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

Marshall football player arrested for domestic battery

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Marshall safety Braydon Drayton was arrested Wednesday and charged for his alleged actions in a domestic assault incident.

According to a report from WSAZ, Drayton was place din custody at a regional jail with a bond set at $55,000. Drayton was charged for suspected strangulation and domestic battery of a woman. A formal complaint submitted earlier in the day claimed the alleged victim had red marks around her neck and chest following the alleged assault by Drayton. The victim claims to have been grabbed by Drayton around her neck as tempers flared.

Drayton has been suspended by the Marshall football program on an indefinite basis, allowing the legal process to play out before any further decisions on his status with the program may be made.

Mississippi State players say Joe Moorhead isn’t leaving SEC for another job

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With Rutgers searching for a new head coach and Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead reportedly being among the top candidates to fill the vacancy, the rumor-denial season is in full swing in Starkville. Days after Moorhead deflected the idea of him leaving Mississippi State to take the Rutgers job, some of Moorhead’s players are coming to his aide to shut down the idea the coach would return to his home state.

“It’s funnier to him than anything,” Mississippi State quarterback Garrett Shrader said, according to a Mississippi Clarion Ledger report on Tuesday. “He’s not leaving an SEC West program. He’s told me that multiple times.”

“He’s our coach. He’s been the same guy,” Shrader said. “He’s passionate about this team. He’s very vocal about that. He’s not going anywhere.”

Joining Shrader in attempting to shut down the Moorhead-to-Rutgers rumor mill was running back Kylin Hill, who summed up the discussion as nothing more than the typical banter that seemingly happens during the silly season that is the coaching carousel.

“There’s always going to be outside noise,” Hill said. “That’s the world we live in today. I’m not too focused on it. Nobody’s focused on it. Everybody loves the man.”

Moorhead and Mississippi State will have their attention set on this week’s game. The Bulldogs hit the road for a game at Texas A&M on Saturday. Mississippi State is looking to even its record at 4-4.

Georgia may be next in line for ‘Fair Pay to Play’ legislation

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The trend sweeping the nation in collegiate athletics appears to be heading to Georgia next. The “Fair Pay to Play” movement will be coming to Georgia, following the lead of California and following similar pushes by other states around the country.

Georgia state representative Billy Mitchell will reportedly be submitting formal legislation that would seek to allow college athletes to be eligible to receive compensation for the use of their image, likeness, and name. This is the same basic principle behind the new law in the state of California which was recently signed and will go into effect beginning in 2023.

If the legislation were to pass within the state of Georgia, it would impact every college football team in the state including FBS programs at Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State. Other states in the southeast to begin getting the wheels in motion for a Fair Pay to Play movement include Kentucky, South Carolina, and Florida. Other states have gotten in on the fun too, including Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New York, Illinois and Nevada.

New York’s proposal went a step farther than the most common proposed legislation in the Fair Pay to Play movement by proposing universities directly share a percentage of an athletic program’s overall revenue with every student-athlete on campus.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addresses concerns over officiating

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In this day and age, officials are being scrutinized to degrees once never dreamed of. With multiple angles for instant replays on television and on the big stadium scoreboards, every little mistake by an official in a football game will come under fire from fans, coaches and players.  Following a tough loss to Florida, South Carolina fans and their head coach, Will Muschamp, were not particularly pleased with some officiating decisions or lack of decisions made in the setback at home against the Gators. South Carolina’s issues were just the latest in a string of concerns folks around the SEC have had about the integrity of the officials calling their games, a story every fanbase in every conference can relate to in some way.

On Wednesday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addressed the general concerns fans about the officials working game sin his conference. In short, Sankey says nobody is perfect.

“The Southeastern Conference is entrusted with supporting an officiating program that is responsible for calling the games of our member schools. We take this duty most seriously,” Sankey wrote on the SEC’s official website. “We view perfection as our desired goal while also understanding it will always be an elusive standard in a game that is filled with surprises. And we are disappointed when we don’t get it right. Because our goal is to get it right, every time.”

Sankey continued to enforce the idea the SEC is constantly monitoring the performance of their officials and explained the assignments for officials may also be adjusted according to their ongoing in-season performance reviews. While the SEC does not make these assignment changes transparent once changes are made, the idea is to have the best officials working the best games without any potential issues becoming growing concerns in key moments.

Sankey also issued a reminder that coaches and administrators throughout the conference are not allowed to publicly rip the officials, a standard operating procedure in every conference (just ask Lane Kiffin about that).

The SEC has taken some strides in an effort to be more transparent about the officiating process with the launch of a new Twitter account (just don’t check the mentions on game days) and programming on the SEC Network to detail how the rules are governed and upheld during games.