As the mid-way point of the collegiate football season nears, there are several key matchups and storylines moving across the football landscape, including right here in the MAC. But there is one story that is breaking several hundred miles south of MAC territory that has some interesting parallels to news that hit the MAC, and specifically Toledo, during the off-season.
Photo: Paul Nelson
I am referring to the recent disclosure that Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione has been literally selling insider information on his football team to boosters and other hangers-on around the Aggies program.
Apparently Franchione, not content with earning a cool $2 million annually as head coach of the Aggies, has been selling insider information to subscribers who paid $1,200 annually for the privilege of being "insiders" and thus getting "Coach Fran's" insights, via an e-mail "VIP Connection" newsletter, and receiving otherwise undisclosed information such as player injuries and roster moves.
Supposedly the fees charged by Franchione for this information went to defray the costs of his website, coachfran.com. Hard to fathom that at $2 million he could not support his own website and needed the additional funds. Hey coach, GoDaddy has a great deal at $1.99 for a domain name and we can put you in touch with a server for only $5.95 per month. Hmmm...where does all of that money really go? Of course that is really not the bigger issue. Although the greed of Franchione is rather stunning.
The bigger issue is that of where does this "insider information" really end up? There is no gatekeeper to ensure that those receiving Franchione's insider scoops are really boosters of the Aggies nor any way to ensure that this information does not find its way into the unscrupulous hands of gamblers and other Vegas types who would use this information to skew official betting lines or simply parlay the information into a nice score for themselves. Franchione says that he never intended for his information to be used in such a nefarious fashion. Either Franchione is naïve or a liar. Either way, he needs to be dispatched post haste from his post at College Station.
Remarkably, Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne has asked Texas A&M's NCAA compliance officer "to urgently look into the matter of the VIP list to ensure there are no violations of the NCAA's rules or regulations."
Are you kidding me?
Whether this is an NCAA violation is really not the core issue. It goes more to the issues of greed and the potential for greater harm. It speaks of character and to what ends people are willing to go to excuse questionable ethics as long as winning is achieved.
So, how does this equate to Toledo?
We all recall how very early in the preseason former Rockets running back Scooter McDougle was named by the FBI in a gambling probe that involved possible monetary or other gifts of value being provided by a Detroit area gambler allegedly to McDougle for either insider information or, even more damagingly, to have players allegedly alter the outcome of games via their direct participation.
McDougle was arraigned in Federal Court in Detroit based on the FBI's affidavit and he was promptly dismissed from the team. It was a prudent move by the Rockets. Even the hint of possible point shaving, which could cripple a program for years to come, had to be addressed. If McDougle is indeed guilty, then there is no excusing his behavior and he will have to face the appropriate punishment. But one troubling aspect at this point is that the FBI has dismissed the charges with the right to reinstate charges at any time.
So, here is the bottom line: McDougle, though not judged guilty, and now not even technically charged, is off the team while a well-paid, high-profile coach who should known better, continues to collect a multi-million dollar salary and is on the verge of getting away with flaunting his lack of ethics while his employer seeks clarification of rules violations.
Shame on Texas A&M.
Now You See Him...
Just a couple of short weeks ago, the campus of Northern Illinois was abuzz about former Notre Dame quarterback Demetrius Jones potentially playing for the Huskies as soon as the 2008 season. Jones started the season as the starting quarterback for the Irish before being pulled in the Irish's opening contest against Georgia Tech after fumbling twice and completing one pass for four yards.
Jones responded to his benching by not making the trip with the Irish two weeks later for their game at Michigan and reportedly enrolled at Northern Illinois, doing so in time to become academically eligible to play for the Huskies in 2008. But it was not to be.
Less than one week ago Jones strolled into the offices of Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly and announced his intentions to enroll at UC. Jones had been previously recruited by Kelly when Kelly was head coach at Central Michigan. As Cincinnati is on the quarter system, and had not yet started its 12th day of classes, Jones will indeed be eligible to play at Cincinnati starting in 2008.
