MAC Football Week 9 Preview: Inside The Numbers Print E-mail
Written by Dave Ruthenberg   
Wednesday, October 24 2007
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ImageWith the majority of Mid-American Conference schools struggling to get above the .500 mark this season, a great deal of discussion has centered around whether the MAC is in a down cycle or, in some circles, whether the MAC has lost the ability to compete on a consistent basis with other FBS schools and conferences.

Earlier this week we also made note of the fact that the two current divisional leaders, Central Michigan and Buffalo, are a combined 1-8 in out of conference play and 0-7 against schools from automatic qualifying BCS conferences.

On the surface that would seem to be an indictment on the quality and level of play in the Mid-American Conference. But is it really? A deeper look inside the numbers may reveal the real answer to the MAC's seemingly poor out of conference record.

Through October 20, MAC member schools have played in a total of 52 non-conference games, winning sixteen games for a rather weak winning percentage of .308 but how many of those games have been on the road and how has the MAC fared when given the seemingly rare opportunity to play a non-conference game at home?

Well, we broke it down and here are the numbers for each school's out of conference record for home and away contests:

Ball State
Bowling Green
Central Michigan
Eastern Michigan**
Kent State
Northern Illinois***
Western Michigan
11-10 (.524)
5-26 (.161)

*includes game against Army at Cleveland Browns Stadium
**includes game against Northwestern at Ford Field
***includes game against
Iowa at Soldier Field

Sometimes things are little more complex than they appear on the surface.

With the MAC playing 60% of its non-conference games on the road, it really should not be a surprise that the conference has an overall losing mark in non-conference play.

It should be noted that not a single one of the automatic qualifying BCS conferences play the majority of their non-conference games, let alone 60%, on the road.

The MAC has done a very respectable job during its home portion of the non-conference schedule, especially when considering that three of the 21 home non-conference games have actually been played at off-campus, neutral sites.

To be fair, and to keep from sounding like cheerleaders for the conference, there is no doubt that the  MAC could still use a marquee victory or two to shed the image that has developed this season and having the defending MAC champions lose by 56 points on the road last week certainly does not help the conference's image nationally.

There aren't many opportunities left for statement wins but Ball State came close with a one-point loss at Nebraska and with games remaining against Illinois and Indiana, the Cardinals may still provide the MAC's best hope for a quality non-conference road win.

With the need likely to continue for the MAC to schedule "money games" at BCS schools, the trend towards road non-conference games will also likely continue.

The next time the MAC's poor non-conference record is raised however it would be instructive to remember these numbers and the unique challenges faced by the MAC and similar conferences such as Conference USA, the WAC and the Sun Belt Conferences in the money-driven world of non-conference play.

Scott, English Named to Hendricks Watch List
Two Mid-American Conference players, Trevor Scott from Buffalo and Larry English from Northern Illinois, are buffalo_scott_small.jpgamong the list of 37 candidates named to the 2007 Ted Hendricks Award watch list. The Hendricks Award is presented annually to the top defensive end in collegiate football.

The award is named in honor of University of Miami three-time All-American and NFL Hall of Fame defensive end Ted Hendricks. Last year's award was presented to LaMarr Woodley of the University of Michigan.

University at Buffalo defense end Trevor Scott currently tops the MAC in forced fumbles and ranks second in the league in quarterback sacks. Scott, a converted tight end, also leads he Bulls with seven sacks. Over his two-year career the sophomore leads all players nationally in sacks per game.

niu_english_small.jpgHuskies' defensive end Larry English leads the MAC, and ranks fourth in the nation, averaging 1.21 sacks per game this season and ranks second in the MAC in tackles for loss, and eleventh nationally.  Earlier this season English broke his own school record by recording five sacks in one game at Idaho which led to his being named the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week.

The Hendricks Award will be presented on December 5.

