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MAC Week One Fearless Predictions
Posted Aug 30, 2006

Preview and predictions for the week one MAC games

East  Akron | Bowling Green | Buffalo | Kent State | Miami Univ. | Ohio
West  Ball State | Central Mich | Eastern Mich | Northern Illinois | Toledo | West Michigan

MAC Week One Fearless Predictions, Part 2

MAC Game of the Week

Northwestern at Miami University  7:30 pm EST ESPNU  Thursday, August 31st
Why to watch: It's more than a tad ironic that Northwestern has to play its first game after the Randy Walker tragedy against Walker's old alma mater. Obviously the focus will be clearly on the Wildcats in their first game without their beloved head man with Miami planning to honor its former coach before the game, but to switch gears to on the field, each team needs this win. With home games against New Hampshire and Eastern Michigan coming up, Northwestern should go on a great run before three nasty road games. Miami can't let the emotion of the game keep it from letting down against what's certain to be an intense bunch.
Why Northwestern might win: Northwestern might be undergoing some changes in offensive personnel, but that's nothing compared to what Miami has to go through on defense with only two starters returning. The RedHawk linebacking corps will be the biggest issue and should get steamrolled over by the strong Wildcat offensive line. Northwestern's running game should dominate and control the tempo.
Why Miami University might win: It's not like the Wildcat defense will be able stop anyone. One of the nation's worst run defenses last season still has major issues at tackle and doesn't have linebacker Tim McGarigle anymore to clean things up. Running back should be Miami's strength; 200 rushing yards shouldn't be a problem.
Who to watch: Former Northwestern star linebacker Pat Fitzgerald isn't making any excuses for his inexperience as the youngest head coach in college football and is demanding the team play like it plans on going to Pasadena. While Wildcat fans aren't exactly planning on spending early January in Los Angeles, there's an excitement over the enthusiasm, as tempered as it might be after the death of Walker, that Fitzgerald is bringing to the program. This would be a tough game for Northwestern to win if Walker was still the coach and everything was in place, so the spotlight will be on Fitzgerald to see how he handles the pressure.
What will happen: It's never fair to anyone to use the emotional pain of what Northwestern is feeling and apply it to a football game, but there's no way this Wildcat team will come out any less than jacked up. Northwestern's ground game will be more effective than Miami's.
CFN Prediction
: Northwestern 35 ... Miami University 31
... Line: Northwestern -3.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 2.5 
Final Score: 

Boston College at Central Michigan  6 pm EST  ESPN2  Thursday, August 31st
Why to Watch:  It’s rare for a BCS conference team to head to a MAC outpost, especially to start the season, but BC does that to open the season.  Boston College QB Matt Ryan is entrenched as the starter and is a gutty, tough performer who excels at crunch time. He needs to use this game to take things to another level. Watch out for how well he does early on. If he's on, BC should be formidable in ACC play starting next week against Clemson. Central Michigan gave Indiana all it could handle before losing late in last season's opener and is just good enough to throw a scare into the Eagles.
Why Boston College Might Win: The Eagle offensive line should continue to roll led by  All-America candidate Josh Beekman, and the BC running backs should benefit greatly. Indiana beat CMU last year by wearing down the Chippewa D with the ground game, and the same formula should work fine here. The BC safeties, Ryan Glasper and Jamie Silva, are among the best pairs in the east; they should feast off new CMU starting quarterback Brian Brunner.
Why Central Michigan Might Win: Head coach Brian Kelly has this team believing that they can beat anyone, anywhere, any time. On national television, he’ll have his Chippewas stoked and ready. CMU DE Daniel Bazuin is the only fly in the Boston College offensive line’s ointment with the speed and skill to get to Ryan from down one.  He’s one of the best pass rushers in the nation and will command double, and even triple, team action all night long.
Who to Watch:  The Chippewa defense, physical as it may be, can’t go toe-to-toe with BC’s offensive line and running game.  As such, CMU RB Ontatio Sneed needs to have a solid night and move the chains to keep the Chippewa offense on the field and more importantly, the defense off of it. If he's held in check, this could be ugly.
What Will Happen:  Although Bazuin will have an effect on the passing game, eventually BC will bludgeon the Chippewas into submission with the running game by the fourth quarter.  The Eagles should control time of possession.
CFN Prediction: Boston College 28 ... Central Michigan 13 ... Line: Boston College -13.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 2 
Final Score: 

