Saturday, August 12, 2017

College Football: Season Preview: The College Football Playoff and New Year's Six Bowl Games

After looking at the various conferences this is how I see the final rankings:

College Football Playoff seedings:
Alabama
Ohio State
Washington
Florida State
Big Six Bowl participants:
(Ranked by final ranking)
LSU
Clemson
Oklahoma
8  USC
Georgia
10  South Florida
11  Penn State
12 Texas

Given that, this is how I see the bowls being seeded:

Rose Bowl:
2 Ohio State vs 3 Washington
Sugar Bowl
1 Albama vs. 4 Florida State
Peach Bowl
Georgia vs. Penn State
Fiesta Bowl
Clemson vs. LSU
Cotton Bowl
Texas vs South Florida
Orange Bowl:
USC vs. OU

This actually works out OK.  The Cotton Bowl gets the last pick so they will be stuck with South Florida, but they will have the option to pick Texas which should ensure them a sell-out.  Georgia and Penn State in the Peach Bowl sets up a tasty SEC/B1G matchup and Clemson vs LSU sets up an ACC/SEC game for everyone.  This leaves the Orange Bowl which gives us a battle of Blue Bloods.

The team with the biggest gripe is going to be Wisconsin.  IF they beat Michigan they would take Penn State's place and then the latter would have the biggest grip to make.  I could see a slim scenario where Louisville takes Georgia's place but I think you're more likely to see two teams from the SEC/Big XII (since the latter is not in the CFP) than you are the ACC with two.  

For the Playoffs I see it as follows:

Pretty simple: Alabama beats Florida State and Ohio State beats Washington.

College Football Playoff Championship Game
1. Alabama vs. 2. Ohio State
Champion:  Ohio State University

So, that's it then.  As a Michigan fan I see Ohio State winning the College Football Playoff and the de-facto National Title.  This keeps alive the fact that only 4 coaches currently active in College Football have won the darn thing.

Will the season end up like I have predicted?  Certainly not.  Because each and every week we see upsets and there are teams that are going to both underperform and overachieve.

But this is how I see it.  Your mileage may vary.

Let's kick-off already!!!


Friday, August 11, 2017

College Football: Season Preview: The B1G

As a Michigan fan I save this one for last because of two reasons.  First, it's nearest and dearest for me and second, this is going to be hard to put to print.

Let me get it over with, here's how I see it going....

Conference Standings:
East W L West W L
Ohio State 12 0 Wisconsin 11 1
Penn State 11 1 Northwestern 9 3
Michigan 10 2 Nebraska 8 4
Indiana 6 6 Minnesota 7 5
Michigan State 5 7 Iowa 7 5
Maryland 4 8 Illinois 4 8
Rutgers 3 9 Purdue 1 11
Won division Won division
Conference Championship: Ohio State over Wisconsin
Bowl Teams: 9
CFP: Ohio State
Big 6: Wisconsin
Big 6 2: Penn State
Others: Michigan
Indiana
Northwestern
Nebraska
Minnesota
Iowa
Most Underrated: Minnesota
Most Overrated: Michigan
Coaches on Hot Seat: Indiana

Before you guffaw too loudly I want you to take a look at Wisconsin's schedule and tell me who you think is on there that can beat them?  Before you say "Michigan" consider this: The game is at Camp Randall. I think Michigan eeks out the victory, but if they don't who else on that schedule is beating the Badgers.

I think Ohio State is good enough to run the table, I think Penn State is as well so whoever wins that game wins the whole thing. The game is being played at the Horseshoe. As much as I would like to predict otherwise, that's how I see it finishing.  

I think Northwestern surprises some people and ends up second in their division, beating Nebraska at home and generally pulling off one or two minor upsets. Nebraska will be OK, better than average, then you have a whole bunch of teams that are just meh.

