Let's Get It On! Opening Week News, Notes & Picks Print E-mail
Written by Dave Ruthenberg   
Tuesday, August 26 2008
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Ohio's Jameson Hartke Goes Airborne / Photo: Scott Gardner
In the words of famed boxing referee Mills Lane, "Let's Get It On!" Yes, finally after months of prognostications, previews and pronouncements, we are finally on the eve of the kickoff of the 2008 MAC football season. And not a moment too soon.

Welcome to the first installment of our weekly MAC football previews. To skip right to the Game Previews section you can click here but then of course you will miss all of the great, meticulously researched information below.

Questions in search of Answers
While the offseason lends itself to endless speculation and good natured (okay, sometimes not so good natured) barbs between loyal fans and alums of schools, things will finally begin to be settled on the field where the battles may get nearly as fierce as some of the action on Internet message boards.  

Across the Mid-American Conference, several issues will begin to come into focus and questions will begin to be answered, such as:  

  • Can Central Michigan claim a third straight MAC title, thus becoming the first team since Marshall turned the trick four straight times from 1997-2000?
  • Will CMU junior quarterback Dan LeFevour have a strong start to the season after a blistering hot sophomore campaign, and if so, how quickly will he appear on Heisman contender lists?
  • The team with a solid shot a cracking the Top 25 in the first month of the season? How about Ball State? The Cardinals' first ten opponents own a combined 49-73 (.402) mark from last season. The Cardinals should get off to a fast start and receive some attention from the pollsters if they take care of business.
  • Ball State QB Nate Davis (see Dan LeFevour)
  • Can Toledo bounce back from consecutive sub .500 seasons and if not is "Toledo Tom" Amstutz in danger of being bounced?
  • Was Temple's surprising conference performance from last season an aberration or are the Owls legitimate contenders?
  • Can Bowling Green rebound from a humiliating outing at the GMAC Bowl and contend for a MAC East title while rebuilding its offensive and defensive lines?
  • Is Miami ready to atone for bottoming out at the end of the season and falling completely out of bowl eligibility despite claiming a MAC East title in 2007?
  • Can Western Michigan continue its momentum from the end of last season when the Broncos knocked Iowa out of a bowl game and shock Big Red in Bo Pellini's debut as the Cornhuskers coach?
  • Is Buffalo ready to shake its perennial doormat tag?
  • Can Eastern Michigan build on last season's in-state sweep of the Broncos and Chippewas and record its first winning season since 1995?
  • Will the nation's leading returning rusher, Eugene Jarvis, key a resurgent Kent State to respectability this season?
  • How far away from returning Northern Illinois to its winning ways is first-year coach Jerry Kill -- the only new coach in the MAC this season.
  • Can Ohio find a replacement for All-MAC standout Kalvin McRae?
  • With their final season at the Rubber Bowl at hand, can Akron rebuild its flagging football fortunes to generate some excitement heading into its new digs in 2009?

Plenty of questions. The answers should provide a season's worth of entertainment. 

Fans vs. Media
We thought it would be fun to publish the official preseason MAC News Media Association poll side-by-side with our very unscientific Internet fan poll that we ran at MAC Report Online in the offseason. 

We will revisit the polls at the end of the year and see who came closer -- fans or media -- to the actual final results.  

We were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response by some fans of schools that have been at the bottom of the heap for awhile which proves one of two things: either these fans are very hungry for a winner or they have advanced fast mouse clicking skills and are probably wearing carpal tunnel syndrome wrist splints.

  MEDIA POLL (Points) FAN POLL (Votes)
MAC EAST Bowling Green 206 Akron 714
  Miami 202 Ohio 607
  Buffalo 145 Miami 354
  Kent State 137 Buffalo 151
  Temple 120 Temple 65
  Ohio 119 Kent State 38
  Akron 78 Bowling Green 36
MAC WEST Central Michigan 207 Eastern Michigan 682
  Ball State 168 Northern Illinois 472
  Western Michigan 143 Central Michigan 404
  Toledo 98 Western Michigan 203
  Eastern Michigan 80 Ball State 199
  Northern Illinois 60 Toledo 160

Those Are Fightin' Words!

Undoing a generation's worth of losing can be a tough, tedious task. Just ask Eastern Michigan whose football program has been the butt of plenty of nasty and snide remarks thanks to having only two winning seasons since 1989. 

Such a long streak of losing often makes the school an easy target for derisive comments, such as this gem from Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian to NBC Sports.com columnist Dan Pompei on the subject of getting NFL rookie salaries under control:

Ttitans' 2nd Round Draft Choice Jason Jones
 "The union has to give us a firm, definitive, rookie salary cap. We're perfectly willing to have the money that does not go to the rookies go to the veterans. Nobody is looking to save money. But we're sick and tired of giving exorbitant, incredible sums of money to players who haven't proven they can do anything but play against Eastern Michigan."


