2012 mac conference football preview

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Once we start Aug. Lost to Connecticut in the International Bowl on Jan. Senior Alex Zordich , and redshirt sophomore Joe Licata , both have starting experience. Quinn said Licata, a Williamsville, N. Redshirt senior Branden Oliver is a quality returnee at running back as well. Buffalo won three of its last four games in and could be a sleeper team this season, and Quinn said the aerial attack likely will be the deciding factor.

What we need to do is generate more points, and that has to come from our passing game. MU allowed The experience that some of our young pups got last year was huge. It should make a big difference this year. Pohl completed 38 of 58 passes for yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions in The Zips showed flashes of offensive greatness last season, but their defense was dreadful, giving up Bowden feels three experienced defensive linemen will make a huge impact this year: James , from Colorado State.

I expected to somehow pop a few more wins last year. Football is not mystical. Akron needs stability. Redshirt sophomore Mike Wegzyn , from Knoxville, Tenn. He was of through the air last year, totaling 1, yards, six touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Minutemen are starting their second year in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and Molnar knows success will take time.

UMass has a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball, having allowed Three transfers from BCS programs should help: By Rick Cassano , Staff Writer. Subscribers Only. A safer pick — though still a long shot — is Davis, who has the size and numbers but would need to show NFL-caliber speed in testing. Beat a Power Five team in non-conference play: Bowling Green and Toledo tie. Toledo draws Iowa State at home on Sept.

Lead the conference in scoring offense: Northern Illinois and Western Michigan tie. After struggling at times in league play last fall, I expect NIU to put together a more well-rounded offense — not just running but through the air — in The Broncos, meanwhile, return the lion's share of production from last year's top attack. Lead the conference in scoring defense: I love the front four and have high hopes for the secondary, especially if cornerback Cheatham Norrils returns from injury and regains his all-conference form.

Linebacker play is a potential weak link, but the Rockets have enough talent surrounding the position to thrive. Exceed expectations: Losing seasons don't often happen for Lembo, so it's only safe to project the Cardinals to move back into bowl eligibility behind a more experienced starting cast. That's at a minimum; the Cardinals may do what they've done in the recent past and challenge NIU and Toledo for West Division supremacy.

Predicted order of finish

Western Michigan and Bowling Green tie. Expectations have been steadily climbing at WMU since Fleck's arrival prior to the season. With road games at NIU and Toledo on the docket, the Broncos may not be ready to take home the division. The Falcons are the favorite in the East Division, but last year's team held similar preseason billing and was largely underwhelming throughout. Not every program in the conference has a clear-cut starter in advance of fall camp.

Bonus points for those schools without a major competition, let alone those with an accomplished and trustworthy returning starter. Drew Hare, Northern Illinois. It doesn't matter who's taking the snaps: Hare will be even better in his second season as the starter. The numbers speak for themselves: Terrell will be the guy for the Broncos, but P. Fleck may try to get redshirt freshman Chance Stewart involved.

Joe Licata, Buffalo. He has quietly put together one of the finest careers by a quarterback in school history. Licata is set for a breakout season as a senior. Matt Johnson, Bowling Green. After his breakthrough in , it will be very interesting to see how Johnson bounces back from the injury that cost him all but the first game of last season.

Blake Frohnapfel, UMass. The former Marshall transfer might have been the most pleasant quarterbacking surprise in last year's MAC. Let's how he fares with another season of experience in Mark Whipple's system. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan. His statistical leap between his freshman and sophomore seasons — 12 more touchdowns, two fewer interceptions, nearly an additional yard per attempt — bodes well for Rush's final two seasons with the Chippewas.

Kyle Pohl, Akron. Injuries slowed Pohl down a year ago, but the Zips' staff has full confidence that he can put together an all-conference senior season. Terry Bowden thinks his team would have reached bowl eligibility had Pohl remained healthy in Reggie Bell, Eastern Michigan. Bell certainly brings some excitement to the position, even if his dual-threat production didn't translate into victories in Chris Creighton's debut season.

But the sophomore has serious potential. Phillip Ely, Toledo. The former Alabama transfer won a tight quarterback battle heading into last fall but was lost for the season after two games. I still think the job is his to lose, but Ely's lack of overall game experience remains his biggest question mark. Jack Milas, Ball State. The Cardinals will need to be patient with Milas as he continues to learn under Pete Lembo's careful tutelage. Derrius Vick, Ohio. Vick gives Frank Solich more reliability than J.

