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2008 CFN MAC Team Capsules
Eastern Michigan QB Andy Schmitt
Eastern Michigan QB Andy Schmitt
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 8, 2008


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East
Akron | Bo. Green | Buffalo | Kent St | Miami Univ. | Ohio | Temple
West Ball State | Central Mich | Eastern Mich | No Illinois | Toledo | Western Mich

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MAC Championship: Miami over Western Michigan

East

1. Miami University
Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player:
OG Dave DiFranco, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Clayton Mullins, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The pieces are there for a decent season, and with the loaded defense returning, the goal will be efficiency and ball security; two things the attack didn't do last year. There's an obscene wealth of quality depth at running back and receiver, but someone has to step up in both areas and become a true No. 1. The offensive line will be fine if it stays healthy, but a slew of injuries early would bring the machine to a grinding halt. The key will be QB Daniel Raudabaugh, a big, experienced passer who has shown flashes of greatness mixed with too many interceptions.
Defense: If this isn't the MAC's best defense, it'll be a close second with almost everyone returning. Nine regular starters and two with starting experience are back led by the dynamic linebacking trio of Clayton Mullins, Joey Hudson and Caleb Bostic. Mullins is the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year while Hudson and Bostic could be first-team all-stars. The defensive line has size and is great at getting into the backfield, but it needs to be a bit tighter against the run. The safety tandem of Robbie Wilson and Jordan Gafford is excellent, while the corners are just good enough to keep the MU pass defense among the best in the league. The big key will be stopping the spread offense, which it didn't do last year against Minnesota, Cincinnati or Central Michigan.      

2. Bowling Green
Predicted record: 5-7  Conf. record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player:
QB Tyler Sheehan, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
DE Diyral Briggs, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The offense went from being all-pass, no-run in 2005, to all run and no pass in 2006, and then back to being a passing attack finishing second in the MAC averaging 279 yards per game through the air, and 12th in rushing averaging a mere 124 yards per game. There could be more of a balance with four excellent runners, led by Anthony Turner, to work around, but the line will be mediocre with three starters needing to be replaced from last season's disappointing front wall. The receiving corps, led by the multi-talented Freddie Barnes, will be excellent, and Tyler Sheehan is a rising star at quarterback, if he's able to fend off JUCO transfer Andrew Beam. It'll be an explosive attack again, and now it has to be consistent.
Defense: Just when the defense appeared to be getting strong, then came the GMAC Bowl loss to Tulsa to set the tone for the off-season. The veteran group, with nine returning starters, came out roaring this spring led by DE Diyral Briggs, who appears to be ready to become a terror in the backfield. Erique Dozier is a tackling machine in the middle, while safety P.J. Mahone and corners Antonio Smith and Kenny Lewis star in a good secondary. The key will be a run defense that got run over by everyone. The pass defense will be fine helped by an improved pass rush, but it won't matter if opposing offenses keep pounding away for over 200 yards per game.

T3. Ohio
Predicted record: 5-7  Conf. record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player:
TE Andrew Mooney, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
CB Mark Parson, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The offense became more balanced last season averaging 214 passing yards and 151 rushing yards per game, and the trend should continue as the attack uses more spread formations and gets away from the power-I that Kalvin McRae used to run for huge yards. McRae is gone and there isn't much in the way of power to replace him. There's plenty of speed and quickness in the backfield, but there isn't a true No. 1 back. The passing game will be efficient with either Theo Scott or star JUCO transfer Boo Jackson under center, and the receiving corps could be the best the Bobcats have had in years. The tight end tandem of Andrew Mooney and David Carter is tremendous. The line will be serviceable, but nothing special.
Defense: On experience alone the Ohio defense should be better after a tremendously disappointing year. There's enough depth from top to bottom to hold up longer after dying in way too many second halves of games, and there will be good competition for spots. There are good pieces to work around, especially in the secondary where the corner tandem of Julian Posey and Mark Parson should be terrific. They'll be even better if end Jameson Hartke and the defensive front can continue to generate consistent pressure. The linebackers aren't stars, but they're experienced and solid. Overall, the D has to be better, and it will be.

