MAC 2014 football preview

East
BOWLING GREEN FALCONSHead Coach Dino Babers bring the Briles’Baylor system north and has solid QB Matt Johnson to run it. The adjustment from Clawson to Babers system may not be smooth but hey could go bowling again.
BUFFALO BULLS QB Licata will lead a high powered O that needs  Campbell to pick for Oliver at RB. The D has a huge void with departure of Mack. .500 season in 2014.
KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES: Plenty of questions for a disappointing 2013 campaign. Will Reardon improve at QB? Is a 4-2-5 D the answer?

AKRON ZIPS It will be worth watching how Chuck Amato tunes the D and Pohi is a reliable QB. If they win some low scoring squeakers they could get into the race in the east.

MIAMI (OH) REDHAWKS  Kern & Dooley anchor a solid LB corps & HC Chuck Martin  brings Hendrix, a  QB transfer from Notre Dame, that may jumpstart their O. Roller coaster season.
OHIO BOBCATS- Will Solich make the adjustments on offense? Is Darius Vick the answer @ QB? The D looks solid but that may not be enough.

MASSACHUSETTS MINUTEMEN- Whipple’s second stint @UMass will be tough. The major name is on  DStanley Andre (111 tackles, 6.0 for loss),. Cellar dweller time

WEST

BALL STATE CARDINALS:  Jahwan Edwards (1,110 yards and 14 touchdowns) leads a deep backfield and the ryan/Angle- led LB crew should be good enough.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES: Obviously replacing Lynch at QB is a major obstacle , but the loss of their starting front four of D could be bigger. Brown and Lewis lead a solid WR corps. Look for Huskies in a bowl game.

CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS Senior Titus Davis (61 receptions for 1,109 yards) will need the experienced D to excel to give CMU a chance for .500 season.
TOLEDO ROCKETS:  The D  led by Junior Sylvestre (118 tackles, 5.0 sacks), should be Ok  but finding an adequate replacement for Owens at QB will be a tough challenge.
WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS: How fast can the great recruiting class mature? Deron Chance  (692) gained an extra year of eligibilty. Maybe WMU suprises some teams in November?

EASTERN MICHIGAN EAGLES- No more English , Coach Ron) but these Eagles won’t soar. Maybe sophomore QB Brogan Roback, a former four-star signee,  improves?

 

2014 Sun Belt twists and tightens.

Texas State: I’m going to go with Coach Franchione’s Bobcats as a surprise pick. He will hasten Tyler Jones development  @QB and they’ll score enough to hide their defensive deficiencies

South Alabama- Bridge or maybe  Matt Floyd, a late USF transfer ,  will try to replace Metheny @ QB. On D they have a solid veteran secondary but will need some transfers to help quickly on the front four. Tough stretch of conference games in November: @ULL & Ark St, then home against Texas St.

UL. Lafayette- No question the  Cajuns’ lights are bright with Broadway @QB Broadway and RBS,  Alonzo Harris (942 yards and 14 touchdowns) and Elijah McGuire (863 yards), and may supplant my top pick by the time the season ends.

Arkansas St.  Does Knighten, the new starting QB, excel quickly?

La.-Monroe: I like the Thomas to Ceasar connection and the Warhawks always surprise.
Georgia State- Coach Miles, a program rebuilder, OC Jeff Jagodzinski (head coach at BC a few years ago), may turn Arbuckle into a solid QB. Panthers will inch towatd the middle of the pack.

Troy- Burks and Chunn are decent RBs who will run behind a good offensive live.  The D is rebuilding

Appalachian St-  Biggest name is Marcus Cox, a sophomore, who rushed for 1,250 yards and 15 touchdowns  and had 43 receptions for 559 yards in 2014. Strong fan support should help them but this will be a rough season which includes Michigan seeking revenge for seven years ago.

New Mexico St.-It’s likely to be a rocky Aggies return to the Sunbelt.  Maybe the  young D  develops quickly?

Idaho- Marboe to Epps is a decent offensive connection but the Vandals will be hanging around the cellar door.

Ga. Southern : Coach Monken went to coach Army after the big win over Florida and it  will be a rocky season for new coach Fritz

 

 

CUSA 2014 football preview

East

Marshall: Rakeem Cato returns to lead the potent Thundering Herd but will sure miss Gator Hoskins, the talented TE drafted by the Dolphins. If the Herd can find some D. I don’t see anyone stopping them in the East. Kevin Grooms dismissal  will hurt the Herd’s depth at RB.

Florida Atlantic:  The Owls,free of the Carl Pellini  troubles, are one of my two dark horses. Head Coach Partridge has most of  #1 D  in the 2013 CUSA returning if they can survive the first two games at Nebraska & Bama.