MAC Schools in Top Ten in NCAA Rankings

Passing Offense
9. Bowling Green
307.3 yards per game
Net Punting
3. Eastern Michigan
39.68 yards
6. Toledo
39.05 yards
8. Buffalo
38.68 yards
Punt Returns
5. Akron
18.55 yards
Turnover Margin
7. Ball State
Fumbles Recovered
9. Western Michigan
9. Temple
Fumbles Lost
9. Eastern Michigan
9. Bowling Green
9. Ball State
Turnovers Gained
5. Central Michigan
Turnovers Lost
2. Ball State
Punt Return Yardage Defense
10. Ohio
4.5 yards per game
Tackles For Loss Allowed
5. Ball State
4.0 per game
10. Central Michigan
4.38 per game

Seven games are on the schedule this weekend, including three intra-divisional rivalries, as the MAC schedule kicks into high gear.

Saturday, October 27
Ball State (5-3, 3-2 MAC) at Illinois (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten), Noon ET
Site: Memorial Stadium
Series: First Meeting
Television: Big Ten Network
Ball State heads out of conference for two straight weeks against Big Ten opposition, starting with Illinois Saturday followed by a trip to Indiana on November 3. The Cardinals stayed in the race for a MAC West title with a 27-23 comeback win at
Western Michigan last week. BSU QB Nate Davis continues to top the MAC charts, leading the MAC in passing efficiency, passing yards and touchdowns while the Cardinals defense has been opportunistic, placing seventh nationally in turnover margin. The Cardinals are only 2-2 at home but own a 3-1 road mark with their only road loss being a 41-40 setback at Nebraska. The Illini have dropped two straight games, including last week's 27-17 home loss to Michigan. Illinois welcomes the Cardinals for homecoming sporting the Big Ten's top rushing offense, averaging 230.1 yards per game, which is also good for tenth nationally. Ball State ranks 11th in the MAC in rushing defense, allowing 214.9 yards per game. Illinois' defense has excelled at getting to the quarterback, recording 26 sacks and ranks 11th in the nation but the Cardinals' offensive line has done a great job of protecting Davis this season, allowing only 10 sacks, which ranks second in the MAC.  The Cardinals can never be counted out on the road and should give Illinois a battle, and with a break or two, an upset is not out of the question.  
Illinois 38, Ball State 26.

Akron (3-4, 2-1 MAC) at Buffalo (3-5, 3-0 MAC), 1:00 pm ET
Site: UB Stadium
Akron leads 8-0 (Last meeting: Akron 31, Buffalo 16 in 2006).
Outlook: Is Buffalo for real? That's the question everyone is asking and this week we should start to get a good idea as the Bulls begin a season-ending stretch of four straight games against MAC East opposition. Buffalo had its modest two-game wining streak snapped last week with a 20-12 setback at Syracuse. The Bulls moved the ball but never crossed the goal line against the Orange. QB Drew Willy has been solid for the Bulls' offense, leading the MAC in completion percentage but has thrown only seven touchdowns through eight games but also only six interceptions and will be challenged by a strong Akron secondary that features DB Reggie Corner, the MAC's leader with five interceptions this season. The Zips were idle last week after a fourth-quarter collapse against Temple two weeks ago that saw the Zips fall at home 24-20 after blowing a 20-3 fourth quarter lead. The Akron offense ranks last in the MAC, averaging 288.6 yards per game but WR Jabari Arthur has been a bright spot, averaging 103.7 yards receiving, tops in the MAC. If the contest comes down to the running game, Buffalo has the edge behind James Starks who ranks second in the MAC in rushing TD's and fifth overall with an average of 84 rushing yards per game. The Zips, as a team, are averaging only 108 yards rushing. This is a contest between two teams whose games we have not been able to call correctly all season. After last week's performance at Syracuse, we have, at least for this week, jumped off the Buffalo bandwagon.
Prediction: Akron 27, Buffalo 20.