Bearcats head coach Brian Kelly used the opportunity to announce Jones' transfer to further extol what he considers to be Cincinnati's newly established higher profile on the collegiate football scene stating "It's a new day for Cincinnati football. We see ourselves as a national recruiting school. That's how we see ourselves; that we can get these kids to come and play at the University of Cincinnati."
The Bearcats other five scholarship quarterbacks were unavailable for comment.
Crossover or Crossed out?
Shhhh....don't let anybody in the MAC offices hear this, but football coaches around the MAC are still shaking their heads over the MAC's divisional tie-breaker set-up and how the process has rendered cross-over conference games nearly meaningless.
The fact is that many coaches around the MAC are treating conference games against non-divisional opponents as non-conference games recognizing that divisional titles are essentially going to be decided on the intra-divisional records with crossover games only entering the equation as secondary tiebreakers.
What does this mean for MAC fans?
It means that coaches are less willing to risk injury to their frontline players when playing MAC teams outside of their own division. After all, why expose a key player to being lost for the season if you can rest him up for a far more important divisional matchup?
The MAC needs to address the matter of getting a 14th member for football or devise a different tiebreaker system if it wishes to avoid making more than half of its teams' schedules nearly meaningless when it comes to determining a conference champion.
Just ask the coaches. But only off the record.
Being a member of the Football Writers' Association of America Freshman All-American Selection Committee, I am always on the lookout for top performing MAC freshmen that I can bring to the attention of the committee.
So far though, this season in the MAC has been the Year of the Super Soph, with prominent sophomore performers such as Ball State QB Nate Davis, Kent State RB Eugene Jarvis, Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour, and Bowling Green QB Tyler Sheehan garnering headlines.
With the MAC season reaching the halfway point, there is however one clear frontrunner for MAC Freshman of the Year and for the third straight year, MAC Report Online's Freshman of the Year could come from Mt. Pleasant.
Walk-on freshman WR/KR Antonio Brown is having a tremendous season for the Chippewas and has provided Central Michigan with several game-breaking performances such as his 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown this past week in the Chips' 35-10 win over Northern Illinois. Brown currently ranks thirteenth in the nation in all-purpose yards, averaging 183 yards per game and is fifteenth in kickoff return yardage, averaging 30.2 yards per game.
Brown also leads the Chips in receiving with 38 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns. His average of 70.4 yards receiving per game ranks eighth in the MAC and his average of 7.6 catches per game places him second in the conference amongst all receivers.
Should Brown continue his early season success, he could become the third straight Chippewa to receive our nod as Freshman of the Year following Ontario Sneed in 2005 and Dan LeFevour in 2006.
Next week: Leading contenders for Defensive Player of the Year
Conference play kicks into high-gear this week with five conference games on tap along with three intriguing non-conference matchups.
Saturday, October 6
Central Michigan (2-3, 2-0 MAC) at Ball State (3-2, 2-1 MAC), Noon ET
Site: Scheumann Stadium
Series: Central Michigan leads 20-18-1 (Last meeting: Central Michigan 18, Ball State 7 in 2006).
Television: ESPN Plus - List of Affiliates
Outlook: Both Ball State and Central Michigan enter this contest undefeated in the MAC West. A win by the Chips would put them at 3-0 in the division and stake them to an early commanding lead in their quest to repeat as MAC champs. Despite a tough 0-3 mark out of conference, the Chips have taken care of business inside the MAC. The Chips downed Northern Illinois last week 35-10 and rolled up 381 yards in offense and may have found a new starting tailback in Justin Hoskins who scored a touchdown and rushed for 93 yards. However the Chips continue to give up massive amounts of yardage, allowing 521 yards last week to the Huskies who were kept off the board primarily through their own miscues. Meanwhile Ball State comes into this game with the nation's 14th best offense, averaging over 490 yards per game. The Cardinals' Nate Davis leads the MAC in passing yards while Dante Love tops the MAC receiving charts for the conference's top scoring offense. Even the loss of starting tailback MiQuale Lewis did not slow down the Cards in last week's 49-14 drubbing of Buffalo as freshman Frank Edmonds rushed for 124 yards. While the Cardinals offense garners the headlines, the defense has shown steady improvement, currently ranking number one in the MAC in scoring defense (23.2 points per game) and third in both pass defense and total defense. The Cards seem to be on a mission and on the fast track to a berth in the MAC Championship Game.