Middle Tennessee- Blue Raiders will go as the  QB merry-go -round spins. Grammerly, Stocksill (coach’s son), orErdely. Some say Stocksill has the edge, The Blue Raiders  tempo style may not be enough in the  CUSA and will weak O & D lines land them in the basement?

WKU: Jeff Brohm tales the reins from hit and run Petrino and will need to evaluate QB Doughty quickly, then look for RBs to replace  Antonio Andrews.   Hilltoppers won’t be atop many opponents this season

UAB- Perhaps the best thing going for new HC Phil Clark is the QB-WR connection.  Incoming Juco QB Cody Clemens , the likely starter will have the top 3 targets back from last year, including big play threat Jamarcus Nelson, who averaged 20.1 yards per catch last year on 46 receptions and scored 8 TDs

Old Dominion:  Coach Wilder’s Monarchs up-tempo O led by Taylor Heinicke will put up some points , but I don’t see them getting to far out of the cellar.

FIU : Can true Freshman QB Alex McGough save Turner’s job?

WEST  

Rice :   If your team is the Owls (FAU) then you must’ve shared a scheduler for a tough first two games, @Notre Dame and @ Texas A&M. Rice had a solid D in 2013 , but  have big holes in the  D secondary with the departures of Gaines &  Porras. Can Dillard & Davis  replace Charles Ross @ RB?

UTSA:  Coker may finally have  the Roadrunners in contention. The transition at QB  from Soza  to  Carter  and the emergence of Glasco at RB  are the keys on offense. The D  will need to be great up front to cover for some of the doubts about the secondary .

North Texas: Pegram  &  Jimmerson returns to anchor  a solid offensive backfield   that may miss Byrd a little. Their D should be Ok but they;ll need more special teams  heroics to duplicate the solid 2013  season

Southern Miss-  If USM can keep Coach Monken for a few seasons and Mullens develops at QB the Golden Eagles may find their way back to the top of the CUSA.

UTEP Showers (QB) and RBs , Jones and Jeffery, will put up the points, but  the lack of D will keep the Miners  out of contention.

 

Louisiana Tech-   Skip Holtz train continues to derail in 2014. The transition from Dykes up tempo style was miserable in 2013. Who knows why LT ignored its personnel when picking  a HC? Tech will rely on Sokol, a JC transfer QB, and a stable of RBs , to pull of a miracle in the fleet style CUSA.  They’ve brought in Manny Diaz as DC, (remember him at Texas),  and are hoping for  one of his  great first seasons before  sinking. Maybe they’ll beat Old Dominion &UAB in conference.

 

Mid majors hoops thru Feb 8

USM & UTEP  remain tied atop the CUSA . USM got quite a home scare from Marshall Friday night but survived 60-57.  John Bohannon scored 19 points and Julian Washburn finished with 18 in the UTEP WIN over ODU. Seven striaigh CUSA wins makes the Miners the team to watch.

 

Trency’s Jackson buzzer beater  gave WKU  the W over Ark St and kep them two games behind  Ga St in the Sunbelt race.

 

Ohio had to rally to  beat  Miami of O to stay one game behind Akron in the MAC East.

 

Rian Pearson scored 20 points to lead a balanced attack as Toledo beat Ball St to stay one game ahead of W.Mich who faces NIU today.

Checking in with 2013/14 mid-majors hoops

Yes, I know the SunBelt may only get one dance ticket, but I like learning and reviewing these three conferences football and basketball programs.

Feb1: I’ll wrap up January quickly and move on to the home stretch.

CUSA

CUSA misses Memphis and La Tech is off to a 2-0 start to fill that void. Raheem  Appleby leads the team with 16.1 PPG. Watch out for ODU, a one time stalwart CAA program.

1/19/14:Denzell Taylor’s 14 points helped  ODU comeback and beat FAU yesterday. Another surging team is Charlotte> How about that win yesterday: Terrence Williams scored twice in the final 42 seconds – including a game-winning dunk at the buzzer – as North Carolina-Charlotte slid past North Texas 76-74.

    1/21/14: USM used a rebounding edge (48-26) Sunday to give La Tech it’s first conference loss.

1/24/13: USM handles ODU and stays in a first place tie with Tulsa and La Tech. Eagles fly into ECU on Saturday and shouldn’t take the CUSA cellar dwellers lightly.

1/26/13:  USM struggled for 3/4 of the game but a late 16-1 run carried them to victory. La Tech kept pace behind McNeal & Hamilton’s scoring against Marshall.

Feb1: USM and UTEP are tied for first at 5-1, but Chad Frazier and the UAB Blazers are improving  and should handle ECU at home today.

Feb2 : Wrong about the Blazers. USM rolled the green Wave and tulsa is surging.

MAC

1/17/14- Buffalo( J.McCrea-16.8 PPG) leads the East &  W.Mich ( David Brown-18.9) leads  the West.

