The Ultimate Schedule: MAC West

August 26th, 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: Western Michigan @ Michigan (September 5th)


The Wolverines have made news in advance of the season opener due to head coach Rich Rodriguez’s proclamation that three quarterbacks will see time. If that’s for game plan reasons or the fact that none of the three (Tate Forcier, Nick Sheridan and Denard Robinson) has separated from the others then OK. But if it’s a case of overconfidence, thinking that the visit from the Broncos is nothing more than a formality they’d better talk to their conference brethren in Champaign. Bill Cubit’s team should not be overlooked, especially with QB Tim Hiller throwing and RB Brandon West throwing the football. If the Broncos can find ample replacements for the eight departed starters on defense look out.


Other Games Considered: Central Michigan @ Arizona (9/5), Toledo @ Purdue (9/5)


Week 2: Central Michigan @ Michigan State (September 12th)


Another matchup between Michigan schools, with the task being far tougher for the Chippewas. Michigan State is picked by many to finish third in the Big Ten despite the loss of RB Javon Ringer. The Spartans have one of the better defenses in the conference with LB Greg Jones leading the way, and Mark Dantonio’s team doesn’t shy away from physical football. How well Butch Jones’ team deals with the hard-nosed style of play will dictate the flow of the game. If the Chippewas can keep the ball in the hands of Dan LeFevour and control the tempo they can win. If they allow the Spartans to slug away at will, it will be a long day in East Lansing.


Other Game Considered: Western Michigan @ Indiana (9/12)


Week 3: Northern Illinois @ Purdue (September 19th)


Another Big Ten matchup, and just like Western’s opener at Michigan the visiting team has more than a puncher’s chance to leave with the victory. The Boilermakers, in their first season under Danny Hope, lost quite a bit on both sides of the football and were picked to finish tenth in the Big Ten this season. Jerry Kill’s Huskies have more than enough defense to compete for the division crown; whether or not they’re truly a part of the race with CMU and WMU will depend largely upon the improvements made on offense. Can NIU keep up with a team that likes to put the ball in the air like Purdue? It’s a pretty good test considering what they’ll go up against in conference play.


Other Games Considered: Ball State @ Army (9/19), Toledo vs. Ohio State (9/19 in Cleveland), Miami @ Western Michigan (9/19)


Week 4: Ball State @ Auburn (September 26th)


The final Saturday in September sends Stan Parrish’s Cardinals to The Plains to take on an Auburn program in transition. Gene Chizik replaced the resigned Tommy Tuberville, and it too a little while for some natives to accept the fact that Auburn hired a man who was 5-19 in two years at Iowa State. Better athletes and a better recruiting base should help his cause in getting the Tigers back to competing for SEC championships. As for Parrish, who was the offensive coordinator last season, he’ll have to break in a new quarterback in Kelly Page but RB MiQuale Lewis does return. It’ll be too much to ask of the Cardinals to win at Auburn, but they could hang around for a bit.


Other Games Considered: Akron @ Central Michigan (9/26), Toledo @ FIU (9/26)


Week 5: Western Michigan @ Northern Illinois (October 3rd)


If the Huskies want to entertain any thoughts of winning the division they’ll need to defend their home turf when the Broncos roll into DeKalb. WMU won last year’s meeting by just three points despite the fact that the Huskies were breaking in a new quarterback and getting used to a new head coach. Now Jerry Kill can look at QB Chandler Harnish and know that he’s got enough experience to take the next step in his development. The Broncos have won the last three meetings, but each game has been tight and they were outgained by NIU in the last meeting. The winner takes a big step towards competing for a MAC title while the loser falls behind the 8-ball early.


Other Games Considered: Central Michigan @ Buffalo (10/3), Toledo @ Ball State (10/3)


Week 6:  Ball State @ Temple (October 10th)


This is a crossover game that has the chance to be a pretty good one. The two have never met, with Temple just joining the conference in 2007. Ball State has been the best road team in the conference over the past couple of seasons, winning nine straight MAC road contests. If the Owls are to win they’ll have to get more from an offense that ranked dead last in the MAC in total offense in 2008 while Ball State will hope for good play from a defense that returns seven starters. While Temple has hopes of possibly winning the East the Cardinals will hope to reach bowl eligibility.