T3. Temple
Predicted record: 5-7  Conf. record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player:
C Alex Derenthal, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
DT Terrance Knighton, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The Owls are looking for more of an identity after finishing dead last in the MAC in total offense and scoring, but while things weren't all that great, the attack was far better than it was over previous seasons. Now there are ten returning starters and a ton of young players who have the speed to explode. Goal one is to generate more of a running game with a big, experienced offensive line, led by center Alex Derenthal, looking to pound away and be more physical. QB Adam DiMichele will be back healthy, after breaking his leg late in the year, and should be efficient, and now someone other than Bruce Francis has to make more big plays for the passing game.
Defense: 11 starters return along with a ton of backup experience to one of the MAC's top defense. The D gave up plenty of yards, but it was the epitome of a bend-but-don't-break group that stiffened up big-time in the red zone. The secondary should be the strength with safeties Dominique Harris and Jaiquawn Jarrett forming one of the league's best tandems, while the real improvement should be on a line revolving around tackles Terrance Knighton and Andre Neblett. The ends have experience, and there's more potential for a steady pass rush with Junior Galette likely to approach double-digit sacks. The linebacking corps has the speed and the experience; now it has to be better.

5. Akron
Predicted record: 4-8  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
OT Chris Kemme, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Kevin Grant, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The offense has been a mega-disappointment over the last two seasons with nothing working on a regular basis last year. The big issue was the quarterback play that failed to keep the offense moving, so now the pressure is on Chris Jacquemain to step up his play now that he's unquestionably the main man. The ground game should be better with Dennis Kennedy likely to be back to his sophomore year form, while there are good reserves waiting in the wings. The receiving corps might not have any sure things, but with top safety Andre Jones and West Virginia transfer Jeremy Bruce stepping in, it'll be interesting. The line could be the best in the MAC if it can stay healthy.
Defense: The 3-3-5 defense struggled at coming up with big stops and should be a problem this year with the emphasis on the team's biggest question mark: the secondary. Bryan Williams, the team's top rusher last year, moves to strong safety where he should be fine, but the corners will be an issue and there's no depth whatsoever. The backups are an issue all across the board. The line, thanks to the addition of former Iowa Hawkeye Ryan Bain in the middle, will be fine, and Kevin Grant and Doug Williams will make the linebacking corps solid. This will be a decent D in time, but it's hardly going to be great.

T6. Buffalo
Predicted record: 3-9   Conf. record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player:
RB James Starks, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
SS Davonte Shannon, Soph.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: With ten starters returning to a not-that-bad, but inconsistent attack, this should be the best Buffalo attack since the program made the jump into the big-time. QB Drew Willy is a solid, efficient veteran who makes everyone around him better. The receiving combination of Naaman Roosevelt and Ernest Jackson will combine for close to 120 catches, and James Starks is a 1,000-yard back who can carry the team through the rough patches. The line should be decent, but it needs to find one thing that it does well. Backups across the board are an issue, but a slew of recruits will get their chances to make noise early on.
Defense: The defense made excellent strides last season, and while there are some major positives going into this season, there's one big, screaming problem: the linebackers. Not only is the corps full of smallish corner-sized players, it's insanely young with at least two freshmen, including true freshman Obi Ezemma, needed to play big roles. Trevor Scott is gone off the line, but it's a good front four that should be strong up the middle with the expected emergence of Ronald Hilare and Anel Montanez. The secondary is the strength of the defense, and maybe the team with sophomore Davonte Shannon one of the MAC's best safeties. All four starters return, and there's excellent depth.

T6. Kent State
Predicted record: 4-8   Conf. record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player:
RB Eugene Jarvis, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Derek Burrell, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The Kent State offense was all about finding ways to get the diminutive Eugene Jarvis going on the ground, and it was an effective attack with running quarterback Julian Edelman was in. Edelman broke his arm, it was musical quarterbacks, and the team went in the tank. Now the plan is to get more of a passing game going with Giorgio Morgan getting every shot to see time under center this year, but the talent in the receiving corps is questionable. The offensive line is big and good at opening holes for the running game, but it's not good in pass protection.
Defense: The defense wasn't quite the killer it was in 2006, but it was above average and was fantastic at getting into the backfield. Expect more of the same with great pass rushers on the end, led by Kevin Hogan, and the linebacking corps could be fantastic with hitting machine Derek Burrell leading the way along with good run stoppers Stevon Moss and Cedrick Maxwell. The secondary is young, with four sophomores playing big roles, but everyone can hit and CB Rico Murray is special.   