Understandably Eastern Michigan head coach Jeff Genyk takes issue with that statement, telling MAC Report Online, "I'm really surprised to hear something like that. It's disappointing. He is obviously using historical references. I know he hasn't been to our practices. He hasn't been to our fall camp. But he will have an opportunity to experience an Eastern Michigan graduate when they face Jason Jones and the Tennessee Titans which may change his mind."

The Colts will face the Titans (and second round EMU draft choice, DL Jason Jones) twice this season: September 21 and in the regular season finale on December 28.

Mark those dates down.

Around The MAC Beat
A round up of news and tidbits from some stops around the MAC this past week:

Ball State: You couldnt tell by the workhorse numbers he put up last season, but Ball State inside linebacker Bryant Haines was an ailing performer. He developed a tight back and spasms in the second game of the year, and later suffered a disc injury in his lower back that caused him to play the final five games with a high level of pain. Surgery was required in January, and he missed spring practice while recovering.

The senior from Piqua, Ohio, is ready to go this year, and the Cardinals welcome his presence. Haines led BallState with 83 tackles as a freshman in 2005, and he topped the chart again last year with 125 stops while starting all 13 games.

"It's going to be up and down, and its something I'll have to work with and play through," Haines said as he prepared to help the Cardinals get ready for Thursdays season-opener at home against Northeastern. "I try not to think about it, but its hard to do that. The pain is definitely there. But if I'm going to be a productive player, I can't let it bother me." From the Muncie Star Press

Bowling Green
: Bowling Green has 13 returning players on its roster that caught at least one pass last year. So how does junior quarterback Tyler Sheehan expect to spread the wealth?

"I think as far as our offense goes, if youre open you'll get the ball," said Sheehan, who had two receptions of his own in 2007. "I think the coaches will do a good job of play calling as far as who they want to get the ball and who has the hot hand."

Expect Sheehan to throw often when the Falcons visit Pittsburgh on Saturday. In non conference games last year, BG employed a near pass-exclusive game plan. Sheehan threw the ball an average of 46 times in non MAC games. Considering Pitt's front seven is arguably the strength of its team, BG probably thinks its best chance of pulling an upset is through the air. From The Toledo Blade

Bowling Green has lost two players to season-ending surgery.Running back Eric Ransom is out for the second straight year with an injured knee.Junior college transfer Robert Lorenzi is out after suffering a broken leg. He was recruited to add depth and experience at cornerback. From the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune

Buffalo:Linebacker was the biggest question mark heading into Buffalo's trainingcamp, and coach Turner Gill hopes to solidify his three starters this week. Redshirt freshman John Syty, who came to UB without a scholarship, is one of six players still in contention for playing time.

"We've made some decisions on people who are going to be playing," Gill said on Monday. "It's going to be a lot of people and we'll see how it all fits as we go into the season. We feel very good about where we are at this point and time."

Syty and sophomore Justin Winters are competing at outside linebacker, along with sophomore Raphael Akobundu and true freshman Imani Chatman. In the middle, sophomore Tom Drewes, who started one game at linebacker in 2006 but sat out last season as a medical redshirt is competing against true freshman Scott Pettigrew. Drews was originally switched to defensive end in the spring. From The Buffalo News

Eastern Michigan: Eastern Michigan knew that it would have at least a couple of new faces on its defensive line this season, having to replace DE Jason Jones and DT Eric Young who combined for 23 starts in 2007. Returning starters Josh Hunt and Spenser Smith were expected to be the anchors of the rebuilt unit, having each started nine games apiece last season.

However both were surprisingly beaten out in fall camp by younger players which means the Eagles' starting defensive front four will consist of two redshirt freshmen, DT Brandon Slater and DE Brad Ohrman, a sophomore, DT Tyler Palsrock and a junior, DE Brandon Downs, all of whom will be making their first collegiate starts when EMU opens the season against Indiana State on Thursday night. From MAC Report Online

State:As expected, Julian Edelman won Kent States starting quarterback job in a
training-camp battle that was open in name only. That doesn't mean, however, Edelman has the position all to himself.

On Monday, KSU coach Doug Martin revealed a plan to give either sophomore Giorgio Morgan or junior Anthony Magazu a chance to see action in every game during the 2008 season.

"(Edelman) is the guy, but I do want to play another quarterback, and we will do it in the third series of each half," said Martin. "Its no big deal. There is no quarterback controversy. We are doing this for a couple of reasons. No. 1 is that Giorgio Morgan and Anthony Magazu have competed really hard for that backup quarterback job, and they will compete this week. Whichever one comes out ahead is going to play the third series of each half. And we are going to do that all year long."