Other Games Considered: Western Michigan @ Toledo (10/10), Eastern Michigan @ Central Michigan (10/10)


Week 7: Central Michigan @ Western Michigan (October 17th)


As soon as the media picks for the conference were released this game became the “Game of the Year” within the West Division. The Chippewas won last year’s meeting by ten (38-28) despite Tim Hiller throwing for nearly 500 yards. Western really has no problem putting the ball in the air, but if they can’t get anything out of Brandon West and the running game they become a little too one-dimensional (49 yards rushing against CMU in 2008). If the Broncos can get some balance they’ve got a chance to end their three-game skid in the series. If not, look for the Chippewas to cement themselves as the favorite in the division.


Other Games Considered: Northern Illinois @ Toledo (10/17), Bowling Green @ Ball State (10/17)


Week 8: Buffalo @ Western Michigan (October 24th)


Depending on what happens in their respective big divisional games (Buffalo at Temple, WMU at Central Michigan) this could be a preview of the Marathon MAC Football Championship Game in December. Of the four teams that received votes to win the MAC only the Bulls play all three (Temple, Central Michigan and Western Michigan), and by this point in the season Turner Gill’s team will have seen them all. The Broncos won last season’s meeting in overtime thanks to 345 yards through the air and a defense that limited Buffalo to just 164 yards through the air. WMU will look to control things through the air; if Buffalo can limit that they’ll have a chance to win at Waldo Stadium.


Week 9: Bye Week (October 31st)


While there are a few intriguing games on the schedule for this weekend it’s a good time to take a week off to prepare for the stretch run. The best conference games look to be Western Michigan visiting Kent State and Ball State hosting Ohio, while Central Michigan gets an upset opportunity at Boston College.


Week 10: Eastern Michigan @ Northern Illinois (November 5th)


The Eagles are the one team we haven’t seen to this point in the season so it’s a good opportunity to check out Ron English’s program on a Thursday night in DeKalb. EMU was embarrassed at home in last season’s meeting, losing 37-0 while allowing the Huskies to rush for 235 yards. Of the three teams picked in the top half of the division the Huskies may be the team that the Eagles can hang with longer than anticipated. When the Huskies win in this series they tend to blow out EMU; the Eagles won 21-19 in 2007 and with seventeen starters back they could very well make things interesting.


Other Game Considered: Western Michigan @ Michigan State (11/7)


Week 11: Toledo @ Central Michigan (November 11th)


The Chippewas escaped Toledo last season with a 24-23 win, a departure from the 2007 meeting that saw the Rockets get their doors blown off in the fourth quarter. Rover Barry Church, who seems to have been around for about ten years, will lead a defense for new head coach Tim Beckman that returns seven starters. In regards to the series the Chips have won four straight after losing ten straight to the Rockets, a streak that coincided with the year (2005) in which Brian Kelly got things headed in the right direction in Mount Pleasant. Hopefully for CMU Dan LeFevour will be healthy; last year’s meeting came in between games the senior missed due to injury. The Rockets have a senior quarterback of their own in Aaron Opelt, and while he isn’t considered to be the caliber of LeFevour, he is a capable decision-maker.


Other Games Considered: Ball State @ Northern Illinois (12/12), Western Michigan @ Eastern Michigan (12/14)


Week 12: Northern Illinois @ Ohio (November 21st)


We’ve got one more attractive crossover game…that is if you’re a fan of strong running games and solid defense. The last meeting was actually a high-scoring affair, but it’s hard to expect both teams to light up the scoreboard this time around. Ohio QB Theo Scott missed most of 2008 due to a broken collarbone suffered in the season opener, giving Boo Jackson the keys to the offense. There still hasn’t been a decision on who the starter will be but Frank Solich does have two players with experience from which to choose. NIU QB Chandler Harnish should also perform better with a season under his belt, a development that should increase the production of the Husky offense. Not sure how many points will be scored, but expect nothing to be decided until the fourth quarter.


Other Games Considered: Central Michigan @ Ball State (11/18), Eastern Michigan @ Toledo (11/20)


Week 13: Northern Illinois @ Central Michigan (November 27th)


Just like the meeting between the Chippewas and Western Michigan in October, the season finale between CMU and the Huskies will go a long way in deciding who makes the voyage to Detroit. Central Michigan won last season’s meeting 33-30 in overtime, spoiling a furious NIU rally to tie the game at 30 with nineteen seconds remaining in regulation. CMU led 30-6 with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter yet needed a field goal from Andrew Aguila to seal the win. Dan LeFevour accounted for more than three hundred yards and four total touchdowns in the win, but it isn’t as if he wasn’t going to be the first line of the NIU scouting report anyway. Expect another entertaining contest, and this time there may be a lot more on the line.


Other Games Considered: Ball State @ Western Michigan (11/24), Toledo @ Bowling Green (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.