Preview: MAC may be up for grabs

Just how much did Dan LeFevour mean to the MAC over the last four years?

The former Central Michigan quarterback, and current Chicago Bear, wasn’t the only reason the Chippewas were so dominant, but he was an all-timer of a playmaker and the difference in MAC title season after MAC title season, leaving Mount Pleasant with three MAC championships. So who’s going to fill the void?

There’s a slew of interesting young quarterbacks, but the best of the bunch might be Miami’s Zac Dysert, and he’ll be lucky to come up with four wins this year. With CMU needing to replace so many key parts, including head coach Butch Jones, the opportunity is there for Northern Illinois to finally get over the hump and come up with a championship. Temple, from the East, is loaded with talent and appears to be on the verge of completing one of the great building jobs in college football history. But will anyone be able to challenge them?

CMU will be fine, but there isn’t nearly the same team that dominated with LeFevour at the helm. Toledo should be better, Western Michigan should have its moments, and Ball State has a ton of returning veterans, but none of them have the talent to match the Huskies in the West.

Temple has been building to this point for several years, and now the hope is that everything comes together with a truly special season. Bowling Green, one of last year’s most dangerous teams, is starting from near-scratch, Buffalo is undergoing a major change with Turner Gill now coaching at Kansas, and Akron and Miami are still trying to find their way after a few down years. Ohio has talent, but the showdown with the Owls is in Philadelphia. Kent State should be sneaky-good, but it’s not as complete as Temple.

MAC seasons never seem to go to form, so it’s hardly a given that it’ll be Temple and Northern Illinois for a second time after facing each other on Oct. 9, but it is a sure thing that there will be a shift in star power with the running backs shining through. After years with LeFevour, Bowling Green’s Tyler Sheehan, and Western Michigan’s Tim Hiller leading the way among the quarterbacks, now it’ll be players like Bernard Pierce, the Temple breakout star of last year, veterans MiQuale Lewis at Ball State and Eugene Jarvis at Kent State, and NIU’s Chad Spann taking over the limelight.

As always, the MAC campaign will have several twists and turns, there will be a few big Central Michigan over Michigan State-like upsets, and plenty of fun and exciting games. And then it’ll be Temple and Northern Illinois battling it out for the title.

Team that will surprise

Kent State – The offense should be dangerous and explosive with Eugene Jarvis back for a sixth year and Jacquise Terry working behind a decent line. The defense will be solid across the board with several good hitters and playmakers, and there should be just enough aggressiveness and just enough talent to go from 5-7 last year to a winning season and a bowl appearance.

Team that will disappoint

Bowling Green – The Falcons had one of the nation’s most exciting offenses in 2009, finishing sixth in the nation in passing with Tyler Sheehan and WR Freddie Barnes setting NCAA records. Now there’s an overhaul on offense while the defense that struggled so much isn’t likely to be much better. The defensive front seven isn’t going to stop anyone who can run on a regular basis, and the offense will be inconsistent enough to result in a losing season.

Game of the year

Temple at Northern Illinois, Oct. 9 – This was almost the MAC title game last year, and it certainly could be this year if the two teams play up to their capabilities. If nothing else, the battle between NIU’s Chad Spann and Temple’s Bernard Pierce will be among the nation’s most exciting this year, and there are more than enough talented players on both teams to make this one of the must see games on a national scale, and not just for MAC fans.

Five big-time players who deserve a bigger spotlight

1. DE Adrian Robinson, Jr. Temple

2. LB Noah Keller, Sr. Ohio

3. LB Brian Wagner, Soph. Akron

4. FS Davonte Shannon, Sr. Buffalo

5. LB Jerrell Wedge, Jr. Miami Univ.


Coach on the hot seat

Dan Enos, Central Michigan – There are other coaches who need to show something or they’ll be in big trouble (most notably Eastern Michigan head man Ron English), but Enos will feel the most heat as he’ll have to be the next in line after Brian Kelly and Butch Jones had so much success. With five straight winning seasons, three MAC titles in four years, and two bowl victories, the pressure is on to keep the momentum rolling.

Five non-conference games MAC opponents had better take very seriously

1. Arizona at Toledo, Sept3

2. Northern Illinois at Iowa State, Sept. 2

3. Northern Illinois at Minnesota, Sept. 25

4. Connecticut at Temple, Sept. 18

5. Central Michigan at Northwestern, Sept. 25

Bold Predictions

Ohio will have one of the league’s most entertaining offenses. The receiving corps will be terrific, former Iowa State QB/WR Phil Bates will be a thrilling playmaker, and the return of QB Boo Jackson will be a big boost. … Bernard Pierce will be hyped up as the signature star, but Matt Brown and Ahkeem Smith will run every bit as well when they get their chances behind the Temple offensive line. … Ryan Radcliff will be more than fine in place of Dan LeFevour under center for Central Michigan. … Buffalo won’t come up with a winning season, but new head coach Jeff Quinn will have the program moving forward. UB will be one of the hot teams going into the 2011 season. … The winner of the Eastern Michigan – Miami University game on September 11th might not come up with another victory. … DeMarcus Grady, and not Chandler Harnish, will be the NIU starting quarterback in the MAC title game.

Five best pro prospects

1. DE Adrian Robinson, Jr. Temple

2. LB Nick Bellore, Sr. Central Mich.

3. WR LaVon Brazill, Sr. Ohio

4. LB Elijah Joseph, Sr. Temple

5. RB Bernard Pierce, Soph. Temple

Five biggest shoes to fill

1. DT Ryan Radcliff for Dan LeFevour, CMU

2. WR Adrian Hodges for Freddie Barnes, BGSU

3. WR Kito Poblah for Antonio Brown, CMU

4. C Scott Wedige for Eddie Adamski, NIU

5. QB Alex Carderfor Tim Hiller, WMU