The Ultimate Schedule: MAC East

August 25th, 2009

MAC Scheduling “Rules”:

-         Four non-conference games

-         Eight conference games (five within the division)

-         Marathon MAC Football Championship Game (December 4th in Detroit)


Week 1: Troy @ Bowling Green (September 3rd)


Why not open up the season with the favorite to defend its conference title (Troy of the Sun Belt Conference) visiting a Bowling Green team looking to pick up the first win of the Dave Clawson era? The question for the Falcons is which job will be more representative of Clawson’s offensive gameplan abilities: his years of success at Richmond, or one ill-fated year at Tennessee? Tennessee was a tough situation in 2008, with Phil Fulmer under pressure to win immediately, so it can be understood why the Volunteers struggled (quarterback play didn’t help either). Tyler Sheehan is a capable signal-caller, but he will be tested by the Troy defense. This will be a good measuring stick in the season opener for the Falcons.


Other Games Considered: Akron @ Penn State (9/5), Connecticut @ Ohio (9/5), Buffalo @ UTEP (9/5)


Week 2: Pittsburgh @ Buffalo (September 12th)


Last season the Panthers dropped a game at home to a Bowling Green team that ended up not being as good as thought when the season ended. So what can happen when Pittsburgh visits the defending MAC champion Bulls? Buffalo will hope that they’ve found capable replacements for RB James Starks, who will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum, and Pitt will also be looking for backs to replace the departed LeSean McCoy. The position to watch: wide receiver, where Naaman Roosevelt can hold his own with any wideout on the Pitt roster. Simply put, this is one of the early-season games that can provide the MAC with a BCS “scalp”.


Other Games Considered: Kent State @ Boston College (9/12), Miami @ Boise State (9/12), Bowling Green @ Missouri (9/12)


Week 3: Indiana @ Akron (September 19th)


Speaking of possible wins against BCS teams, the Zips host an Indiana team picked by the media to finish last in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers dismissed QB Kellen Lewis in a case of taking team chemistry over playmaking ability. Who else is there that can make things happen for the Hoosiers offensively? QB Ben Chappell has a solid season in 2008, but the defense led by DE Jammie Kirlew will be leaned upon heavily in the first month of the season. Akron isn’t a particularly explosive team on offense either, but they do have a solid quarterback in senior Chris Jacquemain. The Zips have never hosted a BCS conference team so expect a frenzied atmosphere despite the predicted level of the opponent.


Other Games Considered: Temple @ Penn State (9/19), Miami @ Western Michigan (9/19), Buffalo @ UCF (9/19)


Week 4: Buffalo @ Temple (September 26th)


Rarely does a game between the two teams expected to vie for the division title take place in the first month of the season. But that’s the scenario that the Bulls and Owls have to deal with, and if this one is as wild as last year’s game then we’re in for a treat. A Hail Mary at the gun from Drew Willy to Naaman Roosevelt won it for the Bulls, who went on to win the entire conference. With nine starters back on defense led by linebackers Amara Kamara and Alex Joseph, the Owls may have more than enough ammunition to slow down the Buffalo attack. The winner goes a long way towards punching their ticket to Ford Field while the loser falls into “hope the winner loses two league games” mode.


Other Games Considered: Akron @ Central Michigan (9/26), Miami @ Kent State (9/26), Ohio @ Tennessee (9/26)


Week 5: Central Michigan @ Buffalo (October 3rd)


While Temple doesn’t play either of the two favorites in the West the Bulls get both, beginning with a visit from the Chippewas on the first Saturday in October. Buffalo nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback in last year’s 27-25 defeat, missing a late field goal after recovering an onside kick. But all-time history isn’t on the side of the Bulls either, who are 3-21 against the West since joining the conference in 1999. The running game played a large factor in last season’s result with the Chips rushing for 208 yards while holding UB to just sixty-six (and that was with James Starks). The Bulls were close thanks to a furious rally; a little offensive balance could be what puts them over the top in the rematch.


Other Games Considered: Ohio @ Bowling Green (10/3), Kent State @ Baylor (10/3)


Week 6: Ohio @ Akron (October 10th)


How to pick the four teams behind Buffalo and Temple would be anyone’s guess, and the winner of this matchup goes a long way towards finishing third if not challenging for the division title. The Bobcats won a wild battle in Athens 49-42, but the road team hasn’t fared well in the recent history of this series (last win by the road team: 2004) and the Bobcats haven’t won consecutive games over the Zips since the late-90s. It’s also Homecoming for the Zips, who will be playing on campus and that should add something to the atmosphere surrounding the game. Coaches Frank Solich and JD Brookhart are two of the better coaches in the conference, so the strategic aspect should be something to pay attention to as well.