Prediction: Ball State 42, Central Michigan 24.
Bowling Green (3-1, 1-0 MAC) at (7)Boston College (5-0, 3-0 ACC), Noon ET
Site: Alumni Stadium
Series: First Meeting
Outlook: Bowling Green is 2-1 in non-conference games this season after downing Western Kentucky last week, 41-21. The Falcons have played a fairly heady level of non-conference opponents, having defeated Minnesota and dropped a close contest to Michigan State but will encounter their biggest challenge of the season so far when they travel to Chestnut Hill to take on seventh-ranked and undefeated Boston College. The Falcons have been getting it done through the air behind sophomore QB Tyler Sheehan who tops the MAC by averaging 326 yards passing per game and a league-leading 335 yards of total offense per game. The Falcons also rank eighth nationally in passing offense and trail only Ball State in the MAC, averaging 34.5 points per game. Boston College defeated second-division Massachusetts last week 24-14 and is looking for its first 6-0 start since 1954. Eagles' QB, and Heisman contender, Matt Ryan has passed for 1545 yards and ten touchdowns and ranks third all-time at BC in career passing yards. BC ranks second in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 46.8 yards per game but are allowing just under 270 yards passing per game. Boston College has won fifteen straight games at home with their last loss at home coming against Florida State, 28-17 in 2005. The Falcons have the firepower to keep this game competitive and should give the Eagles a stern test.
Prediction: Boston College 33, Bowling Green 27.
Eastern Michigan (2-3,1-1 MAC) at Michigan (3-2, 2-0 Big Ten), Noon ET
Site: Michigan Stadium
Series: Michigan leads 7-0 (Last meeting: Michigan 55, Eastern Michigan 0 in 2005).
Television: Big Ten Network
Outlook: Eastern Michigan makes the short seven-mile trek down the road to Michigan Stadium to collect a cool half-million dollar payday. The Eagles had their two-game winning streak stopped last week at Vanderbilt when they committed six turnovers in a 30-7 defeat. The Eagles' defense though gave Vandy fits for most of the game and recorded tackles for loss on 18 of Vandy's 72 offensive plays. But the Eagles will need to do better than averaging 1.7 yards per carry on the ground to make things competitive against Michigan. To do that, head coach Jeff Genyk has indicated that a pair of true freshmen, Jayson Jones and Maurice Goodrum will get some carries. True freshman QB Kyle McMahon will also see action as EMU wants to get McMahon some game experience before resuming MAC play against Ohio next week. The Eagles defense therefore will again be counted on to keep things interesting. EMU ranks second in the MAC in total defense and third in scoring defense while the offensive line has allowed only four sacks, tops in the MAC. Michigan, as everyone knows, started slowly with a shocking loss to Appalachian State and then a blowout loss to Oregon but has rebounded with three straight wins but struggled to beat Northwestern last week. Michigan tailback Michael Hart is second in the nation in rushing but the Eagles have allowed a 100-yard rusher only twice this season. Sixty-one of the Eagles' roster players come from Michigan and likely nearly every one of them had visions of one day running out of the tunnel at Michigan Stadium. The key will be for them to realize they have not achieved any goals by simply making that run. A tall order for a program that is slowly rebuilding.
Prediction: Michigan 42, Eastern Michigan 10.
