MAC Media Media Poll
Just two conference teams (Bowling Green and Central Michigan) finished the 2007 regular season at least two wins above .500, and only three additional teams (Ball State, Miami and Ohio) had records of 6-6 or better. Miami fell to 6-7 with its loss in the conference championship game to the Chippewas, failing to qualify for a bowl bid.
The conference went 0-3 in bowls with two blowout losses. Ball State fell 52-30 to Rutgers at the International Bowl, and Bowling Green was demolished 63-7 by Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl. CMU rallied from a 41-20 deficit with 12:53 to play in the Motor City Bowl, but a 40-yard field goal as time expired lifted Purdue to the 51-48 win.
Last year, MAC teams played an unbalanced conference schedule as most teams in the West division had 7 conference games while the bulk of the East division schools played 8 league matches. This season, the conference has scheduled 8 MAC opponents for every school.
Central Michigan is picked by the computer to continue its stranglehold on the championship trophy. The Chippewas get a 2.98-point edge over Bowling Green in the title game at Detroit on December 5. The Falcons have not won the MAC title since 1992, and have not played in the conference championship game since falling to Miami in 2003.
Parity has made the MAC a difficult conference to figure out over the past three years, and the computer's (about the computer) last successful division champion pick was Miami in 2004.
Even though seven MAC teams are projected to land at - or above - the .500 mark in 2008, both division races are open and "parity" seems to be the key word again.
Only 9.63 power points separate first from last in the East, while the top-to-bottom difference in the west is 12.69 power points.
Projected East champion BGSU is favored by than less than a solitary point in two conference road wins, and by just 1.38 in another. Forecasted West division champ Central Michigan has winning margins of under 7 points on half of its' MAC games.
Even the predictions for last-place finishers Akron and Toledo are not a sure thing as both schools are the underdog by fewer than 5 points in four conference tilts.
Keep an eye on Temple in 2008. The computer says the perennial losers will win more than 4 games for the first time since 1990, and compete for second place in the East division. The Owls only lose one starter from a team that went 4-4 in their first official MAC season. Temple's over-all record of 4-8 was its' best result since the 2002 team also went 4-8. It took the Owls four seasons to win a total of 4 games from 2003-2006.
Ball State has a legitimate shot at the West division title, a year after finishing the regular season at 7-5 and making its first bowl appearance since 1996. The Cardinals' return QB Nate Davis to challenge Dan LeFevour and the Chippewas. CMU won the heads-up battle 58-38 in Muncie, Indiana last year as LeFevour threw for 360 yards and 5 TD's while Davis was held to 204 yards and just 1 TD.
The MAC's only coaching change took place at Northern Illinois where Joe Novak stepped down after 12 years. NIU slipped to 2-10 last season for its first losing campaign since 1999 (5-6).
Novak's career record of 63-75 may not sound impressive but, from the middle of the 1999 campaign through the end of the 2006 season, his Huskies won 58 of 90 (64.4 percent) games, won or shared the MAC West Division title four times, made two bowl appearances (2004 Silicon Valley Classic and 2006 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl) and played in the league's championship game in 2005. Northern Illinois was one of just 18 programs in the nation, and the only team not affiliated with a Bowl Championship Series conference, to post seven straight winning seasons from 2000-06.
The Huskies didn't have to venture far to find a replacement, tapping FCS member Southern Illinois' Jerry Kill. Kill compiled a career record of 104-57 in 14 seasons as a head coach at SIU, Emporia State and Saginaw Valley State.