MAC Blogger Roundtable, week 11
It’s time for the MAC Blogger Roundtable. The host for this week is the Buffalo blog, Bull Run, which is also the host of the MAC pick ‘em. We’ll probably try to do some kind of Q&A with Bull Run next week, when the EMU football team heads to Amherst, New York, which, oddly enough, is where Buffalo plays their games. Go figure.
1) The MAC has a chance at getting as many as seven teams to attain bowl-eligibility. Five have already done it, but the two with the toughest row to hoe are Kent State and Western Michigan. Do either, neither, or both teams make 6-6 and potentially see a bowl?
In fact, as of this morning, five MAC teams are bowl-eligible: Northern Illinois, Toledo, Temple, Ohio, and Miami. Miami just got their sixth win in the fog at Bowling Green last night, and is a shoo-in for a seventh win with their game next week at Akron. Six teams are ineligible (Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Ball State, Akron, and Buffalo). Only Kent State, at 4-5, and Western Michigan, at 3-6, are still “on the bubble”. Kent State would need to win two of their three remaining games, which are against Army, at Western Michigan, and against Ohio. Western Michigan would need to sweep their three remaining games, which are against EMU, against Kent State, and at Bowling Green.
A lot of it will come down to the game between these two teams. The loser of that game will probably be eliminated from bowl-eligibility, while the winner might still have a shot. If I had to put numbers on it, I’d say there’s a 1% chance of both teams becoming eligible. There’s about a 65% chance of neither becoming bowl-elibigle, a 30% chance of just Kent State becoming bowl-eligible, a 25% chance of just Western Michigan becoming bowl-eligible, and a 1% chance of both becoming bowl-eligible. Yeah, I know that adds up to 121%. Deal with it.
2) In the past two years three coaches from the MAC have “moved up”. Brady Hoke in 2008 and Turner Gill / Butch Jones in 2009. Which Coach or Coaches more out in 2010. Also which coaches get tossed on the garbage heap of failed and fired MAC coaches.
I’m not quite sure anyone will move up after this year. The obvious candidates would be any of the coaches of the five bowl-eligible teams. Tim Beckman and Michael Haywood are in only their second years as head coaches, and that would be a pretty quick move for either of them. Frank Solich is probably going to retire from Ohio; any move would probably involve a multi-year (re)building process, and given that he’s 66 now, that would be sure to take him into his 70s. Al Golden is certainly a possibility, and I’ve heard Temple fans mention that as a big concern, but I have the sense that the Temple administration is trying to build the school into a football power and get into one of the AQ conferences. I think the Owls will make a pretty good effort to keep Golden around for at least a few more years.
The most likely MAC coach to get a “promotion” is surely Jerry Kill. He’s got the Huskies competing at a high level in his third year at Northern Illinois, and this is his seventeenth season as a head coach. At 49 he’s also reasonably young (yes, he got his first collegiate head coaching job at age 32!), so he’s got time to take on a project. The only possible concern I see is that he has a history of health problems, including seizures on the sideline of a game in 2005 (he was subsequently diagnosed with kidney cancer) and a hospitaliztion for dehydration this fall. But all in all, if I were an AD at a top-tier football school, and you told me to hire a MAC coach to lead the program, I’d try to get Coach Kill.
3) Right now three MAC teams are getting votes in various polls (NIU, Temple, and Ohio). Is the MAC starting to upswing off of the (real or perceived) fall off from 2004-2009?
Over the past few years the MAC has had one truly dominant team. Central Michigan went 12-2, undefeated in the MAC, in 2009. In 2006, Central Michigan and Ohio came into the championship game with one MAC loss each. In 2007, no team was quite so dominant, but Central Michigan was the defending champion and only lost one MAC game. In 2008 Ball State went 12-2, undefeated in the MAC regular season. In 2009 Central Michigan went 12-2, undefeated in the MAC.
I think the difference this season has been that the MAC has four percieved teams clustered at the top, rather than a single dominant team (or even a single dominant team in each division). So even if voters considered a MAC team, which would they consider? Now that Northern Illinois owns convincing wins over both Temple and Toledo, and the memory of their two non-conference losses has faded behind a seven-game winning streak, I think they are starting to gain more attention. In particular, their 65-30 pounding of a good Toledo team on national television should push them into the next set of top-25 rankings.
4) So far this season what has been the story that defines the MAC? Which player’s, team’s, or mascot’s news headline is most representative of the conference as a whole.
A few schools (e.g. EMU) aside, we’ve seen the conference get jumbled and even flipped upside down. No team typifies that more than Central Michigan. After bowl trips for the last four years, and MAC championships three of those four years, the Chippewas are 2-7 against FBS opponents this year and are currently in fifth place in the MAC West Division. They did manage to win the Michigan MAC Trophy for the third year in the row, which I guess just shows the meaninglessness of that award.
5) Rank MAC squads in order of pure 2010 power.
1. Northern Illinois
6. Western Michigan
7. Kent State
8. Bowling Green
9. Central Michigan
12. Ball State
6) Rank the Bottom 5 MAC Squads (from above) by how much improvement you might expect in 2011.
4. Central Michigan
5. Ball State