MAC Football Week Five Preview Print E-mail
Written by Dave Ruthenberg   
Thursday, September 25 2008
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ImageEntering the fifth week of the MAC football season, there remains only one undefeated team in the Mid-American Conference but that one team is beginning to get some national recognition, including some publicity from a famous alumnus.

Ball State Revisited
Ball State had a news-making week with its history-making 42-20 win over Indiana Saturday.
The victory snapped an 0-for-44 mark against BCS schools, which of course means it was also the Cardinals' first win over Indiana and a team from the Big Ten. It was also Indiana's first loss to a MAC squad since 1947.
Probably the biggest celebrity alum to come out of Ball State, late-night host David Letterman, gave some publicity to his alma mater's team recently, talking up the Cardinals' win over Indiana on his CBS show. Can an appearance from Brady Hoke on the show be far behind?
Future Late Night Guest?
The victory also garnered some more votes for the Cardinals in both polls, but they remain far outside the Top 25, garnering six votes in the AP Writers Poll which places the Cardinals at 38th while placing 36th in the USA Today Coaches Poll with sixteen votes.
The MAC has six coaches on the voting panel of the USA Today poll: Jeff Genyk (Eastern Michigan), Turner Gill (Buffalo), Butch Jones (Central Michigan), Doug Martin (Kent State), Shane Montgomery (Miami) and Frank Solich (Ohio). With that many representatives on the panel, there really should be no reason that Ball State is receiving only sixteen votes at this stage. You can rest assured that the Big Ten and SEC coaches are bloc voting for their conference mates and the MAC coaches should be doing the same.
But as you likely know by now as well, Ball State's win over Indiana also came with a hefty price.
The playing career of wide receiver Dante Love has likely come to an end following a violent collision with Indiana defender Chris Adkins following a short catch by Love early in the second quarter. The collision caused a cervical spine fracture and spinal cord injury that required immediate surgery to stabilize his spine. Fortunately, Love, who was leading the nation in receiving at the time, suffered no lingering paralysis and is expected to make a full recovery but the injury means he will not be able to participate in contact sports. We wish Love a speedy recovery and all the best in his future endeavors. His on-field performances though will be missed.
Infirmary Report
While Love's injury was the most ominous from the past week, several MAC teams are struggling with some significant injuries as well.
One of the more significant injuries to a prominent player happened to Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele who suffered a separated shoulder on the first series in Temple's loss to Purdue Saturday. DiMichele, who missed a significant part of last season with a fractured leg, is expected to be out 3-6 weeks.
KSU RB Eugene Jarvis - Sidelined for second straight week.
Kent State RB Eugene Jarvis, the nation's top returning ground gainer from last season, sat out the Golden Flashes' loss to Louisiana-Lafayette last week after suffering a sprained ankle the week before against Delaware State. Jarvis is expected to miss Saturday's game against Ball State as well.
Also worth noting:
Akron: Leading ground gainer, Alex Allen, is done for the season after suffering a hip injury while highly touted DL Ryan Bain, a transfer out of Iowa, has yet to suit up after suffering a foot injury late in camp.
Bowling Green: Multi-faceted offensive threats Anthony Turner (shoulder) and Freddie Barnes (shoulder) are considered day-to-day as is linebacker Erique Dozier, the MAC's sack leader, who is dealing with an ankle injury.
Eastern Michigan: QB Andy Schmitt sat out Saturday's loss to Maryland and is considered day-to-day. Sophomore Kyle McMahon is expected to start Saturday. Punter Zach Johnson (pulled quad) is expected to return to the lineup after sitting out the past three contests.
Northern Illinois: QB Chandler Harnish continues to deal with a mid-foot sprain that has kept him out of the Huskies' last two games. Dan Nicholson, who has been hampered with a shoulder injury himself, is expected to get the start at QB for the second straight week when NIU visits Eastern Michigan. Meanwhile CB Melvin Rice, who sat out last week's game against Indiana State with a pulled hamstring, is expected back in the lineup this week.
Ohio: QB Theo Scott has been lost for the season after suffering a broken collarbone, requiring season-ending surgery, in Ohio's 26-14 loss to Ohio State.
At this rate, it's looking like it will be more a case of the MAC's top survivor making it to the end as opposed to a sprint to the finish.
