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The Wacky MAC

Football Season Looking Like Basketball Season
by Nick Gerogosian

It must have been Halloween weekend. That is the only way to explain how three of the MAC’s best teams lose while each was a heavy favorite. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise anyone, because the MAC is no longer a four-team league.

Every preseason publication and the MAC media saw the same thing; Bowling Green and Miami would fight it out in the east division while Toledo and Northern Illinois would battle for the west title. But well into the 2005 season the wacky MAC is far from a four team league. With Central Michigan’s victory over Toledo, NIU’s shocking home loss to Ball State, and Bowling Green’s two straight home losses, the MAC is now jammed up just like it is during basketball season.

Going into November, there is a four way tie in the MAC east division between Miami, BGSU, and Ohio and Akron. Each is 3-2 in the conference while Kent State and Buffalo are both out of it at 0-5. The RedHawks and Falcons were supposed to be there but Akron’s victory at BG and Ohio’s ability to get better every week under Frank Solich has made this division a true dog fight. Sounds like basketball season again doesn’t it?

In the west, Toledo’s loss at Central was puzzling since the Rockets had won ten straight games against the ‘Chips. In fact, Central’s last win over UT was in 1994, ironically the last time they won the MAC title. CMU and Toledo each share the lead at 4-1 in the west with NIU and Western Michigan at 3-2 in conference play. Eastern Michigan and Ball State right behind at 2-3. Once again, this parity looks just like the March basketball standings where two games often separate first place from last in the division.

But Halloween weekend really brought out some interesting statistics. NIU and Toledo, the league’s top rushing teams each averaging 214-yards per game on the ground, were stymied by Ball State and Central Michigan respectively for just 66 and 95 yards. Ball State currently has the league’s last place rush defense making that 66-yard Huskie output look really baffling.

Has any team underachieved more than Bowling Green this season? The Falcons were picked by everyone to win the MAC and many publications even had them listed in the nation’s top-25. But with two straight home losses, each as double-digit favorites, Bowling Green now will struggle to have a winning season. Currently at 3-2 in MAC play with games remaining against Miami and Toledo, the Falcons would be fortunate to have a 6-5 season.

As the final few weeks approach, there should be excitement across the league as every game will have huge ramifications in standings since there is so much parity this season. No longer is there that “easy win” as even winless Buffalo has played very well at times in tough losses to Toledo, Akron and Ohio.

It’s good to see parity return to the MAC after several seasons of having a few really good teams, a few really bad teams and a small number in the middle. From a fans point of view, the wacky MAC is something to enjoy.

 

Looking Ahead at the Post Season Awards

Coach of the Year

There are several candidates but Central’s Brian Kelly and Western’s Bill Cubit have each done a terrific job this season. The winner of this rivalry game just may win the league, and that person will likely be the ‘coach of the year’ award winner.

Freshman of the Year

This is a tight race with Central and Western each having the top two candidates. Central’s RB Ontario Sneed has done a terrific job for the Chippewas and currently averages 99-yards per game with 6 TDs. Western QB Tim Hiller is 2-0 as a starter with an amazing 184 efficiency rating. In the four games he has played in, he is averaging 210 yards with 12 TDs and just 3 INTs.

Offensive Player of the Year

There is no clear cut favorite here as early season leader Garrett Wolfe from NIU suffered a season ending injury. BGSU’s Omar Jacobs also is hurt and will miss a few games this season which will probably take him out of consideration too. Toledo’s Bruce Gradkowski has played well this year battling back from injuries suffered at the end of last season, but certainly hasn’t played consistent enough for POY consideration at this point in the season.

Perhaps this award will go to one of the many excellent wide receivers the MAC has this year? Western Michigan’s Greg Jennings averages 9 receptions and 117-yards per game to date while Miami’s duo of Martin Nance and Ryne Robinson each are putting up splendid numbers. If you look at the total package, Akron’s Domenik Hixon averages 176 all purpose yards per outing. One thing for sure, just like the divisional races, there is no clear cut favorite for the MAC offensive player of the year.

Defensive Player of the Year

Ohio DB Dion Byrum has been one of the steadiest playmakers in the MAC this season and has 5 INTs with 2 returned for TDs. Kent State’s Jon Sessler was the league’s leading tackler before suffering an injury. Central Michigan’s Dan Bazuin leads the league in QB sacks at 9 and also has 14 tackles for loss. Like the offensive POY award, there is not clear cut favorite.


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