MAC pick ’em, week 1
Well here we are, just a few days from the kickoff of another football season, and that means it’s time to start guessing winners and losers. This year, instead of a blogger pick ’em, I’m entering my selections in Hustle Belt’s pick ’em, and you can too — just leave a comment there.
For the first few games of a season, we have only reputation, past performance, and expectations to go by. In some cases it’s easy; we can be pretty secure in picking #2 Alabama to beat Kent State even though we don’t know
much anything about Darrell Hazell as a head coach. Likewise, although Ohio State has a new head coach in Luke Fickell, the Buckeyes are a fairly safe pick over an Akron team that went 1-11 last fall. Also in this category, Ohio should have little trouble with the New Mexico State Aggies (2-10 last year, with opponents scoring more than 40 points seven times!), and if EMU can’t handle Howard (1-10 last year, and sporting a new head coach) Ron English should be gone. Toledo is too good not to handle New Hampshire easily, and although I remain dubious of Dan Enos’s Chippewas, I think Central Michigan will manage to beat South Carolina State (9-3 last year).
Against FBS foes, Ball State is nominally hosting Indiana in Indianapolis (at Lucas Oil Stadium), and as bad as the Hoosiers usually are, the Cardinals are worse. This has potential to be the ugliest game of the week, but I think Indiana will manage to win in the end. Pittsburgh hosts Buffalo, and even if the Bulls have improved from last year, I think the Panthers are too much for them. Western Michigan will travel to the Big House to face Michigan, and the Wolverines will narrowly win in a shootout. Miami University will travel to Missouri, and although I think the RedHawks will be good under Don Treadwell, I don’t think they’re up to the task of winning at the Zou. Likewise, although Bowling Green will improve on last season’s 2-10 record, I don’t think they can beat the Vandals in the Kibbie Dome. Despite a first-time head coach, Northern Illinois should have just enough returning talent to edge out Army, and like Western Michigan, this should be a high-scoring game.
The MAC game of the week is probably Villanova at Temple. Make no mistake, even though they play in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA), the Villanova Wildcats play big time football; last fall the Big East invited them to join. The Wildcats were the defending FCS national champions and had won three games in a row over the Owls (1980, 2003, and 2009) coming into last year’s matchup, and were well on their way to four, until Temple scored a field goal with 8 seconds left, then returned a Villanova fumble for a touchdown on the following kickoff. This game is probably a toss-up, but history suggests that one of the FCS teams will probably beat a MAC team, and Villanova over Temple seems as likely as any.