Special Team Kudos
The early season has seen the emergence of several top special teams' performers across the MAC.
Miami punter Jake Richardson, one of the few bright spots for Miami this season, continues to lead the nation, averaging an impressive 51.1 yards per punt. Richardson is the only punter averaging better than fifty yards per punt.

Toledo's record-setting PK Alex Steigerwald                                        Photo: Paul Nelson

It was a record-setting week for Toledo PK Alex Steigerwald who converted on two field goal attempts in Toledo's contest against Fresno State. Steigerwald has now connected on a MAC-record twenty straight attempts. He still has a way to go however to reach the NCAA record for consecutive field goals, which is thirty.
MAC return specialists have also been having an outstanding season so far. The MAC has four of the nation's top ten kickoff return men, including a pair of high-flying return specialists from Temple. Through last week's games, Temple's Jamal Schulters ranks fourth nationally with 38.2 yards per kickoff return with Buffalo's Ernest Jackson sixth (36.8), Temple's Travis Shelton is ninth (32.7) and Akron's Bryan Williams ranks tenth (32.6).
The MAC also has two of the nation's top five punt return specialists with BJ Hill of Ball State currently ranking third in the nation, averaging 27.8 yards per return. Central Michigan's Antonio Brown holds down the number five spot, averaging 26.7 yards per return.

On The Flip Side
Last week however also saw a couple of breakdowns in the kicking game for a couple of squads, that, while maybe not costing teams a victory, played significantly into their loss.
Ohio could only muster eight points in its 16-8 loss to Northwestern despite forcing five turnovers (but giving back four of its own) in a game in which PK Barrett Way had two field goals (27,. 38 yards) blocked in the second half after missing a 42-yarder in the first quarter, going 0-3 on the day. Way is now 2-6 on the season.
Central Michigan's normally reliable PK, Andrew Aguila, also had his difficulties this past week, connecting on only 1-3 attempts, missing on attempts of 38 and 48 yards in a game decided by seven points.
Quick Stats Check
We don't want the defensive specialists to feel left out. Below is a look at some of the conference's top defensive performers.
Tackles Per Game
1. Derek Burrell
Kent State
2. Brian Lainhart
Kent State
3. Cobrani Mixon
Kent State
4. Joey Hudson
5. Nick Bellore
Central Michigan
1. Diyral Briggs
Bowling Green
2. Frank Zombo
Central Michigan
3. Seven Tied with
Tackles For Loss
1. Clayton Mullins
2. Joey Hudson
2. Frank Zombo
Central Michigan
2. Diyral Briggs
Bowling Green
 Okay, let's get on with this week's upcoming action:
Saturday, September 27
Northern Illinois (1-2, 0-1 MAC) at Eastern Michigan (1-3, 0-1 MAC), Noon
Site: Rynearson Stadium
Series: Northern Illinois leads 22-14-1. Last meeting: Eastern Michigan 21, Northern Illinois 19 in 2007.
Television: MAC Game of the Week/ESPN Game Plan
Outlook: This game should tell us a lot about each squad. Both EMU and NIU come into the game 0-1 in the MAC and an 0-2 start in the top-heavy MAC West could be a difficult to hole climb out of, even this early in the season. Forget too about looking at common opponents. Both teams beat up on hapless Indiana State (EMU 52-0; NIU 48-3) but an intra-squad scrimmage is typically a stronger challenge than that presented on game-day by the SycamoresEastern Michigan though is looking to continue a winning streak of sorts, seeking its fourth straight homecoming win. The Eagles are coming off a three-game stretch that has seen them outscored by an average count of 45-17 but their offense has been humming along nonetheless, particularly on the ground, at the rate of a MAC-best 211.2 yards per game with three tailbacks averaging better than five yards per carry. QB Kyle McMahon is expected to get his second straight start with starter Andy Schmitt day-to-day with the team hopeful that he will be available for backup duty if needed.Northern Illinois will also be going with a different QB than its opening day starter as well as Chandler Harnish remains sidelined but QB Dan Nicholson comes in with plenty of starting experience, having started ten games over his career, including last week against Indiana State. DeMarcus Grady, who is more of a dual-threat option, is also expected to see plenty of playing time. The Huskies have used several running backs this season, including using six tailbacks last week against the Sycamores in rushing for 285 yards, and all indications are that the plan will remain the same. This game will come down to which team can run the ball effectively. NIU owns the MAC's second-ranked rushing defense, allowing only 118.7 yards per game. We also think people are seriously undervaluing this EMU squad.