Michigan State is in a rebuilding year, Indiana has a ceiling, Maryland might spring an upset or three, Minnesota doesn't have the talent, Iowa is due a fall-back year where the smoke-and-mirrors don't work and Illinois has poor coaching and is thin on talent, Rutgers gets marginally better and P.J. Fleck is going to see just how barren the cupboard really is at Purdue.

OPOY: J.T. Barrett (OSU)
DPOY: Josey Jewell (Iowa)
COY: Pat Fitzgerald (NW)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

College Football: Season Preview: Big XII

The more things change.....


The more I think they stay the same.

Conference Standings:
Overall Conference
Teams (No divisions) W L W L
Oklahoma 10 2 8 1
TCU 9 3 7 2
Texas 10 2 7 2
Oklahoma State 9 3 6 3
West Virginia 8 4 6 3
Kansas State 7 5 4 5
Baylor 7 5 4 5
Texas Tech 3 9 2 7
Iowa State 2 10 1 8
Kansas 1 11 0 9
Bowl Teams: 7
CFP: None
Big Six Oklahoma, Texas
CFP 2: None
Big Six 2: None
Others: TCU
Oklahoma State
West Virginia
Kansas State
Baylor
 
Most Underrated: Texas
Most Overrated: Baylor
Coaches on Hot Seat: Oklahoma State
West Virginia
Texas Tech

Yes, I have Oklahoma pegged to win the conference again (despite the retirement of Stoops) and, yes, I have 2017 as another year where the Big XII gets left on the outside looking in of  the CFP. Even the introduction of a "championship game" isn't going to help because the feeling will be that the conference is down. I'll deal with that a little bit more in my upcoming CFP preview.

Oklahoma is going to lose big games to Ohio State and Texas but I predict that Texas will, in Tom Herman fashion, lose to TCU and West Virginia (Oddly enough, I think they beat USC early in the season.)

Oklahoma State might finish 9-3 and get their coach fired. I've heard that it's "win or you're out" this year for Gundy. West Virginia will be a tough place to play, and Kansas State and Baylor round out the bowl slate.

Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas are going to be bad teams in the weakest Power 5 conference of them all.  In fact, I think two of the three might fire their coaches after this season. The only coaches I would say are 100% safe are Lincoln Riley (OU), Tom Herman (Texas), Matt Ruhle (Baylor) and Gary Patterson (TCU). Of course, Snyder is retiring (we think) after this year so that's already a change. I wouldn't be surprised to see as many as four schools looking for new head men in the off-season.

OPOY: Baker Mayfield
DPOY: Travin Howard (TCU)
COY: Tom Herman (Tex)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

College Football: Season Preview: PAC-12

I found the PAC-12 to be incredibly hard to handicap this year. I want to place USC in the driver's seat but picking Todd Helton over Washington head coach Chris Peterson just feels wrong. This is another conference that's top-heavy, but it's good to see the blue-bloods coming back to the fore.

Here's how I see it unfolding....

Conference Standings:
North W L South W L
Washington 12 0 USC 11 1
Oregon 10 2 UCLA 7 5
Stanford 8 4 Utah 7 5
Washington State 7 5 Colorado 6 6
California 2 10 Arizona State 5 7
Oregon State 2 10 Arizona 3 9
     
Won division     Won division    
Conference Championship:
Washington over USC
Bowl Teams: 8  
CFP: Washington
Big 6: USC
CFP 2: None
Others: Washington
Oregon
Stanford
Washington State
Utah
UCLA
 
Most Underrated: Utah
Most Overrated: Stanford
Coaches on Hot Seat: Arizona State
Washington State
Arizona

So, I went with Washington, I see them both winning the conference and finding themselves in the CFP.  The biggest surprise is that Oregon is going to be a tough ask. After that there's a precipitous drop off to Stanford (who I feel is a team in decline) and Washington State (who has found their level) before falling off a cliff to California and Oregon State.

