I haven't been contributing to these so far this season because of various reasons, but this week I got to ask the questions. All bow down to the shield and the roundtable of the MAC. Your contributors this week are Eagle Totem, FalconBlog, UB Bull Run, Let's Go Rockets, Over The Pylon and Temple Football Forever
Due to copy and paste issues, the formatting is a work in process so just bear with me.
1. Just when one team thinks they have a hold of the division, it seems like the next week they get upset by a seemingly lesser-talented surprise team. How do you explain the volatility in the MAC this year, with CMU beating NIU, then NIU beating WMU and EMU defeating CMU just this past week?
I have no freaking idea. I’m just along for the ride.
- The coming apocalypse
- Preparing for "Occupy the MAC" (Aren't we the 1%?)
- Genetically modified asparagus
- El Nino
- Mayan prophecy
OK, so maybe there is one more....the "good" teams in the MAC are still flawed, and the "bad" teams have enough strength (EMU's run, for example) to have a puncher's chance in any game. No team in the MAC has shown itself to be incapable of self-destruction, except Toledo. And there's still time.
I honestly don't believe there is any volatility this season. Toledo is a whole lot better than people thought and Ohio and Miami are quite a bit worse. Everything else has been pretty stable. There are some other surprises like Bowling Green and Ball State but the Toledo and Temple have been among the favorites since week two.
Temple looks increasingly like its in a division with only lightweights. Maybe Bowling Green can give them a run but everyone else in the east looks, at best, mediocre.
WMU looks better than I thought but they, NIU, and likely ball state are all a half step or more behind Toledo.
Shy of NIU’s victory over WMU, the rest of those games are just weekly peaks of middle of the pack MAC teams. The MAC, traditionally, features two or three strong teams and two or three weak teams and all other participants lumped in the middle — and this year is no exception to that. The only surprising point of the games mentioned above is that WMU couldn’t hold it’s own in a game that, on paper, they should have won.
First and foremost, it definitely exemplifies that the transitive property most certainly doesn’t apply in football… at least MAC football. If nothing else, it’s a tangible example of just how much parity there is in the MAC. Teams with the depth and talent of MAC programs simply cannot afford a down week. A couple of turnovers or a lackluster showing on either side of the ball and defeat is a good probability no matter the opponent.
TFF: There's a lot of emotion involved in football. I've noticed a lot of the upsets come a week after a satisfying win. Maybe the work habits at practice are affected by that.
2. Going off of the last question, how emotionally involved are you with your respective team? Do you have your highs and lows or do you try and keep an even keel the entire season following your respective squad?
I have my highs and lows, but they tend to have more to do with how EMU plays than the outcome of the game. I was probably feeling better after their 31-3 loss to Michigan than I was after their 14-7 over what’s turned out to be a pretty good Alabama State team. EMU is much better than they’ve been, but they’re still a team that’s building (it’s been so long I don’t think you can call it "rebuilding").
I am very emotionally involved, which happens every year. Or, I wouldn't be doing this. Having said that, my general philosophy is to ride the highs and minimize the lows. After all, the purpose of following sports is supposed to be because it is fun.
I'm a Buffalo fan, I get one high per year so no need to make it Plural. After beating Ohio I expected to see progress against Temple After that awful game I did not want to think about football for a few days and rattled off this gem.
As much time as we all spend covering our teams, it’s hard not to become caught up in all of it. We feel we do a good job of remaining cautiously optimistic and avoiding the pitfalls of super highs and lows. Because Toledo plays the toughest OOC schedule of any team in the MAC, it is difficult to not take some of the early disappointing games to heart, but when you’re competing with some of the top tier teams in the country and holding your own, it’s easier to bounce back and refocus when it comes time for conference play.
It’s funny how this question would have gotten a different answer just 12 months ago. After 2008 and our 12-0 regular season, I was definitely blinded by success and expected dominance and victories regardless of the multiple warning signs of the program, so 2009 was brutal. 2010 was more of the same as I mistakenly thought we had hit rock bottom and had nowhere to go but up. I was mistaken. With the hiring of Pete Lembo, I think my expectations were already a bit downgraded from years past after two years of a hard and brutal reality. Admittedly, we got a bit giddy (wrongly so) about USF but I’d say the Oklahoma and Temple games have gotten our mindframe in the right spot. There isn’t anything wrong with being just ok and that seems to be where we are at. The good news about the MAC is ok is good enough to win should the opponent not fire on all cylinders.
TFF: I get emotional only in rivalry games, like Villanova and Penn State. Villanova, because I know that school is trying its best to badmouth Temple at every opportunity. Penn State, because I know what a win over that program would have done for credibility in a pro market like Philadelphia. The rest of the season I'm on an even keel.
