Week 11: Making a Statement Print E-mail
Written by Dave Ruthenberg   
Thursday, November 06 2008
Tag it:
Furl it!
ImageMid-week games in the MAC offer the conference a chance to garner national attention. It also gives teams in the MAC a chance to deliver a statement. In the case of the Ball State Cardinals, consider it statement delivered.

Despite the Cardinals impressive run this season, which now has Ball State at 9-0 overall and 5-0 in MAC play, doubters remained about the Cardinals mettle.

We have heard ESPN blabbermouth Craig James belittle the Cardinals simply becausegaspthey might have an outside shot at a BCS bowl, crashing the BCS party. James comments were also buttressed by Doug Fluties defense of Utah as a more legitimate BCS buster because the Utes had beatenMichigan! This was after Michigan had been upset by the MAC Wests fifth-place team, Toledo.
The Cardinals lack of respect could only be rectified it seemed with a national TV appearance that resulted in a dominating win. Unfortunately conference-mate Northern Illinois happened to be the team standing in the way of the BSU steamroller.
Nevermind of course that the Cardinals have won each and every game this season by double digits, had scored thirty or more points in all but one of its preceding eight games, and have a quarterback (Nate Davis) and running back (MiQuale Lewis) who are ranked nationally in the top ten in various offensive categories.
Prove it the college football elite demanded.
With an impressive, dominating performance over a pretty good Northern Illinois squad (the Huskies had allowed only four touchdowns in the preceding six games including a visit to Tennessee), the Cardinals delivered the statement that was needed.
The nation saw Nate Davis, arguably the top junior collegiate quarterback in the nation, deliver laser-guided passes to his receivers with uncanny accuracy and velocity. While those who have followed the MAC already know about Davis, his 300-yard, four touchdown performance had ESPN analysts Lou Holtz and Mark May believing as both repeatedly raved about the performance of Davis and the Cardinals during the ESPN2 national broadcast Wednesday night.
Meanwhile the nation's seventh leading rusher, MiQuale Lewis, went over the 1,000 yard rushing mark with 119 yards and a touchdown while the Cardinals defense shutdown the Huskies throughout the game.
The Cardinals performance should move them up further in the polls from their current rankings of 16th in the AP, 18th in USA Today and 17th in the BCS standings. Sure they still have to hurdle a couple of other non-BCS teams to get into the BCS bowl picture, not to mention take care of business the rest of the way (which includes a critical Nov 19 trip to Central Michigan) and overcome the inherent bias built into the system (and the attitudes of the so-called experts), but all they can do is prove it on the field.
We will go out on a limb a bit and make this statement: If the Cardinals finish the season as MAC Champions with a 13-0 record, there will be no way to keep the Cardinals out of a BCS Bowl.
Statement delivered.
Meanwhile Back East
Things also got interesting in the MAC East this week with a pair of weeknight contests.
Buffalo started the week with a 37-17 win over Miami Tuesday night at home to temporarily move one-half game ahead of Akron in the MAC East race, improving to 3-2 in conference play and 5-4 overall. The Zips however kept pace with the Bulls the next night by also posting a convincing win, defeating Toledo 47-30.
The wins by Buffalo and Akron set up a crucial game on Wednesday, November 13 at the Rubber Bowl between the two squads.
Not only will the winner take over sole possession of first place in the MAC East, as well as garnering the inside track to the MAC title tilt in Detroit, they would also become the first team in the East to become bowl eligible. (The MAC West already has three schools bowl eligible with Northern Illinois still one win away from bowl eligibility.)
But neither Akron nor Buffalo should start making postseason bowl plans just yet.
Whichever team prevails in the Nov 13 showdown at the Rubber Bowl will still need to come up with at least one more win to assure itself of a bowl bid regardless of the outcome of the MAC championship game.
Remember last season when Miami entered the MAC title game at 6-6 and lost? Despite being MAC East champs, the RedHawks could not go bowling with a 6-7 record. A similar fate could await this years representative, so securing a seventh victory prior to entering the MAC championship game becomes critical.
If the MAC East representative enters the MAC championship game no worse than 7-5 they will go bowling. Likewise if the MAC East champ comes in 6-6 and pulls off a victory in the MAC championship game, they will go bowling as well.
Keep in mind that the MAC, as confirmed to MAC Report Online by MAC Deputy Commissioner Bob Gennarelli, guarantees that its two divisional winners, assuming each remain bowl eligible of course, will be awarded with bowl invitations to two of the MACs three contracted bowl games.
That of course potentially opens up a whole different can of worms.
With the MAC having as many as six teams possibly becoming bowl eligible by seasons end, it would mean that other MAC squads with better records than the MAC East champ could potentially be sitting at home with only one other guaranteed bowl being available unless a couple of other bowls open up because of a conference not being able to supply a bowl-eligible team to its contracted bowl.