In the West it's USC and then a host of middling teams that could finish in any order, UCLA has Josh Rosen, and not much else, Utah is always solid but I think they've found their level as well, Colorado was a nice story last year, but I see them regressing some. Arizona State and Arizona will probably be looking for new head coaches in the off-season and both Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez get shown the door.  I also wouldn't be surprised to see Mike Leach get tossed as Wazzu.  You put up with his act when he's winning, not so much when he's close to .500.

Again we have a situation where big sports sites are afraid to predict bad seasons for Power 5 teams. In the PAC-12 this year I think it's destined to happen for at least three teams.

OPOY: Sam Darnold (USC)
DPOY: Azeem Victor (Wash)
COY: Willie Taggart (Ore)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

College Football: Season Preview: The ACC

2016 was the best year the conference has ever had.  Not only did they win the National Championship, but they won 9 additional bowl games as well. They were, hands down, the best conference in College football last year.

This year will be a drop-off from last, but I don't think they will fall too far.

Here's how I see it.

Conference Standings:
Atlantic W L Coastal W L
Florida State   11 1 Virginia Tech   11 1
Clemson 11 1 Miami 10 2
Louisville 10 2 Georgia Tech 7 5
NC State 9 3 North Carolina 7 5
Syracuse 6 6 Pittsburgh 4 8
Wake Forest 3 9 Duke 4 8
Boston College 1 11 Virginia 3 9
Won division       Won division      
Conference Championship:
Florida State over Virginia Tech
Bowl Teams: 9  
CFP: Florida State
Big 6: Clemson
CFP 2: None
Others: Louisville
Miami
NC State
Syracuse
Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
Most Underrated: NC State
Most Overrated: Boston College
Coaches on Hot Seat: NC State
Boston College

One of the disconnects that I see in all of the major sports sites is predicting that any Power 5 conference team is going to have a really putrid season.  Given that the cannot score, and the defense is not going to be as good this year, I think Boston College is a prime candidate to do so.  I also think coach Narduzzi loses his job because NC State is going to be much better than people think.

The top of the conference is still dominated by Florida State and Clemson, followed by a Virginia Tech team that's going to surprise many this year ( and they get a lot of key games in Blacksburg) while Miami and Louisville make up a competitive 2nd tier.

NC State is a team that I'm higher on than most. In part that's because they bring in a Senior laden team, have their quarterback situation sorted, and should have a very tough defense to score against. They went 7-5 last year and I'm seeing many predictions of the same record. I think that's underrating them greatly.

Syracuse will be better, barely qualifying for a bowl, but after that it's a parade of bad teams with Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Duke, Virginia and Boston College all bringing up the rear with losing records.

OPOY: Lamar Jackson (LOU)
DPOY: Derwin James (FLSt)
COY: Justin Fuente (VaTech)

Monday, August 7, 2017

College Football: Season Preview: The SEC

It's Monday, time to start looking at the Power 5 conferences and sort-out who makes it to the CFP and the NY 6 games at the end.

I'll start off with the SEC, not for any reason other than they fall first on the spreadsheet I created.

When talking about the SEC you have to talk about Alabama. They've been the best team in the best conference for quite some time now, even in years they didn't win they sucked up all of the oxygen, and I don't see that changing this year.  What I do see is Florida being much improved in the East and Georgia as well.

Here's how I see it....
Conference Standings:
WEST W L EAST W L
Alabama   11 1 Florida   9 3
LSU 10 2 Georgia 9 3
Auburn 10 2 Tennessee 9 3
Texas A&M 7 5 Missouri 6 6
Arkansas 7 5 Kentucky 6 6
Mississippi State 6 6 South Carolina 4 8
Ole Miss 4 8 Vanderbilt 3 9

Wins Division Wins Division
Conference Championship:
Alabama over Florida
Bowl Teams: 11
CFP: Alabama
Big Six LSU Georgia
CFP 2: None
Others: Auburn
Florida
* On probation Texas A&M
Tennessee
Mississippi State
Kentucky
Missouri
Arkansas
Most Underrated: Missouri
Most Overrated: Auburn
Coaches on Hot Seat: Kevin Sumlin, Butch Jones
Brett Bielema, Mark Stoops

The question for the SEC this year is whether or not anyone will be able to knock off Alabama. My instinct says no.  gone is the distraction that was Lane Kiffin and back is a host of talented offensive players, including QB Jalen Hurts and massive RB Bo Scarborough, and a defense that shouldn't have trouble stopping anyone this year.  