3. It seems like the MAC is past being a league where just offense prowess can win the league. Is that statement correct? Do you think your team has the right balance this season, or will one side of the ball have to carry the other the rest of the way?
I hope it doesn’t take offensive prowess to win the league, because EMU doesn’t have it. The Eagles can definitely gut it out with their running game and win a low- to mid-scoring game, but they really don’t have a chance in a true shootout. I’ve estimated that 41 points is probably the ceiling for this team — that’s what they scored at home against Howard — and the defense must keep opponents below that to even have a chance, and probably below 30 points to have a realistic possibility.
It will be interesting. NIU might be in the process of proving that you can, in fact, win with offensive prowess alone, although that is still up in the air. In general, it is very difficult to win the games you need when you either cannot score or cannot stop anyone. You are too reliant on one element, and if the other teams stops it or you just have a bad day, you are left without a backup plan.
As for the Falcons, I think the team is balanced in the sense that neither the offense nor the defense is where it needs to be. The defense is closer. The offense has to get more consistent. I do think BG is on track for a very balanced football team, but they are not there today.
Unfortunately for Buffalo they have a decent defense but a horrible offense. You need some balance. You either need to have an offense that piles up the points or gives the defense rest. The Bulls ran all of six plays in the first Quarter of the Temple game and thanks to the 'fast pace' that meant the defense only had about 2 minutes off.
Thats going to wear down a defense. But yes, I have noticed a change from the shootouts with teams like NIU and Temple doing a better job of playing stout defense and using ball control on offense.
While the defense has vastly improved, with all of the injuries the Rockets have faced on that side of the ball this year, the offense is going to have to carry the team the rest of the way. Injuries to LB Molls, S Robinson, S Singer, DE Fatinikun, CB Paige have left the Toledo defense very thin.
The defense for BSU has only been gashed three times this season, against USF, Oklahoma, and Temple, all of which are respectable opponents to get ground up by. In those same three games the offense was certainly a bit less than desirable, but I’m of the opinion that had more to do with the opponent than the ability or lack thereof with the Cardinal O. I’m satisfied beyond measure considering this is a new system under a new coach with a ton of injuries and some sizable attrition in the offseason. This is the worst the offense will ever be under Lembo and they’re still one of the most efficient and mistake-free units in the conference.
TFF: I'm concerned about the offensive balance. Temple has a great running game, but the Owls have not demonstrated (yet) that you can trust the forward pass in a big spot, especially the deep routes.
4. If you could get a top recruit for one position on your team, which one would it be?
Funny, a message board thread on this very topic was started this morning. Consensus there is that the biggest needs for 2012 and beyond are defensive line (2012) and quarterback (2013). Of 11 players listed on the roster as "defensive line", "defensive end", or "defensive tackle", five will be gone after this season, and that’s a big hole to fill for 2012. As for quarterback, it’s become clear that, win or lose, Ron English is going to stick with Alex Gillett, and barring injury, he will be EMU’s starting quarterback in 2012. You can put that in ink and tattoo it. There is just n way Ron English will bench a senior quarterback (which he will be) who’s started every game since midway through English would do it. The gaping question, then, is who will be the starting quarterback in 2013. Of the known contenders, Tyler Benz will be a junior, and Mark Iannotti will be a sophomore if his redshirt sticks this year. More than any other position, a top quarterback recruit has the potential to completely change a college football team’s fortunes.
I am tempted to say placekicker. I'd like to even have a medium recruit. Beyond that, let's say OT...
Quarterback. UB needs a consistent leader and while having Chazz is nice(ish) he is gone after this season. Quinn has pulled in a couple of Promising Quarterbacks so far in Licata and Micheal but it may be another season before they see the field.
Toledo would benefit most from a top recruit in the defensive secondary; a true threat that would limit the passing game and keep opposing QBs from even looking at his side of the field. This skill set would compliment Toledo’s solid run defense and help quiet opponents’ offensive production.
That’s a hard question to answer because it would mean I was unsatisfied with any particular position or player, and I really am not. I would like more depth across the board and the area where a standout player is most needed is a beast on the o-line, but one player on the line wouldn’t make much difference if the rest of the unit wasn’t equal. In my history with the MAC, tall and fast receivers seem to be unstoppable against the usual MAC secondary, so adding another weapon to the receiving corps would be helpful. If you know of any 6’6″, 4.3 40 guys, I’m sure Lembo has a spot for them. A Suh-esque defensive tackle would be a nice addition as well.
5. Rank Los Equipos
WMU beats out NIU with an average of 3.5 to 3.7. What the? LGR & OTP both ranked WMU ahead of the team they just lost to.