West

T1. Western Michigan
Predicted record:
8-4  Conf. record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player:
WR Jamarko Simmons, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
CB Londen Fryar, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The offense has a strong group of starters but the depth needs to be developed. Tim Hiller is a veteran quarterback coming off a 3,021-yard season, but he'll be challenged by Drew Burdi for time if interceptions are a problem again. The line loses some key starters off last year's disappointing front five, but it's big and has decent potential. Big Jamarko Simmons is one of the MAC's best receivers and tight end Branden Ledbetter is a go-to target who'll earn all-star honors, and now a second wide receiver has to emerge. Brandon West is a do-it-all threat out of the backfield with good speed and terrific hands. Overall, the attack leans on the passing game. If it's not efficient, the offense struggles.
Defense: Everyone is back on a D that was one of the MAC's best at getting into the backfield and was sensational against the pass. The team is loaded in the secondary with All-MAC talents across the board led by corner Londen Fryar and the safety tandem of Louis Delmas and C.J. Wilson. The line needs to be stronger against the run, but tackle Nick Varcadipane is a great anchor to work around and Zach Davidson and Greg Marshall are excellent pass rushing ends. The linebacking corps wasn't bad, but it needs to be more disruptive with Boston McCornell needing to become a more dangerous pass rusher, to go along with his run stopping ability, while the return of Austin Pritchard on the outside from a knee injury will be a major plus.

T1. Toledo
Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player:
QB Aaron Opelt, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
SS Barry Church, Jr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The offense blew up to become the best in the MAC averaging 448 yards and 33 points per game. There might not be that kind of explosion and production again, but it'll be a really, really good attack led by QB Aaron Opelt and the league's best receiving duo in Stephen Williams and Nick Moore. The loss of the offense's two top players, OT John Greco and RB Jalen Parmele, leaves mile-wide holes, but the backfield should be fine if DaJuane Collins runs as well as expected. The tackles will be the early issue. The interior of the line will be fantastic, but Mike VanDerMeulen and Chris Meenan have to be productive from day one.
Defense: 
Things can't be any worse. Thanks to a slew of key injuries, the defense went into the tank finishing 102nd in the nation allowing 444 yards per came and was 116th in the country, and dead last in the MAC, in scoring defense giving up 39 points per game. Nothing worked. There wasn't any run defense, the secondary struggled, and worst of all, there wasn't any pass rush or burst into the backfield finishing tied for dead last in the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. Expect a big improvement with FS Tyrrell Herbert and ends Sean Williamson and Douglas Westbrook returning from injury and LB Archie Donald back from academic probation. The safeties, helped by Barry Church and Lester Richmond, are special, but there's a lack of size up front and the 4-2-5 alignment isn't going to help the run defense too much. Compared to last year, though, things are going to be far better.

3. Central Michigan
Predicted record: 6-6  Conf. record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player:
QB Dan LeFevour, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Nick Bellore, Soph.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 
Offense: The Chippewa offense led the MAC in scoring and was second in total offense, and now it should be even better with all the key parts returning. The only significant loss is at right guard with Eric Tunney gone, but Iowa State transfer Joe McMahon could turn out to be even better. Dan LeFevour is the best all-around quarterback in college football not named Tim Tebow, the 1-2 receiving punch of Bryan Anderson and Antonio Brown combined for 192 catches last year and should hover around the 200-grab mark again, and the backfield is deep and talented with Carl Volny stepping up this off-season to combine with Ontario Sneed and Justin Hoskins to form a potentially devastating rotation. The line gets four starters back and should be among the MAC's best, but there's no developed depth.
Defense: The defense was abysmal against any offense with a pulse finishing 118th in the nation against the pass, last in the MAC in total D, and 111th in the country in scoring defense. The secondary should be better with eight good players returning to form a nice rotation led by corner Josh Gordy. The coaching staff will play around with the overall combination all season long to find the right fit for the other three spots. Nick Bellore is a strong presence in the middle of the linebacking corps and Mike Petrucci is a high-riser on the weakside, but this is a very, very light overall group that'll have problems holding up against the stronger running teams. The biggest issue is the defensive line that didn't get much of a pass rush when end Frank Zombo wasn't on, and now has to replace all the size. The projected four tackles in the rotation average around 250 pounds. The word you're looking for is uh-oh.

T4. Ball State
Predicted record: 6-6  Conf. record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player:
QB Nate Davis, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Bryant Haines, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: Nine starters return to an explosive offense that should be the most talented in the MAC. QB Nate Davis, TE Darius Hill, WR Dante Love and OT Robert Brewster are all NFL prospects who might be the best in the league at their respective positions, while there are great role players to fill in the rest of the gaps. The running game improved last year and should be even better if RB MiQuale Lewis is over his torn ACL. The only problem is the lack of a power round game with three very small, very quick backs to work with. In a pinch, the offense will always rely on Davis, Love and Hill to come up with the big plays. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
Defense:  The defense wasn't anything special, allowing 432 yards and 28.3 points per game, but it was better than it had been over the previous three years. Now, any production to help out the high-octane offense will be a plus. There's enough experience returning to improve, but there needs to be more production against the run. The coaching staff will do what it can to get more of a pass rush and make more plays in the backfield, but taking the ball away shouldn't be too much of a problem after coming up with 19 interceptions last year and getting three starters in the secondary back. LB Bryant Haines is a strong all-around playmaker to work around, while end Brandon Crawford should make a push for first-team All-MAC honors.

T4. Northern Illinois
Predicted record: 5-7  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
RB Justin Anderson, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
DE Larry English, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The offense isn't going to change up too much right away under offensive coordinator Matt Linegrover, but that's only because of the personnel. If Dan Nicholson is at quarterback, there will be an attempt at balance with a big passing game to go along with Justin Anderson and the ground game. However, the coaching staff wants to run the spread and get the quarterback moving, and that's where redshirt freshman Chandler Harnish and DeMarcus Grady could step in and take over. The line struggled in run blocking last year, but it should be far better with four good starters, led by RT Jon Brost and C Eddie Adamski, and good depth. Britt Davis and Matt Simon will be two strong, veteran receivers once their shoulders heal up.
Defense: Let's try this again. Injuries crushed a promising defense that should be night-and-day better than last year when it allowed 434 yards and 31 points per game. First and foremost, the front seven has to be far better against the run. It's never a positive when two safeties finish 1-2 in tackling. The undersized tackles have to do a better job against spread attacks, and they have to be stouter against power running teams, and the linebackers need to be better at making plays close to the line. The return of MLB Tim McCarthy from a knee injury and the move of top-tackling safety Alex Kube to the outside should make things better. DE Larry English might be the MAC's best defensive player, and the secondary should be fine, especially at corner, if the safeties are consistent early on.

6. Eastern Michigan
Predicted record: 4-8  Conf. record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player:
QB Andy Schmitt, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Daniel Holtzclaw, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The offense made big improvements last season in all areas after a rough 2006, and now the potential is there for a big year with seven returning starters and plenty of depth all the way around. The offense begins and ends with the quarterback production. Allegedly there's a quarterback battle, but Andy Schmitt is the veteran who makes the attack go with his feet and an improving arm. The offensive line doesn't have any stars, but it's not that bad and it's full of big, experienced players who'll be looking to be more physical. The big question marks are at running back and receiver. There's experience at receiver, but no one stands out. Five backs will be working to get the running game going with big, fast Terrence Blevins looking to have a breakout senior season.
Defense: The defense gave up 424 yards and 31 points per game, but major improvements were made. All the way around, last year was a bit of a step back to potentially take a nice leap forward with a youth movement underway. This is still a very, very young defense, but at least some key sophomores like corners Kevin Long and Arrington Hicks, FS Ryan Downard, DT Tyler Palsrok and DE Adam Brockman are now ready. The defense revolves around senior MLB Daniel Holtzclaw, who'll be in the hunt for MAC Defensive Player of the Year. There needs to be more of a steady pass rush and the run defense needs to be stronger. Part one of that is possible with plenty of speed and quickness on the front seven, but part two will be a problem with a woefully undersized linebacking corps (outside of Holtzclaw) and a relatively light front four.