The toughest team to evaluate is LSU, who I think has talent, and a good coach in Ed Orgeron, but who constantly mystifies me because their play doesn't always match up with the quality of athletes they have on the field.  That said, I think they're stronger than an overrated Auburn team who will have a solid record nevertheless because the SEC is (still) somewhat depressed this year once you get past the top six teams.

Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee are all going to be good this year. Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Missouri and Kentucky are going to be around average, and Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are going to be sub-par.  That's probably not what you expect to hear about the SEC (and it's not the narrative you're going to hear all year) but it's probably the truth.

OPOY: Darrius Guice (LSU)
DPOY: Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama)
COY: Ed Orgeron (LSU)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

College Football: Season Preview: Major Independents

When judging the independents in College football you have to take it game by game.  With that in mind I'm going to handle this a little different than I do conference previews and spend more time discussing individual schedules.

Here's how I see it developing.


Notre Dame: A bounce-back year for the Irish but will it be enough to keep Kelly employed?

Predicted record: 7-5

Wins: Temple, Boston College, Michigan State, Miami (OH), NC State, Wake Forest, Navy

Losses: Georgia, North Carolina, USC, Miami (FL), Stanford

Yes, the Irish are going to be better but they still play a too-strong schedule given their current status in the college football landscape.  They do bring back 4 out of 5 OL starters which should help, but they're going to be hoping that new QB Brandon Wimbush is as good as advertised, and he's going to have to get that way in a hurry. Josh Adams should do a good job taking some heat off, as he and his over 1,700 yards rushing will be a much needed pressure release for the young QB.  A major question for ND is who in the heck is going to catch the ball?  They have talent, but it's all young and unproven. Equanimeous St. Brown is my leader in the clubhouse for the "all name team" of 2017.

On defense the Irish have a very, very good LB and DB units, and they're deep to boot.  Where I'm afraid they're going to struggle is on the D-line, and many of the teams they play will either run it right down their throats are have a QB sit unpressured in the backfield and pick them apart. If Wimbush develops you could see many more Big XII-like scores in Notre Dame games than you are used to.


BYU: It's going to be more of the same for the Cougars, who should start out slow and then pick up steam.

Predicted record: 8-5


Wins: Portland State, Utah State, Eastern Carolina, San Jose State, Fresno State, UNLV, UMass, Hawai'i.

Losses: LSU, Utah, Wisconsin, Boise State, Mississippi State.

After seven games I predict that BYU will be 2-5 and in full on panic mode before finishing 6-0 during the last half of the season.  The problem is that they play a murderer's row of teams from the jump and they're going to have to replace a ton of parts while doing so.  Tanner Mangum should be OK at QB, but RB and WR is going to be an early season adventure.

Defensively BYU is going to have to find replacements for 3 out of 4 positions on their defensive line, and they're going to be pounded by Wisconsin and LSU before getting thrown on by Utah, Boise State and Mississippi State while doing so. BYU does have  a strong LB corps that's returning intact. They're going to have to rely on them to make a ton of plays if they want to improve on their record from last year.


Army: A bowl-season, and a win over Navy, last year might be possible given the pieces that are returning.

Predicted Record: 9-3

Wins: Fordham, Buffalo, UTEP, Rice, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Air Force, North Texas, Navy.

Losses: Ohio State, Tulane, Duke

Head Coach Jeff Monken is a local hero in West Point, and he has most of the pieces of his triple-option attack, including most of the offensive line, returning for a swan song.  Army also benefits from a soft-schedule with really only Ohio State pushing them into blow-out territory.  While I give them a win over Temple, they could lose that game and beat Duke so it would be a wash.  Overall I think the floor for this team is 7-5 given the schedule, with some breaks they could be 11-1.  Don't laugh.

