2013 MAC Preview - West Team Breakdown
Toledo QB Bernard Reedy
Preview 2013 - CFN MAC West Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish
MAC West Team By Team
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T1. Northern Illinois
2013 CFN Prediction: 9-3
2013 CFN MAC Prediction: 7-1
Offense: Eight starters are back to an offense that led the MAC in scoring, yards and rushing, and while it would be nice if there was a No. 1 receiver to rely on, and it would be great if a go-to running back emerges early on, this should once again be a devastating attack. Quarterback Jordan Lynch will put up mega-stats again as one of the nation's top dual-threat playmakers working behind a veteran line that welcomes back four starters up front. The receivers will be fine, but Tommylee Lewis and Da'Ron Brown have to be bigger playmakers, while Akeem Daniels needs to shine as the main back.
Defense: The defense was okay two years ago on the way to the MAC title. Last year it was fantastic considering opposing offenses had to bomb away to try to keep up the pace. Now there's a little bit of work to do on the front seven after losing five starters, but there's athleticism and pass rushing options to try replacing terrors Sean Progar and Alan Baxter up front. The secondary is by far the biggest strength with three starters returning along with excellent depth. It'll be an attacking D that comes up with its share of big plays, but overall there will be a step back.
2013 CFN Prediction: 8-4
2013 CFN MAC Prediction: 7-1
Offense: The offense didn't exactly take a year off, but it didn't quite crank out the big numbers expected. That has to change this season with nine returning starters including all the big guns and the skill spots and four good blockers up front. Terrance Owens is a veteran passer who has to rebound from a lousy finish, and he should with Bernard Reedy and a loaded receiving corps to work with. David Fluellen is a big, fast, NFL-caliber back working behind an athletic line full of veterans. Zac Kerin is one of the nation's top centers, while Greg Mancz is an all-star at guard.
Defense: Just about everyone of note is back on a loaded offense that should put up huge numbers. It might need to considering the defense is going to be a work in progress after finishing 109th in the nation in yards allows and was lit up by everyone and anyone who wanted to throw. There are several options at all spots, and it's going to take a while to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, especially in the secondary where playmakers have to be found around corner Cheatham Norrils. Linebacker will also be an issue with Dan Molls, Robert Bell and their 266 tackles are gone. A steady pass rush has to emerge, hoping for more from Jayrone Elliott and the return of a healthy Christian Smith on the outside.
3. Western Michigan
2013 CFN Prediction: 7-5
2013 CFN MAC Prediction: 6-2
Offense: It wasn't the unstoppable offensive juggernaut everyone expected it would be, but it wasn't too bad averaging 439 yards per game and doing a decent job in shootouts. Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has some nice pieces in place, but it's going to take some work. Tyler Van Tubbergen did a great job of filling in for a banged up Alex Carder at quarterback, and while he threw too many interceptions, he put up big yards. The receiving corps that was such a concern turned into a strength, helped by the emergence of Jaime Wilson, who exploded out of the gate but fizzled late. All four top running backs return to fill their roles and form a good rotation, but there might not be too much room to move behind a line that's going to need lots and lots of time.
Defense: The defense needs to be better at taking the ball away, and it has to come up with a few more consistent pass rush, but it wasn't miserable. It wasn't a rock, and it's not going to be this year, either, with defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham moving some parts around to go with more of a true 4-3. The defensive front should form a decent rotation around nose guard Travonte Boles, but the big move is at one of the outside linebacker spots with leading-tackler Johnnie Simon moving over from safety. The secondary won't be bad as long as everyone stays healthy, but it's going to take some time to develop the depth and find the right parts for the right positions.
2013 CFN Prediction: 8-4
2013 CFN MAC Prediction: 5-3
Offense: The offense clicked averaging 457 yards and 33.6 points per game with a strong passing game and a terrific ground attack. The only real concern coming into the year is a revamped line that should be fine, but only gets back one full-time starter. If the blocking is sharp again, everything else will fall into place with quarterback Keith Wenning one of the MAC's most experienced and effective passers getting to work with Willie Snead and all of the top targets from last year. The 1-2 rushing punch of Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks should combine for close to 2,000 yards, but the offense will mostly work around the direction of the rock-steady Wenning.
Defense: The defense that was such a disaster last season still needs plenty of work with several big changes all across the board. The D allowed 462 yards per game and didn't get any semblance of a pass rush outside of the 8.5 sacks from Jonathan Newsome. The run defense was pushed around too easily and the secondary was beaten deep way too often. Depth is a problem with the starting 11 still needing to be figured out in the 4-2-5 alignment that often uses a fifth defensive back like another linebacker. There must be more takeaways and more big plays, but more than anything else, the D has to find something it can do well.
5. Central Michigan
2013 CFN Prediction: 3-9
2013 CFN MAC Prediction: 2--6
Offense: It's not like the Chippewa offense dominated, but it was excellent in several areas. Can the O be better without a 3,158-yard passer (Ryan Radcliff), a 74-catch No. 1 target (Cody Wilson) and the top overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft (OT Eric Fisher)? Maybe. Zurlon Tipton is a terrific running back to revolve the offense around, and despite the loss of Fisher, the line should be solid with good tackle Jake Olson coming back from injury. The receiving corps will stretch the field helped by deep threat Titus Davis, and eventually, the quarterback situation will be settled with a few tall, big, athletic options to play around with.
Defense: Pressure, pressure, pressure. That's the problem for a Chippewa defense with experience, athleticism and talent. The defense came up with a miniscule 49 tackles for loss and just 18 sacks on the season, and the lack of production in the backfield showed with too many big passing days allowed and too many problems against the better running teams. Whether CMU goes with a 4-2-5 alignment or plays around with the 4-3 again makes a big difference considering the strength is at linebacker. There are question marks at end, and playmakers have to emerge in the veteran secondary, but Shamari Benton and Justin Cherocci are two good linebackers to work everything around.
6. Eastern Michigan
2013 CFN Prediction: 1-11
2013 CFN MAC Prediction: 0-8
Offense: The Eagle offense has to find one thing that it can do on a high level, and this year, that might be the running game. This was wildly inconsistent and stunningly disappeared in too many key situations. Seven starters are back with decent depth across the board, and that includes the line that shuffled starting five in every game but one. There's speed and quickness in the backfield, but the passing game has to be more efficient and more dangerous to take the pressure off Bronson Hill and the good stable of backs. Tyler Benz took over the quarterback duties as the season went on, and while he showed signs of becoming a decent playmaker, like the rest of the offense he was way too inconsistent.
Defense: Just when it seemed like everything was going to be in place for a big year after finishing third in the MAC and 34th in the nation in total defense, everything went into the tank with no pass rush and a horrific year from the front line. The Eagles finished last in the nation against the run and was second-to-last in sacks, and now it's time to try generating more pressure and come up with more big plays. The secondary should eventually be fine with several pieces to play around with, but it's going to be a rough year unless Kalonji Kashama and the ends can hit a quarterback. Tackles Cy Maughmer and Travis Linser have to be far better, and while the entire starting linebacking corps has to be replaced, the new guys will be more athletic.