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2011 MAC Blogger Roundtable, week 6

October 6, 2011

This week’s MAC Blogger Roundtable is hosted by Over The Pylon, the Ball State blog that attempts to redeem itself by being written by University of Kentucky fans. A strange combination, I know, but what do you expect from a Ball State blogger?

1.) Now that the non-conference has wrapped up for most everyone and we turn our eyes toward conference play, what did the non-conference season teach you? More importantly, what teams do you see as front-runners thanks to their non-conference play? Any surprises?

No one really closed the deal in non-conference play. Ohio had no trouble against lesser teams and played impressively against their rival, Marshall, but couldn’t get it done against Rutgers. Bowling Green couldn’t close the deal against Wyoming and was blown out at West Virginia. Northern Illinois, frankly, looked bad against Kansas, Wisconsin, and Cal Poly. Wisconsin I can understand — look at what the just did to Nebraska — but a team that thinks they’re a MAC contender can’t go giving up 30 points to a team like Cal Poly. Toledo let penalties get in the way of what could have been a huge upset win at Ohio State, and then a blown call by the refs and replay officials cost them the game at Syracuse. Western Michigan came up just short at Illinois. Temple came up just short at Penn State.

2.) It’s obviously early to be thinking about bowls, but what teams do you see going bowling? More importantly, will there be a MAC team that will surprise folks come bowl season? Where do you hope your team ends up bowling?

Right now, I’m expecting it to be Ohio, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, and Toledo. Possibly Temple, Northern Illinois, or Ball State as a fifth team. The biggest surprise on that list would be Ball State, who I figured would improve, but not quite so much. Western Michigan, Bowling Green, and Temple, I had originally figured to barely miss the bowl cut.

Where do I hope EMU ends up bowling? I don’t expect them to make a bowl game, or even to be bowl-eligible (which will require a 7-5 finish, since only one FCS win counts)

3.) Again, it’s early, but are there any coaches on the hot seat that should be working their resume? Any MAC coaches you see moving on to greener pastures come season’s end?

I don’t think any MAC coaches are truly on the hot seat this year. There was the potential for things to get ugly for Ron English if EMU lost to one or both of the FCS teams, or failed to win any FBS games, but both those hurdles are out of the way. Rob Ianello and Jeff Quinn could end the season on the hot seat for 2012. As for coaches getting hired away, Tim Beckman seems like he should be the top target, but I get the feeling Toledo really wants to build a successful football program, and they may be willing to pay to keep Beckman in town for a while. Bill Cubit could also be a target, especially if Western Michigan continues to play this well.

4.) With all the talk of conference expansion and the assumption that WVU or Missou is the next to switch conferences, what do you see happening to the MAC? Any teams living? Where to? If teams vacate, how should the MAC respond?

I don’t think any MAC teams will get picked off by other conferences. The only real possibilities are the football-only schools, Temple and Massachusetts. UMass is unlikely since they’re just entering FBS play, while Temple first needs to make their case on the field. As for teams joining the MAC, I can imagine that if the Big XII collapses, Iowa State might wind up in the MAC. Louisville has been mentioned some, but they’re just a few years past having a top-ten football team, and some conference will take them on the strength of their basketball program. Other than Iowa State, I think any MAC additions are likely to come from FCS or Division II.

5.) While football is a team game, sometimes it’s about individual efforts. Who has had the most impact individually for your squad? Sort of the same line of thinking, but contingent on your own needs and roster, what other MAC player would you like to switch out for one of your own?

It’s hard to pinpoint an individual standout for EMU. The strength of this team so far has been the offensive line: all seven players who have started. Bridger Buche is probably the best on that squad right now, or at least he was prior to his injury, but the entire squad deserves a lot of credit for their great run-blocking for all the ball carriers. As Ron English remarked, “You would love to run behind that line.”

As for switching out for a different MAC player, I’d take either Alex Carder or Chandler Harnish. Having a quarterback with the ability to consistently deliver the ball accurately in a way that allows receivers to make a play after the catch would be huge. I’m fine with EMU’s run-first offense, but from time to time they do need to throw the ball, and it would be nice to have a passer on the field who could reliably get that job done.

6.) Power poll time, baby. First to worst… rank ’em.

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

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