MAC Football Week Five Preview Print E-mail
Written by Dave Ruthenberg   
Wednesday, September 26 2007
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ImageWeek five is already upon us in the collegiate football season and things will soon be getting even more interesting in the Mid-American Conference with three important conference games on tap among the nine contests involving MAC schools.

Central Michigan will host Northern Illinois in a West Division showdown and Kent State travels to Ohio for an early season East Division matchup that could have significant bearing on deciding the East Division. Meanwhile high-flying Ball State, fresh off their near-upset of Nebraska, will host Buffalo in a crossover contest.

There will be plenty of non-conference action as well.

MAC teams tangle with squads from the SEC, Big East, Sun Belt and Army. To jump to our Game Previews, click here.

No Mixed Loyalties
When Eastern Michigan travels to Nashville Saturday to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores, it will be a homecoming of sorts for EMU Athletic Director, Dr. Derrick Gragg. But Gragg insists that his loyalties will lie with the Eagles and not his alma mater.

Gragg, now in his second year as Athletic Director at Eastern Michigan, was a four year letterwinner as a member of the Commodores football squad from 1988-1991. As a wide receiver Gragg recorded 40 receptions during his collegiate career, tallying 646 yards and three touchdowns.

"Every week I cheer for Vanderbilt, but this is the one week where I won't be pulling for the Commodores," said Gragg when asked about returning to Vandy as the leader of the Eagles' athletic program, which has experienced unparalleled success during Gragg's short tenure, capturing eight MAC championships over the past year.

Gragg, who spent time working inside Vanderbilt's athletic department after graduating before moving on to Michigan and Arkansas and then landing the AD position at Eastern Michigan, has not been back on campus at Vanderbilt in over ten years.

"I left in 1995 and haven't back since. It's been a long time. We are going to have a reunion with my teammates on Friday night before the game, but make no mistake, my focus is on bringing back a victory for the Eagles," added Gragg.

"What really excites me about this is that we (EMU) will have a return visit from Vanderbilt in this series and it will be the first time Eastern Michigan has ever hosted an SEC school in football."

But Gragg isn't t the only Eagle with ties to the Vanderbilt program as Eagles' offensive line coach Chris Symington served under Gerry DiNardo at Vanderbilt in the same capacity from 1991-1993.

Eastern Michigan has faced SEC competition twice previously, dropping a 41-6 contest to South Carolina in 2000 and a 49-10 decision at Florida in 2004.

English Has Big Week
Northern Illinois senior defensive end Larry English set a school single-game record when he recorded five sacks in the niu_english_small.jpgHuskies' 42-35 victory over Idaho Saturday.  English finished off his record-setting day with a sack of Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle at the Huskies' 18-yard line with the Vandals driving in the waning seconds of the game, securing Northern Illinois' first win of the season.

English's record setting performance led to his being named MAC Report Online's Defensive Player of the Week which was followed up by official recognition from the conference as English was also named MAC West Division Player of the Week. But his record-setting day also caught the attention of those outside of the MAC.

English was recently named the recipient of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America)/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week award in recognition of his record-setting performance.

English is also on the watch list of candidates for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy which is presented each year to the top collegiate defensive player.

Cardinals Offense Dealt Setback
There will be one less Cardinal flying high in Ball State's offense as the conference's second-leading rusher has likely been grounded for the season.

Almost lost in the excitement over Ball State's 41-40 loss to Nebraska was the fact that the MAC's second-leading rusher, sophomore MiQuale Lewis, left the contest midway through the fourth quarter with an injury. It was hoped that Lewis' injury was not significant, but the news coming out of Muncie early in the week was not good.

bsu_lewis_small.jpgLewis has apparently sustained significant damage to his knee and an MRI will confirm whether it is a tear to the ACL or MCL. An MCL (medial collateral ligament) tear would require less invasive repair and Lewis could conceivably return to action but if it is the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), it could spell the end of the season for Lewis who rushed for 122 yards against Nebraska.

Ball State head coach Brady Hoke confirmed on Monday that Lewis will, at minimum, miss Saturday's contest against Buffalo.

Lewis' season was also cut short in 2006 when he suffered a broken collarbone against Buffalo.