Despite what might be a gaudy record, don't expect the Black Knights to get much run Nationally because they're going to be doing it against a very weak slate of opponents. They will have some time early to let the defense replace some key graduates, but they have enough pieces coming back that I think they will be competitive against all but Ohio State.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

College Football: Season Preview: The American

While I realize that the American feels they should be rated alongside the other "power" conferences (They've spent a lot of money on P6 after all)  I still think the best place to put them is alongside the Group of Five.

That said, Mountain West not withstanding, I still think they are the best of the power five conferences but still a couple of notches below even the Big XII, which I consider to be the weakest of all the "major" conferences.

Last year Temple provided everyone with a great story, beating Navy in the Championship game when an insanely talented Houston team stumbled inexplicably to both of them in the regular season. This year I think the most talented team wins.

Here's how I see it going....

Conference Standings:
East W L West W L
South Florida   12 0 Memphis   10 2
Temple 7 5 Houston 10 2
UCF 6 6 Tulane 7 5
East Carolina 4 8 SMU 6 6
Cincinnati 3 9 Navy 6 6
Connecticut 1 11 Tulsa 5 7
               
Won division       Won division      
Conference Championship:
South Florida over Memphis
 
Bowl Teams:   8  
CFP: None
Big 6: South Florida
CFP 2: None
Others: Houston
Memphis
Tulane
SMU
Temple
Navy
UCF
 
Most Underrated: Tulane
Most Overrated: UCF
Coaches on Hot Seat: None

South Florida is the class of the conference, they're loaded with talent and they have a good HC in Charlie Strong who understands both the good and the bad of having a spotlight on you. They have the best offensive player in the conference in the person of QB Quentin Flowers. At worst they'll finish 11-1 and will probably be the Big 6 representative for the Group of 5.

I have Memphis winning the West, with an identical record to Houston but getting the tie-break due to beating the Cougars at Memphis. Home games count in conference play. They also have a ton of talent returning on offense, and a defense that I project will be among the best in the conference by year's end. They have holes to fill, but have recruited well on that side of the ball.  My bold prediction for the conference comes in the form of Tulane, who I feel will be the most underrated team in the conference this year.  Head Coach Willie Fritz' team lost eight games last year, but 4 of them were by less than 10 points.  And they did this without a quarterback to speak of. K-State transfer Jonathan Banks should solve that problem and vault them into bowl eligibility.

SMU has talent, but is lacking a defense, the same can be said for UCF (the most overrated school in the conference, and Navy.  Cincinnati, East Carolina, Connecticut and Tulsa are all rebuilding and looking up toward the other teams.  Given coaching attrition, most of the coaches here are too new to really be on the hot-seat.

OPOY: Quentin Flowers (USF)
DPOY: Ed Oliver (Houston)
COY: Willie Fritz (Tulane)

Friday, August 4, 2017

College Football: Season Preview: Conference USA

Fair warning:  I'm not in love with my projections for this conference. I'm OK with the two teams I have one top, but I'm struggling with Western KY's overall record.  The problem is that I just cannot find a game where I say "they're going to lose", although I fully expect them to with a new coach.

When the dust settles I fully believe that Western Kentucky will end up the conference champion by besting Louisiana Tech in the Championship game.