After injuries forced KSU to play four quarterbacks in a disastrous 2007 season, Martin hopes the script will help to develop a quarterback who can step in if Edelman gets hurt. The plan is also designed to protect Edelman, who has a long history of injuries, by limiting the number of hits he absorbs during the year. From the Record-Courier

: With the Summer Games coinciding with fall football camp, fourth-year Ohio head coach Frank Solich was on board with bringing a little Olympic flavor to the daily end-of-practice team meeting.

Each day during the past two weeks one position group from the Bobcats squad would be required to perform the team's fight song, as a group, in front of their teammates. As per judges' scoring from events like gymnastics or diving, each position group was assigned a score on a 10-point scale.

The winner? The defensive backs, who incorporated choreography into their high-energy rendition, garnered a 9.0. The big losers? The offensive line finished with just a 4.0 after one member was caught lip-syncing along with the rest.

"You're always looking for ways to keep things fun and interesting in camp," said Solich, whose team opens the 2008 season on Aug. 30 at Wyoming. "With the Olympics this year, we thought this was a good way to tie into that and give the guys something to look forward to each day." From The Athens Messenger

:The University of Toledo made an extensive recruiting effort at defensive back last off-season. Its paying off so far, at least for the sake of training camp.

Bringing in seven new cornerbacks this year has given the Rockets the luxury of depth. The Rockets are taking their time choosing starters at that position for their Sept. 6 season opener against Arizona.

"The good news is that we have some really talented corners this year," UT coach Tom Amstutz said. "We still have a battle going on to see who the starters are going to be. We'll decide by next week who were going to start but we'll play up to six corners in that first game to see how they do."

Among the players who are fighting for the two starting cornerback spots are junior college transfer Joe Bates, junior Walter Atkins, sophomore Greg Harris and freshman Andreas Ashwood. Also in the mix are sophomore Desmond Marrow, who recently has been out with an injury, and sophomore Myshan Veasley-Pettis. From The Toledo Blade

Fun with Numbers
Some numbers worth remembering as we approach the start of the MAC season:

CMU QB Dan LeFevour - on pace to shatter the all-time MAC record for total yards?
The air up there: Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium
NIU's Jerry Kill: The lone new coach in the MAC
12,084: Record for career total yards by a MAC player which is held by Marhsall's Byron Leftwich (1999-2002). At his current pace, CMU's Dan LeFevour, with 8,326 yards of total offense in only two seasons, is on track to surpass Leftwich's record by his senior season.

7,220: As in the number of feet above sea level at Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium, the highest elevation of any division one stadium in the country and the site of Saturday's Ohio vs. Wyoming clash. Bring plenty of oxygen coach.

2,267: Freshman record for all-purpose yards set last season by Central Michigan's Antonio Brown.

1,669: Number of rushing yards amassed last season by the nation's leading returning rusher, Eugene Jarvis of Kent State.

902: Combined return yards last season from the MAC's leaders in kick off and punt returns, Akron's Bryan Williams and Andre Jones.

235: Number of consecutive passes thrown without an interception by Buffalo senior QB Drew Willy entering the 2008 season.

40: Eastern Michigan begins its 40th year of football at Ryneaerson Stadium.

28: The MAC plays 28 games this season against teams from the BCS conferences, most among all FBS conferences.

13: All thirteen MAC teams return their starting quarterback from last season.

8: All MAC teams will play eight conference games this season unlike 2007 when teams played an unbalanced divisional schedule.
6: The record number of home games at Miami's Yager Stadium this season.

2: Two MAC squads face ranked opponents on Saturday: Akron at (12) Wisconsin and Bowling Green at (25) Pittsburgh.

1: Northern Illinois' Jerry Kill is the lone newcomer among MAC head coaches this season.



Okay, enough of the preliminaries, let's get serious with a look at this week's opening contests:

Thursday, August 28  
Northeastern (3-8, 2007) at Ball State (7-6, 2007), 7:00 pm ET
Site: Scheumann Stadium
Series: First Meeting
Ball State begins its quest for a possible MAC West title with an opening night tilt against FCS member Northeastern which plays out of the Colonial Athletic Association. Ball State is led by the MAC's passing efficiency leader the past two seasons. Junior QB Nate Davis, a Walter Camp Award nominee, passed for thirty touchdowns while throwing only six picks last season in leading the Cardinals to a berth in the International Bowl, their first bowl game since 1996. The Cardinals also boast the MAC's top returners at wider receiver in Dante Love and at tight end in Darius Hill, with Hill being named a preseason candidate for the John Mackey Award. On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Bryant Haines has been named to the preseason watch list of the Dick Butkus Award. The Cardinals return a total of fifteen starters this season, including nine on an offense that topped the MAC in passing, averaging 284.9 yards per game.... Last season the Huskies surrendered an average of 384 yards of offense per game and 26.5 points per game. Northeastern will be breaking in a new starter at tailback looking to replace Maurice Murray who rushed for 1,421 yards in 2007. Senior signal-caller Anthony Orio returns as the starter for Northeastern after passing for 1,558 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions in 2007 This game should serve as a good warm-up for the Cardinals' match next week against Navy.
Prediction: BallState 48, Northeastern 14.