Sprague , judging by what we saw a year ago, as well as more athleticism. Colin Reardon, Kent State. Reardon was more ineffective as a junior than a sophomore, which is cause for concern. The staff would be wise to get him more involved in the running game. Drew Kummer, Miami Ohio. I'd give Kummer the edge over redshirt freshman Gus Ragland due to Ragland's limited on-field experience — Kummer, a senior, has thrown for more than during the past two seasons.

But Ragland's time is coming, perhaps as soon as September and October. The Huskies do return Tommylee Lewis , an undersized return specialist and receiver who missed last season with a foot injury. He moved out to left tackle last fall after spending the first two years of his career inside at guard.


College football: MAC East preview

That led to a few growing pains, but Smith's play down the stretch paints the junior as the strongest piece along the Minutemen's offensive line and a potential all-conference selection in Yeah, me neither. Maybe Harris, a redshirt freshman who moved from quarterback, can give the Eagles a boost at a position long lacking in anything of consequence.

Toledo OT Mike Ebert. The former tight end will be asked to handle right tackle as one of five new starters along the Rockets' offensive front. Ebert's not a pound mauler, but his quickness should come in handy. Akron CB Larry Hope. The Zips have been welcoming to major-program transfers throughout Terry Bowden's tenure. Hope, a cornerback over from Miami Fla. Though Hope didn't play much with the Hurricanes — mostly in a reserve role in — he'll be expected to grab a starting role.

The starting lineup awaits for Okorafor, a Big Ten-caliber prospect who should anchor the Broncos' offensive line for the next three seasons. And keep an eye on a newcomer, freshman tackle Wesley French , who arrives with Okorafor-like hype. Ball State's had great success with local transfers in the past. Posley, who comes over from Cincinnati , will help beef up last year's mediocre pass rush. Toledo offensive line coach Tom Manning. Last year's group wasn't quite as strong as expected, but Manning can make a name for himself by rounding this season's inexperienced cast into form before the calendar turns to MAC play.

Bowling Green defensive coordinator Brian Ward. Bowling Green's Dino Babers dipped into the Football Championship Subdivision well to grab Ward, who most recently spent three very successful seasons in the same capacity at Western Illinois. Akron offensive coordinator A. One of the youngest coordinators in the country, Milwee has been learning on the job while showing the talent and intelligence to eventually land on the major-conference radar.

Western Michigan special teams coordinator Rob Wegner. While he also leads the Broncos' defensive ends, Wegner's greatest work has come on special teams.

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Last year's group made enormous strides after ranking among the nation's worst in , so it's safe to assume another step forward this fall. Eastern Michigan defensive coordinator Brad McCaslin. But McCaslin proved while the coordinator at Drake University that he knows how to put together a stout defense. Ball State defensive coordinator Kevin Kelley.

Though the early returns weren't overly positive for Kelley, who joined the Cardinals prior to last season, the former Georgetown head coach will get things turned around in Michigan State at Western Michigan, Sept. Getting the Spartans at home is a nice bonus for the Broncos, even if beating Mark Dantonio's gang is a different story altogether. Toledo at Arkansas in Little Rock , Sept. Toledo won't win this game, but the rest of the MAC — particularly the West Division — will be paying attention. If the Rockets can run the ball effectively on Arkansas , doing the same in conference play shouldn't be a problem.

Bowling Green at Purdue, Sept. For Bowling Green, moving beyond eight wins and reaching its full potential demands a non-conference win against an eminently beatable opponent. Ohio at Akron, Oct. Beating Ohio in October would move this team even closer to securing just the second bowl bid in program history.

Northern Illinois at Toledo, Nov. The Rockets are still looking for their first win against the Huskies this decade. At least last year's defeat never got out of hand. Again, don't sleep on NIU's long road winning streak in conference play. Bowling Green at Ohio, Nov. The Bobcats have two positives in their corner: Those factors may be enough to get Ohio into the win column, which could in turn decide the East Division.

Western Michigan at Northern Illinois, Nov. WMU emulates Northern Illinois' unparalleled run of success in this conference, even if the Broncos have gone about setting a foundation in a wholly different manner — with a level of recruiting never before seen in the MAC, not a foolproof system of offensive ingenuity and player development. Western Michigan at Toledo, Nov. That's a bad thing. Yet there's still reason to think WMU will be within striking distance of Toledo heading into the final Saturday of November. Though the MAC was formed in , only a handful of teams have membership dating back to the league's early days.

