing for 3,725 yards and 36 TD’s. Again, with all the hype about LeFevour at CMU, I wouldn’t over look the other talented QB in the state of Michigan.
FB: Offense: Andy Schmitt, EMU. Defense: Alex Joseph, Temple. Making a name: Kelly Page, Ball State
OTP: The most underrated offensive player is Quale Lewis from Ball State. He will be the lone consistent bright spot on an offense that may struggle at times this season. Defensively, Barry Church from Toledo is an amazing athlete and defensive stopper. Very impressive. Making a name for themselves this season will be Tim Hiller from WMU, who leads an offense that will be forced to put up monster numbers since the defense will struggle.
3.) Will a team this year make the national pundits sit back and take notice a la BSU last season? Or will it simply be a large cluster of good teams with records hardly deserving national celebration?
RaBA: I doubt it. If Ohio doesn’t dominate the East like it should, then it’s just gonna be another year where all the teams are clustered together with .500 records. In the West I like CMU, but they are bad OOC and play down to their opponents. If WMU gets past Michigan or NIU gets past Wisconsin, then WATCH OUT.
RotZ: CMU has a chance with LeFevour potentially getting Heisman consideration. It must win these BCS games early.
TFF: About four teams will have 8-4 overall records. I don’t see an 11-1 or 12-0 team in the mix.
FUC: I really don’t see that team which is going to crack the top 25 like BSU did last year. I think the league will look really weak top to bottom this year. You will have your 7, 8, 9 win teams on top and you will have your 2, 3, 4 win teams at the bottom.
LGR: No MAC team will bring in a lot of media attention this year. Several teams will be good, and it will be a tight race, but unfortunately it will take several continuous seasons of dominance for a MAC team to gain the respect it deserves. Miami (OH) probably should have gotten more praise in 2003 with it’s only loss to Iowa (the first game of the season, finishing 13-1 and pounding Louisville in the GMAC bowl) but since it didn’t have consecutive dominate seasons, it was left out of the contenders race. Same story this year for the MAC.
FB: The latter….and “good” is a relative term. I don’t think any MAC team has the combination of talent AND favorable schedule that will let them make a run like Ball State did.
OTP: The MAC has several teams that could raise eyebrows, but none that will go 12-0. Last season was a combination of talent, a weakened schedule, and the right breaks in the season. No team has that going for them this season.
4.) Everyone always asks about the top teams and who will make it to the MAC Championship game. Give us your bottom two… the cellar dwellers in each respective division. Why?
RaBA: EMU in the West. Too big of a rebuilding project in English’s first year as HC. Miami in the East. Pretty much the same deal with Haywood. Both teams have horrible defenses, but return a bunch of skill guys. Pick the over when these teams play anybody.
RotZ: EMU because EMU has never given me a reason to think it can contend. Miami was pretty bad last season. I think Kent State will really struggle if Giorgio Morgan doesn’t learn quickly at quarterback.
TFF: Kent in the East. Julian Edelman was a stud for them and will be missed. I think NIU is hurting, literally, in the West and will be forced to play a lot of true freshmen. By comparison, the only true freshman who should start for Temple is the stud kicker, Brandon McManus.
FUC: I know Miami of Ohio was going to tank when their new head coach spent the entire MAC Media Day talking about how good their academics were with very little to say about the tarnished brand of football they are playing these days. Daniel Raudabaugh is the Rex Grossman of the MAC. Monday through Friday nobody can beat him out…but once Saturday rolls around he can’t tell the difference between wide receivers and defensive backs.
Eastern Michigan will play like Eastern Michigan…enough said. I always compare Eastern Michigan to the movie “Deliverance.” A couple of buddies think it would be fun to give college football a try. So they set off on a journey with 12 stops along the away. At every stop they encounter dominating defenses and offenses so penetrating that you are almost certain they would never want to go on that journey again. ..yet here we are.
LGR: In the East division, Kent State is the cellar dweller. Miami (OH) might finish last in the division, but with a new head coach, they should turn things around over the next few seasons, while Kent State is consistently a bottom feeder. Eastern Michigan in the West division has always been at the bottom. They usually start out slow and finish even slower.
FB: In the East, I think it is Miami. Every team is flawed in the East, and so are the RedHawks. I keep getting stuck on the idea there defense was so bad and still lost its better players.
I guess I’m going with EMU in the West. Everyone always spends all year saying EMU is getting better and then picks them last. It will be interesting to see if Ron English can do what has hardly ever been done at EMU, but this is not the year and the conference schedule is very difficult.
