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2011 MAC Blogger Roundtable, week 9

October 27, 2011

This week’s MAC Blogger Roundtable is hosted by the Buffalo blog, Bull Run.

1) Parity: a good thing or a bad thing? Outside of Toledo at the top and Akron, Kent, Miami, and Buffalo at the bottom every team has looked about equal. Is this a good thing for the conference or would it be better to have just four very prominent teams?

Yes, it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

First consider it from the fan perspective. If you’re a fan of the teams at or near the top, such as Temple and Toledo, parity is a bad thing. Your team is just one mistake or one big play by an opponent away from not only not winning your division but potentially not getting a bowl invitation. Don’t believe me? Just ask the 2010 Temple team, they’ll tell you all about it. If you’re a fan of a team in the middle of the pack or near the bottom, you get the flip side of that, which is that your team has less distance to go to respectability or even sneaking in to the championship. For examples, just look at Buffalo in 2008, Miami in 2007, and Akron in 2005, all of which were beneficiaries of divisional parity.

The other way to look at it is from the perspective of what is best for the conference. Here, I think the first priority is membership stability, the second is exposure, and the third is money (though exposure and money will generally come together, in the form of television contracts and bowl appearances). I think parity is unequivocally good for membership stability. It means that no team falls so far behind that they’re forced to drop to FCS (or lower) or drop football altogether, but also that no team is consistently so good that they become an attractive target to be poached by a higher-profile conference. For exposure and money it’s more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, parity makes for unpredicatable outcomes and close, exciting games. On the other hand, having one school dominate the conference can raise the profile of both the school and the conference, and bring more money as broadcasters wanting to show that team’s games are required to make package deals.

2) Coaches Hot Seat. The following MAC coaches are showing up on the ever-popular coaches hot seat list. Pick one and tell us why is it or is not fair to have them there (Disclaimer: Clawson is on the list but I can’t imagine why so I am leaving him off).

(12) Rob Ianello, Akron
(13) Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
(15) Dan Enos, Central Michigan

I absolutely agree with Quinn and Enos being high on the list. Each took over a program that had recently won a MAC Championship, and neither has won more than three games in a season. Enos bought himself some cover his first year by retaining the Michigan MAC Trophy, but that’s a distant memory now, paved over by a 44-14 humiliation at Western Michigan and a Homecoming loss to EMU. In at least one regard Quinn may be in a slightly better position; the expectations at Buffalo are lower than they are in Mount Pleasant. Dan Enos took over a team that had just won a MAC Championship and had won three of the last four, while the Bulls were a year removed from their only conference title. Also, having no heated rivalries means Quinn gets no bump from winning certain games in an otherwise bad year, as Enos got in 2010, but also no extra flack for losing those games.

Rob Ianello is a different story, and I don’t think he should be on this list just yet. Akron is even farther removed from their one conference championship (2005), and they hardly won it in a dominating fashion, going 6-5 overall, 5-3 in the MAC, getting into the championship game on a tiebreaker over Miami and Bowling Green, and then edging out Northern Illinois 31-30 with a furious fourth-quarter comeback. Since then the Zips have failed to put together a winning season, going 3-9 in 2009, J.D. Brookhart’s final season. All of their current offensive skill players are freshmen and sophomores, so we’ll probably see a huge improvement in their performance next year as they continue to gain experience.

One MAC coach that probably should be higher on this list is Western Michigan’s Bill Cubit (currently #49). The Broncos were expected to challenge for a MAC title this year, but after back-to-back losses to Northern Illinois and EMU, and their next two games against a resurgent Ball State team and at Toledo, the new goal is probably just 6-6. At this point, just halfway through the conference schedule, Western Michigan would need to win out, and have Northern Illinois and EMU lose two games each, and have Toledo lose an additional game. That would put them into a three-way tie with Ball State and Toledo, but the Broncos would then win the tiebreaker over each based on head-to-head wins.

3) Best new hire. Of the five new coaches in the conference who, at this point, seems to be the best hire?

Less than one season in is pretty early to say. One way to gauge this is by the expected regular season win delta from the prior season.

