Four MAC teams will tee it up the football, that is - tonight as the college football season finally gets underway. Here is a Peak at the Pack of matchups involving MAC schools.
Bowling Green is one of four MAC teams in action Thursday
TROY AT BOWLING GREEN - Many teams over the years have found the winds and competition at Doyt Perry Stadium to be a stern test. With senior Tyler Sheehan leading a potent Falcons offense, Troy knows it will be in for anything but a lazy, late summer stroll.
Both teams need this game in order to make a statement. Troy would like to notch a significant non-conference road win to open its season. While they have some offensive line issues to address, the men of Troy are nonetheless favored by many to win a fourth consecutive Sun Belt crown
Bowling Green, meanwhile, can use this game to show that it is turning the page and that is a good thing. The Falcons have talent. Last years win over Pittsburgh shows that. However, the Falcons also squandered leads in several contests that had they gone the other way could have put them in the MAC East title picture.
Maybe history never won a football game, but history suggests a good showing by the hosts. A win by BGSU would be the teams third straight opening win. The Falcons beat Minnesota in 2007 and Pittsburgh to open 2008. A win would also be the eighth straight win for Bowling Green coaches beginning their Falcon career. In fact, first year Falcons head coaches have not lost a season opener since 1935, and new BGSU head man Dave Clawson is looking for his first FBS victory.
This is the first meeting between Troy and BGSU. Like Bowling Green, Troy will be led by a veteran. Senior Levin Brown was the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year in 2008 and threw for 2,030 yards and 15 touchdowns in just eight games.
Brown will get plenty of help from junior running back DuJuan Harris and receiver Jerrell Jernigan. The latter led Troy with 77 receptions and five TDs last year. He has been moved from a slot to the outside receiver and gives the Trojans a deep threat for 2009.
Using the spread offense, Troy averaged 32 points a game last year. While the defensive front and linebackers are solid, the secondary has seen some turnover. If Sheehan can get some protection and is able to exploit the secondary, it could be a shootout at Doyt Perry.
COASTAL CAROLINA AT KENT STATE If momentum, home field, the season opener and affiliation mean anything, then KSU should feel pretty good about this game. Of course, Michigan had several of those things going for it a few years back when it faced Appalachian State.
But for what its worth, Kent State did finish on a positive note last year when it defeated eventual MAC champ Buffalo. As for opening the season at home, well its just the fourth time in two decades that the Golden Flashes have started a campaign on their own turf. Their most recent home opener was a forgettable 44-0 loss to Minnesota back in 2006, but KSU won its previous five home opening tilts.
The biggest question for Kent State will be how well redshirt sophomore quarterback Giorgio Morgan will perform. Morgan steps into the role following the departure of Julian Edelman, who was drafted in the seventh round by the New England Patriots. Morgan was 23-for-68 (63.9 percent) (274 yards, 3 TDs, 0 interceptions) as a true freshman in 2007 before redshirting last year.
Morgan, however, wont have to shoulder the entire offensive load by any means. He should get plenty of help from running back Eugene Jarvis. Now 721 yards short of Astron Whatleys school career rushing record, Jarvis could climb into first place if he stays healthy. He managed 801 yards and 9 TDs rushing last year despite missing nearly one-third of the season with an ankle injury. He also had 273 receiving yards (with one TD) on the way to All-MAC Second Team honors.
Costal Carolina, a Football Championship Subdivision team from Conway, South Carolina, finished 6-6 last year. Among the 55 returning lettermen are 20 starters. Quarterback Zach MacDowell, managing a spread offense, started nine contests and played in 11 games. He completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 2,064 yards and 16 touchdowns and was intercepted just six times.
Phillip Oboh (DE) and Derrick Frasier (LB) anchor the defense. Oboh was a first team All-Big South honoree who recorded 53 tackles (33 solos, 10 tackles for loss, five sacks. Frasier had 67 stops (29 solos).
VILLANOVA AT TEMPLE The two teams started playing each other in 1908, but they have only met 30 times overall. Thursdays meeting follows a six-year hiatus, but it is the first of four Mayors Cup games scheduled to run through the 2012 season. Villanova won the last meeting (2003), 23-20, in two overtimes.