In Lewis' absence, freshman Frank Edmonds will assume the starting tailback duties. Edmonds has rushed for 132 yards this season.

Ball State leads the MAC in total offense and is second behind Bowling Green in passing offense and is also second in rushing offense, behind Kent State.

's Mackey to seek Medical Redshirt
Akron senior defensive back John Mackey is likely done for the season after suffering what appears to be a season-ending knee injury during the Zips' contest last week against Kent State. But that does not necessarily mean the senior's collegiate career is finished.

akron_mackey_small.jpgMackey, the team's defensive captain and leading tackler, who also ranks ninth nationally in solo tackles, will likely apply for an additional year of eligibility under the NCAA's medical redshirt provisions.

Akron head coach JD Brookhart indicated during his weekly teleconference that the University intended to pursue the medical redshirt option.

To qualify, the injury must occur prior to completion of the first half of the season and the player in question must not have participated in more than 30% of the school's scheduled contests for the season (a tip of the hat to Mike Rasor for digging up this information).

Strict interpretation of the rules however would seem to indicate that Mackey does not meet the 30% criteria. Stay tuned.

MAC Defensive Players in Top Ten Nationally
Over the past two weeks we have spotlighted the offensive side of the ball, listing MAC players and teams in the top ten nationally in various offensive statistical categories. This week we give the defense some props.

Below are MAC players who rank in the Top Ten in the NCAA in various defensive categories:

Total Tackles

2. Daniel Holtzclaw

Eastern Michigan


3. Caleb Bostic



5. Clayton Mullins



7. Red Keith

Central Michigan


Tackles Per Game

4. Daniel Holtzclaw

Eastern Michigan


6. Caleb Bostic



10. Clayton Mullins



Solo Tackles Per Game

9. John Mackey



9. Clayton Mullins



QB Sacks

2. Larry English

Northern Illinois


5. Trevor Scott




Saturday, September 29
Northern Illinois (1-3, 0-1 MAC) at Central Michigan (1-3, 1-0 MAC), Noon ET
Site: Kelly/Shorts Stadium
Northern Illinois leads 22-19-1 (Last meeting: Northern Illinois 31, Central Michigan 10 in 2006).
Television: ESPN Plus
Outlook: Prior to the start of the season this game had the appearance of being one of the marquee conference matchups and there is still plenty on the line in this divisional encounter as CMU could begin to salvage its season with a 2-0 start in the division with a win. However, both teams have gotten off to rough starts with Central Michigan struggling badly and seemingly taking a step backward last week with their 44-14 thrashing at the hands of North Dakota State. The Huskies meanwhile won their first game of the season last week, defeating Idaho on the road, 42-35 behind a running attack that seems to have found its legs behind Justin Anderson who has gained 335 yards in the past two weeks. Defensively the Huskies' Larry English had a career day with five sacks and was named the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week. The Huskies scored on offense, defense and special teams and QB Dan Nicholson appeared to have finally hit stride with a pair of touchdown passes. This could all be bad news for the Chippewas who are giving up 43 points and 503 yards of offense per game and are ranked in the bottom ten nationally in every meaningful team defense statistic. Granted, the Chips' secondary has been decimated to the point that WR Jemmy Jasmin had to play CB against the Bison Saturday. Homecoming in Mt. Pleasant could be an unpleasant experience for the Chips' faithful if the CMU defense doesn't turn things around...quickly.
Northern Illinois 38, Central Michigan 31.

Temple (0-4, 0-2, MAC) at Army (1-3), Noon ET
Site: Michie Stadium
Series: Army leads 3-1 (Last meeting: Temple 23, Army 20 in 1994).
Television: ESPNU
Outlook: The Owls continue to search for their first win of the season and each week are making positive strides. One week after dropping a heartbreaker to Connecticut, the Owls battled Bowling Green until a pair of third quarter turnovers cost them the game in a 48-35 loss. Temple QB Adam DiMichele threw for 299 yards and a career-high four touchdowns while RB Jason Harper has shown signs of developing into a solid contributor out of the backfield, averaging 101 yards rushing over the past two games for Temple. The key for the Owls will be avoiding the crushing turnovers that plagued them against BG. Army meanwhile returns home after dropping a 37-17 decision at Boston College. Army's only win this season was against second-division Rhode Island, 14-8. The Cadets opened the season with a 22-14 loss to Akron. The Cadets are averaging only 13.8 points per game and their ground attack has been nearly non-existent, averaging 1.9 yards per carry, ranking 117th nationally in rushing offense while their passing game has been equally impotent, ranking 84th nationally with only one out of their total of five touchdowns coming through the air. This could finally be the game that sees Temple become the last MAC team to erase the goose-egg from the 'W' column.
Temple 24, Army 16.

