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2010 MAC Preview - Team By Team Looks
Buffalo LB Justin Winters
Buffalo LB Justin Winters
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 6, 2010


Preview 2010 - CFN MAC Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2010

MAC Team By Team


East
- Akron Preview | Bowling Green Preview | Buffalo Preview
- Kent St Preview | Miami Preview | Ohio Preview | Temple Preview

West
- Ball State Preview | Eastern Michigan Preview | Central Michigan Preview
- Northern Illinois Preview | Toledo Preview | Western Michigan Preview 
 
- 2010 MAC Preview | 2010 MAC Unit Rankings | 2010 MAC Schedules & Picks
- 2010 CFN All-MAC Team & Top 30 Players | Get MAC Tickets
- 2010 MAC Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish

Note: Predictions based on team talent and schedules.

Predicted Champion: Temple over Northern Illinois

MAC East Predicted Finish

T1. Temple
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: Offensive coordinator Matt Rhule has some great veteran pieces to work with. The idea will be for last year’s offense, ranked 92nd in the nation, to be balanced, but it’s going to stick with its strength, the ground attack, when needed. The running game will be among the best in the MAC with Bernard Pierce working behind a big, veteran offensive line that was arguably the most productive in the league last season. The receivers have upside with the top three receivers returning to go along with star freshman prospect Deon Miller. So what’s missing? The quarterback. Chester Stewart is a veteran, but he’s not efficient and he needs to prove he can produce with such a strong supporting cast.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s group should be the best in the MAC, and it might not even be close. The front seven is loaded with sure-thing all-stars from reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year, end Adrian Robinson, to linebacker Elijah Joseph, to DT Muhammad Wilkerson. This should be a brick wall against the run and great at getting into the backfield. The one issue is in the secondary after giving up way too many big plays. The corners are experienced, but suspect. They’ll get help from Jaiquawn Jarrett, who might be the best safety in the conference. There’s depth, talent, and the potential to get better. There’s a lot to get excited about.

T1. Ohio
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: Ohio was able to get to the MAC title game last season with an offense that finished tenth in the league and 106th in the nation, and now the attack should be far more explosive. It all starts at quarterback where Boo Jackson is back after missing most of last year with a shoulder injury, while Iowa State transfer Phil Bates is explosive enough to take over the job, or at least be a part of a rotation. USC transfer Kenny Ashley will add some pop to a running game that was woefully mediocre last year, but the strong receiving corps, led by LaVon Brazill and Terrence McCrae, can’t be ignored. The line will be serviceable with three returning starters and plenty of promise, but it’s not going to barrel over anyone and will be mediocre in pass protection.
Defense: The pass rush has been mediocre for the last few years and the defense hasn’t always been a brick wall, but defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow’s group is terrific at coming up with the big plays leading the nation with 37 takeaways. MLB Noah Keller has the potential to be the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, and he’ll be one of the nation’s top tacklers, but he’s one of just five returning starters. On the plus side, the secondary has plenty of veterans ready to step up and shine around pick-off artist Gerald Moore, and the defensive front should be tough against the run with three returning starters helped by 340-pound Marcellis Williamson in the middle to clog things up.

3. Kent State
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: The running game was 98th in the nation, the offense finished 96th in the country, and the team only averaged 19.25 points per game and got more than 39 just once (and that was a loss). So why is there reason for so much excitement? Nine starters are back and that doesn’t include the team’s best player, RB Eugene Jarvis, who missed most of last year with a kidney problem. The change to Nevada’s Pistol attack should be perfect for a team that’s overloaded with quickness. QB Spencer Keith is a decent runner and he should grow into the role of a dual-threat playmaker, while Jarvis, Jacquise Terry, and Dri Archer should go ballistic for the ground attack. Tyshon Goode leads a nice receiving corps that won’t play as prominent a role, but won’t be forgotten about, while the line returns three starters and should be quick enough to shine in the new attack.
Defense: The call came down from the coaching staff last year: get to the quarterback. After a 2008 with little pass rush and without enough big plays, the Golden Flashes spent half the season setting up camp in opposing backfields leading the MAC and finishing fourth in the nation in tackles for loss, and finishing 17th in the country in sacks. Expect more of the same with Monte Simmons leading a devastating pass rush up front, Cobrani Mixon in line for MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors at middle linebacker, and the safety combination of Brian Lainhart and Dan Hartman among the best in the league. The front four is too small and the developed depth isn’t there across the board, but as long as the core players are fine, the defense will be terrific.

