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CFT predicts: MAC standings

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As we look ahead to the 2011 college football season, we take with us the lessons we learned from seasons past. We calculate, scrutinize, dissect and digest schedules, returning starters, coaching changes, injuries, and yes, even hunches, and spew it back in the form of how we think each of the 11 Division 1 FBS conferences — and independents — will pan out by year’s end.

Of course, these are merely our opinions. Feel free, as we know you will, to disagree. We know that’s why you really come here anyway.

Here are our predictions for the Mid-American Conference:

Ben Kercheval’s MAC champion: Toledo
John Taylor’s MAC champion: Toledo

Ben’s take
The MAC has been absolutely atrocious in bowl games recently, which is what many use as a measuring stick for a conference’s strength. To climb their way out of the Division 1 FBS cellar, the MAC’s higher-ranked teams are going to have to — and I’m paraphrasing a certain YouTube video here — “put the conference on their back!”.

Miami of Ohio is the pick of the MAC media poll to win the East in its first year under former Michigan State assistant Don Treadwell, but I’m going with Ohio University, which has been seemingly in the mix of things year in and year out since Frank Solich took over as coach. Al Golden is gone from Temple, but he left that program far better than he found it, which should make life for Steve Addazio a little easier in his first year. Beyond the top three, the MAC East is anybody’s guess.

With Jerry Kill moving on from Northern Illinois to Minnesota, and Central Michigan still in a rebuilding process, the time is now for Toledo to make it back to Detroit for the MAC championship game and represent the West Division. Tim Beckman has really done a nice job with the Rockets, and while the West is the more top-heavy division, Toledo returns a ton of starters on both sides of the ball.

John’s take
With the exception of Conference USA, there might not be a conference in college football with more parity in its top half than the MAC. You could make a case for any of three teams in the East division and would get nary an argument from me. The same holds true for the West.

In the former division, it appears likely that half of the conference championship game will come from defending champ Miami of Ohio, Ohio or Temple. While the RedHawks changed coaches after the biggest one-year turnaround in college football history — 1-11 in 2009, 9-4 last year — they’re in Treadwell’s capable hands. The Owls will also have a first-year head coach in Addazio, but he too fell into a very good situation thanks to the building efforts of Al Golden, who’s now at Miami (Fla.). The Bobcats will return seven starters on offense, but just two on defense, which could be the biggest hurdle to a conference crown.

On the West side of the ledger, Toledo, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan all have the talent to challenge for the top spot in the division, but with all due respect to the latter two schools, Beckman is building something pretty special with the Rockets and, when all the conference dust settles, the Toledo school will be facing another in-state school, Miami, in the conference title game. Maybe. Possibly.

More predictions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, C-USA, MWC, Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt, WAC, Independents

CFT’s preseason Top 25

Mark Dantonio quickly tosses aside South Carolina discussion

Mark Dantonio

Michigan State has become a national power under the coaching of Mark Dantonio. The grizzled and confident coach has put together a master plan in East Lansing and has taken the Spartans to the top of the Big Ten along the way, capturing a Big Ten title and victories in the Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl as well as in-state dominance over the Michigan Wolverines. Danotnio is preparing his Spartans to take on the Wolverines this week, but with the new vacancy opening up at South Carolina following the sudden retirement of Steve Spurrier, Dantonio has already been presented with the question about his thoughts on coaching at South Carolina.

He did not seem all that interested in discussing the vacancy when meeting with Michigan State media this morning.

“Coach Spurrier’s had an outstanding career there, it’s alma mater, and we’re here to talk about Michigan,” Dantonio said when asked about it today. Video below from the Big Ten Network

Dantonio played defensive back for the Gamecocks in the mid 1970s, which helps make Dantonio an interesting name to mention in any coaching future discussion out of Columbia. While Dantonio may have played at South Carolina for Jim Carlen, Dantonio grew up in Ohio and has coached the bulk of his career within Ohio and the Big Ten. He is also one win away from picking up his 100th career coaching victory, 81 of which have come at Michigan State.

Dan Patrick: Spurrier brought personality to the SEC

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South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is stepping down as head coach of the Gamecocks, and that has the college football world reflecting on the impact he has had on the game of college football. Spurrier’s quips at rivals and revolutionary thoughts on where the sport has been heading were always on the mark, even when his team’s performance on the field was not.

Dan Patrick shared his reaction to the news of Spurrier retiring today on The Dan Patrick Show (simulcast on NBC Sports Network). As many have already suggested, Spurrier’s wit and charm brought a refreshing personality to the SEC.