Other Games Considered: Bowling Green @ Kent State (10/10), Miami @ Northwestern (10/10)


Week 7: Bye Week (October 17th)


The most appealing game on the schedule is Akron visiting Buffalo, but the Bulls have been on the list three times already. Miami’s visit to Athens to take on the Bobcats doesn’t have the look of a game that will have a significant impact on the division race, and the same goes for Bowling Green visiting Ball State.


Week 8: Akron @ Syracuse (October 24th)


The Zips won last season’s meeting in rather comfortable fashion, racking up 478 yards of offense in the 42-28 win. The question for Syracuse is how much Greg Paulus can help in the passing game. Against Akron the Orange had just 135 yards through the air, offsetting a solid 218 yards on the ground. Doug Marrone should bring more balance to the Syracuse attack, but it remains to be seen what Paulus can produce since he hasn’t taken a live snap since his senior year of high school. Look for Akron DE Almondo Sewell to lead the way in pressuring the former Duke point guard for sixty minutes.


Other Games Considered: Temple @ Toledo (10/24), Kent State @ Ohio (10/24) and Northern Illinois @ Miami (10/24)


Week 9: Western Michigan @ Kent State (October 31st)


The Broncos have dominated the series with the Golden Flashes, winning the last twelve meetings. And it’s not like these have been “close but no cigar” meetings either; WMU has managed to blow out Kent State on a regular basis. And with Tim Hiller back for one more year in Kalamazoo, KSU free safety Brian Lainhart and company will have their hands full in slowing down Bill Cubit’s offense. The Golden Flashes tend to rely heavily upon their run game, and they’ll need to get the job done in order to keep the ball out of the hands of Hiller and company.


Other Games Considered: Akron @ Northern Illinois (10/31), Temple @ Navy (10/31)


Week 10: Kent State @ Akron (November 7th)


Back with the Golden Flashes, this time to watch them take on an Akron team that beat them in overtime last season. The Golden Flashes held a sizeable advantage in yards gained and first downs yet it’s the Zips who possess the Wagon Wheel. Chris Jacquemain and company should be better equipped to put up solid offensive numbers, while Ken State needs to be a little more opportunistic this time around. These two could be fighting for slots in the conference pecking order behind favorites Buffalo and Temple, or they could find a far more lucrative position at the fingertips of the winner.


Other Games Considered: Bowling Green @ Buffalo (11/3), Miami @ Temple (11/7)

Week 11: Bowling Green @ Miami (November 12th)


The Redhawks have dominated the all-time series with a record of 41-19-5 against the Falcons, who haven’t beaten Miami since 2005. What does Bowling Green need to do in order to end the current run of futility? They can start by shoring up a rush defense that allowed the Redhawks to run for 218 yards in last year’s 27-20 win. To put that into context, the 2-10 Redhawks averaged 107 rushing yards per game, and their second-highest total for a game was 142 in a loss to Kent State. Sometimes, a team simply has your number no matter what the circumstances may be. The hope for Bowling Green is that they can turn the tide in the other direction.


Other Games Considered: Ohio @ Buffalo (11/10), Temple @ Akron (11/13)


Week 12: Kent State @ Temple (November 21st)


These two teams played an exciting game in 2008, with the Golden Flashes winning 41-38 thanks in large part to 561 yards of offense (329 on the ground). Temple produced just seventy-two yards on the ground and lost the yardage battle by 207 yards yet still found themselves with a chance to win the game late. The Owls finished 2008 dead last in total offense, the lone team unable to average at least three hundred yards per game. By this point in the season people should have a good idea as to whether or not that unit has become any more productive. If so, the Owls could very well find themselves chasing down a division crown.


Other Games Considered: Northern Illinois @ Ohio (11/21), Akron @ Bowling Green (11/20)


Week 13: Toledo @ Bowling Green (November 27th)


The two schools are separated by just twenty-six miles, meaning that bragging rights take on a more personal feel in the aftermath of this game. The Falcons have won the last two with nearly identical final scores (37-10 in 2007, 38-10 in 2008). Last year’s game saw Bowling Green rack up nearly 300 yards on the ground while holding the Rockets to just sixty-seven yards through the air (Toledo had -1 yards total in the first half) in the final game of the Tom Amstutz era. Toledo senior QB Aaron Opelt will be hoping for a far better result in this year’s battle for the Peace Pipe, as will his teammates.


Other Games Considered: Temple @ Ohio (11/27), Buffalo @ Kent State (11/27)


Week 14: Marathon MAC Football Championship Game (December 4th in Detroit)


The conference gets the Friday night spotlight to itself on Championship Weekend, and the pick here is for Central Michigan to close out Dan LeFevour’s career with a conference title. Look for the Chippewas to dethrone reigning champion Buffalo at Ford Field.