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2012 MAC Blogger Roundtable, week 3

September 12, 2012

It’s time for this week’s MAC Blogger Roundtable. Each week one of the bloggers covering the MAC (links are on the right sidebar) poses several questions, to be answered by the others. This week’s host is the new kid on the block, Massachusetts blog Maroon Musket.

1. MAC schools have pulled off some big upsets during the past few years – most recently Ohio over Penn State (whether or not that is actually an upset is surely debatable). In a perfect world, what would be the most enjoyable upset for your school and why?

For me that’s a no-brainer: Michigan. I’d think that needs no explanation, but just in case…

Six miles. That’s what geographically separates the best-attended FBS football program in the country from the worst-attended one. That’s what separates the winningest football program from the program that’s arguably been the worst over the last two decades.

Some fan bases have a reputation for being jerks. I’m not going to name any names, we all know who they are, but Michigan fans aren’t among them. But if you’ll forgive what’s going to be a very stretched simile…

Michigan football is like your really rich neighbor. He has a huge, nice house, he’s always driving a new luxury car, and he jets off to exotic (warm) places like Florida and Southern California every winter. (Sure, he hit a rough patch a few years back and had to skip a vacation, but he seems to have come through it fine.) When you’re doing OK yourself, not great but not bad, he seems nice enough, and after all, he does invite you to a nice party at his place every once in a while.

If we’re going to continue this simile, EMU football lives in a trailer (but we do own the lot), right across the street. (Realistically this guy wouldn’t put up with that view, but bear with me…) We know that our successful neighbor is largely living off the success of his parents, grand parents, and even great-grandparents. We’ve seen his family come through some pretty tough times, and it really grates on us when he suggests — not even to our face, mind you — that we really don’t “belong” in this neighborhood, that we ought to move to somewhere better suited to our means like that FCS trailer park down the street, or even just give up on home ownership and rent from the Division II Apartments. To make matters even worse, lately your kids have started hanging out at his house.

When you visit from down the street, or another town, he seems nice enough, sure, but when you live right next to him…well, just once it’d be nice.

2. MAC teams typically play one or two “pay-to-play” games where they step into a BCS team’s stadium and are essentially expected to lose. Do you think these games are beneficial beyond being a financial boost? Do they help get teams ready for the MAC slate, or are they just opportunities for injuries?

By and large, I’m not a fan of payday games. Sure, they make financial sense for host schools — the University of Michigan grosses something like $5 million per home game — but from an on-field perspective it’s a no-win situation for the host (speaking of Michigan, see: vs Toledo, 2008). And yes, from a MAC team’s point of view, they’re mostly an opportunity for injuries. EMU lost two offensive line starters for a few games last year after they were hurt against Penn State. In 2009, EMU suffered what I’d call a nightmare scenario, losing fifth-year senior starting quarterback Andy Schmidt for the season from an injury suffered in the third quarter at Michigan. EMU wasn’t going to have a great season that year, but I doubt they’d have gone 0-12 if Schmidt had been able to play the rest of the year.

There are other ways to make it work, as Michigan State is demonstrating with the “Celebrate the State” series, which has the Spartans playing at all three Michigan MAC schools. What I’d really like to see is a mix of home-and-homes against schools from the Sun Belt, WAC, Mountain West, and Conference USA, and maybe some 2-for-1 series against some of the lower-tier AQ schools (e.g., Indiana, Vanderbilt, Minnesota) with no more than one payday game and no more than one FCS game per season.

3. As the “new guy” in the conference, we don’t know the recruiting strategies of MAC schools. What approach does your school take when it hits the recruiting trail? Does the conference, as a whole, seem to have a similar recruiting philosophy?

I’m not any kind of recruiting guru (in fact I limit my recruiting coverage to repeating what’s already been reported with only minimal commentary), so I can’t really answer this one very well. What I have observed is that EMU seems to be having a lot of success recruiting Illinois. Recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Doug Downing grew up in Lafayette, Indiana, attended Purdue, and spent nine years coaching Western Illinois, so I imagine he knows that area pretty well. Offensive line coach and running game coordinator Kurt Anderson — the only pre-Ron English coach still at EMU — covers Illinois recruiting for the Eagles, and he was born and raised just north of Chicago (Evanston and Glenview), so EMU seems to have that area pretty well covered.

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