On Wednesday, we started our discussion on the MAC and that discussion will continue today and tomorrow. 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. Today we dig deeper into the MAC as we are joined by the BJ Fischer of the Bowling Green based site, Falcon Blog.
Question: Which team will be the biggest surprise in the MAC?
On Twitter @orangeandbrown
The MAC’s biggest surprise team this year will be a positive surprise: Terry Bowden’s Akron Zips. Coming off a 5-7 season and with only 12 starters back, it is going to be easy to call them to have a poor season. I think the Zips have an excellent shot to win the East. They will be very strong on defense–especially up front–and I expect them to have be improved at QB to combine with a solid running game. That’s combined with a favorable set of cross-over games with the tough MAC West…and a proven Coach who has won everywhere he has been.
On Twitter @TheCoachBart
On Twitter @CFBZ
Is it finally time that UMass broke through? After a long run in the NFL, Mark Whipple led UMass to show a lot of improvement last season. They started out 0-6 but four of those six losses were by five or less points. Over the second half of the season, the Minutemen went 3-3 with wins over Kent State, Eastern Michigan and Ball State. Yeah, those teams weren’t very good last year (Ball State was decent) but it showed that UMass was ready to win games that they used to lose with ease.
This year, Whipple returns for his second season so the troops will be much more in tune with what he is trying to accomplish. They return the most starters in the MAC with 19 overall (10 on offense and 9 on defense). They also don’t have to play NIU or WMU, who could be the two best teams in the MAC. Their first three MAC Conference games? Akron, Kent State and Miami (Ohio). Yes, the schedule ends with a tough stretch but by that time this could be a UMass team with a lot of confidence. UMass isn’t going to win the MAC this year but bowl eligibility might not be out of the question.
On Twitter @SectionTPJ
The biggest surprise in the MAC will be the Buffalo Bulls.
Let’s be honest: UB was a much better team than last year’s 5-6 record would indicate. Three of the Bulls’ losses were by eight points or less, and all of those came on the road. They also led at Eastern Michigan before collapsing in the second half, which is ultimately what led to Jeff Quinn’s dismissal a few days later.
However, the Bulls showed signs of life at the end of the season, defeating Akron and Massachusetts to close out the year. Had Buffalo been able to play Kent State (cancelled due to weather), it likely would have attained bowl eligibility with a 6-6 record.
Things will be much different this season under the direction of Lance Leipold, one of the most successful coaches in college football history. In eight seasons at Wisconsin-Whitewater, Leipold compiled a 109-6 record with six national championships. That record includes a 4-1 mark against Hall of Famer Larry Kehres, who won 92.8% of the games that he coached
There’s no way to compile numbers like that without learning how to win close games. Expect Buffalo to come out on the right side of them this year, and to challenge Bowling Green for the MAC East crown.