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The Ultimate 2017 MAC Preview

2017 MAC Preview.

EAST

1. Miami (OH)

Miami started last season 0-6, then went on a tear, winning each of their last six games, making the St. Petersburg Bowl and coming just a point shy of knocking off Mississippi State. The Warhawks have had just one winning season in the past 11, but they might be the most improved team in the country this year, and they are certainly one of the most experienced. They bring back seventeen starters, many of whom are multi-year starters, and they draw the Nos. 4-6 teams from the West in cross-divisional play, and they play (literally) the easiest overall schedule in the country, look for Miami to top the MAC East in 2017. Projected Record: 9-3 (7-1)

2. Ohio

A majority of Americans weren’t yet born the last time Ohio won a MAC Championship, but last year they came awfully close to changing that last season, falling six points short of Western Michigan in the title game. This year’s team will have a hard time repeating that success with big holes on the defense, and a question mark of which unproven sophomore will get the starting quarterback nod. The Bobcats face the 2nd-easiest schedule in the country, but I can’t pick them to break that drought without solid QB play, but they will still make a bowl. Projected Record: 8-4 (6-2)

T3. Bowling Green State

From 2013-15, Bowling Green won two MAC Championships in three years under Dave Clawson and Dino Babers, both of whom are now coaching in the ACC, BGSU needed a hire, and they chose a relative unknown, Texas Tech runningbacks coach Mike Jinks. After a 4-8 season in year one, a tough schedule, and only twelve returning starters, I don’t see a bowl game this year for the Falcons, but James Morgan could develop into one hell of a QB in a few years. Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5)

T3. Akron

The Zips (what a cool name) went 5-7 last year, almost making a bowl despite dealing with so many injuries, they started a wide receiver at quarterback. The real quarterback, Thomas Woodson, is back this year along with sixteen other returning starters. Akron will probably be a better team, but with one of the toughest schedules in the MAC, their record might actually go down. Projected Record: 4-8 (3-5)

T5. Kent State

Paul Haynes (12-35 in four seasons) comes into the fifth and final year of his contract on the hot seat, and he would probably need a bowl game to get renewed. With games on the road against Clemson, Marshall, Louisville, NIU, Ohio, and Western Michigan, that seems like a longshot. Dual threat quarterback Nick Holley could bring the Golden Flashes a couple upsets, but don’t be surprised if you see Kent State in next year’s coaching carousel article. Projected Record: 3-9 (1-7)

T5. Buffalo

I actually really liked the hire of Lance Leipold when the Bulls made it a couple years ago, and in his first season, he started 5-4, before dropping his last three to finish 5-7. Last year was a bit of a reality check, as Buffalo dropped back down to the bottom of the MAC with a 2-10 record. Tyree Jackson started as a freshman, so when he fully develops he’ll be at the top of the MAC, but this year, expect another 2-10 season for Buffalo. Projected Record: 2-10 (1-7)

WEST

T1. Toledo

Toledo has won nine or more games five of the last six years, but they haven’t made it to the MAC Championship Game since 2004, that should change in 2017. With the favorite for MAC MVP – quarterback Logan Woodside – at the helm, and perhaps the best receiving core in the conference, Toledo’s offense is sure to be one of the best in the MAC. Getting Nos. 2-4 in the West at home will also help, and Toledo is my pick to not only make it to the title game, but win it. Projected Record: 9-3 (7-1)

T1. Western Michigan

Western Michigan probably won’t reach the height of last year’s 12-1 team this season, but even without Zach Terrell, Corey Davis, P.J. Fleck, and the “Row the Boat” mantra this team will contend for a MAC Title again. Tim Lester, who was a quarterback for the Broncos in the ’90s takes over as head coach, and he will have the job of bringing Tom Flacco (whose statline for 2016 consisted of one incomplete pass) into the starting role. With Jarvion Franklin at runningback, the Broncos will be a threat in the West again, but a Novomber 24th game @ Toledo will mean they fall just shy of another championship.Projected Record: 9-3 (7-1)