OTP: I will go against the grain and pick Ohio in the East. Some publications are calling for the Bobcats to make it to the MAC Championship. That will floor me. In the West, I’ll go with EMU, who would be better off playing tiddlywinks most of this season rather than tackle football.
5.) Getting ready for your home season, what are the must hits on your campus for Gameday? What’s the atmosphere like? What should a visiting fan know and do?
RaBA: You must hit up Fatty’s before or after the game for their amazing burgers and world-famous fried potato salad. Mmmm…Fatty’s. Get there early, tailgate with our great accommodating fans. Make sure to visit the HuskieMobile, which is a decked-out Van or Bus that goes to every game home or away. You’ll find it, trust me. Fatty’s. Oh and make sure to say hi to Diesel the live Huskie mascot who loves walking around the tailgate. Fatty’s.
RotZ: I have no idea. We’ve never had an on-campus stadium at Akron. My hunch is that BW3s across from the stadium will be a hot spot. Downtown, there is Barley House and Ohio Brewing Co.
TFF: Atmosphere is getting better. Must hits. There’s a bar across the street from Lincoln Financial Field called McFadden’s. It’s outstanding, but don’t get in a fight there.
FUC: “Eggs before kegs”
Aside from the football, a CMU game is all about tailgating outside of Kelly-Shorts stadium. When you wake up on Saturday morning you need to get some “eats and treats” inside you to prepare for all the um…”adult beverages” you will probably be consuming at the tailgate. I usually hit up “Big Apple Beagle” located outside the stadium for some carbs, but places like “Little Chef”and “Big Boy,” are located on the main road in Mt. Pleasant (Mission St.) and serve up all of your breakfast favorites.
“Grab a Jesus Dog”
My favorite thing to do when I have downed a few beers is to hit up the his “His House” tent, which is located at the tail-gate. “His House” is the biggest Christian organization on campus, and to market themselves by serving up free hot dogs to anybody willing to wait in line 5 minutes to grab one. They aren’t going to hassle you about your beliefs, but when you are stumbling around hungry, on the verge of biting into your beer can, they will put hot meat in your hands free of charge…ok that sounded bad.
“Make a can man’s day”
If you aren’t from Michigan than soda cans are just trash that you throw away. In Michigan cans are like Leprechaun gold. So if you are from out-of-town realize that empty bud light can in your dirty “jesus dog” stained hand is like an aluminum dollar in Michigan. So when you see the droves of semi-homeless people who comb the tailgate collecting cans for their 10 cent deposit don’t punt that can into the street like I do…I’m an @$$hole. Instead place it into the Can Man’s trash bag , rub his bandana, and make a wish…maybe it will come true.
LGR: The best pregame/tailgating takes place in two locations in Toledo — the area surrounding the Glass Bowl, and east of the stadium in the lots across Dorr St. surrounding the engineering area. There’s plenty to see and do and plenty of Rocket fans to join in on the fun.
One tradition that often takes new fans by surprise, is the Football Cannon. Blasts are fired at the beginning of each home game, at the end of each quarter, and after every Rocket score. Even if you know it’s going to happen, the first few blast usually startle most visitors — whatever you do, don’t scream. Visiting fans should know that the Rocket outside the stadium is pointed to launch and land on BG’s 50 yard line. Exact calculations. Also, take note that Pittsburgh (led by Larry Fitzgerald) came to play here in 2003 as the #9 team in the nation, and with a packed crowd (extra seating in the end zone), the Panthers went home with a loss.
FB: I think the atmosphere is fun on campus if the weather is nice. We get a nice tailgating crowd, and there is a festive atmosphere. If you are looking for pre-game food and drink, the very best spot in town is Myle’s Pizza, with a taste that alums actually crave once they move. Some people also go to Fricker’s across from the Stadium, but you will get some crowds there. I think our fans are pretty friendly to visiting fans, with the exceptions of the Rockets, and you will hopefully have a good visit.
OTP: Visiting fans should get to the stadium early after some tailgating to see and hear one of the best marching bands around, the Pride of MidAmerica. After the game, they should drown their sorrows down at Scotty’s Brewhouse in the village. After that, they should stumble down to Carter’s Hot Dog cart and get one of the best hot dogs you’ll ever have. I recommend 1 chicago dog, and a chili cheese with mustard and onion. Heaven on a bun.
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