Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, August 20, 2011 at 9:03 AM
The weekend brings the return of our college football previews. We spent the month of July looking at the major conferences on Saturdays and Sundays. Here in August, we've been focusing on the mid majors. Please check the archives for all of those earlier reports. We're now down to just four more summaries.
Today: Mid American Conference East
Sunday: Mid American Conference West
Next Saturday: Sun Belt
Next Sunday: Independents (including Notre Dame, BYU and Navy)
Two more weekends of prep work...then...the following weekend...regular season college football is here!
Recent years have seen some very dead opening Saturdays, with a lot of top notch teams just playing glorified scrimmages so they can open with a blowout in front of a huge crowd. There's still some of that in 2011. But, we have to say, there are a few matchups that we're really looking forward to:
Saturday September 3
Oregon at LSU on ABC (prime time, with national contenders)
Boise State at Georgia on ESPN (prime time)
South Florida at Notre Dame on NBC
BYU at Ole Miss on ESPN
UCLA at Houston on FSN
South Carolina at East Carolina on FSN
Fresno State at California
We can already tell you that we'll have something special in at least one of those games. This could turn out to be an opening weekend that fans will be talking about for YEARS!
So, that gives us something to look forward to in the colleges. We hope you're already cashing in with us in the NFL Preseason slate over in the pro's.
First things first. Ohio and Miami of Ohio both reached bowl games last year...and are the two co-favorites in the East Division of the MAC in 2011. Let's crunch some numbers for those two teams and rest of the seven team slice of this storied mid-major. The six-team West featuring Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan will be featured tomorrow.
Athlon Ranking: 86th
2010 Total Offense: 95th
2010 Total Defense: 41st
Strength: Rush Defense (20th)
Weakness: Pass Offense (102nd)
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 3 on defense
Head Coach: Frank Solich
Notebook: Ohio had an ugly September last year, that included losses to Toledo and Marshall. Then they caught fire through mid-November before losing their regular season finale to Kent State 28-6 as favorites. The bowl was a 48-21 debacle at the hands of Troy, who wasn't having a vintage Troy campaign. At its best, Ohio could could play with anyone in the MAC except for maybe Northern Illinois last year. At its worst, ugly football! The team is supposedly going to open things up this year because Frank Solich is losing recruits who want to play on a modern offense. You can only go smash-mouth so long, particularly with a glorified high school style approach. That will either lead to more offense, or more turnovers. We're skeptical of change whenever an old-school coach announces he's going to be mor open-minded. That, and only three returning starters on defense has us more skeptical initially about the Bobcats than Athlon does. A light September schedule should help them get their bearings. The toughest team on the non-conference slate this year is Rutgers.
Athlon Ranking: 93rd
2010 Total Offense: 81st
2010 Total Defense: 28th
Strength: Rush Defense (25th)
Weakness: Rush Offense (113th)
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 9 on defense
Head Coach: Don Treadwell (new)
Notebook: Miami of Ohio had a fun finish last year, stunning Northern Illinois in the MAC championship as a huge underdog, then winning the Go-Daddy Bowl over Middle Tennessee 35-21. Ending with a flourish sent their head coach to a better spot (which he's NOT ready for by the way), but may have set the stage for a stellar 2011 in Oxford, Ohio. Zac Dysert is back at quarterback for new head coach Don Treadwell. A ton of experience returns. The defense ranked 28th nationally last year (helped by a soft schedule) and gets almost everyone back. To us, THIS is the team to beat right now in the East. We're interested to see if a non-con slate that includes Missouri, Minnesota, Cincinnati and Army wears them down a bit much. We're not going to pretend that Miami can make inroads in the national picture. This may a down year in the East, and Miami has more going for them than anyone else in our view.
Athlon Ranking: 96th
2010 Total Offense: 89th
2010 Total Defense: 16th
Strength: Pass Defense (15th)
Weakness: Pass Offense (90th)
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Steve Addazo (new)
Notebook: Temple was surprised to see Al Golden go to Miami. Then, Al Golden was in for a big surprise himself! Miami of Florida may be demoted to the Sun Belt Conference by the time we preview that league next week! Temple had some good moments last year, stunning Connecticut at home and hanging tough on the road at Penn State. Unfortunately they hit a wall late in the year and played poorly vs. Ohio and Miami of Ohio to finish out the campaign. Now, they have a new head coach, and an inexperienced defense. There should be some lingering quality from the Golden era. We'll be watching the Akron-Penn State-Maryland sequence closely through September to get a better read on this group. If the defense doesn't lose a step, this becomes a three-team race. New coach Steve Addazo made a name for himself as an assistant at Florida. He's hoping to make a bigger name as the head man here.