UTEP (4-8, 2007) at Buffalo (5-7, 2007), 7:00 pm ET
Site: UB Stadium
Series: First Meeting
Television: Time Warner Cable Sports Network
Buffalo comes into the season looking to build upon the progress that was established last season in Turner Gill's second year as head coach of the Bulls. Buffalo used a strong, consistent season from quarterback Drew Willy who passed for 2,572 yards and completed over 68% of his passes. Drew already owns the Bulls' career mark for pass completions and has an active streak of 235 straight attempts without an interception. The Bulls also welcome back tailback James Starks whose 1,103 yards rushing in 2007 were the most ever by a Bulls running back since the Bulls joined the MAC. Buffalo also returns record-setting defensive back Davnote Shannon who led all freshman nationally last season with 123 tackles. The Bulls were the MAC's top red zone offensive squad in 2007The Miners are coming off of a disappointing season but return sophomore QB Trevor Vittatoe who passed for over 3100 yards as a freshman in 2007 however the Miners lose three of their top four receivers from last season. UTEP is also without its two leading tacklers from last season, including DB Braxton Amy (102 tackles) who is out for the season with a torn ACL. The Miners started the 2007 campaign 4-2 but dropped their last six games, their longest losing streak since a seven-game slide in 2003. The Miners have changed defensive schemes this season under new defensive coordinator Osia Thomas who brings his 3-3-5 defense with him from New Mexico where the Wolf Pack ranked 13th nationally in total defense in 2007. Prior to his arrival, the Miners and their more standard 4-3 defense ranked 117th in the NCAA, allowing 504.8 yards and 37 points per game.
Prediction: Buffalo 27, UTEP 20.

Indiana State (0-11, 2007) at Eastern Michigan (4-8, 2007), 7:00 pm ET
Site: Rynearson Stadium
Eastern Michigan leads 9-3. Last meeting: Indiana State 21, Eastern Michigan 14 in 2001.
Eastern Michigan opens the 2008 campaign with some high hopes after finishing last season with a winning mark in divisional play and scoring wins over in-state rivals Central Michigan and Western Michigan in claiming the Michigan MAC Trophy. Leading the returning Eagles is junior dual-threat QB Andy Schmitt who started ten games last season and passed for over 1600 yards and fourteen touchdowns. Schmitt was also the team's second-leading rusher last season, adding six rushing scores. The coaches also hope to get backup QB, sophomore Kyle McMahon, some time on the field as well. The Eagles will be breaking in a new running back after the departure of senior Pierre Walker and will likely split carries between Terrance Blevins as well as Dwayne Priest and Corey Welch. The receiving corps returns three of its top four receivers from last season while the defense returns key starters at linebacker including Butkus, Lombardi and Nagurski Award candidate Daniel Holtzclaw. The defensive line will be young with four new starters slated to make their debut against the Sycamores. Last season the Eagles' opportunistic defense was second in the MAC in turnover margin paced by safety Ryan Downard's six picks, second most nationally among all freshmenThe Sycamores come in on a 14-game losing streak, and losers of their last 32 of 33 games, with their last win coming October 21, 2006 in a 28-22 win over Missouri State. The Sycamores ranked 116th in the FCS allowing 519.6 yards and 49.2 points per game. ISU has had three new head coaches in three years and first-year head coach Trent Miles, a former ISU player, takes over at the Missouri Valley Football Conference (formerly Gateway) school after spending three years as the running backs coach at Washington. The Sycamores will be turning the signal calling duties over to troubled freshman QB Calvin Schmitdke, who had previously signed with Washington State but was released from his LOI after racking up 11 law citations over an 18-month period for infractions ranging from traffic violations to controlled substance matters.

Prediction: Eastern Michigan 49, IndianaState 10.