Temple at Buffalo  7 pm EST  Thursday, August 31st
Why to watch: It's more than just a battle between two of the nation's worst teams. Nebraska legend Turner Gill's daunting task to make Buffalo  competitive is only one-upped by Al Golden's impossible job to resurrect Temple after one of the most miserable seasons in college football history. This is the one of the few games each team will play this year against a team its own size. Buffalo averaged ten points per game last year; Temple averaged 9.73.
Why Temple might win: The Owl defense will give Buffalo several different looks. It's not like the Bulls need to be confused, but new defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio will mix things up enough to make it hard for the inexperienced UB offensive line to be consistent. This isn't likely to be any sort of a shootout, so any sort of home field advantage for Buffalo will likely be negated in a nearly dead-even matchup.
Why Buffalo might win: Temple is going through a much bigger transition than Buffalo. The Owls are still trying to figure out exactly who'll be the main man at quarterback, and that's obviously not a good thing when trying to run the spread offense. The UB defense should be far better out of the box than the Owl offense.
Who to watch: And the Temple starting quarterback will be .... ? After splitting time among the candidates all through fall practice, it should be a battle throughout the first part of the season between Colin Clancy, who isn't all that big and isn't all that fast, and 6-4 Shane Kelly. Each saw a little bit of time as a true freshman. Sophomore Adam DiMichele and freshman Vaughn Charlton are also in the hunt for time. There aren't any QB questions at UB where sophomore Drew Willy has the potential to grow into the team's signature star. It has to start now.
What will happen: Buffalo will be far crisper on offense and should provide Turner Gill with as many wins as former head coach Jim Hofher got last year.
CFN Prediction
: Buffalo 24 ... Temple 16
... Line: Buffalo -6
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 1 
Final Score: 

Eastern Michigan at Ball State 7:30 pm EST   Thursday, August 31st
Why to watch: Two MAC West teams hit the ground running in an important early battle for conference survival. Obviously it's a long season and anything can happen, but neither team has much margin for error in the West race with Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan and Central Michigan to deal with. These two played a thriller last year with Ball State winning 26-25, and with two potentially strong offenses and relatively dead even talent, they should put on a good show.
Why Eastern Michigan might win: The Ball State secondary is hardly a strength. EMU's Eric Deslauriers is one of the league's premier receivers and should have few problems making several big plays. The Cardinal linebackers will need at least a few games to get settled and are all but certain to make a few big mistakes.
Why Ball State might win: The Cardinal offense should be more balanced and bit more effective than EMU's. While the Eagles are trying to break in new quarterback Tyler Jones, BSU's Joey Lynch is expected to be one of the best in the MAC. The Eagle pass defense isn't going to stop anyone all year; Lynch should pick it apart.
Who to watch: Ball State's best linebacker, Brad Seiss, tore up his knee in spring ball and was expected to miss the season. Now it looks like he might be able to come back some time in late September. Until then, the Cardinals have to hope Martin Dunbar can handle the work. With versatile senior Anthony Corpuz out for the year, the BSU linebacking corps can't afford any more injuries.
What will happen: While it won't always be pretty, expect several big plays and lots of passing. Ball State ended last year winning three of its final four games and will continue the hot streak thanks to a big game from Joey Lynch.
CFN Prediction
: Ball State 34 ... Eastern Michigan 27
... Line: Ball State -4.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 2
Final Score: 