Villanova is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision Colonial Athletic Association. Coach Andy Talley (30th year) will field a team that is ranked as high as No. 5 nationally in preseason FCS polls. The Wildcats return 15 starters and run a spread offense.
If Temple can capitalize on its strength along the trenches, the Owls will be tough. Five starters return along the offensive line, and that should provide a comfort zone for quarterback Vaughn Charlton as he gets the starting call after redshirting in 2008. He played in seven games, with four starts, in 2007.
With a solid line in front of them, Temple ball carriers should be anxious to get the call. Sophomore Lamar McPherson (a Philadelphia native) played in all 11 games last year at fullback. Sophomore Kee-ayre Griffin led the Owls in rushing last year, while Joe Jones finished second.
Senior nose tackle Andre Neblet, a three-year starter, anchors a veteran defensive line. All three starting linebackers are back, and the secondary has experience, as well.
Villanova returns 31 letter winners (15 starters) from a squad that earned an at-large big to the FCS playoffs last year. The Wildcats were 10-3 overall (7-1 Colonial Athletic Conference).
Chris Whitney took over signal-calling duties in week four of 2008 and threw for 1,448 yards (120-of-174). He connected on 10 touchdowns and threw five interceptions. Whitney also showed the ability to pick up some yardage on his own as he rushed for 467 yards and four touchdowns.
Junior running back Aaron Ball (5-9, 200) picked up 1,081 yards and 13 TDs. Angelo Babbaro added another 340 yards and excelled in the kick return game. Given Temples solid play in that area, Thursdays matchup could pit strength against strength.
Another matchup of strengths might be along the line. Four of five offensive linemen return for Villanova. However, the Wildcats defensive front was hit hard by graduation. For the Owl runners who make it through the defensive line, it will be a chance to meet a trio of talented linebackers. Tops among the bunch is senior Osayi Osunde, who notched 75 tackles on the way to first team All-CAA honors in 2008.
Villanova returns three of five defensive backs. However, the two departed players both earned third team All-CAA honors in 2008 and will be missed.
Another missing piece of the Villanova puzzle is Joe Marcoux, who made 14-of-19 field goal attempts and 44-of-48 PATs last year. The leading candidate to replace him is Nick Yako, a redshirt freshman who kicked a 50-yard field goal during his senior year of high school.
NORTH TEXAS AT BALL STATE The Mean Green were all that while winning four straight Sun Belt Conference titles from 2002-2004. Since that time, however, they have been more of a Lean Green in terms of wins. Theyve posted just five conference wins over the last four years and picked up just two road wins since 2006. Opening day/night has been a special area of frustration. North
Texas has won just one opener in the last 12 years
The transfer (out) of quarterback Giovanni Vizza at first would seem to bode more misfortune for North Texas. Vizza threw for over 5,000 yards in his first two seasons.
Taking his place, however, is redshirt freshman Riley Dodge. He is the son of UNT coach Todd Dodge and should know his fathers spread offense about as well as he knows his way home. After previously committing to the University of Texas, Riley decided to make it a family effort at North Texas.
Riley Dodge should keep an already explosive offense rolling. Unfortunately, for the Mean Green, opponents have not only rolled with them, they have rolled right past UNT. The North Texas (scoring) defense ranked last in the nation in each of the last two years and yielded an average of 47 points per game in 2008.
Thats really good news for Ball State, which enters 2009 sans Nate Davis, the quarterback who last year led BSU to a perfect (12-0) regular season, a MAC championship game appearance and a trip to the GMAC Bowl. The departure of three offensive linemen and a tight end wont help the offense, either.
New head coach Stan Parrish hopes the new crew can protect redshirt quarterback Kelly Page and create some running lanes for standout tailback MiQuale Lewis. With the departure of Davis, teams will likely try to key on Lewis until BSU establishes other weapons.
Defensively, the North Texas game should provide the Cardinals a good test. of the 4-3 defense to which they are switching. They played a 3-4 the last several years. It will also test the secondary. While BSU is strong at the safety spots, the corners will be filled with new players.