Eastern Illinois (8-4, 2007) at Central Michigan (8-6, 2007), 7:00 pm ET
Site: Kelly/Shorts Stadium
Central Michigan leads 21-2. Last meeting: Central Michigan 33, Eastern Illinois 17 in 1979.
Central Michigan begins defense of its back-to-back MAC titles against a quality FCS opponent. Last year the Chippewas dropped a 44-14 home decision to FCS member North Dakota State so it is not likely that the Chips will be looking past the Panthers, a squad that has made three straight appearances in the FCS playoffs and enters this season ranked 18th in the FCS coaches pollThe Chips of course are led by junior QB Dan LeFevour, the MAC's 2007 Offensive Player of the Year. LeFevour already owns most of CMU's career records and is coming off of a season that saw the Davey O'Brien and Hesiman candidate rack up better than 4700 yards and 47 touchdowns. The dual-threat QB joined Vince Young as the only FBS QB's in the history of the NCAA to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. LeFevour's favorite targets, junior Byran Anderson (a school record 10 TD catches in 2007) and sophomore Antonio Brown (a school record 102 receptions in 2007), the 2007 MAC Freshman of the Year, are both back in tow. The backfield is a little banged up with starters Justin Hoskins and Ontario Sneed nursing nagging injuries so expect to see carries for Carl Volny, Marcel Archer and potentially freshman Jahleel Addae. Defense though is where the Chips are vulnerable. Last season CMU placed near the bottom of the MAC in most statistical categories, including allowing a league-worst 460 yards per game (303.5 yards passing) and 36.9 points per game. The Chips lose their top two defenders from last season in linebackers Red Keith and Ike Brown and have moved WR Taylor Bradley to the secondary to bolster a suspect unitEastern Illinois head coach Bob Spoo is entering his 21st season at EIU which includes three straight appearances in the FCS playoffs. The Ohio Valley Conference school will try to counter CMU's high-octane offense with a veteran defensive line, led by preseason All-American DE Pierre Walters. Last season the Panthers held several spread offense attacks in check, and allowed only one of the spread QB's they faced more than 45 yards rushing when Jacksonville State QB Cedric Johnson rushed for 100 yards in a 37-23 Panthers victory...The Chips were 1-4 last season when LeFevour was held to 50 yards rushing or less. EIU is 4-21 all-time against FBS schools but all four wins have come against MAC opponents, most recently defeating Eastern Michigan 31-28 in 2004.
Prediction: Central Michigan 41, Eastern Illinois 33.

Vanderbilt (5-7, 2007) at Miami (6-7, 2007), 7:30pm ET
Site: Yager Stadium
Series: Vanderbilt leads 2-1. Last meeting: Vanderbilt 24,
Miami 13 in 2007.
Television: ESPNU HD
Miami welcomes the first-ever SEC visitor to Yager Stadium. The RedHawks made an appearance in the MAC Championship Game last season on the strength of a swarming, pressure defense that led the MAC in scoring defense, allowing 25.6 points per game and recorded the MAC's only shutout in 2007. Miami returns nine starters on defense, including all three of their linebackers, including 2007 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, Clayton Mullins along with Joey Hudson and Caleb Bostic, The three combined for 345 tackles last season and set a record in the preseason by being named to the preseason Dick Butkus Award, the first time in the Award's history that three linebackers from one team were named to the Award's preseason watch list. The RedHawks however struggled to move the ball in 2007 but this year boast a deep, talented, and most importantly, healthy, crew of backfield performers led by Thomas Merriweather and Andre Bratton, who has since recovered from knee surgery. Miami averaged only 130.7 yards rushing per game last season. The RedHawks return all four of their leading receivers from last seasonVanderbilt is in the midst of a rebuilding campaign having to replace five starters from its offensive line, presenting a significant challenge in holding off the Miami defensive front four which led the MAC with 32 sacks last season. The Commodores have still not settled on a starting quarterback with both fifth-year senior Chris Nickson who passed for 762 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions in 2007 and junior Mackenzie Adams (1043 yards, nine touchdowns, six interceptions) in the running with head coach Bobby Johnson not ruling out both players getting playing time against Miami. The backfield is equally unsettled with as many as three players likely to share time. Last season Vandy came away with a 24-13 win after trailing 13-10 in the third quarter but that was with a vastly different squad that included WR Edgar Bennett, a third round draft choice of the Chicago Bears. The Commodores are 8-3 all-time versus the MAC and also claimed a MAC win last season with a 30-7 victory over Eastern Michigan. Miami owns six victories all-time over SEC foes, most recently a 33-30 win over Vandy in 2000.
Prediction: Miami 23, Vanderbilt 14.