Minnesota at Kent State  7:30 pm EST  Thursday, August 31st
Why to watch: Minnesota goes on the road to try to keep Kent State on an ugly slide. The Golden Flashes lost nine straight at the end of last year and could desperately use a splashy win to get the Doug Martin coaching era back on track. If the team isn't night-and-day better than it was at the end of last year, this could be a brutally ugly exercise with the Gophers marching up and down the field. Minnesota needs to use this as a tune up for next week's road trip to California.
Why Minnesota might win: The Kent State defensive strength is in the secondary and not in the front seven. That's not a positive with the Minnesota ground game all but certain of rolling up 300 yards without breaking much of a sweat. The KSU offense will be a bit more balanced this year, but it'll still have to rely on its passing game to win. Minnesota's secondary isn't all that bad.
Why Kent State might win: There's not a Marion Barber or Laurence Maroney type of of runner in the Gopher backfield. The Golden Flash secondary has the potential to be the best in the MAC with solid corners Usama Young and Jack Williams good enough to hang with the Minnesota receivers. If the KSU defense can be merely adequate against the run, this might be interesting.
Who to watch: Will the Minnesota offense have to be more balanced or will it be business as usual? Is Amir Pinnix ready? The Minnesota junior running back ran for 206 yards against Michigan State last season and has the speed and quickness to shine here and there, but he's not big enough to be a workhorse. By far, Kent State had the nation's worst running game last year. Tony Jarvis and Eugene Jarvis have to show that things have changed.
What will happen: Kent State will be better, but it's still not going to have nearly enough on either side of the ball to stick around for more than a half.
CFN Prediction
Minnesota 41 ... Kent State 20 ... Line: Minnesota -16
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 2
Final Score: 

Toledo at Iowa State 8 pm EST  Thursday, August 31st
Why to watch: Doesn't this have the feel of a minor bowl game? Toledo might turn out to be the MAC's best team and is more than capable of catching Iowa State in a shocker. The Rockets won three of their final four games last year including a 45-13 pasting of UTEP in the GMAC Bowl, while the Cyclones are looking for a big start after losing their last two games of 2005, including a 27-24 loss to TCU in the Houston Bowl, by a total of six points. With a nasty schedule ahead, Iowa State needs all the wins it can get early on. Toledo is hoping to start of the season on the right foot before jumping into MAC play next week against Western Michigan.
Why Toledo might win: While Iowa State has a strong enough team to challenge for the Big 12 North title, it'll take a little while for everything to come together. The defense has some massive holes to fill at linebacker and in the secondary, so if UT can get off to a hot start and establish its ground game in the second half, it has a shot at pulling off the road upset. The Rocket running backs and experienced line are more than good enough to control the tempo.
Why Iowa State might win: Toledo starting quarterback Clint Cochran is hardly an inexperienced rookie, but this he didn't do much in his only real test last season losing to Fresno State 44-14. The Cyclone crowd will be jacked up and should make things tough on the sophomore.
Who to watch: Toledo starting quarterback Clint Cochran is hardly an inexperienced rookie, but this he didn't do much in his only real test last season losing to Fresno State 44-14. The Cyclone crowd will be jacked up and should make things tough on the sophomore in the first game after the strong Bruce Gradkowski era. ... Iowa State running back Stevie Hicks is the difference maker in the attack. When he's healthy and productive, the Cyclones have the offensive balance to take the heat off QB Bret Meyer. Since he likely won't be given the ball 30+ times, a second back has to establish himself right off the bat with Jason Scales nursing a knee injury and Josh Johnson a true freshman.
What will happen: It'll be a battle for three quarters, but the Iowa State offense has too much experience (with ten starters returning) to not be far sharper than Toledo out of the gate.
CFN Prediction
Iowa State 38 ... Toledo 24 ... Line: Iowa State -7.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 3 
Final Score: 

MAC Week One Fearless Predictions, Part 2