Akron (2-2, 1-0 MAC) at Connecticut (4-0, 1-0 Big East), Noon ET
Site: Rentschler Field
Connecticut Leads 2-0 (Last Meeting: Connecticut 38, Akron 37 in 2003).
Television: ESPN Plus
Outlook: Akron is coming off a hard-fought game against rival Kent State, defeating the Golden Flashes in come from behind fashion, 27-20 behind a solid defensive effort despite the loss of top defensive back John Mackey who went down with a season-ending knee injury. The Zips forced four turnovers and are tied for the MAC lead in turnover margin and top the MAC in scoring defense. The Zips though continue to struggle on offense, averaging only 18.8 points per game (12th in the MAC) and possess the MAC's lowest rated offense, averaging only 242.8 yards per game and the MAC's lowest-rated pass offense (145.5 yards per game). In other words, the Zips have been getting it done on defense. Connecticut is undefeated and coming off a convincing 34-14 win at Pittsburgh. Huskies' QB Tyler Lorenzen has been efficient if not spectacular, passing for an average of 220 yards per game and throwing for four TD's and only two picks. The Huskies have indicated that they hope to establish a ground game this week against the Zips and the bulk of the rushing load will likely fall to Donald Brown who is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. The Huskies are allowing only 11.2 points per game and are holding teams to only 2.8 yards per carry on the ground. This game will be decided in the trenches in a low-scoring affair; the kind of game the Zips seem to thrive upon and if the Zips turn in the kind of defensive effort they exhibited in their games against Ohio State and Kent State, could pull the upset.
Akron 20, Connecticut 17.

Buffalo (1-3, 1-0 MAC) at
Ball State (2-2, 1-1 MAC), Noon ET
Site: Scheumann Stadium
Ball State leads 5-0 (Last meeting: Ball State 55, Buffalo 25 in 2006).
Outlook: The Bulls have been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team this season. After strong performances against Temple and Penn State, the Bulls dropped a disappointing 34-21 decision to Baylor in their home opener last week. Bulls coach Turner Gill indicated that it was a matter of the Bears making more plays than the Bulls. If that pattern holds against the high-powered offense of the Ball State Cardinals, it could make for a long afternoon for Buffalo. The Cardinals are coming off a wild, 41-40 loss at Nebraska where they rolled up 610 yards of offense behind 422 yards from QB Nate Davis and 214 yards from WR Dante Love. Both Davis and Love top the MAC in their respective yardage categories and RB MiQuale Lewis ranks second after rushing for 122 yards but the sophomore RB is likely done for the season following a knee injury suffered late in the game. The Cards top the MAC, averaging a gaudy 486.5 yards per game. If the game turns into a track meet, the Bulls will be hard-pressed to keep up but QB Drew Willy has been having a solid season until tossing three interceptions in last week's loss. The upside though is that RB James Starks found the end-zone three times for the Bulls while on defense, DE Trevor Scott is having a solid season. Scott forced two fumbles against Baylor and is tied for first in the MAC in that category. The Bulls' defense will be kept busy against the nation's 18th-ranked offense.
Ball State 45, Buffalo 21.