Ohio (2-3, 0-1 MAC) at Buffalo (1-4, 1-1 MAC), 1:00 pm ET
Site: UB Stadium
Series: Ohio leads 9-4 (Last meeting: Oho 42, Buffalo 7 in 2006).
Outlook: Both teams stagger into this contest riding three game losing streaks. The Bobcats suffered a 33-25 setback against Kent State last week while Buffalo was steamrolled by Ball State, 49-14. Ohio was flagged an incredible 16 times for 155 yards in last week's loss leading to one of the best quotes of the year when head coach Frank Solich said "Boise State plays on blue turf, well, we were playing on a yellow turf." Besides the penalties, the Bobcats offense has sputtered badly leading to starting QB Brad Bower being pulled in favor of Theo Scott in last week's game. Scott completed 16-24 passed for 161 yards and a TD but don't expect to see a change in QB yet as Solich has not given any indication of making a permanent change in signal callers. Tailback Kalvin McRae has also been stymied recently but the Bobcats defense has kept things close and leads the MAC with 14 QB sacks. Buffalo though has seemingly regressed since posting a 42-7 triumph over Temple, having been outscored by an average margin of 43-17 since then in three straight losses. The Bulls committed eleven penalties last week in their loss to Ball State and QB Drew Willy was ineffective. With both teams prone lately to costly mistakes and turnovers, the winner will be the team that doesn't beat itself. Ohio needs to win to avoid starting 0-2 in the MAC East and falling out of early contention in defense of its MAC East crown while a win by the Bulls would give them possession of first place in the MAC East with a 2-0 divisional start. Welcome to the wacky world of MAC divisional football.
Prediction: Ohio 24, Buffalo 20.
Northern Illinois (1-4, 0-2 MAC) at Temple (0-5, 0-2 MAC), 1:00 pm ET
Site: Lincoln Financial Field
Series: Northern Illinois Leads 2-0 (Last meeting: Northern Illinois 43, Temple 21 in 2006).
Outlook: Somebody will claim their first MAC victory this week as the Huskies try to recover from a mostly self-inflicted 35-10 loss to Central Michigan while Temple will do likewise after imploding against Army in their 37-21 setback to the Cadets last week. The Huskies have struggled badly through the air with QB Dan Nicholson tossing nearly twice as many picks (10) as touchdowns (6) but appear to have found a solid backfield performer in tailback Justin Anderson who is averaging 114.6 yards per game, second in the MAC. Temple QB Adam DiMichele is having a decent season, ranking in the top five or better in most passing categories but the Owls continue to struggle on special teams, surrendering both a kick off and punt return for a touchdown last week against Army. The Owls and Huskies rank 11th and 13th respectively in the MAC in red zone offense while Northern Illinois has turned the ball over 17 times and Temple 15 times, ranking 13th and 12th in the MAC respectively in those categories. Know where we are going here? This could be ugly. Temple continues to search for their first 'W' of the season.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 32, Temple 26.
Miami (2-3, 1-0 MAC) at Kent State (3-2, 1-1 MAC), 3:00 pm ET
Site: Dix Stadium
Series: Miami leads 43-11 (Last meeting: Kent State 16, Miami 14 in 2006).
Television: FSN Ohio
Outlook: Miami's season on the brink was restored with last week's 17-14 victory over Syracuse. The RedHawks continue to have major issues on offense though as Mike Kokal returned as the starting quarterback but threw three interceptions. Thankfully for the RedHawks, their rushing game showed serious signs of life behind fifth-year senior, and first-time starter, Cory Jones who rushed for 125 yards, leading Miami's 286 yard rushing output. Miami's defense, led by linebackers Joey Hudson and Clayton Mullins, limited the Orange to 66 yards on the ground and will now have the daunting task of slowing down a Kent State rushing attack that tops the MAC, averaging 236 yards per game. In last week's 33-25 triumph over Ohio, Golden Flashes' sophomore running back Eugene Jarvis had a career day, rushing for 230 yards to take over as the nation's leading rusher. KSU QB Julian Edelman still needs to make better decisions passing, having thrown for six picks and six touchdowns. In fact, turnovers have been the Flashes worst enemy this season, placing 12th in the MAC in turnover margin. If Kent State can avoid the turnover bug, Miami will have a hard time keeping the Flashes off the board.