Friday, August 29
Temple (4-8, 2007) at Army (3-9, 2007), 7:00 pm ET
Site: Michie Stadium
Series: Army leads 4-1. Last meeting: Army 37,
Temple 21 in 2007.
Television: ESPN Classic
Temple opens its second full year of MAC football membership with a road opener at Army. The Owls surprised many observers last season by posting four conference wins and did it on the strength of a defensive unit that topped the MAC in pass defense, total defense and red-zone defense. Giving hope for an even better season this year is the fact that the Owls return all eleven starters. The Owls came through fall camp in good shape defensively with the exception of CB Anthony Ferla who may redshirt with a foot injury that has kept him out of action. NT Andre Neblett is a preseason Nagurski Trophy watch list candidate while junior LB Alex Joseph finds himself on the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award. The Owls were stymied on offense last season after starter Adam DiMichele went down with a fractured leg in week eight against Miami. DiMichele though has recovered from his injury and should surpass last season's totals of 1595 yards and 12 touchdowns. The running game remains in development with as many as four players in line for playing time on opening night, including recent signee Eric Reynolds who originally committed to Boston College but changed his mind and landed at Temple, providing a dynamic aspect to a running game that struggled mightily in the MAC last season, averaging only 2.7 yards per carryArmy meanwhile comes in under second-year head coach Stan Brock going back to a familiar game plan. The Cadets will be going back to their old stand-by bread and butter offense, namely the option, but that only addresses half of Army's woes from 2007. Last year Army was 89th in the nation in total defense, allowing 423.5 yards per game and were 117th nationally in stopping the run, allowing 233.5 yards per game. The offense didn't fare much better, placing 116th nationally, averaging 275.5 yards per game. It's hard to see where the Cadets stack up favorably in many categories against Temple but the one area that should trouble the Black Knights the most is the fact that they were 92nd nationally in sacks allowed --- not a good omen when facing a pretty stout Temple defense. This game will be won in the trenches and while you want Army in the battlefield, when it comes to gridiron trench warfare, the Owls stack up more than favorably.

Prediction: Temple 20, Army 13.

Saturday, August 30
Akron (4-8, 2007) at (12) Wisconsin (9-4, 2007), 11:00am ET
Camp Randall Stadium
Wisconsin leads 1-0. Last Meeting: Wisconsin 48, Akron 31 in 2003.
Television: Big Ten Network
While the Zips are facing a Big Ten opponent for the eighth straight season, you have to go back to 1894 to find the last time Akron defeated a Big Ten opponent. The coach of that squad? None other than John Heisman who led Akron to a 12-6 win over Ohio State. The Zips will be hard pressed to score their second win over a Big Ten foe when they face the twelfth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers Saturday. The Zips are hoping that another year of experience will provide an offensive boost behind senior QB Chris Jacquemain who struggled through a 2007 campaign that saw him ranked 10th in the MAC, averaging 147.5 yards passing per game. The Zips will need to replace top receiving threat Jabari Arthur and are looking for the rushing game to come to life under Dennis Kennedy, an All-MAC selection in 2006 who was beset by injuries last season, after moving Bryan Williams to strong safety to bolster a secondary ravaged by graduation and departures. Williams though was a bigger threat handling kick off returns, and led the MAC with an average of 31.9 yards per game, good also for second in the nation. Williams will likely have plenty of return opportunities against the Badgers. Fellow specialist, Andre Jones, led the MAC in punt returns and is making a switch to wide receiver.Wisconsin meanwhile returns one of the nation's most dangerous running backs in senior PJ Hill and boasted the nation's number twenty-one rushing attack, averaging 200.8 yards per game. Hill rushed for 1,212 yards. The Badgers also return their second leading rusher from last season in sophomore Zack Brown who added 568 yards on the ground for the Badgers' potent rushing attack. Wisconsin will be breaking in a new quarterback and will turn to senior Allen Evridge who appeared in seven games in limited duty last season backing up starter Tyler Donovan. The Badgers are 25-1 at home since 2004.
Prediction: Wisconsin 44, Akron 10.

Bowling Green (8-5, 2007) at (25) Pittsburgh (5-7, 2007), 12:00pm ET
Site: Heinz Field
Pittsburgh leads 2-0. Last meeting: Pittsburgh 30, Bowling Green 10 in 1999.
Television: ESPNU

Outlook: The Falcons come into Pittsburgh with one of the MAC's most potent offenses behind junior quarterback Tyler Sheehan who passed for 3,264 yards and 23 touchdowns as a sophomore last season and returns this season with his primary receiving weapons in Freddie Barnes, Anthony Turner, Marques Parks and Corey Partridge all also returning. The Falcons finished among the MAC leaders last season in passing offense, averaging 278.8 yards per game, behind only Ball State. The concern for the Falcons will be in replacing three starters from the offensive line as well as a pair of starters from the defensive line, Jacob Harwick and Orlando Barrow, who were booted from the squad due to some off the field legal entanglements. The Falcons depth in the backfield also took a hit with an injury to Eric Ransom but the Falcons are encouraged by the development of sophomore Willie Geter who became a dual threat last season racking up 432 yards rushing and 296 yards receiving and nailed down the starting role coming out of camp. The Falcons were also one of the surprises in the MAC last season with a passing defense that ranked third in the MAC allowing 216.6 yards per gamePittsburgh ended their 2007 campaign on a high note, knocking off national title contender West Virginia 13-9 in their season finale. The Pitt offensive attack will be paced by sophomore RB LeSean McCoy who earned Big East freshman of the year honors in 2007 when he rushed for 1,328 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Panthers are hopeful that QB Bill Stull can avoid the injury bug this season whose injury issues forced McCoy to assume most of the workload as Pitt finished 104th in the nation in passing. Pitt's defense returns several starters including linebacker Scott McKillop who led the nation with an average of 12.6 tackles per game. Pittsburgh owned the number five overall defense in the nation last year, allowing only 297.7 yards per game and were especially strong against the pass, placing third in the nation, allowing a mere 167.3 yards per contestIt will be strength (Bowling Green's passing offense) vs. strength (Pittsburgh's passing defense) in a classic matchup with home field advantage tipping the scales in Pitt's favor but worth mentioning is that the Falcons are 3-2 in their first road game of the season under head coach Gregg Brandon.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Bowling Green 24.

