MAC Media Media Poll
For the second straight season, the computer picks Central Michigan and Temple to play for the MAC title. Central Michigan was the correct pick for the west division and conference titles last year, but the Owls finished behind Ohio which lost to CMU in the championship game.
Ours was one of just two major national forecasters to correctly put Temple in 1st or 2nd of the east division last year. Sports Illustrated was the other.
Central Michigan maintained success through the transition from Brian Kelly to Butch Jones, and will look to keep the magic intact this season under former Michigan State running backs coach Dan Enos. It is the first head coaching job at any level for the 41-year-old Enos who will be charged with trying to lead CMU to its fourth MAC title in five years. The Chippewas' only forecasted losses are a 2.93-point road loss to Temple in week 2 of the regular season, and an 11.02-point road loss in a tough nonconference game at Virginia Tech.
Northern Illinois gets the nod for second-place in the west division, but trails CMU by 10.66 power points. Each of the Huskies' two projected losses are in DeKalb against each of the predicted division winners. NIU is a 7.56-point dog to the Owls on October 9 and a 7.66 underdog to the Chippewas two weeks later.
The computer saddles Temple with just one forecasted loss, a 10.37-point nonconference setback at Penn State in week 4. The teams have met annually since 2006 with the Nittany Lions taking all four by a cumulative score of 154-9, and the Owls are 0-34-1 in the last 35 meetings.
Temple opens against FCS member Villanova for the second straight season. The Wildcats won last year's meeting 27-24 for their third consecutive victory over the Owls.
The Owls are actually favored (-2.03) over projected Big East champion UConn, and are double-digit favorites in 9 games. Head coach Al Golden has done a remarkable job with Temple, which served as the perennial doormat of the Big East and MAC from 1991-2006. Since becoming eligible for the MAC title in 2007, the Owls have finished no worse than 4-4 in conference play and tied Ohio's 7-1 conference mark last year. Only a 35-17 loss at the Bobcats in the final regular season game kept Temple from playing for the conference crown. The Owls are a 12.11-point home favorite over Ohio in the revenge game on November 16.
Speaking of Ohio, Frank Solich's group has a chance at repeating as east division champs as the loss at Temple is the only projected conference defeat in the forecast.
According to the computer, CMU, Temple, Ohio and Northern Illinois are the only MAC schools that will finish with a .500 or better record. Five schools are picked to go 5-7 - east division members Bowling Green, Buffalo and Kent State, and west division members Ball State and Western Michigan.
Ball State's 5-7 forecast includes victories over FCS schools in the first two weeks of the season, and four road losses by 4 points or less to Purdue, Toledo, Kent State and Buffalo.
Akron, under new head coach Rob Ianello, is a double-digit underdog in seven games and only one expected loss is by less than 5 points (vs. Miami, Ohio). Ianello has spent most of his 23-year coaching career as a receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, and spent the last five seasons with Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. Ianello replaces J.D. Brookhart who was fired after compiling a 30-42 record in a four-season tenure that began with a 2005 MAC Championship and a Motor City Bowl loss to Memphis. Those still stand as the first and only MAC title and bowl appearance in the school's history.
Buffalo lost head coach Turner Gill to Kansas after a four-season stint that was highlighted by capturing a MAC Championship in 2008. A longtime Brian Kelly assistant, Quinn has been caught up in the Kelly-Butch Jones-Central Michigan-Cincinnati-Notre Dame circle for awhile, and his story was beginning to seem like a case of "always the bridesmaid, never the bride".
Quinn served as interim head coach in Central Michigan's 2006 Motor City bowl win over Middle Tennessee after Kelly bolted for the Bearcats. And last year, after Kelly left Cincy for Notre Dame, Quinn served as interim head coach in the Bearcats' 51-24 loss to Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Quinn's offenses at Central Michigan and Cincinnati were noted for their pro-style passing attack that racked up yardage and points, but often strained his own teams' defense. As an example, the 2007 Chippewa squad scored 487 points but allowed 517 while going 8-6.
Eastern Michigan is predicted to repeat its 0-12 finish of a year ago. The Eagles' current 12-game losing streak is the second longest in the nation behind Western Kentucky's 20 straight overall losses and 25 consecutive to FBS schools.
MAC teams will once again begin the season with a distinct disadvantage in scheduling as none of its members play more than 6 home games and 5 schools (Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Miami an Northern Illinois) only have 5 home contests.
Central Michigan and Northern Illinois had to schedule an FCS school just to get that 5th home game.
Ball State has 6 home games, but the first two are versus FCS members SE Missouri State and Liberty. The Cards are one of five teams in the nation that will face two FCS schools (Arizona State, San Jose State, Syracuse and Virginia are the others).
Big Six conferences, especially the Big Ten, typically schedule home games against MAC schools to gain a 7th home game. Ohio State's home dates with Ohio and Eastern Michigan give the Buckeyes 8 home games. Additionally, Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Iowa (1), Michigan (1), Michigan State (1), Minnesota (1), Northwestern (1), Penn State (2) and Purdue (2) all have MAC teams on their schedule. Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team that doesn't face a MAC school, and not a single one of those 13 Big Ten-MAC matchups are played on the home field of the MAC team.
Akron, Ball State and Northern Illinois each play two games at Big Ten stadiums.
MAC teams also visit Baylor, Boise State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa State, Kentucky, Missouri, Troy, Tulsa, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Five MAC teams have only 1 home game in the month of September - Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Toledo.
Kent State opens at home with Murray State on September 2 and doesn't host another game until October 9.
The MAC lost a bowl affiliation with the March 25th announcement that the International Bowl was folding. The game was played in Toronto each of the last four seasons and matched a Big East opponent with a MAC school. The Big East landed a contract with the newly-formed Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, rendering it unnecessary to renew an agreement to supply a team to the International Bowl.