Here's how I see it going:

Conference Standings:
WEST W L EAST W L
Louisiana Tech 9 3 Western Kentucky 10 2
UTSA 9 3 Middle Tennessee 8 4
Southern Miss 7 5 Old Dominion 7 5
Rice 3 9 Marshall 6 6
North Texas 3 9 Florida Atlantic 4 8
UAB 2 10 Florida International 3 9
UTEP 1 11 Charlotte 2 10
Wins Division Wins Division
Conference Championship:
Western Kentucky Over Louisiana Tech
Bowl Teams: 7
CFP: None
Big Six None
CFP 2: None
Others: Western Kentucky
UTSA
Southern Miss
Middle Tennessee
Louisiana Tech
Old Dominion
Marshall
Most Underrated: UTSA
Most Overrated: Florida Atlantic
Coaches on Hot Seat: UTEP, Rice

I'm going to spend a little bit of time on Western Kentucky.  Yes, Jeff Brohm has gone on to lose at Purdue, and yes they lost some on defense, but they still have QB Mike White returning and a host of play makers for him to get the ball to. They also return 3 offensive linemen from a group that was very good last year.  New DC Clayton White is an up and coming coach, and they seem to have enough talent (especially in the secondary, to be good once again.

Then there's this:  Out of conference they play Eastern Kentucky, Illinois (which will be better but not good IMO), Ball State and Vanderbilt. I can see them running the table there. Plus, they get La Tech, and Middle Tennessee at home.  Will they make a New Year's Six bowl if they run the table?  No, because the bottom half of C-USA is pathetic, but is it possible they do?  Yes.

In the West I think La Tech gets surprised a little bit by a UTSA team that's going to be highly underrated this year, and pretty good to boot. After that Old Dominion is still a good football team, and I think Doc Holliday saves his job by finishing 6-6 and making a bowl game.

Now for the elephant in the room: Lane Kiffin. Kiffin's MO in the past has been inheriting good teams and flushing them down the toilet. Despite this many pundits believe that he's going to somehow transform Florida Atlantic into a power overnight.  I just don't see it.  He's recruiting (relatively) well and I think he'll eventually get enough character risk/high talent guys to play for the Owls so they compete, but I don't see it this year.

Rice and UTEP will be looking for new coaches in the offseason, and UAB is just happy to be here. Southern Miss is back on the rise, but North Texas, Florida International and Charlotte have a LOT of work to do.


Prediction: UTEP will win ESPN's "Bottom 10" award as the worst team in the country, just beating out Texas State.

OPOY: Brent Stockstill (MTSU)
DPOY: Jaylon Ferguson (La Tech)
COY: Mike Sanford (WKU)



Thursday, August 3, 2017

College Football: USA Today Sports Information Direct... ummm..Coaches poll released.

The College Football poll with the most misleading name ever was released today:


While it's not too wrong at the top, the bottom half leaves much to be desired....

1. Alabama (Duh)
2. Ohio State (Yup)
3. Florida State (Uh-huh)
4. USC (ehhh...)
5. Clemson (uh uh)
6. Penn State (OK)
7. Washington (more on this later)
8. Oklahoma (about right)
9. Michigan (meh)
10. Wisconsin (yes)
11. Oklahoma State (good)
12. LSU (sure)
13. Auburn (more in a bit)
14. Stanford (nope)
15. Georgia (sure, why not)
16. Florida (much too low)
17. Louisville (low)
18 Miami (meh)
19. Kansas State (way, way too high)
20 West Virginia (too high)
21 South Florida (probably too low)
22 Virginia tech (low)
23 Texas (low)
24 Tennessee (meh)
25 Utah (nope)

Teams also receiving votes are in the following order:


26. Washington State (high)
27. Colorado (high)
28 TCU (low)
29 Boise State (low)
Tie Notre Dame (high)
31 Texas A&M (high)
32 Pittsburgh (high)
33 NC State (high)
34 Oregon (OK)
35 Northwestern (high)


There are more but I'll stop there.

My biggest issue?  In the top 35 these esteemed "coaches" only saw fit to include 2 (two) non Power 5 conference schools.

South Florida at 21 is a joke. Based on paper (and at this point the poll is entirely based on paper) they should contend for a top 10 ranking this year and will more than likely be the Group of 5 representative to the "Here's a Cookie Now Don't Sue Us Bowl" of the year, the Cotton Bowl.  This slot was designed to prevent the Group of 5 conferences from suing due to a total lack of inclusion into the CFP.

