College Football is right around the corner and I will look to continue my College Previews with a look at East Division of Mid-American Conference. Here are the current Odds (Courtesy of 5Dimes) for teams to win the East Division this year. Ohio (+140)... Bowling Green (+360)... Miami (+360)... Kent State (+400)... Buffalo (+900)... Akron (+1300)... No Odds for Massachusetts.
Ohio: The Bobcats are set up for a special year and could give Fank Solich his first ever MAC Title. Last year the Cats finished 10-4 overall and 6-2 in the MAC, then they had a 20 point half-time lead in the MAC Title game, but couldn’t close the deal. This team is on a mission this year. 14 starters are back from last years team and they lose just 16 lettermen, while returning 49. Last year their defense returned just 4 starters, yet they still allowed just 22.1 ppg and with 23 lettermen and 8 of their top 9 tacklers back from that group they could very well have the best defense in the MAC and we know that defense wins championships. Offensively they averaged 30.5 ppg last year, but starting QB Tyler Tettleton is back with 23 other lettermen, and they have the best OL in the league. They do lose top RB Donte Harden and 3 of their top 4 pass catchers from last year, but Solich has built plenty of depth here and they have a lot of talented youngsters that could make this offense better than last year. The Cats do travel to Miami, but their very talented DL vs Miami’s very weak OL should be the difference in that game as Solich returns to the MAC Title game and this year he should close the deal.
Miami-Oh: 2 Years ago the Redskins won the Mac Title, but they caught a lot of breaks that year and didn’t get the same breaks last year and had a losing season, going just 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the MAC. Despite their losing MAC record they were still +25.8 ypg in conference play and that should indicate a bounce back year ahead. They have 16 returning starters, including QB Zac Dysert (3513 yrds, 65.8% completions, 23 TD’s and 11 INT’s last year), their top 2 RB’s and 5 of the top 6 pass catchers. The OL is one of the weakest in the MAC, but still this offense should be fine and easily top last years 21.3 ppg they put up. Last year their defense allowed 22.9 ppg and should be even better this year with 7 starters back. The do lose their top 3 tacklers, but still have the best front 7 in the league and will improve on last year’s numbers. Miami does have to travel to Bowling Green, but the rest of their conference road games are winnable (Akron, Buffalo, C.Mich) and they get Ohio at home, but I feel that their OL and weak special teams play will keep them from overtaking the Bobcats this year.
Bowling Green: Really with a break or two and one of the top 3 in this division could win the MAC East, but I do feel that Miami and Ohio are just a bit better than this group. The schedule could also be a problem for the Falcons as they have road dates with Toledo and Miami, plus a home date with the Bobcats. QB Matt Schilz (3,024 pass yds, 28 TD) has the talent to be one of the best players in the MAC, but he’ll need to limit his mistakes (13 Int’s) to get the Falcons offense to the next level. The Falcons do have one of the best running games in the MAC, with 1st team all MAC RB Anthon Samuel (844 rush yds, 5 TD), but must replace their top 2 WR’s from last year. The OL is average at best. Last year their defense brought back 7 starters and improved by a TD a game and with 10 starters back this year they should improve even more. This is an all-around improved team and Dave Clawson has them headed in the right direction, but the Falcons may still be a year away from getting to the MAC Title game.
Kent State: The MAC has plenty of teams that are improved and the Golden Flashes are one of them. Last year KSU was just 4-4 in the MAC and 5-7 overall, but with 8 starters back on both sides of the ball they should post their first non-losing year since 2006. Depth though will be a problem and keep them from challenging the big boys in the division this year. The Golden Flashes bring back just 38 lettermen this year and that is the third lowest mark in the MAC. The schedule will also be a problem for them as just 5 of their 12 games this year are at home and KSU is just 16-46 on the road since 2002, including a 2-10 mark the last 2 years. Last year the Flashes put up just 17.1 ppg and they had 9 starters return and with 8 starters back this year they should top 20 ppg with ease. The defense has 8 starters back and 8 of their top 9 tacklers and will improve on the solid numbers of 24.3 ppg and 325 ypg they allowed last year. The Defense will be very good for the Flashes this year, but I feel that it will be the offense that holds them back a little this year. Still I expect them to get Bowl eligible this year, but getting over the .500 mark is still at least a year away.
Buffalo: I would have liked to pick the Bulls at least one spot higher, but not sure I can do that with them having a redshirt freshman QB running the show. Last year the Bulls were just 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the MAC, but they played better than their record would indicate as they were just -2.7 ypg in conference play. The Bulls do have the top RB in the league in Branden Oliver (1395 yrds and 13 TD’s last year) and their OL is average, but the receivers are not that strong and that’s not good for a young QB. Defensively they allowed 29.4 ppg last year and with 8 starters back they should improve on that number. The have one of the best LB corps in the league, but the DL is slightly below average, while their DB’s will struggle. The Bulls will be improved this year with the most letter =men in the league back (55), but still moving up in the standings nothing more than a great set of LB’s and a top notch RB will not be easy. I expect no more than 4 wins from them this year, but watch out for them in a year or two.
Akron: The Zips made a great hire in the offseason when they landed Terry Bowden to take over as HC, plus they added Chuck Amato as their DC, but these two guys have a lot of work to do to get this team back to respectability. The Zips were just 2-22 the last two years and were outgained by 177 ypg in MAC play last year, so they have plenty of ground to make up. Making it harder is the fact that they have just 13 starters back. They do have 8 back on offense, but that is from a group that scored just 14.2 ppg last year. The defense has really been a problem as they have allowed 35.1 and 38.8 ppg the last 2 years and with 5 starters back and just 19 lettermen on that side of the ball, progress will be hard. Chuck Amato is a great defensive coach and they will be improved, but still allow over 30 ppg this year. Terry Bowden will turn this club around, but they were so far behind the rest of the league that it will take a few years for him to get there.
Massachusetts: The Minutemen make the leap to the FBS this, after going 5-6 playing an FCS schedule last year. 42 lettermen and 14 starters are back for this team, but they are going through a system change with new HC Charley Molnar taking over, so there will be some growing pains this year. The Do have 10 of their top 13 tacklers back from last year’s group that allowed 27.9 ppg vs FCS opponents last year and this year they should struggle vs a schedule that will feature 4 BCS opponents, plus road dates vs the top two teams in the MAC West, a road game vs Miami and home dates vs Ohio and Bowling Green. The offense did put up 25.2 ppg last year and they do have a solid OL, but still 5 starters overall return to this unit and vs tougher defenses it will make it harder for them to put up last year’s numbers. The Minutemen play the toughest schedule in the MAC and without much FBS talent on hand they will struggle in their first year up here.
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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