Kent State (2-2, 0-1 MAC) at Ohio (2-2, 0-0 MAC), 3:00 pm ET
Site: Peden Stadium
Ohio Leads 37-20-2 (Last meeting: Ohio 17, Kent State 7 in 2006).
Television: FSN
Outlook: Kent State will be playing their fourth road game of the season as they head to Peden Stadium to take on divisional rival Ohio in the Bobcats' first conference game of the season. The Golden Flashes let one slip away last week, dropping the Wagon Wheel game to rival Akron, 27-20 after leading 17-7. Turnovers have been the Flashes nemesis this season as the Flashes rank last in the MAC in turnover margin having lost 14 turnovers already which does not bode well for them as they will be facing the MAC's leader in turnover margin. The Bobcats, who also let one slip away last week, losing 34-33 at home to Wyoming, forced seven turnovers last week against the Cowboys and have forced 13 turnovers on the season. Despite their problems holding onto the ball, Kent State does posses the MAC's top rushing offense, averaging 236.8 yards per game on the ground behind MAC rushing leader Eugene Jarvis' 134.8 yards per game. Kent State QB Julian Edelman is sixth in the MAC in rushing. The Bobcats' Kalvin McRae was stymied last week but still ranks fourth in the MAC in rushing and is a main ingredient in the Bobcats' ball-control offense. Ohio QB Brad Bower ranks 9th in passing, just ahead of KSU's Edelman. The difference between the two opposing quarterbacks has been Edelman's propensity for interceptions, having thrown six picks against four touchdowns. A loss would drop Kent State to 0-2 in the MAC East and, facing an opportunistic Ohio defense, that is a real possibility.
Ohio 20, Kent State 17.

Syracuse (1-3, 1-0 Big East) at Miami (1-3, 1-0 MAC), 3:00 pm ET
Site: Yager Stadium
Syracuse Leads 3-0 (Last meeting: Syracuse 34, Miami 14 in 2006).
Television: ESPN Plus
Outlook: The RedHawks are struggling right now in all phases of the game and what once looked like a probable win against Syracuse is now doubtful considering Miami's injury issues, lack of production and a resurgent Orange that upset Louisville last week, 38-35. Miami was hammered at Colorado 42-0 after being embarrassed at home by rival Cincinnati, 47-10. The RedHawks turned to Daniel Raudabaugh as their starting quarterback against the Buffaloes but Raudabaugh was ineffective, going 11-32 for 95 yards after replacing starting QB Mike Kokal who was, well, ineffective. To make matters worse the RedHawks are down to their third string tailback after losing starter Brandon Murphy and his backup Andre Bratton. Miami allowed 634 yards against Colorado last week but the defense was left on the field for two-thirds of the contest. Linebackers Joey Hudson and Caleb Bostic are solid playmakers but cannot be expected to carry the entire team. Head coach Shane Montgomery has indicated that he may rotate both Kokal and Raudabaugh at quarterback this week. Syracuse lived on the big play last week in upsetting Louisville as sophomore QB Andrew Robinson tossed touchdown passes of 79, 42 and 60 yards. The RedHawks will be hoping to rattle Robinson, who prior to the Louisville contest had been erratic and if Miami can put something together on offense to keep the defense relatively fresh, the RedHawks' solid core of linebackers could make life difficult for Robinson. However, that is a big "if" considering the RedHawks' offensive difficulties this season. Miami can keep it close, but a win may be out of their reach.
Syracuse 34, Miami 24.

Eastern Michigan (2-2, 1-1 MAC) at Vanderbilt (2-1, 1-1 SEC), 6:00 pm ET
Site: Vanderbilt Stadium
Series: First Meeting
Eastern Michigan sits at .500 for the first time since starting the 2005 campaign 2-2 and a win would give the Eagles their first three-game winning streak since defeating UNLV, Ohio and Central Michigan in succession in 1995. Last week in their 38-15 win over Howard, sophomore quarterback Andy Schmitt had a career day by throwing four touchdowns. Schmitt has been solid in protecting the ball as well, having thrown only one interception on the season and none since the season opener at
Pittsburgh.  The Eagles top the MAC in protecting the quarterback, having surrendered only two sacks this season. Defensively, Eagles LB Daniel Holtzclaw leads the MAC in tackles with 51, after recording 19 stops last week against Howard. Vanderbilt will be playing their fourth straight home game to open the season. The Commodores are coming off a bye week following a 31-17 victory over Ole Miss, having recorded seven sacks and limiting the Rebels to 262 total yards. Offensively, the Commodores feature one of the nation's top receivers in junior wide-out Earl Bennett who holds the Commodores' all-time single-game receiving mark after recording 223 yards receiving in Vandy's opener against Richmond. Bennett in fact holds so many records that the Commodores have devoted an entire website to him at: Vandy is 8-3 all-time against the MAC but 0-11-1 against teams from the State of Michigan. Of course 11 of those games are against Michigan. The other is against Western Michigan which defeated the Commodores 27-24 in 1998. The Eagles have never defeated a BCS team and have not won a non-conference road game since defeating Youngstown State 17-12 in 1988.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 27,
Eastern Michigan 14.