Several, such as Akron and Buffalo , joined within the last 25 years; another, Northern Illinois , was a MAC member from and again since Make sense? To cite an example below, former Cincinnati offensive lineman Bill Shalosky is listed on this team because he played for the Bearcats from , when they were part of the MAC. In addition, if any conference shift occurred during a player's career — as in the case of Marshall , for example, which was a member twice, most recently from — he will be considered for the league in which he had his greatest or most memorable success.

The question, in shortened form: It's not an easy question, I know. But they're not supposed to be easy. If you thought that a few had to work at Miami Ohio , you're on the right track. They are …. Don James , from Kent State to Washington. There's three. And then there's the RedHawks' contingent. Before you ignore the MAC's shot at putting its champion in an access bowl, remember: Northern Illinois reached the Bowl Championship Series three years ago, and two seasons ago stood one win away — a loss to Bowling Green in conference title game — from repeating as the non-BCS conference participant in the antiquated postseason format.

It's not such a stretch to consider that the Huskies could do so again, basically. And that same team is the league's best hope of a spot in one of the New Year's Six bowls: NIU, boom or bust, because the Huskies remain the class of the league despite the annual hope in other MAC-area circles that the window for this particular dynasty has closed. No such luck. As noted earlier, this run by NIU isn't merely jaw-on-the-floor impressive; it's unprecedented in the recent era of college football.

I'm high on Toledo , as are most, and the Rockets do have opportunities to make noise in September — against Arkansas , most notably. It's also easy to fall in love with Western Michigan , thanks to the accumulation of talent P. Fleck has corralled during his short stint in Kalamazoo. At the same time, however, let's not forget that the Broncos must take on Toledo and NIU on the road; so long, divisional title.

Don't put any national stock into the East, even as Bowling Green eyes a leap forward in Dino Babers' second season, Frank Solich continues to do yeoman's work at Ohio , Akron prepares for a bowl game, Lance Leipold puts juice into Buffalo , and UMass puts scares into teams across both divisions. It's a solid, well-contested league, but there's no team with the potential to crack double-digit wins in the regular season. This is Northern Illinois' league — has been, five years and counting, and will be again.

But can NIU make another major-bowl run? It'll demand a perfect record in league play, complete with a win at Ford Field in December, but that wouldn't be new for the Huskies. Here's the biggest game: Boston College. NIU won't — and can't — sniff Ohio State , and no one is expecting anything more than a lopsided loss. But Boston College, on the other hand … While a loss in that game dooms the Huskies' fate, what with Boise State potentially making a run at perfection, a loss to Ohio State can be offset by defeating the Eagles and running the table in the MAC.

MAC Football 2012 All-Conference Team

Then we're looking at a scenario where one-loss NIU might challenge for an access bowl. Let friends in your social network know what you are reading about. Projected order of finish with EAST 1. Buffalo No. A link has been sent to your friend's email address. College football preview: The Mid-American Conference The player talent is matching the coaching talent in this league, but Northern Illinois remains the standard and team to beat. Analysis These truths should be more evident. Predicted order of finish With ranking. Trivia question No googling allowed. Best case, worst case Each team's range of possibility.

Preseason all-conference team The best at each position. Best units Position by position. Video What to watch for. Fact check Tidbits, notes and number. Buffalo's Leipold lands inevitable leap to FBS. National award candidates Best of the best. Superlatives Most likely to Returning starters The numbers, team by team.

Frohnapfel the perfect QB at perfect time for UMass. Top newcomers Plus potential breakout players. Assistants on the rise Coaching names to know. Games of the year The MAC's appointment viewing. All-time all-conference team The MAC's ultimate fantasy team. George Bork, Northern Illinois Photo: Northern Illinois Athletics.

Jerome Persell, Western Michigan Photo: Western Michigan Athletics. Travis Prentice, Miami Ohio Photo: Mark Lyons, Associated Press. Randy Moss, Marshall Photo: Jordan White, Western Michigan Photo: Jonathon Gruenke, Associated Press. Gary Arthur, Miami Ohio Photo: Miami Ohio Athletics. John Greco, Toledo Photo: Toledo Athletics. Bill Shalosky, Cincinnati Photo: University of Cincinnati Athletics. Heath Wingate, Bowling Green Photo: Bowling Green Athletics.

Al Kilgore, Kent State Photo: