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MAC Blogger Roundtable, Week 1

September 1, 2010

I’ve been asked to participate in the MAC Blogger Roundtable, a tradition among…well, among MAC bloggers. Each week, one member asks several questions of the group and then gathers up the answers. The host for this week is the Ball State blog Over The Pylon.

1.) Life is all about wins. What is the one premier upset the MAC will achieve this season that could gain this conference some national respectability?

I’m not sure I see a truly premier upset the MAC will achieve this season.

Looking at look at MAC matches versus BCS automatic qualifier conferences (big six), a few stand out as pitting a strong MAC team against a weak BCS program. Northern Illinois will have several very real chances to do this, for the season opener September 2 at Iowa State and then back-to-back weeks against Illinois on September 18, and against Minnesota on September 25; I doubt the Huskies will win all three (I’d have higher hopes if they weren’t all on the road) but I’d be pretty surprised if they didn’t pull off at least one of them. Bowling Green could add to RichRod’s pain at Michigan, though I think that’s unlikely; the Wolverines lost to a 3-9 Toledo team two years ago, but Michigan is (somewhat) better now. Speaking of Toledo, they host Arizona to open the season, which could be interesting, and Toledo at Purdue is another possibility; I doubt the Rockets would be able to manage a win on the blue turf at Boise State, but with a bit of luck that might be the only thing standing between them and a 4-0 non-conference record.

But I don’t know that any of those would really count as premier wins, which I would think of as coming over a top-25 opponent, or at least a team on the edge of the top-25. Looking at the best three teams in the MAC, Ohio, Temple, and Northern Illinois, the only games that could qualify are Ohio winning at Ohio State, Temple winning at Penn State, and maybe Temple against Connecticut. While I’d love to see Ohio win in the Horseshoe, barring a slew of injured Buckeyes, it won’t be happening this year. Temple has an outside chance of winning at Beaver Stadium, and that would definitely gain them some respectability, as would even coming in to that game 3-0 and playing the Nittany Lions close. Temple against Connecticut could count, but we won’t really know how good this year’s Connecticut team is until later in the season.

2.) Talk about your own team for a minute… what’s three things the blogosphere and their readers should know about your respective beloved team thiseason?

1 – If you think EMU is going to go winless, if you think EMU will only win one game, or if you think EMU will be the worst FBS team in the country this season, you are delusional. The Eagles are nowhere near winning the conference, but they’ll manage several wins, which will be enough to not be the worst team in the MAC, much less the country. There were a lot of factors that went into the perfectly bad season last year, and there have been a lot of off-season changes for the better in Ypsilanti.

2 – Last year, the EMU passing defense was statistically among the best in the country, but it was only because teams could run at will against us, so no one bothered to pass. This year, with the addition of playmakers like Latarius Thomas and Marlon Pollard, I expect the passing defense to be legit. In fact, I expect the overall defense to be at least in the middle of the pack in the conference.

3 – There’s a large possibility that Alex Gillett and Devontae Payne will share quarterback duties for most or all of the season. It’s not an issue of English making a late decision between them, as is sometimes the case; it seems that English may genuinely intend for them to share duties all season. They have very different strengths, and can test defenses in different ways, Payne with his arm, Gillett with his legs.

3.) What game on your schedule are you looking forward to the most? Why? If that game happens to be a nonconference game, what conference game are you looking forward to the most as well?

Central Michigan, on September 18. Despite generally being much worse than them, we’ve managed to beat the Chippewas regularly over the past several years. EMU fans love playing Central.

4.) Who, besides Dan LeFevour will hurt their team the most by their departure? Conversely, what freshman in the MAC are you most looking forward to seeing?

No one will hurt like Dan LeFevour, it will probably be decades before the MAC sees a player post that kind of offensive numbers, if ever. EMU will miss senior QB Andy Schmitt, but we started missing him last season, when he went down in the fourth quarter of the Michigan game (week 3) with a season-ending knee injury. I don’t think there will be too many freshmen getting a lot of playing time this year, but one with a chance at making an immediate impact is redshirt freshman cornerback Marlon Pollard, who just transferred to EMU from UCLA. He was rated as a four-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout.com, and in addition to UCLA, he had offers from Arizona State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Washington. UCLA granted his release because he was “buried on the depth chart” there. EMU usually only picks up one or two three-star recruits a year, so snagging a four-star athlete is a huge deal.

Another freshman who may get some attention is Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz. He’s got experienced skill players around him, but with a young offensive line, the question is whether Schilz will have time to make plays.

5.) MAC Power Poll… Rank ’em all, worst to first.

13 – Ball State
12 – EMU
11 – Kent State
10 – Miami U.
9 – Akron
8 – Toledo
7 – Buffalo
6 – Central Michigan
5 – Bowling Green
4 – Western Michigan
3 – Ohio
2 – Temple
1 – Northern Illinois

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