1/18/14: Akron is 3-0 in conference play but the Zips are sluggish today (Jan 18) on their way to losing to Toledo.

1/25/13: Zips bounced back with a nice road win at E.Mich. and vist C.Mich today. Toledo beat NIU and hosts Kent St tomorrow.

1/26/13 Akron won and I was surprised that EMU let the Ohio game get away.

1/30/14- Akron gets a 24-2 run and rolls over Ball St to keep the lead in the MAC East

2/1/14: Akron and Toledo sit atop their divisions. Today’s matchup at Ohio is the right time  for Toledo’s Justin Drummond to increase his 14 PPG .

2/2: Akron slipped and  Drummond only scored 12 ina loss to the Bobcats who got a great game from Maurice Ndour

2/5/14: Slow Tuesday night. Miami of O only scored 14 points in the second half in a loss to NIU. Each team is in the middle of the pack in their MAC divisions and will likely need to win the MACT to earn a Dance ticket.

2/6/14- Nice wins for Toledo & Akron, each 7-2 in MAC play and watch out for W. Michigan (6-3) who got 22 points from Austin Richie in a blowout of Ohio.

SunBelt

 Ga St has been slow on the gridiron, but the Panthers’ cagers are off to a 3-0 conference start. Ryan Harrow leads the squad with 18.6 PPG. GA St now 4-0.

1/19/13      GA St moves to 5-0 in conference play: R.J. Hunter scored 25 points and Manny Atkins had 22 points as Georgia State in a 99-73 win over Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday.

1/24/13: GA ST 6-0 .  Nice stat line from R Hunter in the W over ULL (33 Pts, 7 Reb, 2 Stl, 1 Blk) and head for ULM on Saturday. Warthogs may be  feisty after losing a home game to WKU.

1/26/13: ULM Warthogs slowed down but couldn’t contain Ryan Harrow & the Ga St Panthers stretching to their team record eleventh win in a row.

2/1/14: Sunbelt leader  GA St takes on the  pesky Tx- Arlington Mavericks today. The Mavs gave second place WKU a rough time before losing Thursday night. Ga St will focus on stopping o Reger Dowell , a transfer from Ok St , who’s averaging 21 PPG.

2/2/14:  Panthers couldn’t stop Dowell but Hunter &  Devonta White each drilled last minute treys to force OT and  then a huge W over the Mavs .Meanwhile George Fant’s 21points  in a WKU win over UTSA  helped the Hilltoppers keep near Ga St in a the Sunbelt race.

2/4/14: Hunter and GA St roll S. Bama to remain undefeated (9-0) in conference play

Mid majors bowl preview 2013/14

Famous Idaho Potato Dec 21
Buffalo (MAC) vs. San Diego State

Buffalo Bulls had a strange November going .500. Licata, Oliver,  and Neutz are a potent trio when they’re on. The SD St Aztecs  were doing well in November until UNLV leveled them. Aztecs  O trio of Kaehler, Muema , and Ruffin will be a tad more potent and lead SD St to a 46-44 win.

12/22/13

I nailed this one , Aztecs started quickly and cruised to a 49-24 win. Big props to SDST RB Adam Muema who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 230 yards,

R+L Carriers New Orleans Dec 21
Tulane (CUSA) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette  (SUNBELT)

Tulane has  leveled off but they have a decent D and Joe Montana’s son Nick at QB. ULL ‘s QB Terrance Broadway leads a Cajuns O that plays well, at times.  Tulane’s D should save them. Tul 20 ULL 16

12/22/13

I was wrong ULL 24 TuL 21. Neither starting QB was effective  and  starting RB Darkwa almost carried (3 rushing TDs) Tulane to win.  Cajuns D deserves some props.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Dec 23
East Carolina (CUSA) vs. Ohio (MAC)

Ohio has been erratic and ECU  was rolling behind S. Carden( 358 504 3866 yards 32TDs) until a tough late-season loss to Marshall. Pirates beat ACC teams UNC & NC St, and lost a squeaker to VTech. ECU 31 Ohio 16

12/25/13- I wasn’t too far off on this one  ECU won 37-20, Carden & Cooper  had great days:

Passing: S. Carden (ECU) – 273 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: V. Cooper (ECU) – 25 CAR, 198 YDS, 2

Little Caesars Pizza Dec 26
Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green (MAC)

I’m was leaning toward  BG after their impressive MAC title game win but Coach Clawson’s exit for Wake Forest has me wavering. BG RB Travis Green  rushed for over 1500 yards  and averaged five plus yards a carry. Pitt defeated Duke and Notre Dame  but lost to  Navy & UNC. I’ll  take Pitt (ACC) in a nailbiter.