I feel a table coming on…

Team 2010 wins (7/8 games) 2011 wins to date Delta 2010 wins 2011 expected wins Delta
Kent State 3 1 -2 5 1 -4
Ball State 2 5 +3 4 6 or 7 +2 or 3
Northern Illinois 6 5 -1 10 6 or 7 -3 or 4
Temple 6 5 -1 8 8 or 9 0 or +1
Miami 4 2 -2 8 4 to 6 -2 to 4

We’ll know more in a few weeks, but at this point, based solely on the record/expected record, it looks like the best hire is Pete Lembo, followed by Steve Addazio. However, I strongly believe that, except in truly exceptional cases, you need a full 2-3 years to evaluate a new head coach. At that point, I still think Lembo will look good, and he’ll be joined by Don Treadwell and possibly Dave Doeren. I’m not convinced that Addazio is going to be able to get Temple to where the fans think they should be, and I’m not convinced of anything about Darrell Hazell’s coaching. But, give them a few years, and we’ll see what happens.

4) Ron English is flying high and the EMU *EAGLES* might be going to their first bowl if they take care of business. Surely their coach is going to start getting some looks from other programs (if you can win at EMU, right!). Is Turner Gill’s experience in Kansas a cautionary tale to schools who look for that one new up and coming coach? How many years of winning should a mid-major coach put forth before a big time program drops millions on them.

Major schools have generally been too fast in hiring upcoming coaches, but they’ve also been too quick in firing their old coaches. It generally takes 3 years for a new coach to start to show results, and 5 years to really know what they can do, particularly when they’re taking over a non-elite program like Kansas. Hiring a coach who’s been at a school for less than that is generally a mistake, as is firing a coach before that much time passes.

5) We all know the MAC does not necessarily award Bowls to the best teams. In MAC contracted bowls the bowl committees, not the conferee, get to pick their representative. Assume the MAC is going to get four Bowls but there are five bowl eligible teams. Make a case for your team, or a team you think is likely to be that 5th wheel.

I’m currently projecting Toledo and Temple as the MAC Championship Game participants, both of whom will get bids. Ohio, Northern Illinois, EMU, and Ball State also look likely to be bowl-eligible. If I had to guess, I’d say that Northern Illinois will be the third team picked and EMU will be fourth, based partly on the “feel-good story” of the first bowl trip in 24 years. Ohio will get the fifth MAC bid if there is one — I think there will be — while Ball State will be bowl-eligible but stuck in Muncie for the holidays.

6) It’s looking more and more like either (a) Temple won’t be going to the Big East or (b) there won’t be a Big East football space to even invite Temple. Is the MAC, even with UMass and Temple, a stable football conference for the next year or two?

In the short-term, I think UMass and Temple make the MAC less stable. They’re football-only members that don’t really meet the institutional or geographical (particularly UMass) profile of the rest of the conference, and they cause problems with the East-West divisional breakdown. But, aside from that, and even with that, because the rest of the MAC has so much in common, the worst I see happening is that one or both of those schools might leave at some point.

7) Rank ’em

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

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. iHATEnoamCHOMSKY permalink
    October 27, 2011 3:42 pm

    WVU-Louisville drama might change all the calculus surrounding temple. I think temple will be inked into a BCS confrence by opening day next year.

    • October 28, 2011 9:58 am

      WVU-Louisville stuff does change things a bit, but I stil don’t think Temple’s going to a top-tier (AQ or whatever replaces BCS) conference. The Owls might get in to the new Big East, but I’m not sure a conference of Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, South Florida, West Virginia/Louisville, Air Force, Boise State, Houston, Navy, SMU, Temple, and one more (UMass?) remains AQ. And that assumes that none of the incoming programs get picked off by a Big XII looking to get back to 12 teams and a conference championship game (though it’s possibly the Big XII holds at 10), and that the MWC/CUSA merger is stable (which I find unlikely).

  2. October 28, 2011 6:04 am

    In an ideal world this would have shown up as a trackback. Here’s Bull Run’s summation post.

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