Ohio (6-6, 2007) at Wyoming (5-7, 2007), 2:00pm ET
Site: War Memorial Stadium
Wyoming leads 1-0. Last meeting: Wyoming 34, Ohio 33 in 2007.
Television: The Mtn

Outlook: The Ohio Bobcats travel to the rarified air of Laramie, Wyoming, home of the Cowboys in a rematch of last season's 34-33 Wyoming victory in Athens. War Memorial Stadium has been a tough venue for visiting teams, especially those not used to the atmospheric conditions as the Cowboys' home field sits a full 7,220 feet above sea level, the highest elevation of any division one stadium. Think that doesn't matter? Don't tell that to Virginia which visited Wyoming on opening day in 2007 and was sucking air by the second quarter, getting rolled by Wyoming 23-3 and managing only five first downs...Ohio will look to the air this season with Theo Scott at the helm. Last season Scott passed for 743 yards and five touchdowns in split duty and also added 120 yards rushing, giving the Bobcats a decent dual-threat under center but Scott will likely be on a short leash with hotshot, strong armed JUCO transfer Boo Jackson waiting in the wings. The bigger question though will be where will the Bobcats turn to replace all-time leading RB Kalvin McRae and for that they are hoping that converted WR Chris Garrett will be one of the answers among several contenders. Last season the Bobcats averaged 150.8 yards per game on the ground. Returning this as season as the Bobcats' top receiving threat is tight end Andrew Mooney who led the squad with 473 yards and nine touchdowns in 2007Wyoming meanwhile is looking at a revamped attack under new offensive coordinator Bob Cole. The Cowboys offensive attack ranked near the bottom (107) nationally, averaging only 19.4 points per game and 322.8 yards per contest -- 106th nationally. The Cowboys will be looking for improvement at the quarterback position after two-year starter Karsten Sween passed for 17 interceptions and 12 touchdowns in 2007. Sween however was beaten out in fall camp for the starting role by sophomore transfer Dax Crum who was a JUCO regional player of the year at Mesa (AZ) CC. Both squads are a bit of work in progress and points could be at a premium.
Prediction: Wyoming 24, Ohio 14.

Northern Illinois (2-10, 2007) at Minnesota (1-11, 2007), 6:00pm ET
Site: Metrodome
Minnesota leads 1-0. Last meeting: Minnesota 31, Northern Illinois 20 in 1988.

Television: Big Ten Network
Its the start of the Jerry Kill era in DeKalb following the retirement of head coach Joe Novak and while the Huskies struggled to a 2-10 finish in 2007, NIU returns 22 seniors to a squad that is hungry to return to its winning ways. Leading the charge for the Huskies is DE Larry English who topped the MAC with 10.5 sacks last season and is among nine returning starters on the Huskies' defense. But head coach Jerry Kill is keeping his choice of QB close to the vest and as of this writing has not named a starter among returning starter Dan Nicholson, Ryan Morris or Chandler Harnish. The smart money still says it will be Nicholson who passed for 1633 yards and nine touchdowns but his penitent for interceptions (14 last season) is a likely cause for some ongoing consternation. The running game however is in solid shape behind sophomore Justin Anderson who rushed for 1,245 yards in 2007, giving the Huskies a 1,000 yard rusher for the ninth straight seasonMinnesota is hoping to rebound from a disastrous 2007 campaign but a bright spot for the Gophers last season was the play of QB Adam Weber who set Minnesota single-season records last season in several categories, including yards (2,895) and touchdowns (24). But unfortunately for Minnesota, the Gophers lit up the scoreboard at both ends as their defense was among the most porous in the nation last season, allowing 518.7 yards per game, ranking 119th in the nation with the rush defense allowing 229.3 yards per game --- 114th in the nation. Minnesota split a pair of games against the MAC last season, losing to Bowling Green (32-31 in OT) and defeating Miami (41-35 in OT). New Huskies' head coach Jerry Kill is 1-0 all-time against the Big Ten, with a victory over Indiana while he was head coach at Southern Illinois. Make it 2-0 after Saturday.

Prediction: Northern Illinois 27, Minnesota 24.