Central Michigan (4-4, 3-0 MAC) at Kent State (3-5, 1-3 MAC), 1:00 pm ET
Site: Dix Stadium
Central Michigan leads 21-9 (Last meeting: Central Michigan 24, Kent State 21 in 2004).
Outlook: It is unlikely that there is another program in the MAC that is more looking forward to resuming conference play and putting non-conference play behind them, than the Chippewas. The defending MAC champs were embarrassed at Clemson last week, 70-14 and in their four non-conference losses have been outscored by an average margin of 38.5 points but in their three MAC wins so far this season have prevailed by an average score of 48-28. CMU QB Dan LeFevour tops the MAC overall with 23 touchdowns (15 passing; 8 rushing) and has been nearly unstoppable in MAC play. The Chips secondary however continues to be regularly torched and injury concerns continue for the Chips with both Curtis Cutts and Calvin Hissong likely out this week and RB Ontario Sneed may miss his third straight game as well. The Chips' defense is allowing a MAC-worst 497.8 yards per game (116th nationally) and 39.1 points per game. The Golden Flashes however will also be dealing with their own injury issues, particularly the season-ending injury to starting QB Julian Edelman who suffered a fractured arm in Kent State's 31-20 loss to Bowling Green, a loss that all but eliminated the Flashes from contention in the MAC East. The Flashes will turn to freshman signal caller Giorgio Morgan which means RB Eugene Jarvis, the MAC's leading ground gainer, will see the ball a lot. The Golden Flashes may be the most disappointing team this season in the MAC and have self-inflicted much of their own damage, ranking 12th in the MAC in turnover margin. The Chips are playing with a title in their sights while the Flashes may just simply be playing out the string.
Central Michigan 42, Kent State 17.

Miami  (4-4, 3-1 MAC) at Vanderbilt (4-3, 2-3 SEC), 1:00 pm ET
Site: Vanderbilt Stadium
Series: Tied 1-1 (Last meeting:
Miami 33, Vanderbilt 30 in 2000).
Outlook: Will the real Miami RedHawks please stand up? Is it the squad that swarmed Bowling Green for a  47-17 victory or the one that couldn't move the ball in last week's loss 24-17 loss at Temple? The task doesn't get any easier this week with a trip to Vanderbilt which just knocked off sixth-ranked South Carolina 17-6. The Commodores have been getting it done on defense, leading the SEC in sacks and interceptions while allowing only 18 points per game. Vanderbilt CB DJ Moore was named the National Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Foundation following Vandy's win over the Gamecocks after recording two interceptions and eight tackles. With the RedHawks having so much difficulty moving the ball on Temple, it could be a long day in Nashville for the Miami offense which is 12th in scoring in the MAC, averaging only twenty points per game. This will be the second game against MAC opposition this season for the Commodores who defeated Eastern Michigan earlier in the year, 30-7.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 31,
Miami 13.

Western Michigan (3-5, 2-2 MAC) at Eastern Michigan (2-6, 1-2 MAC), 3:30 pm ET
Site: Rynearson Stadium
Western Michigan Leads 25-14-2 (Last meeting: Western Michigan 18, Eastern Michigan 15 in 2006).
Television: Comcast Local
Outlook: The Eagles welcome the Broncos for homecoming with the loser likely out of the running for the MAC West title. The winner stays alive, but would need some assistance by way of a divisional loss by Ball State. The last three meetings between WMU and EMU have been decided by a combined fifteen points. The Broncos have dropped two of their last three games in late-game fashion, including last week's 27-23 home loss to Ball State. Western Michigan QB Tim Hiller has been steady if not spectacular and tops the MAC with just under 267 yards passing per game but has thrown 11 interceptions, tied for the most in the MAC with NIU's Dan Nicholson. RB Brandon West rushed for a career high 170 yards last week and will be facing an EMU defense that allowed 182 yards to Ohio's Kalvin McRae and 215 yards to Michigan's Michael Hart in consecutive weeks before stiffening a bit against Northwestern in the Eagles' 26-14 loss to the Wildcats last week. EMU starting QB Andy Schmitt will likely be a game time decision as he recovers from a shoulder injury suffered against Ohio two weeks ago after matching his single-game best of four touchdown passes. Last week true freshman Kyle McMahon started, recording 326 total yards including two rushing touchdowns but also throwing three interceptions, two inside the Wildcats' ten-yard line and would be facing a Broncos secondary that includes Londen Fryar, the MAC's leader in passes defended. The Eagles' defense is paced by the league's leading tackler, LB Daniel Holtzclaw, and the MAC's leader in tackles for loss, DE Jason Jones. It's been awhile since a late October game had significant meaning for the Eagles and a close game should be expected again with the Eagles snapping their four-game losing streak.
Eastern Michigan 24, Western Michigan 21.

