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Saturday's Week 1 MAC Previews
For true fans and degenerate gamblers alike
Image from wmich.edu
Western Michigan at Michigan (-17) (12 pm, ESPN)
Western Michigan is expected to contend for the MAC West title behind one of 2020’s most proficient FBS passers, QB Kaleb Eleby, and a defense that’s...well, good enough to give Eleby and his high-flying receiver corps a chance to win.
The Wolverines start the season unranked and may stay that way for the foreseeable future without some consistency at QB and the accelerated development of top-tier talent like CB Gemon Green, WRs Erick All and Mike Sainristil, and LB Josh Ross, among others.
Michigan probably win this one, but I am very intrigued by the Broncos and the points. Eleby should do enough to keep this game relatively close.
Miami (Ohio) at #8 Cincinnati (-19.5) (3:30 pm, ESPN+)
Image from gobearcats.com
Miami is expected to be in the mix for the top spot in the MAC East. That wild ride probably will not begin at Nippert Stadium. The Bearcats have 14 consecutive wins against the RedHawks in the Battle for the Victory Bell, and with QB Desmond Ridder — the winningest active QB in FBS — at the helm for Cincy, don’t expect that streak to snap.
"Dual threat, lightning with his legs. He's been ripping off huge runs his whole career and he's really, really, really grown as a passer from the time we first saw him when he was a freshman to now," Miami coach Chuck Martin told Keith Jenkins of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "And they've done a great job of developing the offense around him. They've added to the package every year. It's way different, way harder to defend now than they used to be. ... He can do more and more each year."
I’d take Cincy here.
Central Michigan at Missouri (-12.5) (4 pm, SEC Network)
CMU is projected as a middle-of-the-pack MAC West team this season, and coach Jim McElwain is likely sidelined with appendicitis. Rough start to the season! Last season, the Chippewas were great against the run and, well, pretty bad against the pass. Expect MIzzou and QB Connor Bazelak, who slung the rock for 2,366 yards (including 406 vs. LSU), to test that soft secondary. I’d probably take the SEC team in this one; I don’t know that CMU will get blown away, but I do expect them to lose by a couple TDs.
Norfolk State at Toledo (-37.5) (7 pm, ESPN 3)
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FCS Norfolk State was 5-7 in 2019 and had its 2020 season cancelled. Toledo is bringing back essentially its entire team from last season’s 4-2 campaign. Expect the Rockets to roll their MEAC competition. I’d take Toledo, despite the gaudy spread.
Syracuse at Ohio (PK) (7 pm, CBSSN)
Image from @OhioBobcats
How the mighty have fallen! Syracuse is a pick ‘em against a MAC squad! Granted, Ohio is pretty good, a contender for the MAC East, and Syracuse really needs a victory on Saturday to lock up...four wins this year? Five? A loss means the calls for ‘Cuse coach Dino Babers’ job will get loud, indeed. Almost as loud as Rufus the Bobcat (above) driving a motorcycle.
The gang at SI.com favor The Orange in this one, with Logan Garvey as the lone MAC proponent: “Syracuse is banking on an improved offense and quality receivers returning, but Ohio is well-established (12 consecutive non-losing seasons). They look fairly balanced on both sides, whereas Syracuse has to prove they can get consistent stops with the defense. that gave up nearly 33 points per game last year.” If I’m gambling on this one, I’m taking the home team.
Akron at Auburn (-35.5) (7 pm, SEC Network)
Kent State at #6 Texas A&M (-28.5) (8 pm, ESPNU)
Lumping these two together because, well, what’s the point. Akron is a legitimately bad team that faces Auburn at home. Yes, the Tigers are unranked, but they are also essentially treating this game like a scrimmage.
“Akron is not a strong opponent, so Auburn should cruise from beginning to end,” writes Justin Lee of the Opelika-Auburn News. “Any hiccups will go under the microscope, and Auburn needs to avoid them after what’s been a rocky first fall camp under Bryan Harsin. Auburn should win just by showing up, but an exciting showing that gets fans on board for the non-conference run would be a success for the Tigers.”
In other words, the new coach wants an ass-beating to placate the fans. This does not bode well for Akron scraping together a respectful fourth quarter to cover the spread.
Kent State is projected to win the MAC East and has a buzzsaw offense that averaged 50 points per game in 2020, was #1 in total offense, #2 in rushing offense, and #1 in passer rating.
The Aggies, however, are the Aggies, legit national title contenders that bring back 20 of 22 members of a very solid 2020 SEC defense. The Golden Flashes will likely put up a good fight, and that 28.5-point spread may be a bit high for an opponent that can pick up some garbage TDs—but Jimbo Fisher likes him some blowouts, too.
Best of luck to Sean Lewis and his Kent State men but their work is cut out for them at College Station.
Northern Illinois University at Georgia Tech (-13) (7 pm, ACC Network)
“Northern Illinois finished last season 0-6 in the MAC in coach Thomas Hammock’s third season. The Huskies return 19 offensive and defensive starters.
“One new starter is quarterback Rocky Lombardi, a graduate transfer from Michigan State. In 22 games with the Spartans, including nine starts, he completed 48% of his passes and had an 11/14 touchdown/interception ratio. ..(and) while Northern Illinois may not be the most effective gauge, Tech’s improvement on the offensive and defensive lines will be assessed.
Both groups were lacking last season. Jackets coaches have spoken of the development of right tackle Jordan Williams, defensive end Jordan Domineck and others, and Patenaude brought up at the beginning of the preseason his plans to play “bully ball” behind the veteran offensive line.
The defensive line will be tasked with stopping the Northern Illinois run game and pressuring the quarterback. Defensive ends/outside linebackers coach Marco Coleman has expressed his confidence in the line’s ability to create pressure without the assistance of blitz help.”
Not exactly football juggernauts here, folks. I’d take Tech; after seeing Michigan State’s putrid offense last season, I would not put my money on Lombardi. Not this one, anyway.