Prediction: Eastern Michigan 27, Northern Illinois 24.
Kent State (1-3) at Ball State (4-0, 1-0, MAC), Noon
Site: Schuemann Stadium
Series: Ball State leads 18-5. Last meeting: Ball State 30, Kent State 6 in 2006.
Television: MAC Game of the Week/ESPN Game Plan
Outlook: Talk about two teams heading in opposite directionsKent State has lost ten of its last eleven games dating back to last season with its only win during that stretch coming against FCS-member Delaware State. The Flashes have given up an average of 47.5 points in its last two road games and to make matters worse will be without RB Eugene Jarvis for a second straight week. KSU ranks last in the MAC in passing offense, total defense and punt and kickoff returns. However the Flashes do have the MAC's top three tacklers as LB Derek Burrell, DB Brian Lainhart and LB Cobrani Mixon are all averaging over ten stops per gameLiterally at the other end of the statistical spectrum are the Ball State Cardinals who are undefeated after downing Indiana 42-20 last week. As a team, the Cardinals lead the MAC in scoring offense, averaging 41.5 points per game, total offense (482.2 yards per game) and scoring defense (20.2 points per game). You also don't have to look very far down the leader charts to find Ball State's top performers as QB Nate Davis tops the MAC in both passing efficiency and passing yards (288.8 yards per game) while MiQuale Lewis tops the MAC in rushing, averaging 132.2 yards per game and in scoring. WR Dante Love, who suffered a season-ending injury against Indiana, still tops the MAC charts in receiving yards, receptions and all-purpose yards. Hide the women and children pa, this one could get ugly, quickly.
Prediction: Ball State 45, Kent State 17.
VMI (2-1) at Ohio (0-4, 0-1 MAC), 2:00 pm
Site: Peden Stadium
Series: Ohio leads 1-0. Last meeting: Ohio 42, VMI 14 in 2004.
Ohio head coach Frank Solich is in uncharted territory as for the first time in his coaching career he stands at 0-4 to start a season. We're pretty sure though that the Bobcats won't be falling to 0-5. Ohio has lost its first four games by a combined 24 points but have frequently been their own worst enemy. The Bobcats couldn't get out of their own way in a sloppy 16-8 loss to Northwestern last week, committing four turnovers, missing three field goals and unable to take advantage of the Wildcats' generosity, failing to capitalize on five Northwestern turnovers. QB Boo Jackson passed for 27-42 and 228 yards but was also sacked five times and threw two interceptions against Northwestern. The Bobcats rank last in red-zone defense and 12th in the MAC in red-zone offense, a pretty scary combinationVMI, which plays in the FCS in the Big South Conference, is 2-1 and is coming off a 69-20 win over Chowan. Ohio is the Keydets only FBS opponent this year. VMI is led by Tim Maypray (and no, we are not even going to touch that one) who is averaging 107 yards rushing and 94 yards passing per game and was selected as the Big South's preseason offensive player of the year. Don't expect to see the Keydets firing the pigskin around. Through three games VMI is averaging a little more than eight passes per game. This should be a walkover for the BobcatsThe Keydets dropped their only road game of the season, 52-17 to William & Mary.
Prediction: Ohio 41, VMI 10.
Western Michigan (3-1, 1-0 MAC) at Temple (1-3, 0-1 MAC), 2:00 pm
Site: Lincoln Financial Field
Series: Western Michigan leads 6-0. Last meeting: Western Michigan 16, Temple 3 in 2007.
