CFT predicts: the MAC

1 Comment

It’s MACtion time, you guys! For as little attention as the MAC gets nationally, the conference hosted some of the most exciting games last year. Toldeo was involved in both, losing to Northern Illinois 63-60 before turning around and beating Western Michigan 66-63 the following week.

Can the MAC produce the same types of games this year? Maybe not. Or, the conference can just hire Gus Johnson to call every game to make it seem more exciting.

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how the MAC should shake out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

East Division 

1. Ohio (last season: 10-4; won Famous Idaho Potato Bowl) 
The Bobcats are one of those deceptively good teams. Penn State is only a slight favorite for the Sept. 1 season opener against Ohio and the other OU can realistically make that an interesting game. Ohio almost won the MAC last year and are the class of an otherwise down East division.

2. Miami (last season: 4-8) 
The Redhawks struggled in their first season under Don Treadwell, but they do have one of the better — if not the best — quarterback in the league in Zac Dysert. He needs help, though; Miami had the nation’s worst rushing attack last year.

3. Bowling Green (last season: 5-7)
Dave Clawson needs to get this team back to bowl eligibility or he could be out by the end of the year. The first month or so will be tough for the Falcons, but Bowling Green could rack up some wins in the second half of the season.

4. Kent State (last season: 5-7) 
The Golden Flashes couldn’t do anything productive on offense last year. Based on that, it might not be a great thing that Kent State returns eight offensive starters from a year ago. The defense wasn’t terrible last year and returns six starters of their own.

5. Buffalo (last season: 3-9) 
There’ll be no circling of the wagon for the Bulls (yeah, I know) this year. For a MAC program, the schedule is difficult and Buffalo returns only 13 starters from a year ago.

6. Akron (last season: 1-11) 
Terry Bowden makes his anticipated (is that the right word?) return to FBS football by taking over a program that flat-out stunk last season. Can the Zips get back on the winning side of things in 2012? No, but it’ll be good to have a Bowden back in the coaching ranks. Maybe.

7. UMass (last season: 5-6 in FCS) 
Massachusetts begins its FBS journey in one of the easiest divisions in college football outside the SEC East (Kidding, y’all! Sort of.), but the Minutemen will have a hard time adjusting. Former Notre Dame assistant Charley Molnar will make his head coaching debut.

West Division

1. Northern Illinois (last season: 11-3; won GoDaddy.com Bowl) 
Chandler Harnish, better known in the NFL as Mr. Irrelevant, is gone and takes with him practically all of Northern Illinois’ offensive production. In all, NIU returns only 13 starters, but Dave Doeren gets it done with a program that’s going to consistently contend for division titles.

2. Ball State (last season: 6-6) 
Pete Lembo is an under-the-radar coach that will land a bigger job sooner or later. Lembo took the Cardinals to a .500 record a year ago and should be able to improve on that with the core of last year’s team returning.

3. Western Michigan (last season: 7-6; lost Little Caesar’s Bowl) 
The Broncos had one of the best passing offenses in 2011 and returning is quarterback Alex Carder. The problem for Western Michigan is that they play four of its final six games on the road.

4. Toldeo (last season: 9-4; won Military Bowl) 
Toledo lost its coach Tim Beckman to Illinois, but Beckman leaves the program in great shape — for the future. Losing speedy receiver Eric Page hurts the offense and the Rockets don’t return many starters. 2012 will be a cold splash of reality for Toledo.

5. Eastern Michigan (last season: 6-6) 
Eastern Michigan has made strides under coach Ron English after recording just two wins in his first two years. The Eagles can run the ball — they ranked in the top 15 nationally in that category last year — and return their two best rushers.

6. Central Michigan (last season: 3-9) 
No Butch Jones, no Dan Lefevour. Central Michigan has fallen greatly since those two appeared together just a few years ago. Ryan Radcliff has improved at quarterback, but there’s not much else to get excited about.

CFT’s MAC champion: Ohio 

————————

Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ‘em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

ACC
Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
Conference USA 
Mountain West
Pac-12
SEC
Sun Belt
WAC
Independents

No. 13 Notre Dame rolling early to take big halftime lead over turnover-prone USC

Getty Images
1 Comment

There are bad starts, and there are starts like what No. 11 USC had in the first half of their rivalry game against No. 13 Notre Dame.

Fumble on the first drive? Check. Shank a short field goal? Yep. Muff a punt? Indeed. Throw an interception. Thumbs up.

As a result, the Irish fed off an electric atmosphere in South Bend to jump out to a hot start against their intersectional rival and went to the locker room up 28-0 at halftime in a game that seems over given the way the two sides are playing at the moment.

Proving that a few weeks off were indeed plenty to get back to 100 percent, quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked sharp in taking advantage of all those USC miscues. He finished the half with two touchdown passes (one to Kevin Stepherson, the other to Equanimeous St. Brown) and ran for 76 yards and another score despite that balky foot injury that kept him out for several weeks.

Running back Josh Adams didn’t get a ton of work given all the quick end zone trips (just 14 carries), but also gave a boost to his low-key Heisman campaign by running for 68 yards and a touchdown.

As many positives as you could come up with for Notre Dame in the half, you could just about double it and come up with the number of negatives for USC. Sam Darnold had one of his worst halves in cardinal and gold, fumbling on the opening drive and throwing an interception late in the second quarter. He wound up with 107 yards as the only source of offense for the Trojans after Ronald Jones was bottled up to the tune of just five yards on seven carries.