Athlon Ranking: 99th
2010 Total Offense: 102nd
2010 Total Defense: 10th
Strength: Rush Defense (41st)
Weakness: Rush Offense (100th)
Returning Starters: 9 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Darrell Hazell (new)
Notebook: Kent thinks they can make it a four team race. And, Athlon has them in that mix to be sure. But, the offense was abysmal last year considering the schedule they played. This is the third straight team to be dealing with a new head coach in this summary. You just never know with new coaches, particularly down in the lower mid majors. Some are in way over their heads even here. Others are overqualified and about to show that to the world. SOMEBODY is going to make a run out of this Miami-Temple-Kent trio because a coach is about to arrive. Somebody else is bound to be a big disappointment as they find out their new leader is on the other end of the spectrum. Kent State opens at Alabama, which will at least help the program earn a nice paycheck. If they play better than expected, we'll take them more seriously late in the month at Kansas State and in league play. New coach Darrell Hazell surely learned some things about building gameplans during his time as an assistant at Ohio State.
Athlon Ranking: 100th
2010 Total Offense: 115th
2010 Total Defense: 102nd
Strength: Pass Offense (51st)
Weakness: Rush Offense (120th)
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Dave Clawson
Notebook: It's easy for all of these MAC teams to run together in your head if you're not paying close attention. Bowling Green's stunning fall to 2-10 last year (1-7 in league play) sure came out of nowhere. They had gone 7-6 the year before and played a thriller with Idaho in the Humanitarian Bowl. Last year? An offensive collapse and some tough losses (Troy, Buffalo, Temple, and Miami of Ohio all beat BG by three points or less) created a windstorm the Falcons just couldn't evade. Things should get better this year with quality experience, a seasoned head coach, and the nature of the laws of math in close games. We'll definitely be looking for some live dog spots with these guys.
Athlon Ranking: 115th
2010 Total Offense: 111th
2010 Total Defense: 32nd
Strength: Pass Defense (18th)
Weakness: Rush Offense (101st)
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 2 on defense
Head Coach: Jeff Quinn
Notebook: The Turner Gill experience was fun while it lasted. With Gill moving up to the big time, the Bulls are now back to being doormats. They were 2-10 last year with one of the wins coming over Rhode Island. They ranked 111th in offense last year, and now must break in a new quarterback. The defense was a strength, but returns only two players from 2010. Tough to be optimistic about much of anything here. Road trips to Pittsburgh and Tennessee could get embarrassing. The line will be high, but we're already thinking about backing Pittsburgh's new offense (under Todd Graham) in the season opener against this inexperienced Buffalo defense.
Athlon Ranking: 116th
2010 Total Offense: 119th
2010 Total Defense: 99th
Strength: Rush Defense (72nd)
Weakness: Pass Defense (113th)
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Rob Ianello
Notebook: It's amazing how many MAC teams had horrible records last year given how often they have to play each other. Akron was 1-11 overall, 1-7 in the conference. The win came in the season finale over Buffalo, who also went 1-7 in the MAC. Buffalo's win was over Bowling Green, who ALSO went 1-7 in the MAC. It was so bad for the Zips last year that they lost a home game to Gardner-Webb. They at least have experience at quarterback and on the sideline. But, Rob Ianello's early returns suggest he may be one of those guys who's in over his head as a MAC coaching experiment. He'll have a chance to make some in-state headlines in September against Ohio State and Cincinnati.
That wraps up our look at the MAC East. Should be fun at the top. Could be ugly again at the bottom. Just remember that some of the BEST money making opportunities every year come in this conference because it's so overlooked by the wagering public.
Back with you tomorrow to look at the MAC West. Don't forget that BIG JUICY WINNERS in NFL exhibition action and Major League Baseball are available right now from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK right here at the website. The regular season is now just two weeks away. YOU NEED TO BE BUILDING YOUR BANKROLLS NOW!