On Wednesday and Thursday we started our discussion on the MAC and it concludes today. TSS Associate Editors Bart Doan and Terry Johnson join staff writer Kevin Causey and special rotating guests in our weekly roundtable discussing all things college football.
On Wednesday we talked about players to watch in the MAC and on Thursday we discussed surprises in the MAC. Today we look at the big picture in the MAC. Joining us to make predictions on the 2015 MAC Champion is Kaleb Carter from the MAC centric Hustle Belt, Alan from the Ball State site Over The Plyon and BJ Fischer of the Bowling Green based site Falcon Blog.
Question: Who do you expect to be the MAC champ?
On Twitter @orangeandbrown
First, the winner of the MAC West should be the team that wins the MAC. The top 3 teams in the West (Toledo, NIU and WMU) are all better than any of the teams in the East. Really, it could be any of them. Not to be the boring chalk guy, I make NIU a slight favorite just based on their track record winning 38 of their last 40 MAC regular season games. They have a strong QB who is returning, their usual strong Oline and a very solid defense. UT is due but is not as strong on the offensive front and WMU has to play at UT and NIU in November.
On Twitter @Kaleb_M_Carter
I expect the Bowling Green Falcons to win the 2015 MAC championship. I think Drew Hare of NIU works his way into a hotly-contested discussion when it comes to the best QBs in the MAC (Zach Terrell, Blake Frohnapfel, Joe Licata), and he’ll lead another strong Huskies offense, but…well… I just see #FalconFest prevailing over the Huskies and their lovely new field turf. This would mark the third consecutive season that BG has met NIU in Detroit for all the marbles that the Mid-American Conference has to offer.
Johnson and BG will have the best receiving corps in the MAC to operate with razor-like precision (be very afraid of the crew of Roger Lewis, Robbie Rhodes, Roby Burbrink, Gehrig Dieter at wide receiver). Travis Greene will likely have an even better 2014 season after seeing his footprint in the offense decline a bin in 2014 under new coach Dino Babers, and he’ll do so running behind an O-line that features the likes of stud Alex Huettel. All the defense has to do is cause some turnovers and be conditioned (those guys will play a lot of snaps given the quick nature of the Falcons’ offense), while the coaching staff will have to have a trustworthy and capable rotation of players off the bench to limit any damage that opposing offenses might cause. BG fans saw that happen a few times in 2014, when BG gave up oodles of yards/points (Western Kentucky anyone?). But all-in-all, these guys should be your MAC champs.
On Twitter: @OverThePlyon
Though I want to pick against them because frankly I am awfully tired of them being there, until someone proves me otherwise I have to go with NIU. The Huskies have been the only MAC program to be able to sustain success over QB or coaching changes and frankly, it pisses me off to no end. I’m tired of them, the rest of the MAC is tired of them, and you should be too. But hey, thanks for that BCS money, boys.
If you’re looking for a dark horse MAC contender to either show off to your friends your knowledge or you’re trying to take down Vegas on the back of the Rust Belt there’s always Western Michigan who should be a MAC Champion if titles are won via recruiting stars. Whether or not PJ Fleck can coach his way out of a wet paper sack remains to be seen, so take caution with the Broncos.
On Twitter @TheCoachBart
The last time the MAC championship was played and Northern Illinois had to get in with tickets if they wanted to go was 2009. So this sets up for something where I say, “it’s about to happen again.” Nope. Western Michigan and Toledo certainly are high enough proof to bother NIU’s bull whipping through the West annually, but WMU has to go to DeKalb and Toledo in back to back weeks late in the season, which is murderer’s row as far as MAC football goes.
It’s not to say it’ll be a breeze. NIU has to replace their top 2 running backs and 3 offensive linemen, but are well equipped to weather some potential regression in the running game with quarterback Drew Hare returning and a host of talented wide receivers to help him out. It might look like Bizarro NIU tossing the ball around considering how hot-knife-through-butter we’ve become accustomed to seeing regarding their running game, but there are a lot of ways to skin a cat.
On Twitter @CFBZ
NIU has won three of the last four titles and Bowling Green took the other one. Are there any other teams that can step up this year?
I like Bowling Green but I don’t think there defense will be good enough to get them to the Championship Game. I want to say Toledo but they have a rough schedule getting NIU and WMU on the road and also picking up Bowling Green from the East.
Western Michigan also picks up Bowling Green from the East but they get NIU and Toledo at home. They made huge improvements from year one to year two of the PJ Fleck era and I think year three will be the break-through for them.
On Twitter @SectionTPJ
I’ll go with the Toledo Rockets.
I realize that this choice will raise a few eyebrows. After all, Northern Illinois has won five straight division titles and hasn’t lost to Toledo since 2009. With 14 starters returning from last year’s MAC Championship squad, the Huskies would seem like the most obvious pick.
However, I’m still taking the Rockets. The UT offense returns most of its top skill position players from a unit that led the MAC in scoring, rushing, and total offense. On the other side of the ball, the Rocket D welcomes back most of it’s front seven, which ranked 14th nationally against the run. The secondary – which did not allow an opponent to throw for 200 yards in the final four games of regular season – will be even stronger this fall with the return of Cheatham Norrils and Cameron Cole from injury, along with the addition of Roland Milligan from UAB.
It’s also worth noting that Toledo plays both Western Michigan and Northern Illinois at home, giving them the advantage over the West’s top two contenders.
Look for the Rockets to beat Bowling Green – which will be making its third straight appearance in the league championship game – in a hard fought contest.