Outlook: The Broncos make the trip to Philadelphia hitting on all cylinders. QB Tim Hiller fired five touchdowns in WMU's 41-7 win last week against Tennessee Tech and has passed for a league-leading fourteen touchdowns and thrown only two picks this year. But it hasn't just been through the air that the Broncos have been getting it done. WMU RB Brandon West is currently third in the MAC averaging 108 yards rushing per game while on defense DB Louis Delmas is second in the MAC with three interceptions, including returning one for a 47-yard TD return. The Broncos defense has been active as well, recording a league-leading nine sacksTemple lost starting quarterback Adam DiMichele last week to a separated shoulder that will likely sideline him for up to six weeks. Stepping in for DiMichele is redshirt freshman Chester Stewart who can expect heavy pressure from the Broncos defensive front seven. The Owls have struggled on the ground this season, averaging 83 yards per game and a paltry 2.8 yards per carry which could make for a long day for their young QB if the Owls cannot establish the run. Western Michigan has the MAC's third-ranked rushing defense. Side note: Both teams possess exciting return games with Temple averaging a MAC-best 34.5 yards per KO return and the Broncos second at 29.2 yards. Temple will probably have ample opportunity to display its return abilities. A once-promising season is slowly slipping away in Philly faster than a greasy cheesesteak sandwich on a cheap paper plate.
Prediction: Western Michigan 31, Temple 13.
Cincinnati (2-1) at Akron (2-2, 0-1 MAC), 3:30 pm
Site: Rubber Bowl
Series: Tied 2-2. Last meeting: Cincinnati 20, Akron 14 in 2006
Television: FSN Ohio
Outlook: You can forgive the Zips if they simply found a way to move all of their games to New York, where they have claimed their only two victories of the season. Last week Akron downed Army 22-3, two weeks after taking down Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. The Zips, who have not had a two-game winning streak since 2006, capitalized on five Army turnovers last week and now top the MAC with twelve takeaways and are first in turnover margin. The Zips however have been hit by the injury bug and have lost leading rusher Alex Allen for the season and have been hit hard with injuries on the defensive line. QB Chris Jacquemain, other than a shaky outing two weeks ago against Ball State, has been productive, averaging 240 yards per game with seven TD's and five interceptions, four of which came against the Cardinals. WR Andre Jones was named MAC East offensive player of the week after his 100 yard receiving performance last weekCincinnati will be playing its second straight game against a MAC foe after downing Miami 45-20 at home last week. The Bearcats, behind QB Tony Pike, who was pressed into service following a season-ending injury to starter Dustin Grutza, passed for 20-24, 241 yards and three touchdowns in his starting debut while Cincy's defense limited the RedHawks to 66 yards rushing. The Bearcats currently top the Big East in passing offense and scoring. Head coach Brian Kelly is undefeated in games against teams from his former conference and will likely leave Akron with his MAC record left unblemished and his ego well intact.
Prediction: Cincinnati 38, Akron 20.
Bowling Green (1-2) at Wyoming (2-2), 4:00 pm
Site: War Memorial Stadium
Series: First Meeting.
Television: The Mtn. Network
Outlook: High altitudeFalconshigh-octane offensemust be strongmust avoid obvious punsThe Falcons fly (damn!) into Wyoming, making their second trip out West in three weeks, following their loss two weeks ago at Boise State. Bowling Green though at least had a week off between trips and are hopeful that the bye week means that they will have some critical performers back in the lineup. Triple-threat options Anthony Turner and Freddie Barnes are both nursing shoulder ailments while leading sack man Diyral Briggs is dealing with an ankle injury. BG QB Tyler Sheehan has been efficient this year but has not been able to find the end-zone with any frequency, passing for just two touchdowns in the Falcons' first three games for an offense that is surprisingly last in the MAC, averaging 17 points per game. However that is a bit deceiving as the Falcons have consistently moved the ball this season but have been victimized by their own propensity for mistakes, ranking 12th in the MAC in turnover margin, averaging three turnovers per gameWyoming has also been having a problem putting points on the board, averaging only 10 points per contest, last in the Mountain West Conference. The Cowboys are coming off a 44-0 loss to BYU and will be playing their fourth home game in five contests this season, which includes a 21-20 win over Ohio. Cowboys' QB Dax Crum has struggled this season, throwing four interceptions and only two touchdowns, while averaging only 98 yards passing per game. The running attack has been a little more productive however with Devin Moore rushing for 98.5 yards per game. Wyoming's pass defense is ranked third in the MWC, giving up 169.8 yards per game.Don't expect to see a lot of scoring in this contest.
Prediction: Bowling Green 24, Wyoming 20.