T4. Bowling Green
Predicted Overall Record: 4-8
Predicted Conference Record: 4-4

Offense: Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero and head coach Dave Clawson know how to crank out big numbers. However, last year’s record-setting passing attack had veterans to run the show. This year’s attack has a battle at quarterback with four possible options for the starting job, no one ready to step up and become another Freddie Barnes at receiver, and a line that has no depth and might be shaky for the first part of the season. The running game that took a backseat to the air show last year needs be great early on, and that means Willie Geter needs to come up with a big year behind the beefy line. The offense and the coaches might be better than the players, but it’s not like the offense is going to fall flat; it’s just going to take a while for the attack to be consistent.
Defense: The defense was second in the MAC in 2008 and had to go through a major rebuilding job last year. It showed in the results finishing tenth in the league in scoring defense and doing nothing to get into the backfield. However, the coaching staff went hard after defenders in the 2009 recruiting class, and while it might take a while, this could be a stepping-stone for a big 2011. The front four should be the strength with some nice tackles and good potential on the ends, but the senior pass rushers, Angelo Magnone and Darius Smith, have to think about hitting a quarterback at some point. The linebacking corps is young, but led by Dwayne Woods, very promising, while the secondary isn’t nearly as bad as it may appear after losing three key starters. This isn’t going to be pretty at times, but again, this is a learning year so all the athletic underclassmen can figure out what they’re doing.

T4. Buffalo
Predicted Overall Record: 5-7
Predicted Conference Record: 4-4

Offense: Offensive coordinator Greg Forest and head coach Jeff Quinn want the offense to be fast, fast, fast. The tempo will be sped up big-time, but that might not match the strengths of the personnel. The Bulls get back four starters from one of the MAC’s strongest lines, and a four man rotation of backs should be among the best in the league. The problem is at quarterback, where rising star Zach Maynard bolted for Cal leading behind a battle between two young prospects, Jerry Davis and Alex Dennison. The receiving corps has potential, but it’s unproven and it has to prove it can quickly make up for the loss of Naaman Roosevelt and the team’s top three targets from last year.
Defense: New defensive coordinator, William Inge, will float back and forth from using an aggressive 3-4 and a standard 4-3 depending on the situation. With a lack of bulk up front, outside of Anel Montanez and Richie Smith, the D will need to make a play-by-play decision whether to go quick up front or allow the linebackers to be the stars. The linebacking corps would’ve been special, but a transfer (Darius Willis to Kansas) and a knee injury (Scott Pettigrew this offseason) has made veteran Justin Winters’ life harder. However, there’s enough returning experience to be fine. Davonte Shannon is an all-timer of a defensive back patrolling at safety after three straight All-MAC seasons, and he’s flanked by a deep, talented, and experienced group of corners.

6. Akron
Predicted Overall Record: 4-8
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: The spread might not be completely and totally scrapped, but new offensive coordinator John Latina will be bringing in a pro-style offense with a fullback, more of an emphasis on the running game, and more of a traditional passing attack. The key will be the play of the quarterbacks with sophomore Patrick Nicely needing to be steadier after an expectedly rocky freshman campaign. He has a veteran line to work behind led by All-MAC tackle Corey Woods, and there’s a good bevy of experienced running backs to take the heat off. Former star corner Jalil Carter will move over to the offensive side to take over the X position where he should be a nice complement to last year’s leading receiver, Jeremy LaFrance. Now it all has to come together with some production after the Zips finished 113th in the nation in total offense and 106th in scoring.
Defense: With the change in alignment from a 3-3-5 that was quirky, but rarely clutch on big drives, the defense should be stronger at getting into the backfield and should be more consistent. New defensive coordinator Curt Mallory has a nice front seven to work with led by the linebacking duo of Brian Wagner and Mike Thomas, who combined for 203 tackles last season. Three-time all-star Almondo Sewell will move from a 3-4 end to a true defensive tackle, while junior Hasan Hazime could be a breakout star as a big end. The secondary has a strange mix of inexperienced seniors and good young prospects, and it’ll take its lumps early on. Very quick, the defensive backs will get to the ball in a hurry, but there’s little size.