3. Northern Illinois

Dave Doeren coached the Huskies all the way to an Orange Bowl in 2012, but after he left for NC State, Rod Carey took over. After going 8-0 in the MAC in 2013, the Huskies went 7-1, 6-2, and then 5-3. That is not the trend you want, and despite making the conference title in his first three years, Carey finds himself on the hot seat. He probably needs a bowl to save his job, and behind star runningback Jordan Huff, and Junior quarterback Ryan Graham, I think he will get there. Projected Record: 7-5 (5-3)

T4. Eastern Michigan

Eastern Michigan made it’s first bowl in 29 years in 2016, and they finished with a winning record (7-6). Brogan Roback threw for nearly 2,700 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, but the schedule gets a lot tougher, as the Eagles draw Miami and Ohio out of the East, and will face two power five opponents on the road out of conference. I don’t see back-to-back bowl appearances for EMU. Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5)

T4. Central Michigan

Central Michigan has been bowl eligible every year since 2005, save a 2-year stretch in 2010/11, but I don’t see the Chippewas returning to the postseason in 2017. CMU returns a majority of their starters, but they lose their most valuable one, all-conference quarterback Cooper Rush.  Shane Morris, a grad transfer from Michigan looks to replace Rush, but Morris has started just two games in his career, and Central Michigan draws both Miami and Ohio from the East. Projected Record: 5-7 (3-5)

6. Ball State

Last year the Cardinals decided to shake things up and brought in former quarterback Mike Neu as the new head in the program, and the Cards improved in year one, but still finished two games behind CMU, and held the worst record in the West. The Cardinals are returning starters at quarterback and runningback (both are still only juniors), but only return four total starters from the defense, play in the much tougher West division, and draw Miami out of the East. Ball State could be a bowl-quality team, but a tough schedule means they remain in the cellar of the West. Projected Record: 4-8 (2-6)

MAC Title Game: Toledo over Miami (OH)

All-C-USA Team & Awards

Offense

QB: Logan Woodside – Toledo
RB: James Gilbert – Ball State
RB: Jarvion Franklin – Western Michigan
WR: Scott Miller – Bowling Green
WR: Cody Thompson – Toledo
TE: Tyler Conklin – Central Michigan
OL: John Keenoy – Western Michigan
OL: Tim McAuliffe – Bowling Green
OL: Jake Pruehs – Ohio
OL: Chukwuma Okorafor – Western Michigan
OL: Max Scharping – Northern Illinois

Defense

DL: Joe Ostman – Central Michigan
DL: Jeremiah Harris – Eastern Michigan
DL: Joe Cunningham – Kent State
DL: Anthony Winbush – Ball State
LB: Ulysees Gilbert III – Akron
LB: Quentin Poling – Ohio
LB: Malik Fountain – Central Michigan
DB: Heath Harding – Miami
DB: Darius Phillips – Western Michigan
DB: Javon Hagan – Ohio
DB: Shawun Lurry – Northern Illinois

Special Teams

K: Louie Zervos – Ohio
P: Joseph Davidson – Bowling Green

MVP: Logan Woodside, QB – Toledo
Offensive Player of the Year: Cody Thompson, WR – Toledo
Defensive Player of the Year: Joe Ostman, DL – Central Michigan
Newcomer of the Year: Shane Morris, QB – Central Michigan

247Sports Recruiting Rankings

  1. Toledo
  2. Bowling Green
  3. Western Michigan
  4. Ball State
  5. Miami
  6. Central Michigan
  7. Ohio
  8. Northern Illinois
  9. Buffalo
  10. Eastern Michigan
  11. Kent State
  12. Akron

Five Quick Questions

Most Improved? Miami
Who’s taking a step back? Western Michigan
Outlook for WMU? MAC Contender but not favorite
Most underrated team in the East? Akron
Toledo’s ceiling? 10-4 or 11-3 season

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