Prediction: Kent State 27, Miami 17.
Akron (2-3, 1-0 MAC) at Western Michigan (2-3, 1-0 MAC), 7:00 pm ETSaturday, October 13
Site: Waldo Stadium
Series: Western Michigan leads 11-3 (Last meeting: Western Michigan 17, Akron 0 in 2006).
Outlook: Akron enters its crossover contest at Western Michigan coming off a 44-10 thrashing at the hands of Connecticut in a game that got away from them in the second half after trailing only 16-10 at the half. The Zips have used two quarterbacks, Carlton Jackson and Chris Jacquemain, in every game this season and continue to struggle on offense. The Zips have the MAC's lowest-rated passing offense, averaging 145.4 yards per game, lowest-rated total offense (244.4 yards per game) and 11th ranked rushing offense (99 yards per game) but may have found an answer at tailback in junior Brian Williams after averaging five yards per carry the last two weeks. Defense has kept the Zips in most games. Akron ranks second in the MAC in pass defense but has been susceptible to the rush, allowing 214.8 yards per game which could be bad news facing a Broncos team that seems to have found its rhythm on the ground. Last week, in the Broncos' 42-28 win over Toledo, both Mark Bonds and Brandon West rushed for over 100 yards. WMU QB Tim Hiller has overcome a shaky start to the 2007 season and is fifth in the MAC, averaging 222.4 yards per game and is fifth in pass efficiency, having thrown nine touchdowns against seven interceptions. Hiller tossed three touchdowns last week against Toledo. The Broncos are seeking their third straight win. This game could come down to who runs the ball better. While the Zips have one of the league's worst rated rushing offenses, the Broncos have not been able to stop anybody on the ground, allowing a league-worst 245.8 yards per game on the ground. Home field sways us in the Broncos direction here, but just barely.
Prediction: Western Michigan 24, Akron 20.
Liberty (3-2, 0-0 Big South) at Toledo (1-4, 0-2 MAC), 7:00 pm ET
Site: Glass Bowl
Series: Toledo leads 2-0 (Last meeting: Toledo 49, Liberty3 in 2003).
Outlook: Things went from bad to really bad to worse for the Rockets in their 42-28 loss last week to Western Michigan. The Rockets, already struggling on defense and relying upon their offense to keep them in games, lost both starting quarterback Aaron Opelt and his backup Clint Cochran to injuries and will start freshman D.J. Lenehan under center this week against second-division Liberty. Expect running back Jalen Parmele to carry the load for the Rockets. Parmele ranks fourth in the MAC, averaging 90.2 yards rushing per game. The Rockets' defense is allowing 45.2 points per game (last in the MAC and 118th nationally) and 478.8 yards per game (12th in the MAC and 109th nationally) and have been prone to costly penalties, accruing four personal foul penalties in the first half against Western Michigan. The Rockets though should improve their defensive numbers against the Flames but should not take Liberty lightly. The Flames rolled to a 68-10 victory last week over St. Francis (PA) and are averaging 39 points and 390 yards of offense per game. With an experienced QB Toledo would be expected to roll but with a true freshman, things are not nearly as predictable and the score could be closer than most would expect.
Prediction: Toledo 38, Liberty 20.
The schedule for the week ahead:
Eastern Michigan at Ohio, Noon ET
Kent State at Ohio State, Noon ET
Toledo at Buffalo, 1:00 pm ET
Western Kentucky at Ball State, 2:00 pm ET
Western Michigan at Northern Illinois, 3:00 pm ET
Bowling Green at Miami, 3:00 pm ET
Army at Central Michigan, 3:30 pm ET
Temple at Akron, 6:00 pm ET