Buffalo (2-2, 1-0 MAC) at Central Michigan (2-2, 1-0 MAC), 4:00 pm
Site: Kelly/Shorts Stadium
Series: Central Michigan leads 3-1. Last Meeting: Central Michigan 55, Buffalo 28 in 2006.
Outlook: Do you think if the MAC could re-do their Game of the Week package that this game would be televised this week? It's too bad that the MAC's marquee game won't be seen by more people because this game should be a lot of fun...Buffalo comes in as the league's upstart and one of the teams that could end up in the MAC title tilt at the end of the season. The Bulls fell at fifth-ranked Missouri last week 42-21 but trailed by only 27-21 late in the game and gave the Tigers fits. Buffalo QB Drew Willy, the league's only four-year starter at quarterback, passed for two touchdowns last week and has thrown 10 touchdowns through the Bulls' first four games while RB James Starks has been also having a solid season, averaging 98.7 yards per game but surprisingly has not crossed the goal line. WR Naaman Roosevelt is second in the MAC, averaging 109 yards per game while TE Ernest Jackson emerged last week as an offensive and special teams threat, scoring twice on passes from Willy and once on a 97-yard kickoff return. The Bulls' defense has also been pitching in this year too and tops the MAC in stopping the run, allowing only 108.2 yards per gameCentral Michigan's much-maligned defense meanwhile also stepped up. In the Chips' heartbreaking 32-25 loss to Purdue, CMU held the Boilermakers to season-lows in rushing and total offense. Meanwhile QB Dan LeFevour also had one of his best games of the season, accounting for 403 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. LeFevour tops the Chips in rushing (54.5 yards per game) and his 112 yards against Purdue represented the Chips' first 100-yard rushing performance this season. The rest of the backfield however is averaging a combined 18.6 yards per game with leading ground gainer Ontario Sneed checking in with 32.8 yards per contest. The Chips though continue to get it done through the air and have three receivers, Antonio Brown, Bryan Anderson and Jean Pitts, who have each already accumulated better than 200 yards receiving apieceThis game strikes us as a real toss-up and has the appearance of a boxing match between the defending champ and the upstart challenger. Expect a lot of punches and counter-punches in a back-and-forth affair.  
Prediction: Central Michigan 38, Buffalo 35.
Florida International (0-3) at Toledo (1-2, 1-0 MAC), 7:00 pm
Site: Glass Bowl
Series: First Meeting
 Toledo showed plenty of moxy in its comeback against Fresno State, falling just short in a 55-54 double OT loss after rallying from a 41-31 deficit with less than four minutes remaining in the game. The Rockets, through their first three games, have shown they present a serious challenge both on the ground and through the air. QB Aaron Opelt is averaging 183 yards per game and has thrown seven touchdowns and only one pick while the Rockets' ground attack is averaging better than 200 yards per game and last week had a pair of 100-yard rushers with DaJuane Collins rushing for 138 yards and Morgan Williams topping that with a 142-yard effort. WR Stephen Williams is tied atop the MAC, averaging seven catches per game and is fourth overall with 76.3 yards per gameFIU is 0-3 after dropping a 17-9 decision last week in their home opener against USF. The Golden Panthers dropped their first two games, both on the road, losing 42-0 at Iowa and 40-10 at Kansas. FIU is currently using the QB tandem of junior Paul McCall and Wayne Younger in trying to find some scoring punch for an offense that is averaging 6.3 points per game. Combined, the two signal callers have thrown for 352 yards, five interceptions (all by McCall) and no touchdowns (do you think Toledo DB Barry Church is looking forward to this game?). Freshman T.Y. Hilson leads the Sun Belt Conference, averaging 136.7 all-purpose yards per game, mostly on returns. The Golden Panthers' ground game has struggled with A'mod Ned topping the team in rushing with only 25.3 yards per gameIs that sideline cannon repaired and safely secured? It should be sounding with some frequency Saturday night.
Prediction: Toledo 37, FIU 13.
On Tap
The schedule for the week ahead:
Saturday, October 4
Akron at Kent State, Noon
Ohio at Western Michigan, 2:00 pm
Temple at Miami, 3:30 pm
Eastern Michigan at Bowling Green, 4:00 pm
Ball State at Toledo, 7:00 pm
Northern Illinois at Tennessee, 7:00 pm 
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