USC has authored several second half comebacks already this year but, based on the way they played so far in Notre Dame Stadium, they’re going to need a comeback just to avoid getting blown out. The flip side is another strong showing like that and all the College Football Playoff talk surrounding the Irish will start to become very, very real come Sunday.

Penn State starts fast, but Michigan hanging around

Associated Press
Leave a comment

On a white out night in State College, Penn State threatened to blowout Michigan early, but the Wolverines battled back to a 21-13 deficit at the break.

Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead pulled out a wrinkle on the Nittany Lions’ second play from scrimmage, and it worked to perfection. Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley shifted pre-snap, and Barkley took the direct snap and raced 69 yards untouched for a touchdown.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State moved 78 yards in four plays, keyed by a 35-yard rainbow heave from McSorley to tight end Mike Gesicki. Barkley scored his second touchdown of the first quarter one play later, a 15-yard burst around the right side. 

But Penn State’s offense stalled from there. The Lions’ next possession ended in a McSorley interception, and the possession after that was a three-and-out that lost nine yards. Penn State penetrated Michigan territory midway through the second quarter, but Barkley dropped a wheel route that would’ve put the Lions inside the red zone. Penn State turned the ball over on downs two plays later.

Meanwhile, Michigan turned McSorley’s interception into an 11-play, 59-yard touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard Karan Higdon run on fourth-and-goal. Quinn Nordin missed the ensuing PAT.

After the turnover on downs, Michigan marched 67 yards on a series of John O’Korn plays — a 14-yard rush, an 18-yard strike to Donovan Peoples-Jones, and 23 yards to Kekoa CrawfordTy Isaac powered in from six yards out to pull the Wolverines within one with 1:45 to play before the half. 

Threatened for the first time of the evening, Penn State ended its streak of three straight unsuccessful drives with a 7-play, 75-yard march that consumed only 52 seconds. McSorley accounted for 68 yards on the drive, including a 3-yard rush to put the home team back up eight.

O’Korn closed the half hitting 7-of-9 passes for 63 yards, while a host of Wolverines runners combined to rush 22 times for 78 yards.

McSorley hit 10-of-18 passes for 159 yards with an interception with five carries for 26 yards and a score. Barkley rushed 11 times for 109 yards and two scores, while DaeSean Hamilton caught three passes for 69 yards.

Michigan will receive to open the second half.

Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden apologizes for flipping off Alabama fans

Getty Images
1 Comment

It would take someone in need of Mr. Magoo-level corrective lenses to not see this one coming.

As you no doubt know by now, Alabama took Tennessee to the woodshed Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.  The Vols did save a slight sliver of their collective manhood as they scored a touchdown for the first time since the second quarter of the Sept. 23 win over previously winless UMass, a span that stretched nearly 13 full quarters of playing time.

In the aftermath of that defensive touchdown, however, defensive back Rashaan Gaulden decided to offer up a double-digit, middle-finger salute to the Crimson Tide student section that resulted in a 15-yard penalty.  In the aftermath of that gesture, Gaulden offered up an apology.

“I would like to issue an apology to the University of Tennessee and the University of Alabama for my gesture after the pick-six by (Daniel) Bituli,” Gaulden said. “That remark that I showed was very out of character. That’s not how my parents raised me. That’s not how a leader of the team should show their emotions on the field.

“I really, sincerely apologize to the student section at Alabama for disrespecting them.”

Beleaguered head coach Butch Jones, who is likely out at some point after the end of the regular season if not sooner, certainly didn’t need something like this shedding even more negative light on his flailing football program.  Jones stated that any punishment meted out to Gaulden will be handled internally.

“That’s something that will be dealt with internally in our football program, but that’s not who we are, that’s not what we’re about,” Jones said. “But, he knew that. We spoke about it, and he feels awful about it. It’s one of those things of overall just being a mature football team. But, again, that’s something that we don’t accept in this program and he understands that.”

Since we here, we’ll go ahead and offer this up as the current state of the once-proud UT football program.

Late heroics save No. 9 Oklahoma on the road at Kansas State after wild second half

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Just before the end of the first half, everybody was wondering if Baker Mayfield was 100 percent healthy. Just before the end of the second half, it became pretty clear he was doing just fine. The Sooners’ star quarterback was dazzling once again to power a last minute comeback on the road, leading No. 9 Oklahoma to a 42-35 win against a pesky Kansas State squad that was looking to pull an upset before some late heroics on the final drive.

The signal-caller appeared to get injured during a scramble late in the second quarter and was taken out in the red zone on the ensuing possession, used only as a decoy on a few wildcat snaps. As it turned out, that seemed to be a coaching strategy as OU rotated in backup Kyler Murray several times on ensuing possessions. Mayfield eventually wound up with an efficient 32-of-41 for 410 yards and two touchdowns passing while rushing for two scores and 69 yards as well.

Most importantly, he also got the win after perfectly executing a two minute drive that led to tailback Rodney Anderson (147 yards, two scores) hitting the corner for the game-winning touchdown.

That was all despite the best efforts of his counterpart Alex Delton, who was making just his second start behind center for the Wildcats. While he was solid as a passer (144 yards, one TD, one interception), the dual-threat was incredible on the ground and ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns. That led to quite the combination in the backfield as Alex Barnes managed 108 yards — 75 of which came on a touchdown run on the second snap of the game.

The close victory on the road keeps Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff race, even if the effort was less than impressive given the early struggles. The meeting between the youngest and oldest coaches in FBS proved to be quite the thriller in the end too, as Lincoln Riley claimed the ‘W’ over the Wizard himself Bill Snyder in what will surely be a memorable game for both sides.