Ohio (3-5, 1-3 MAC) at Bowling Green (4-3, 2-1 MAC), 6:00 pm ET
Site: Doyt Perry Stadium
Bowling Green leads 35-21-2 (Last meeting: Bowling Green 21, Ohio 9 in 2006).
Television: ESPN Game Plan
Outlook: The defending MAC East champion Ohio Bobcats have yet to win a game within their division and with another loss are likely out of the running for a repeat trip to the MAC Championship Game. The Bobcats were their own worst enemy, committing seven turnovers in last week's 43-40 loss at Toledo, including four interceptions by QB Brad Bower who was replaced by Theo Scott in the contest but the Bobcats are mum so far on their choice for quarterback this week. A more pressing concern may be the defense which has given up 42 and 43 points in back-to-back conference games and ranks 11th in the MAC, yielding 434.5 yards per game, including 215.2 yards rushing (12th MAC) which normally would not be an issue against the pass-happy Falcons except that BG may have found an answer to their own rushing woes after freshman Willie Geter ran for 203 yards against Kent State in BG's 31-20 win over the Golden Flashes last week. Despite Geter's big day, the Falcons still rank last in the MAC in rushing, averaging 93.3 yards but top the MAC in passing by a wide margin, averaging 307.3 yards per game. The Falcons appear to have recovered from their back-to-back losses to Boston College and Miami and should claim their sixth straight win over the struggling Bobcats.
Bowling Green 45, Ohio 31.

Northern Illinois
(1-7, 0-4 MAC) at Toledo (3-5, 1-3 MAC), 7:00 pm ET
Site: Glass Bowl
Toledo Leads 27-7 (Last meeting: Toledo 35, Northern Illinois 17 in 2006).
Outlook: Toledo has won 12 of the past 13 meetings against the Huskies but dropped their most recent game at the Glass Bowl against Northern Illinois in 2005. However any resemblance between either of those squads stops at the uniforms. Both squads have been decimated by injuries this season and each is simply playing for pride at this point with divisional titles not likely for either team. The Huskies rank last in the MAC in scoring (114th nationally), averaging 17 points per game. QB Dan Nicholson has thrown 11 interceptions this season and only six TDs but his status is uncertain after suffering a concussion midway through the Huskies' 44-3 loss at Wisconsin last week. DE Larry English continues however to have a solid season for NIU, leading the MAC in sacks and is second in tackles for loss. The Rockets' Aaron Opelt returned last week to start at quarterback in the Rockets' 43-40 victory over Ohio. Scoring points has not been the problem for Toledo which is averaging 30.4 points per game. The problem for the Rockets has been a defense that is allowing a MAC-worst 42.9 points per game (118th nationally) and giving up 458.9 yards per contest. This game features two of the top running backs in the MAC this season, Toledo's Jalen Parmele is second in the MAC averaging 129 yards per game and is coming off of a 243-yard performance against Ohio while NIU's Justin Anderson is averaging 110.2 yards, third in the MAC but was limited to 14 yards against Wisconsin last week. Two struggling teams, but the Rockets are solid picks at home having won 22 of their past 27 games at the Glass Bowl.
Toledo 41, Northern Illinois 31.

On Tap

The schedule for the week ahead: 

Friday, November 2 
Temple at Ohio, 7:00 pm ET
Akron at Bowling Green, 7:30 pm ET

Saturday, November 3
Ball State at Indiana, Noon ET
Buffalo at
Miami, 3:00 pm ET
Michigan at Toledo, 7:00 pm ET

Last Updated ( Wednesday, October 24 2007 )
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