CFT predicts: the MAC

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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 

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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

Wager this: Odds for the opening Saturday of the 2018-19 college football bowl season

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Fresno State has been covering as a favorite of late, while bowl opponent Arizona State has troubling trends both against the Mountain West and at this time of the year.

The Fresno State Bulldogs, with Marcus McMaryion behind center and a stout defense, are 4.5-point favorites against the Arizona State Sun Devils with a 53.5-point total on the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl odds on Saturday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Bulldogs go into the game at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas with a record of 4-4 against the spread over their last 18 games, That sample includes an 8-3 against the spread (ATS) record as a favorite this season. The Sun Devils are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games in December and are also 1-6 ATS in their last seven games against the Mountain West.

Fresno State has had the total go under in five consecutive games with an average total of 41.6. Arizona State will not have star wide receiver N'Keal Harry, who is sitting out to avoid injury before the NFL draft, so the Sun Devils might have issues finishing drives against the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense.

Elsewhere on the opening weekend of the college football bowl season:

TULANE (6-6) vs. LOUISIANA (7-6)
The Tulane Green Wave are 3.5-point favorites at sports betting sites against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns with a 59-point total in the AutoNation Cure Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. In a matchup of run-first offenses, it’s notable that the Green Wave allows a full yard less per carry than their Cajun counterparts. Tulane has not covered in its last three games, but is 8-2 ATS after consecutive ATS losses. The total has gone UNDER in five of Tulane’s last six games, with an average combined score of 51.83 points.

UTAH STATE (10-2) vs. NORTH TEXAS (9-3)
The Utah State Aggies are 7.5-point favorites against the North Texas Mean Green with a 68-point total on the New Mexico Bowl odds at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque. Utah State will be operating without coach Matt Wells, who has left for Texas Tech, and could be thrown off. On paper, Aggies quarterback Jordan Love leads a potent offense and Utah State is also 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games as a favorite of 7 to 10 points. North Texas, which can also score in bunches with Mason Fine at quarterback, is 0-5 ATS in its last five games.

GEORGIA SOUTHERN (9-3) vs. EASTERN MICHIGAN (7-5)
The Georgia Southern Eagles are 2.5-point favorites against the Eastern Michigan Eagles with a 47.5-point total in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. Georgia Southern and quarterback Shai Werts use the triple-option, which could negate the influence of Eastern Michigan’s fifth-ranked pass defense and leave it vulnerable in the ground game. The total has gone OVER in five of Georgia Southern’s last six games.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (8-5) vs. APPALACHIAN STATE (10-2)
The Appalachian State Mountaineers are 6.5-point favorites against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders with a 50-point total on the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl odds at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Appalachian State is also under interim leadership, with Mark Ivey filling in, and the Mountaineers’ offense relies heavily on running back Darrynton Evans. Middle Tennessee, thanks to senior quarterback Brent Stockstill, has a decided edge in the passing game and is 6-1 SU and 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven games against Sun Belt teams. The total has gone UNDER in four of Appalachian State’s last five games.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com

Tua Tagovailoa named Polynesian College Football Player of the Year

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Tua Tagovailoa may have lost out on the most famous trophy in college football, but he has claimed one that honors his heritage.

Thursday, the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame announced that Tagovailoa has been named as that organization’s Polynesian College Football Player of the Year.  The release states that “[t]he Award is presented annually to the most outstanding Polynesian college football player that epitomizes great ability and integrity,” and has been handed out annually since 2014.

The Hawaiian-born Alabama quarterback was the runner-up in the 2018 Heisman Trophy voting and earned consensus All-American status earlier this week.  The true sophomore was also named as the Walter Camp Player of the Year as well as the Maxwell Award winner.

“On behalf of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Board of Directors, we congratulate Tua on a historic season,” said Polynesian Football Hall of Fame chairman Jesse Sapolu in a statement. “He is a tremendous role model and a source of great pride for Polynesians everywhere.”

Other finalists for this year’s award were Iowa defensive end AJ Epenesa, Notre Dame defensive back Alohi Gilman, Oklahoma offensive lineman Dru Samia and Hawaii wide receiver John Ursua.

Last year’s winner was defensive end Hercules Mata’afa of Washington State.

Mark Richt praises Manny Diaz as Miami DC officially leaves to take over at Temple

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Mark Richt has officially lost control of the defensive coordinator position on his Miami coaching staff, and now has a rather sizable hole to fill as a result.

It emerged earlier this week that, after interviewing for the Temple opening Monday, Manny Diaz had emerged as the front-runner for the Owls job.  Thursday, Temple confirmed that the Miami defensive coordinator has indeed been named as the program’s new head football coach.

Diaz replaces Geoff Collins, who left earlier this month for the same job at Georgia Tech.

Below is Richt’s statement on the departure:

This morning defensive coordinator Manny Diaz informed me that he has accepted the head coach position at Temple University. Throughout the process, Manny had been very transparent about the opportunity with both myself and Blake James.

“In his three years in Coral Gables, Manny proved to be one of the top assistant coaches in the country and did an unbelievable job leading our defense. I have no doubt that he will experience great success as a head coach and we wish him, Steph, Colin, Gavin and Manny all of the best.

“We have launched a national search for a new defensive coordinator and we have already received great interest from around the country. Our football program, our university and our facilities are among the best in the country, and coaches want to be a part of something special. Our coaches are on the road recruiting the next generation of Canes and I am excited about the young men scheduled to sign with us next week. Together, we are building champions!

Diaz spent the past three seasons as the Hurricanes’ defensive coordinator.  He also served as The U’s linebackers coach during that stretch.

The 44-year-old Diaz has also spent time as a coordinator at Mississippi State (2015 and 2010), Louisiana Tech (2014), Texas (2011-13) and Middle Tennessee State (2006-09).  This will mark the Florida State graduate’s first job as a head coach at any level.

Les Miles bringing nation’s No. 1 JUCO QB to Kansas

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Unlike the majority of his time at LSU, maybe Les Miles — and his offensive coaching staff — will be able to get something out of this quarterback?

In a missive posted to Twitter earlier this week, Thomas MacVittie announced that he has committed to continuing his collegiate playing career for Miles at Kansas. “Coach Les Miles, [offensive coordinator] Chip Lindsey and the staff at Kansas, I am ready to join the Kansas family and win a Big XII title,” MacVittie wrote in the tweet.

As a transfer from the junior college ranks, MacVittie will be eligible to play immediately for the Jayhawks in 2019.  Counting this coming season, the quarterback has two years of eligibility remaining.

247Sports.com rates MacVittie as the No. 1 JUCO quarterback — pro-style, dual-threat or otherwise — in this year’s class.  On the recruiting website’s composite board, he’s the No. 3 pro-style quarterback at that level of football.

MacVittie was originally a three-star Pitt 2016 signee who was the highest-rated recruit on the offensive side of the ball for the Panthers that year.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, he played in three games in 2017 — on special teams — and didn’t attempt a pass before deciding to transfer from Pitt in December of 2017.

MacVittie’s 2018 season was spent at Mesa Community College in Arizona.