Stay tunedthe plot will surely thicken.
Projection Junction
We are going to stand by our pronouncement earlier that we are going to stay away from trying to project who is playing where in what bowl until the picture becomes a little clearer.
But that of course doesnt stop others from speculating. So below we have reproduced the latest projections from five other sources for your reading pleasure.
We will only offer a couple of thoughts. Note that none of the projections account for an appearance in the postseason by a squad from the MAC East. As we noted above, the MAC East champ will be going bowling as long as that team does not come out of the MAC title game with a losing record.
We also hear that Central Michigan is very desirous of playing in the GMAC Bowl this season after making two straight appearances in the Motor City Bowl. Its been a great relationship and CMU would not turn down the Motor City Bowl if no other options are available, but a third straight appearance in the Motor City Bowl does not excite the Chippewas faithful right now as much as a potential trip to Mobile or even Toronto.
Bowl Projections:

Phil Steele
Motor City
Dec. 26
Central Michigan vs. Northwestern
Ball State vs. Wisconsin
Ball State vs. Wisconsin
Ball State vs. Northwestern
Central Michigan vs. Wisconsin
Jan. 3
Cincinnati vs. Ball State
Louisville vs. Western Michigan
Cincinnati vs. Central Michigan
Louisville vs. Western Michigan
Connecticut vs. Western Michigan
Jan. 6
Western Michigan vs. Rice
Central Michigan vs. East Carolina
Western Michigan vs. Marshall
Central Michigan vs. East Carolina
Ball State vs. East Carolina


Tie-Breaking Process
With both divisions still bunched up at the top the question of tie-breakers becomes a central concern with only a few games remaining.
Below, because we have had several inquiries about how the tie-breaker works, is verbatim from the MAC how the tiebreaker formula sets up.
The divisional championship shall be decided on conference winning percentage. If two or more teams are tied for the championship, they shall be considered divisional co-champions. The following tie-breaking formula shall be used to determine which team will represent that
division in the MAC Championship game:
1. Head-to-head competition
a. In the event of a multiple-team (two or more teams) tie, the team with the best head-to-head record amongst the tied teams wins the tiebreaker;
b. In a two-team tie, head-to-head competition will be the first criteria;
c. If two teams did not play, the second criteria is used to break the tie;
2. Record of tied teams within the division [versus rank order, highest to lowest, of division teams]
a. The above tie-breaker procedure is used to determine rank order in the division;
b. Team(s) eliminated in the second tie-breaker criterion are not included in further consideration in the tie- breaking formula;
c. Head-to-head competition is again used to break the tie between the remaining tied teams.
3. Comparison of conference winning percentage of cross-over opponents of tied teams;
a. Tie-breaker is awarded to the team whose cross-division opponents had the best cumulative conference winning percentage;
b. Head-to-head competition is used to break the tie between the two tied teams.
4. If multiple teams remain tied, the final tie-breaker is as follows:
a. Record of tied teams versus cross-division opponents in rank order;
b. Head-to-head competition is used to break the tie between the two tied teams.
5. Pass the Tylenol.
Okay, lets move on with a look at a light Saturday schedule with only two MAC games on tap.
Saturday, November 8
Illinois (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) at Western Michigan (7-2, 5-1 MAC), Noon
Site: Ford Field (Detroit, MI)
Series: Illinois leads 2-0. Last meeting: Illinois 30, Western Michigan 27 in 2004.
