MAC Media Media Poll
Last year, the computer's (about the computer) second-place picks from each division - Buffalo and Ball State - played for the conference title, and the Bulls captured the crown with a 42-24 win over the heavily favored Cardinals. Buffalo is a projected second-place pick again this season. Ball State is projected to lose a tie-breaker to Western Michigan in the battle for second-place in the west division.
Temple surprisingly joins Central Michigan as the computer's favorites to win their respective divisions this season.
The Chippewas have been there, done that, with recent conference titles on their resume from 2006 and 2007. Conversely, Temple's 5-7 record last year was its' best campaign since concluding the 1990 season with a 7-4 mark.
Now the computer has Temple making a giant leap to an 11-1 record. A run like that for the Owls would be reminiscent of last year's breakout by Ball State. After a 7-6 season in 2007, the 2008 Cardinals raced to a 12-0 start before losing to Buffalo and Tulsa (GMAC Bowl) to finish 12-2.
Ultimately, the Chippewas are a 7.51-point favorite in the MAC Championship confrontation, leaving Temple with an impressive 11-2 mark.
Buffalo appears to be Temple's only serious challenger in the east division. The Bulls' opening day power rating is actually slightly higher than the Owls', but Temple is a slim 1.46-point favorite over Buffalo when the two teams meet in Philadelphia on September 26. That game is one of five predicted Temple victories where the projected margin is 3.08 points or less. The others are road visits to Toledo (-1.38), Navy (-0.46) and Akron (-3.08), and the home showdown with Ball State (-2.38). Buffalo's only other forecasted conference loss is at home to Central Michigan (+2.96), but three of its road victories have margins of less than a point as the Bulls are favored over UTEP in the opener by 0.36, UCF by 0.71, and Western Michigan by 0.54.
Akron may finally have a true home field advantage, though the name of the venue will be difficult to remember. September 12 marks the date of the Zips' inaugural game on Summa Field at InfoCision Stadium when they host FCS member Morgan State. Akron had played at the city's Rubber Bowl Stadium since 1940. The new on-campus facility holds 30,000 if you include "standing room only" areas.
In the west division, Central Michigan is picked to run the table on its' conference slate. The non-conference schedule is another story as the Chippewas are projected to go 1-3 against a tough lineup that presents road trips to Arizona, Michigan State and Boston College.
The first 10 opponents on Ball State's schedule this season combined for a total of just 33 wins last year over FBS teams. The Cardinals last two opponents are the only FBS schools it will face that posted winning records last year. That schedule could be just what Ball State needs after losing the head coach, and QB Nate Davis, off of a squad that amassed a school-record 12 wins in 2008.
The Cards are projected to go 5-3 in the MAC, but 3-1 in non-league games where they host North Texas and FCS member New Hampshire, and visit Army and Auburn. The New Hampshire game could be a trap as the Wildcats have wins at Army in 2008 (28-10), Marshall in 2007 (48-35), and Northwestern in 2006 (34-17).
Ball State is one of five MAC teams that will be operating under new head coaches in 2009. Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Miami and Toledo are also beginning new eras.
The Cardinals promoted offensive coordinator Stan Parrish to replace Brady Hoke after Hoke left for San Diego State; Bowling Green lured Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson to replace Gregg Brandon; Louisville offensive coordinator Ron English takes over for Jeff Genyk at Eastern Michigan; Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Haywood has replaced Shane Montgomery at Miami; and Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman fills Tom Amstutz' shoes at Toledo.
Of the new hires, Parrish is the only one with previous head coaching experience at the FBS level. He was 2-30-1 with Kansas State from 1986-1988, and was 13-8-1 as the head man at Marshall from 1984-1985 when it was classified as a 1-AA school. Parrish is off to an 0-1 start at Ball State after coaching the Cardinals in their 45-13 GMAC Bowl loss to Tulsa.
Clawson was 58-49 over a combined 9 seasons as the head coach with then 1-AA members Richmond and Fordham.
Of the departing coaches, all but Montgomery had at least five seasons with their school. Montgomery had four at Miami while Amstutz had eight with the Rockets. Hoke and Brandon had six at their respective schools. Genyk lasted five seasons at EMU, though his teams never managed more than 4 wins in a single season and was 16-42 overall.
The MAC Championship game returns to Ford Field in Detroit on Friday, December 4. The game will be televised on ESPN-2 at 8 pm (ET). The last seven seasons have produced six different MAC champions.
MAC teams are just 1-11 in bowl games since 2006, and 0-8 over the last two seasons. The MAC retains bowl slots in the Motor City (vs. Big 10), GMAC (vs. ACC) and International (vs. Big East) Bowls.