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Preview 2012 - MAC Predicted Finishes
The early summer look at where we think each team will finish.
MAC East Conference Picks
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Preview 2012 - Predicted Conference Finishes
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2011 Record: 10-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 9-3
The MAC East powerhouse should have an even easier time with Temple gone to the Big East and with the top teams from the West - Northern Illinois and Toledo - not on the slate. The nastiest-looking East showdown should be against Bowling Green, and that's at home. With a stretch of five home games in seven dates and the two road games in the group at UMass and Miami University, the record should be fantastic. QB Tyler Tettleton should be in the mix for MAC Player of the Year honors while the Bobcat running game should be the Bobcat running game again. Three defense is loaded with the entire secondary back and most of the top players on the line returning.
2. Bowling Green
2011 Record: 5-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
Watch out. This should be the surprise team out of the MAC with a loaded offense and a defense that gets back ten starters for the 4-2-5 alignment. LB Dwayne Woods should be among the nation's most productive linebackers, while DT Chris Jones should be one of the MAC's best interior pass rushers. If the Falcons can beat who they're supposed to, they should be in the hunt for the MAC title with four of the final six games at home and with winnable road games against Akron and UMass.
3. Kent State
2011 Record: 5-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 6-6
The Golden Flashes were solid in Darrell Hazell's first season, and now the potential is there to be even better with a defense that should be among the best in the MAC - even with five starters gone - while the mediocre offense should be more consistent with plenty of experience returning. The schedule is just light enough to potentially come up with a strong record. There's a rough run of five road games in seven weeks before finishing up with Ohio, arguably the East's best team. With a wee bit more from the offense, though, Hazell should be able to coax six wins out of the season.
4. Miami University
2011 Record: 4-9, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 5-7
There's hope for a big improvement with four starters returning on the offensive front and with the talented pitch-catch combination of Zac Dysert to Nick Harwell certain to be among the best in the MAC. Eight starters are back on defense, but unless the offense can be better and more consistent, it's going to be tough to get through a tough East schedule. There's a good chance for a hot start with Southern Illinois, UMass, and Akron early on, but a nasty midsection of road trips to Cincinnati and Bowling Green and a home date against Ohio should make or break the season.
2011 Record: 1-11, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 2-10
Terry Bowden should make the Zips interesting after several seasons of complete and utter incompetence. There are enough veterans in place to expect a stronger season from the woeful offense, even with the line needing to be almost totally rebuilt. The defense has to try to go on without tackling-machine linebacker Brian Wagner, who took off for Arizona. Morgan State is the only easy game with a trip to Florida International tough and the opener against UCF a likely loss. Four of the final six games are on the road, so don't expect a shocking turnaround even though there will be signs of life. Bowden will be good, it'll just take a little while.
2011 Record: 3-9, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 2-10
Can Jeff Quinn start to make things better? The offense has to find more consistency and needs the running game to rock behind a veteran line that could be the team's biggest strength. The defense gets eight starters back and can't help but be better with Quinn a solid defensive coach. With Morgan State and Kent State early on, coming up with two wins early should be possible. If that happens it could be a solid season with four home games in a row and only one true road game in the second half of the season. However, it'll take an upset or three to have any hope of getting to six wins.
2011 Record: 5-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 0-12
It's going to be a rough first year for new head coach Charley Molner with
no sure-thing wins and with some major rebuilding to do on both
sides of the ball. A steady quarterback has to be found; a
playmaking running back has to come forward; and the defense has
to find playmakers up front and in the secondary. There aren't
any games against FCS teams, and there aren't any breaks with
seven of the first ten games on the road. Making matters worse,
home games against Ohio and Bowling Green are against two of the
East's best teams, while Central Michigan will be far better. It
could be Buffalo or bust when it comes to getting a win.
MAC West Conference Picks
1. Western Michigan
2011 Record: 7-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 9-3
Is this when Western Michigan takes the big step forward to become the star of the MAC? It's possible with veteran quarterback Alex Carder back to lead the MAC's most dangerous passing attack. The running game should do more with all the top backs returning to work behind a terrific line full of experiences. One of the MAC's best defense returns just about everyone of note in the back seven. Getting Toledo and Northern Illinois at home will be a huge help for the MAC West title hopes, and the toughest conference road game will be either at Central Michigan or Kent State - that's not that bad.
2011 Record: 9-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
The coaching change won't matter too much considering Matt Campbell was brought up from within. However, he has a lot of holes to fill on offense with three starters gone off the line and undrafted playmaker Eric Page taking off in an attempt to be a pro. The defense also has some major holes to fill with losses on the line and in the secondary. Even with all the concerns it should be business as usual and the Rockets should be among the favorites to win the West. The team will be just good enough to have a puncher's chance against Arizona and Cincinnati, and there won't be a team on the MAC slate it can't beat.
3. Northern Illinois
2011 Record: 11-3, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
After finally getting over the hump and winning the MAC title, the Huskies have to rebuild and reload, starting with replacing Mr. Irrelevant - the last pick in the 2012 NFL Draft - quarterback Chandler Harnish. Coach Dave Doeren will get the most out of his offensive line, and the running game will be fine with a little big of time, but losing four starters up front is never a plus. The defense will have to carry things early on with Iowa, Kansas and a road trip to Army to deal with. Fortunately, the MAC schedule isn't too bad outside of a road game at Western Michigan to close out a run of three away games in four weeks. NIU won't roll through the conference slate, but it'll still be a dangerous player in the race.
4. Central Michigan
2011 Record: 3-9, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 6-6
It's been a rough few years under coach Dan Enos, but that should start to change this season. This is when the payoff should come with Ryan Radcliff one of the MAC's most dangerous quarterbacks. He gets to work behind a veteran line and with most of the top targets returning. The entire defensive front is back along with most of the secondary, but there are miles to go to be decent. The first half of the schedule is a bear, and the record won't be anything special early on, but the run should come late with four home games in a five-week stretch before closing out at UMass.
5. Ball State
2011 Record: 6-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 4-8
The Cardinals had a nice first season under Pete Lembo, coming up with a 6-6 record with no defense and an inconsistent offense. However, the easy schedule had a lot to do with the nice record. This year it'll be tough to improve upon the success with four of the last five games on the road and with the five home games all tough. An improved Eastern Michigan isn't going to be a layup in the opener, while it'll take a shocker to beat South Florida, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, and Ohio. Even so, BSU should be just good enough to avoid a disastrous season; it just won't be a special campaign.
6. Eastern Michigan
2011 Record: 6-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 3-9
Will Ron English be able to capitalize on the breakthrough 2011 campaign? No. The Eagles are probably going to be better, but the record won't reflect it. The offense ran well but struggled to score, and now it gets back four starters up front and all the key parts in the backfield. The defense has to do some retooling, but English appears to have stocked the shelves just enough to get by. However, the schedule isn't going to be a breeze by any stretch with Illinois State a good FCS team to battle and with Ball State, Kent State, Bowling Green, and Central Michigan far stronger.