Television: ESPN Plus
Outlook:Offense will be front and center as Illinois and Western Michigan collide at Detroits Ford Field...The Fighting Illinis offensive attack is led by dual-threat quarterback Juice Williams who ranks eighth nationally in total offense, averaging 327.8 yards per game. How productive has Williams been this season? He has set stadium records in three different venues this season in total offense, setting records at Missouri (461 yards); at Michigan (431 yards) and then set a record at home with 503 total yards against Minnesota but the Illini prevailed in only the Michigan contest. Williams favorite target has been Arrelious Benn who is second in the Big Ten, averaging 92.9 yards per game and a team-leading 53 receptions while the backfield is paced by Daniel Dufrene who has rushed for 539 yards, just ahead of Williams 509 rushing yards this season. The Illinis offense overall ranks second in the Big Ten, averaging 448.1 yards per game paced by a passing attack that tops the conference averaging 272.3 yards per game while the Illinis 33 points per game are second-best in the Big Ten. Defense has been an issue however for the Illini who are giving up just under 350 yards of offense per game and have been particularly vulnerable to the rush, allowing 150.8 yards per game however Illinois has excelled at getting to the quarterback, topping the Big Ten with an average of 3.3 sacks per game as well as a league-leading average of 8.1 tackles for loss per contest. Senior LB Brit Miller tops the Big Ten with 10.4 tackles per gameWestern Michigan sports some pretty impressive offensive numbers of its own. QB Tim Hiller has tossed 28 touchdowns, is completing over 68% of his passes and tops the MAC averaging 317.3 yards passing per game. Hiller ranks eighth nationally in total offense, averaging 319.6 yards per game. The Broncos offense, which is averaging 31.8 points per game, has put up over 500 yards in a game four times this season and tops the MAC in passing (320.2 ypg) and is also second in total offense averaging 443.7 yards per game. The receiving corps continues to be paced by Jamarko Simmons league-leading 8.11 receptions and 92.2 receiving yards per game. Tailback Brandon West tops the Broncos with 94.7 yards per game on the ground and also tops the MAC with 1,553 all-purpose yards so far this season. The Broncos defense has struggled against the pass this season however, allowing 242.1 yards per game and fourteen aerial scores but are one of only four MAC teams to register double-digits in interceptions, picking off ten passes this season. Its been a different story on the ground against the Broncos however with WMU holding teams to only 3.8 yards per carry, second-lowest in the MACExpect both teams to air it out in what has the appearance of a high-scoring affair. The Illini need one more victory to become bowl eligible. The Broncos are looking for their second straight win over a Big Ten foe following last seasons win over Iowa. The Broncos will hang in there with the Illini but Juice Williams may be just a bit too much for the Broncos defense.
Prediction: Illinois 38, Western Michigan 31.
Bowling Green (4-5, 2-3 MAC) at Ohio (2-7, 1-4 MAC), 2:00 pm
Site: Peden Stadium
Series: Bowling Green leads 36-21-2. Last meeting: Ohio 38, Bowling Green 27 in 2007.
Outlook: Okay, which Bowling Green team shows up this week? Not only have the Falcons been one of the most up and down teams from game to game this season but last week showed their dual-personality by outscoring Kent State 28-0 in the first half of their 45-30 win but then hanging on after being outscored 30-17 in the second half. Whichever team shows up, they will be a bit shorthanded in the running game with Willie Geter still ailing and leading rusher Anthony Turner dealing with a shoulder injury that could keep him out of action. The teams second-leading WR, Freddie Barnes is day-to-day with a knee injury. Falcons QB Tyler Sheehan is coming off a 109-yard rushing, 159-yard passing, three touchdown performance in last weeks win over Kent State. TE Jimmy Scheidler has emerged as a top scoring threat, with seven of his sixteen receptions this season going for touchdowns. Defensively the Falcons have been led this season by Diyral Briggs who is fourth in the MAC with six sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. DB PJ Mahone has been coming on strong as well and last week earned MRO honors as Defensive Player of the Week. Mahone ranks fifth in the MAC in passes defended for a Falcons defense that is fourth in defending the passOhio meanwhile has also had its share of inconsistent play. The Bobcats have been their own worst enemy this season between missed FGs, PATs, turnovers and penalties. Ohio has turned the ball over a phenomenal 26 times this season which is six more turnovers than the next worst offender in the MAC, Miami. The Bobcats have also been the most penalized team in the MAC, averaging 64.2 yards in penalties per game. QB Boo Jackson has been the Bobcats most consistent offensive weapon and in the Bobcats last game, a 32-19 loss to Buffalo on Oct 28, led the team in rushing with 70 yards in addition to passing for 290 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But Jackson has also had his share of turnovers, including nine interceptions. The Bobcats recently lost RB Donte Harden for the season and have turned to Chris Garrett as their featured backfield performer but Garrett has averaged only 39.5 yards rushing per game in the past two contests. WR Chris Peterson had a breakout game against Buffalo, catching a game-high six passes for 97 yards for an offensive attack that has been lacking playmakers. The Bobcats defense however has been consistent this season, and ranks third in the MAC in total defense, allowing 346.8 yards per game with LB Noah Keller having a solid season, leading the Bobcats with 70 tacklesAll the trends and signs say that Bowling Green should prevail here but we have seen how that has worked out so far this season. Still, the Bobcats are struggling in so many areas, that it is difficult to pick them at this stage. So, we are going with the Falcons. By default.
Prediction: Bowling Green 28, Ohio 20.
On Tap
The schedule for the week ahead:
Tuesday, November 11
Ball State at Miami, 7:30 pm (ESPN2)
Wednesday, November 12
Central Michigan at Northern Illinois, 8:00 pm (ESPN2)
Temple at Kent State, 8:00 pm (ESPN360.com)
Thursday, November 13
Buffalo at Akron, 7:00 pm (ESPNU)
Saturday, November 15
Toledo at Western Michigan, 2:00 pm
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