Western Michigan (5-7, 2007) at Nebraska (5-7, 2007), 6:00pm ET
Site: Memorial Stadium
Series: First meeting
Television: FSN PPV
The Broncos open the season in a familiar place: on the road against a BCS opponent. This will mark their fourth consecutive year of road BCS openers following openers in 2005 at Virginia, 2006 in Indiana and 2007 at West Virginia. The Broncos will be hoping however to break their streak of season-opening road losses which currently stands at six with their last season-opening road win occurring way back in 1994 in a 28-25 win at Miami. The task won't get any easier this season as the Broncos venture into Lincoln as the Cornhuskers usher in the Bo Pellini era. But the Broncos are not likely to be intimidated, pointing to their late-season road-win at Iowa last season. The Broncos also have plenty of firepower at their disposal with QB Tim Hiller having a fine spring and fall coming off of a season that saw him pass for 3,021 yards and 20 touchdowns. Hiller's favorite target from last season, Jarmarko Simmons, is also back after snaring 84 receptions for 980 yards while leading rusher Brandon West is back for another go-around as well. But the Broncos' fortunes will also hinge on its stingy defense which returns eleven players with starting experience. Last season the Broncos' secondary was responsible for 17 interceptions, second-highest in the MAC, was fourth in the conference in total defense and is paced by returning All-MAC defensive back Londen Fryar and leading returning tackler, LB Boston McCornellThe Cornhuskers are looking for resurgence under new head coach Bo Pellini. Last season the 'Huskers finished below .500 and were uncharacteristically generous on defense, allowing 37.9 points and 476.8 yards per game, both near the bottom of the national rankings. While the defense is being restructured, the offense appears to have plenty of returning talent. Stepping into the starting role will be Joe Ganz, a fifth-year senior who originally verbally committed to Eastern Michigan .Ganz started the last three games of the 2007 campaign and averaged 466 yards passing per game while tossing fifteen touchdowns, including the two top passing games in Nebraska history, recording 510 yards against Kansas State and 484 yards against Colorado. Another key component returning for the Cornhuskers' offense is I-back Marlon Lucky who rushed for 1,019 yards in his junior season and is the top returning rusher in the Big 12 this season. It will be a tall order for the Broncos on opening day in Lincoln with the faithful stoked about their new coach. But the Broncos have been in big venues before and should keep the game interesting.

Prediction: Nebraska 38, Western Michigan 26.

Boston College (11-3, 2007) vs. Kent State (3-9, 2007), 7:30pm ET
Site: Cleveland Browns Stadium
Series: First meeting
Television: ESPNU
In the second incarnation of the "Patriot Bowl," Boston College travels to Cleveland Browns Stadium to face Kent State. The Flashes come into the contest with the nation's leading returning rusher, junior Eugene Jarvis (1669 yards) a large part of what the Flashes are hoping will be a turnaround season after finishing last season on a seven-game losing skid. A significant part of that losing skid had something to do with KSU going through no fewer than four quarterbacks due to injuries. This season however senior signal-caller Julian Edelman appears to have recovered and if the dual-threat QB is able to regain his form from the 2006 campaign when he earned second-team All-MAC honors could offer a healthy and productive passing game that  will take some of the focus off Jarvis. But the Flashes receiving corps is still evolving. The top returning WR from last season is junior Phil Garner who recorded 284 yards receiving and one touchdown last seasonBoston College is coming off one of its most successful seasons in the history of the Golden Eagles program but there will be some significant changes among this year's BC squad as they look to replace record-setting QB Matt Ryan who was a third round NFL draft pick this past April. The starting QB reigns have been turned over to fifth-year senior Chris Crane who has one career start to his credit. It could be a rough start for Crane as the Eagles look to rebuild both their offensive line and their backfield, losing both starters at tailback from last season and standout offensive lineman, Gosder Cherillus, a first-round NFL pick. The Eagles will be turning their starting tailback duties over to true freshman Josh Haden. With BC breaking in so many new faces, this game could be closer than most anticipate.
Prediction: Boston College 27, Kent State 23.

On Tap
The schedule for the week ahead:

Friday, September 5
Navy at Ball State, 7:00 pm (ESPN)

Saturday, September 6
Miami at Michigan, Noon (ESPN or ESPN2)
Ohio at Ohio State, Noon (ESPN or ESPN 2)
Connecticut at Temple, Noon (ESPNU)
Eastern Michigan at Michigan State, Noon (Big Ten Network)
Central Michigan at Georgia, 3:30 pm (FSN South)
Akron at Syracuse, 3:30 pm
Buffalo at Pittsburgh, 6:00 pm
Kent State at Iowa State, 6:00 pm
Northern Illinois at Western Michigan, 7:00 pm
Toledo at Arizona, 7:00 pm
Minnesota at Bowling Green, 7:30 pm (ESPNU)

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