College Football is right around the corner and I will look to continue my College Previews with a look at West Division of Mid-American Conference. Here are the current Odds (Courtesy of 5Dimes) for teams to win the West Division this year. Western Michigan (+180)... Northern Illinois (+260)... Toledo (+315)... Eastern Michigan (+650)... Central Michigan (+775)... Ball State (+900).
Western Michigan: The Broncos were just 7-6 last year, but with 14 starters back, including the top QB in the league they will be a much better squad this year. Alex Carder completed 65.7% of his passes for 3873 yards and 31 TD’s last year. He does lose his top 3 receivers from last year, but a group of talented youngsters are ready to step up and he does have his top 3 RB’s from last year. These talented skill players will operate behind the 2nd best OL in the league. They should top last year’s 35.3 ppg. The defense allowed 28.7 ppg last year and they lost 4 of their top 5 tacklers from that group, but still 7 starters return, including two of their biggest playmakers in S Johnnie Simon (114 tackles) and DE Freddie Bishop (5.5 sacks). I look for big improvement from this group this year. This team will still have to outscore some teams on their schedule, but still the defense won’t be as bad as last year. The Broncos get Toledo and N. Illinois at home and will be favored in all of their MAC road games, so a double digit win total is a possibility. Look for the Broncos to face the Bobcats in the MAC Title game.
Northern Illinois: What year the Huskies had last year with 11 wins and a MAC Title, but getting back there will be difficult, especially with the improvements of the Broncos and the fact that they have just 4 starters back from an offense that put up 38.3 ppg last year. The offense will be tailored to new QB Jordan Lynch’s running abilities, while junior RB Akeem Daniels (303 rush yds, 3 TD) is looking to be the next great Huskies rusher after limited playing time in 2011. The OL will also be a work in progress as they must replace 4 starters from that group. I really don’t see this group putting up the same numbers they have the last few years. Defensively the Huskies brought 2 starters back last year and struggled as they allowed 30.3 ppg, but I see big improvements from them here as they have 8 starters back and one of the strongest DL’s in the league. Defensively they will be very good this year, but the offense will hold them back. They lost just too much talent from that side of the ball. This will still be a formidable team that will make it to a bowl game, but just don’t think they can overtake the Broncos this year.
Central Michigan: Gonna go with a bit of a surprise in this spot as the Chippewas may be the most improved team in the MAC this year. Last year they were just 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the MAC, but were just -34.5 ypg in MAC play and they were -12 in the TO department and both stats would indicate a rebound year. Also helping the Chippewas is the fact they have lost just 13 lettermen, have 16 starters back and are in the 3rd year of Dan Enos’ system. The offense is in good hands as Ryan Ratcliff is off a solid year, in which he threw for 3200 yards and 25 TD’s. The running game is a bit weak but he does have the second best set of WR’s in the MAC to throw to and he will operate behind one of the top OL’s in the league as well. Defensively they allowed 33.3 ppg last year, but should be vasly improved, with 8 starters back and 15 of their top 19 tacklers. They are a little thin at LB, but the Line and defensive backfields are very solid. I expect the Chippewas to go from 3-9 to flirting with bowl game this year.
Toledo: Boy this was a fun team to watch last year. Their games averaged 74 ppg and two of those games put up 120 plus points. The offense was very special as they averaged 42.2 ppg, but they did have 9 starters back from 2010 and this year they have just 4. The Rockets used two QB’s last year in Terence Owens (2022 yards & 18 TD’s) and Austin Dantin (1404 yards and 15 TD’s) and both are back this year, but the Skill position cupboard is bare as they lost their top 2 RB’s and 4 of their top 5 WR’s from last year. The OL is solid so that’s a plus, but I don’t see this team topping even 35 ppg this year. Defensively they had some problems last year as they allowed 31.7 overall, but down the stretch they were a mess as they allowed 40 ppg in their last 6 games, including 63 points twice and 41 points ion their bowl game vs Air Force. Last year the defense had just 8 starters back and this year they have just 4, so looking for improvement from this group may be a stretch. Too much was lost on offense and the defense is still weak, so I just don’t see higher than a 4th place finish form them this year.
Eastern Michigan: The Eagles last year pulled a surprise as they went 6-6, after going just 2-22 the last 2 years. This bunch is headed in the right direction and they are stronger than they have been in the past, but a brutal schedule has me seeing them taking a step back this year. The Eagles pull Ohio and Bowling green from the east and both are on the road in back to back weeks. They also have Western Michigan on the road and have tough home games with Toledo and Northern Illinois as well. The Offense will be improved over last year with 9 starters back and 24 of 29 lettermen from a group that averaged just 21.3 ppg. Defensively they could struggle as just 8 of their top 17 tacklers are back. They were respectable last year (24.3 ppg), but improving on that may be tough with little depth. Still overall this team is improved and they do have one of the best special teams units in the MAC, but that schedule is not kind and will not allow them to duplicate last year’s success.
Ball State: The Cardinals were 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the MAC, but were -123 ypg in MAC play and that would indicate that they caught some break and won’t get the same ones this year. The Offense will be all set with 8 starters back, including QB Keith Wenning, who threw for 2700 yds and 19 TD’s last year. He does lose his top 2 targets from last year, but the entire running game is back and the OL is solid. They will have one of the better offenses in the league, but their defense will be most likely the worst. Last year they allowed 34.7 ppg and have just 5 starters back this year. Only 12 of 22 lettermen are back on this side and they have lost 3 of their top 4 tacklers. A total rebuild job on this sides of the ball. The schedule is also brutal, with road dates at C. Michigan Toledo and Miami, plus home dates with N. Illinois, Western Michigan and Ohio. This may be a team that will play many OVERS this year as they can score, but won’t be able to stop anyone, while the schedule will keep them from garabbing more than 3 or 4 wins.
Overall I expect the Bobcats to meet up with the Broncos in the MAC Title game, with Ohio coming out on top and giving Frank Solich his first ever MAC Title. Here are the current overall Odds to win the MAC Title this year (Courtesy of 5Dimes). Ohio (+325)... Western Michigan (+400)... Northern Illinois(+600)... Toledo (+700)... Bowling Green (+800)... Miami (+800)... Kent State (+1000)... Eastern Michigan (+1600)... Central Michigan (+2000)... Ball State (+2300)... Buffalo (+2500)... Akron(+4000)... No Odds For Massachusetts.
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