Western Kentucky (3-1) at Bowling Green (2-1, 1-0 MAC), 6:00 pm ET
Site: Doyt Perry Stadium
Series: First Meeting
Television: BCSN
Outlook: The Falcons are flying high after defeating Temple last week 48-35. Sophomore QB Tyler Sheehan has passed for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in the Falcons' first three games as head coach Gregg Brandon' s crew tops the MAC in scoring, averaging 32.3 points per game. The Falcons also top the MAC in passing offense, averaging 352.7 yards per game but conversely the Falcons rank at the bottom of the MAC in rushing, averaging only 81 yards per game but when you are putting up 434 yards per game, who is going to quibble about the ratio of passing to rushing yards, especially when the team is winning. The Falcons have looked impressive in wins over Minnesota and Temple, while they dropped a very competitive contest (28-17) to still undefeated Michigan State.  Western Kentucky is a provisional 1A (FBS) team, moving up from 1AA (FCS) and will compete in the Sun Belt Conference commencing in 2008. The Hilltoppers are on a thee-game winning streak defeating West Virginia Tech, Eastern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State in succession after opening with a 49-3 loss to Florida. The Hilltoppers will be starting a new quarterback against Bowling Green as K.J. Black has assumed the starting reigns from David Wolke who turned the ball over six times in the Hilltoppers' last two games (four fumbles - two interceptions) but Wolke is still expected to see some playing time. Black is 28-39 for 353 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in relief duty this season. RB Tyrell Hayden rushed for 144 yards last week against MTSU.   
Bowling Green 43, Western Kentucky 17.

Western Michigan (1-3, 0-0 MAC) at Toledo (1-3, 0-1 MAC), 7:00 pm ET
Site: Glass Bowl
Toledo leads 36-25 (Last meeting: Western Michigan 31, Toledo 10 in 2006).
Television: BCSN (Delayed)
Outlook: This game should go a long way in telling something about these two squads. Western Michigan and Toledo each recorded their first victories of the season last week with the Broncos downing second-division Central Connecticut State 51-14 and Toledo upending the Big 12's Iowa State Cyclones 36-35. The Rockets used special teams and defense to overcome an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to secure the win. The Rockets, who are 39-5 in their last 44 home games, play the next five of their six games at home. Rockets' TB Jalen Parmele accounted for 243 all-purpose yards in last week's win, including an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Rockets' defense was led by SS Barry Church who recorded a career high 19 tackles. Prior to the Iowa State contest, the Rockets had been allowing nearly 50 points per game. Likewise, Western Michigan's defense had been riddled to the tune of over 50 points per game in their first three games, losses to West Virginia, Indiana and Missouri. Despite their early-season 0-3 start, the Broncos are still considered by many to be among the favorites in the MAC West and could put the Rockets in an early 0-2 hole in divisional play with a win in their first conference game of the season. Broncos RB Mark Bonds had his best game of the season against the Blue Devils last week, averaging over 5 yards per carry on 12 attempts. WR Jamarko Simmons had a quiet game (3 receptions) but still tops the MAC, averaging over 10 catches per game. This game has the hallmarks of a shootout and it is tough to pick against the Rockets at home, especially since the Broncos have not won at the Glass Bowl since 1988, but all streaks must come to an end at some point. 
Western Michigan 38, Toledo 30.

On Tap
The schedule for the week ahead: 

Saturday, October 6
Central Michigan at Ball State, Noon ET
Bowling Green at Boston College, Noon ET
Eastern Michigan at Michigan, Noon ET
Ohio at Buffalo, 1:00 pm ET
Northern Illinois at Temple, 1:00 pm ET
Miami at Kent State, 3:00 pm ET
Akron at Western Michigan, 7:00 pm ET
Liberty at Toledo, 7:00 pm ET
Last Updated ( Sunday, October 07 2007 )
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