MAC Blogger Roundtable, week 9
This week the questions were posed by the Toledo blog, Let’s Go Rockets.
1. What has been the biggest surprise in the MAC so far this season? Can be good or bad, player or team?
Central Michigan. With the coaching change and the loss of so many key players, I doubt anyone expected them to be at the level they were last year, but I don’t think anyone expected them to fall so far so fast. As of this moment, their 1-4 conference record puts them in last place in the MAC West Division, and while I don’t think they’ll stay there — I expect them to beat Bowling Green this weekend — they may well end up at 2-6 in the MAC and 3-9 overall, which is a long way to fall from last year’s 12-2 finish. Interestingly, the 2008 MAC West Division winner also finished at 12-2 before falling to a 2-6 MAC record the following year.
2. Hypothetical: your team has been selected to play in a bowl game — from which MAC-tied bowl would you like to receive an invite?
For EMU’s first bowl game in more than two decades, I’d like to see them stay close to home for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit. It’s not that I don’t want the team to get the chance to go somewhere nice — and warm — but none of the bowls with which the MAC has tie-ins are in terribly nice places (Detroit, Boise, Mobile), and I would be nice to reward long-sufferring EMU fans with a close-to-home bowl. If EMU were not able to get the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, or if they were to get it and then get a bowl bid a subsequent year, I’d hope for a bid from some other bowl, such as the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
3. In your bowl game answer from above — what opponent (any) would you like to face and why?
There are three schools on my non-conference “hit list” that I’d like to see EMU get a crack at in a bowl game. One is Western Kentucky. I think the Hilltoppers could have the potential to be an non-conference multi-sport rival for EMU, and although each school’s athletic program has strengths and weaknesses, I think they’d generally be well-matched. Another is Northwestern. The Eagles played them very close last fall, losing on a last-second field goal. There’s also a weak historical connection there, going back to both schools’ losing streaks in the early 1980s — when Northwestern broke their still-record 34-game losing streak with a win over Northern Illinois in 1982, EMU inherited the mantle of the longest active losing streak (then 22 games) and fired head coach Mike Stock two days later.
The third possibility — the most intriguing, but the least likely — is the University of Michigan. It’s unlikely because it would require EMU to be good enough to get the matchup, and Michigan to be barely bowl eligible the same season. I say barely bowl eligible, because based on the name and the fan base, Michigan is often likely to play in a bowl better than they are (i.e., bowls will bypass teams with better records to pick Michigan). But it would mean a matchup of the nearby schools on a national stage, and because EMU would inevitably need to have a better record than Michigan (something on the order of 9-3 or 10-2 against 6-6) and because it would be EMU’s only chance to play the Wolverines outside Michigan Stadium, it would give the Eagles an unprecedented shot at defeating our neighbors to the west.
4. Only a few weeks remain in this season, what has to happen in the remaining games for your team to finish on an upswing / maintain / save the season / etc.?
With four games left, I’d really like to see the Eagles find a way to win one more game, and play close — within one touchdown in the third quarter and no more than a 14-point loss — in two more. That gets EMU at least into the range of win totals I expected before the season (2-4) and allows them to end the season on a somewhat positive note.
5. Rank the teams in the order you expect to see them at the close of the season.
1. Northern Illinois
6. Western Michigan
7t. Kent State
9. Central Michigan
11. Ball State
12. Bowling Green