7. Miami University
Predicted Overall Record: 1-11
Predicted Conference Record: 1-7

Offense: New offensive coordinator Morris Watts has plenty of good pieces to work with, but there’s also a lot of work to be done to revive one of the nation’s worst offense. The yards were there thanks to the passing attack that had to bomb away to try to stay in games, but the ground attack went nowhere. The biggest problem was an offensive line that gave up a nation-worst 58 sacks, killing any hope for any consistency. Zac Dysert stepped in at quarterback and did what he could, and now he should be even more impressive with one of the MAC’s best receiving corps to work with. Holding on to the ball is a must, establishing the ground game is vital, and scoring early would be nice after coming up with a mere 27 points in the first quarter. With eight starters back, at least most of the key parts know what they’re doing.
Defense: The RedHawks didn’t exactly bounce back after a disappointing 2008, but it had a far better season finishing 70th in the nation in total defense after getting ripped apart way too often two years ago. The run defense was hardly a rock with the defensive front getting pushed around way too often, and while the secondary didn’t allow too many yards, that was mostly because the front seven wasn’t making any plays. All four starting defensive backs return, led by free safety Anthony Kokal, and there are some nice speedsters coming in from the recruiting class to provide more depth. Jerrell Wedge might be the best linebacker in the MAC, but he might have to be even better with the front four looking shaky (at least to start the year). There are some interesting transfers ready to help, but one of the nation’s worst pass rushes has to be far, far better.

MAC West Predicted Finish

1. Northern Illinois
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 8-0

Offense: The offense found a groove running the ball last year and that’s not going to change now. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover was able to get the ground game to average 195 yards per game, tops in the MAC, but the passing attack is just mediocre enough to cause a few problems. The line loses some key stars, but it should be good enough to pound away with, while the All-MAC back Chad Spann heads a dangerous group of runners who, along with the quarterback production, should combine for over 2,500 rushing yards. The question mark will be the knee of QB Chandler Harnish, and if he’s not ready to go, then the experienced and mobile DeMarcus Grady will add even more to the rushing mix. The receiving corps is big and experienced, but it won’t get too many chances to carry the offense.
Defense: After leading the MAC in total defense, finishing third in scoring defense, and finishing second in sacks and tackles for loss, there’s reason to be very, very excited with nine starters returning and a ton of depth to create several good battles for jobs up and down the defense. Thanks to the return of end Jake Coffman, who left the team for a brief period, the pass rush will still be phenomenal. The athleticism in the back seven has been upgraded by the last few recruiting classes, and the potential is there to be even better against the run with more speed at linebacker and the return of tackle Mike Krause from a heart ailment. The secondary needs to use its experience and athleticism to be far better and far more consistent. The pass rush will be there to help, and now the defensive backs have to start picking off more passes.

2. Central Michigan
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: There’s going to be a massive step back after finishing 13th in the nation in scoring and 24th in total offense. Gone is an all-timer of a quarterback in Dan LeFevour along with top targets Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson and top runner Bryan Schroeder. On the plus side, the line gets four starters back and could be the team’s biggest strength, but the receiving corps needs to find more talent to work around WR Kito Poblah and TE David Blackburn and a quarterback has to emerge. Ryan Radcliff is the best option, but he’ll need help around him. It won’t be a full-blown spread attack like it was in past years, and there will be more balance and more of an emphasis on the tight end and the running game. And yes, there will be some snaps taken under center.
Defense: The defense was along for the ride when all the success kicked in, but it was a major part of the show last year with the best showing in years. The D won’t be as nasty as last year when it led the MAC in scoring defense and was a rock against the run, but there’s hope for another strong season with a fantastic pair of linebackers in Nick Bellore and Matt Berning to work the back seven around, and veteran tackles Sean Murnane and John Williams back to anchor up front. There are some big replacements needing to be made on the ends and all four starters are gone from the secondary, but the new faces should be solid with a little bit of time.

3. Toledo
Predicted Overall Record: 5-7
Predicted Conference Record: 4-4

Offense: Loaded. The offense that led the MAC with 438 yards per game and scored fewer than 20 points just once (a shutout loss to Ohio State) gets four starters back on a rock of an offensive line, four good options at quarterback, four good options at running back, and several big, promising wide receivers to complement last year’s true freshman star, Eric Page. The only concerns early on will be the depth on the offensive line, there’s no experience among the backups, while a sure-thing No. 2 receiver has to step in for Stephen Williams to help out Page, but all the parts are there. It’ll be running back-by-rotation for a while, and Austin Dantin leads a good competition at quarterback with several options for the coaching staff to work with.
Defense: On paper, the Toledo defense should be a lot better even though there are several concerns with young players needing to play huge roles. The defense couldn’t stop giving up points in a rains-it-pours problem, and it would help if it could do one thing well. The 4-2-5 alignment needs to be more aggressive and needs to do far more to get into the backfield, and the hope will be for ends Douglas Westbrook and Alex Johnson to start to hit the quarterback early and often. Archie Donald leads a strong group of linebackers, but they might be busy. The secondary has a ton of young players with just one senior likely to play a prominent role, but there might be more growing pains after a disastrous 2009.