12/27/13:  Pitt hung on (30-27) against the fiesty Falcons led by  M.Johnson (BGSU) – 272 YDS, 2 TD.

S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Dec 26
Utah State vs. Northern Illinois (MAC)

Lynch   & the Huskies  will bounce back after the loss to Bowling Green and beat  the Utah St. The Ags QB Chuckie Keeton has had a decent season but  their improving has been  the key. The Huskies in a low-scoring game 20-16.

12/27/13: Utah St  held Lynch to 39 yards rushing and won 21-14. Rough Thursday night for the MAC.

Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman   Dec 27
Marshall (CUSA) vs. Maryland- First time these  two schools have played  a football game against each  other and I expect an ugly game. Rakeem Cato has thrown 36 TDs and only 9 INTs, but I look for the Terps to make a few picks and  their O should take advantage of a Marshall D that  gave up a lot of points in the CUSA.  Terps 23 Marshall 19 and  keep your eyes on  Gator Hoskins,  a solid TE for the Herd who’ll be playing on Sundays.

12/27/13: I was right about Hoskins and so wrong about my Terps. Props to Rakeem Cato 28-44-337-0 , too. Marshall 31 MD 20

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Dec 30

Middle Tennessee (CUSA) vs. Navy

Middies  are 1-5 in their last six bowl games and rely heavily on  their QB Keenan Reynolds- 25 TDs (19 rushing, 7 passing). MTSU won five in a row to finish the regular season and will need the D to play big. I predict a tie but the NCAA undid that option.

12/31/13: Navy  played better than I thought against the erratic Blue Raiders in a 24-6 W.

AutoZone Liberty  Dec 31
Rice (CUSA) vs. Mississippi State

Miss St saved their season by beating Ol Miss. They have too much talent to lose to Rice. I look for the Bulldogs D-line to punish the Owls.

1/1/14: Miss St 44 Rice7 Final score says it all

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL @ COTTON BOWL – DALLAS, TX Jan 1

My apologies for not making a  prediction. Mean Green woke up in the second half  behind Derek Thompson  who threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns and won in their first bowl appearance in nine years.

North Texas  36  UNLV 11

GoDaddy  Jan 5
Arkansas State (SUNBELT) vs. Ball State (MAC)

Ark St loses another head coach (Harsin to Boise St) to a bigger program and it’s hard to argue with  these numbers  from Ball St’s QB Keith Wenning(3,933 yards, 34 touchdowns, six interceptions).

Can Ball St  help the MAC avoid a winless bowl season?

1/6/14: Ark St did  a solid job slowing down Wenning,  scored last, and won 23-20. Nice stat line for: RB Rushing:  J Edwards (BALL) – 28 CAR, 146 YDS, 1 T

2.5 Pack Finals- Mid Majors

CUSA

Can Marshall Cato  ( 246-414, 3314 yds, 34 tds)ride the Herd to another victory and win the CUSA. They  had an easier time defeating  ECU last week than I expected, but Rice has a formidable rushing attack led by Ross( 183 car, 1143 yds, 12 tds). Rice has a slightly better D, but look for  Cato to find Gator Hoskins, a TE who’ll play on Sunday, often and trim the Owls feathers 24-23.

Some Marshall fans are ticked that BCS rankings were used to give Rice home field. More formulas and now some history: Marshall will be playing for its first conference championship since winning their sixth straight Mid-American conference title in 2002. Rice won a share of the Southwest Conference championship in 1994 and their last outright conference title was the 1957 SWC championship.

 

Congrats to Rice and it’s ground game of 250 yards. Also, the Owls D slowed down Cato and it appeared he was telegraphing his passes.

MAC

Bowling Green has an upghill battle against NIU and Lynch. Maybe Greene (  235 car, 1422 yds, 10 tds) will rush them to victory, but I’ll let Lynch’s numbers do the talking:

Passing: Lynch – 212-329, 2457 yds, 22 tds

Rushing: Lynch – 248 car, 1755 yds, 20 tds

Well, I was wrong big time. Matt Johnson , the Bowling Green Falcons QB, stole the show throwing 4 of his 5 TD passes in the first half   against NIU. Lynch had a so-so night and his Heisman hopes may have vanished. Props to the Falcons who last won a MAC title in 1992.

Sunbelt

If The Terence Broadway lights shine for ULL against USA then the Cajuns win  the SunBelt, but If Metheny and the improved Jags pull the upset than idle Ark St will be tied with ULL for the Sun Belt title.

 

South Alabama Jags (6-6, 4-3 Sun Belt) are up for most improved squad of the 2013 season. Jay Jones did the bulk of the rushing with 105 yards while Ken Houston scored two rushing TDs in their 30-8 win over conference leader ULL.

 

Mid-majors bowl preview blog will be started later tonight (Sunday) or early tomorrow.