Not said however, the way that the CFP excludes the Group of 5 conferences from playoff participation is by artificially ranking them low in the first place. The same can be said for Boise State, and Western Kentucky, and Toledo and whoever the hell voted Tulsa higher than Houston this year.

Think about this:  Arizona has 2 votes, one higher than projected conference winner Toledo and it's more than likely the Wildcats are going to have a losing season and get their coach fired this year.

The conference breakdown of the Top 25 is as follows:

SEC - 6 (of course)
ACC - 5
BigXII - 5
B1G - 4
PAC-12 - 4
AAC - 1

That the BigXII has more schools in the top 25 than the PAC 12 is crazy. That they have more than the BIG is defensible, but still out of sorts.  That this poll factors into calculating the members of the College Football Playoff is just sad.

Now, I'm not suggesting that Western Kentucky or Wyoming or Toledo could beat Alabama. But don't you think there's a better than average chance they COULD beat Utah or Kansas State?

Yup, and that's why this poll is so flawed.

College Football: Season Preview: The Midwestern Athletic Conference

In 2016 Western Michigan rowed the boat all the way to a drubbing in a New Year's Six bowl. But that was a win for a conference who often finds itself hopelessly lost in the shadow of the geographically similar B1G.  While I think the Broncos will still be plenty good, I think they will miss P.J. Fleck quite a bit and I also think they run up against a Toledo team that's loaded.

In the East I think it's the revenge of coaching war horse Frank Solich who will win the East but will, once again, fall short in the championship game.

Here's how I see it falling out....

Conference Standings:
East W L West W L
Ohio 10 2 Toledo 11 1
Miami (OH) 9 3 Western Michigan 9 3
Bowling Green 5 7 Central Michigan 8 4
Akron 4 8 Northern Illinois 7 5
Kent State 2 10 Ball State 3 9
Buffalo 1 11 Eastern Michigan 2 10
Won division Won division
Conference Championship: Toledo over Ohio
Bowl Teams: 6
CFP: None
Big 6: None
CFP 2: None
Others: Ohio
Miami (OH)
Toledo
Western Michigan
Central Michigan
Northern Illinois
Most Underrated: Central Michigan
Most Overrated: Eastern Michigan
Coaches on Hot Seat:
Akron
Kent State
Ball State
Eastern Michigan

The name to pay attention to in the MAC this year is Toledo signal-caller Logan Woodside. I fully expect him to be the conference offensive player of the year and they get Western Michigan at home. Defensively the Rockets should be pretty good as well, returning seven starters. In the East I see it being a two-team race that feels similar to 2016.  Miami (OH) and Ohio will be right at the top all year and their game against each other (Halloween, at Ohio) will probably determine the conference winner.  I give the edge to Ohio because they are going to have an outstanding defense to go along with a competent offense.

My bold MAC prediction is this:  Central Michigan is going to be pretty good this year and will comfortably make a bowl at 8-4. I think Michigan transfer Josh Morris gets the starting nod and is successful in getting the ball to a talented group of playmakers.

I also think, sadly, that Eastern Michigan is going to struggle again.  They'll score at ton of points, but they'll give up more.  Add to that a brutal schedule and I can't see them winning more than two games.  That's too bad because I think head coach Cris Creighton did some good work last year, but coaching at EMU is going to do him in.

The problem, again, for the MAC is that once you get past the top teams, the conference falls off a ledge. Kent State and Buffalo should compete for the worst team in the league, with Kent State HC Paul Haynes being shown the exit by season's end. Ball State, and Akron are also going to be pretty bad, and we've already discussed the plight of EMU.

2017 won't have the magical ride for the MAC that 2016 did, but it won't be bad either with a projected six teams receiving bowl bids.

OPOY: Logan Woodside (Toledo)
DPOY: Quentin Poling (Ohio)
COY: Frank Solich (Ohio)

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