4. Western Michigan
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: A mega-flop last year with all the returning talent from an attack that was 11th in the nation in passing and first in the MAC in 2008, the offense will be changing up a wee bit and should be more productive. With a potentially devastating receiving corps, it’ll be hard not to keep throwing the ball as much as possible (after finishing 21st in the nation last year), but the line is built with massive road graders who could pave the way for a quick stable of backs if the offense wants to balance things out a bit more. The key will be the emergence of a new starting quarterback in place of Tim Hiller. Alex Carder has the talent and the upside, but he’ll need time to work through the growing pains.
Defense: After some puzzlingly bad seasons when the defense should’ve been a whole bunch better, defensive coordinator Steve Morrison is gone and Dave Cohen is in. The secondary is loaded with athletes and potential stars, the linebacking corps is deep and gets back two rock-solid tacklers in Mitch Zajac and Deauntay Legrier, and the line, by design, got a lot beefier with a few new huge recruits coming in to clog things up. Now it all has to come together. The Broncos have to get back to getting into the backfield and getting to the quarterback on a regular basis to help out the secondary. Basically, the defense has to find something it can do really well.

5. Ball State
Predicted Overall Record: 4-8
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: The lumps taken last year have to pay off this season. The Cardinals lost QB Nate Davis and almost the entire offensive line after the great 2008 season, and it showed as the quarterback play was awful and the line couldn’t stop a soft breeze from blowing into the backfield. This year, though, there are plenty of veterans and lots to get excited about with all five starters returning to the still-emerging line, the top five receivers returning, RB MiQuale Lewis getting a sixth year of eligibility, and good options at quarterback to hope for more consistency. It’s not going to be 2008 production-wise, but the O will be better.
Defense: Ball State’s defense came up with a nice year in 2008 but was overshadowed by the offense. There was a little overhauling to be done, but there were enough pieces in place to be better than it was. There wasn’t any pass rush even with two all-star defensive ends, but the return of Robert Eddins should help set the tone for the rest of the line. The linebacking corps has a strong twosome in Davyd Jones and Travis Freeman, who should combine for at least 200 tackles, and safety Sean Baker leads an improved secondary. This won’t be a rock of a defense by any stretch, but it should be stronger after finishing last in the MAC in pass efficiency D and 106th in the nation in sacks.

6. Eastern Michigan
Predicted Overall Record: 0-12
Predicted Conference Record: 0-8

Offense: The offense went south in a hurry last year once there were quarterback issues and injury problems. Now the goal is to develop running quarterback Alex Gillett into a better passer, and/or hope that big bomber Devontae Payne can actually play. The running backs should be a major positive if they can get any room to move, but that’s not a given behind a line that might need a while before it jells. The receiving corps desperately needs to unearth a go-to target early on, but there’s good talent to develop.
Defense: The Eagles were destroyed against the run last season allowing a nation-worst 3,322 yards and 39 touchdowns, but there’s hope for a turnaround with a young, athletic front seven with plenty of options. The goal is for a regular rotation of several players to keep everyone fresh and to hope every can hold up a bit better after allowing 6.3 yards per carry. The pass defense finished first in the nation, but that was only because games got so out of hand that everyone ran the ball. There’s speed at the corner and experience at safety; the secondary could be one of the team’s biggest strengths.

East
- Akron Preview | Bowling Green Preview | Buffalo Preview
- Kent St Preview | Miami Preview | Ohio Preview | Temple Preview

West
- Ball State Preview | Eastern Michigan Preview | Central Michigan Preview
- Northern Illinois Preview | Toledo Preview | Western Michigan Preview 
 
- 2010 MAC Preview | 2010 MAC Unit Rankings | 2010 MAC Schedules & Picks
- 2010 CFN All-MAC Team & Top 30 Players | Get MAC Tickets
- 2010 MAC Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish