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MAC East Preview
by Tom Stryker - 07/11/2007
Things got a little crazy last year in the Mid-American Conference.
Central Michigan won the football championship - its first league title since 1994. Ohio University went to a bowl for the first time in nearly 40 years. And Western Michigan went bowling for the first time in nearly 20 years.
The conference that loves to beat the big boys had a topsy-turvy run. Toledo and Miami (Ohio) had subpar seasons, and there is no reason to think it wonâ€™t be a wide open race this year.
The MAC may be without some of the NFL-caliber stars it has had in recent years. The East, especially, seems â€œdown.â€쳌 Hereâ€™s an alphabetical tour of the MAC East.
Coach J.D. Brookhart saw his Zips go 5-7 a season ago after two straight winning campaigns.
Title talk isnâ€™t plentiful this preseason, and Akron has to count on a veteran defense if it is to be successful.
Proven quarterback Luke Getsy has graduated and the Zips only have four returning starters on offense. Sophomores Carlton Jackson and Chris Jacquemain are battling to gain Getsyâ€™s spot in the lineup.
Running back Dennis Kennedy (914 yards) does return, but Akron was 111th in the nation in rushing and has to boost that.
Wideout and kick returner David Harvey could help the offensive unit. A year ago he gained 914 receiving yards and averaged 30 yards per kick return.
Akron will be helped by eight starters back on defense, including its top two tacklers John Mackey and Kevin Grant (rover and middle linebacker). The Zips defensive backfield is intact except for strong safety Brandon Anderson.
AKRON KEY ANGLE: Zips 4-13 ATS priced as a favorite provided Akron enters off a double-digit straight up loss.
The Falcons donâ€™t like the taste of last yearâ€™s 4-8 record, and Coach Gregg Brandon knows he can turn things around in this wide open division in 2007.
A total of 14 starters are back, and there is plenty of explosive talent on the offensive side of the football.
Junior quarterback Anthony Turner is back. He passed for 1,596 yards last season and ran for another 480. Joining him is sophomore running back Chris Bullock (769 yards as a freshman) and Freddie Barnes, a versatile performer who scored nine touchdowns last year.
The defense, one that ranked 98th in scoring a year ago, does have eight starters back, including 2006â€™s leading tackler Erique Dozier.
Last yearâ€™s special teams were disastrous for the Falcons and a host of new players have to come together quickly if Bowling Green is going to return to a lofty spot in the MAC standings.
BOWLING GREEN KEY ANGLE: Falcons 13-2 ATS at home provided Bowling Green owns a sub .400 record.
There may be plenty of experienced players around, but donâ€™t expect miracles from the Bulls, 2-10 last season.
With eight starters back on each side of the ball, most preseason camps would be optimistic, but Buffaloâ€™s overall talent isnâ€™t at MAC-leader level - and the Bulls play four of their first five games on the road.
Nonetheless, if good things are going to happen for Buffalo and Coach Turner Gill, people like junior quarterback Drew Willy or running back James Starks (704 yards as a freshman) may have to make it happen.
The right side of the offensive line is intact, but Buffalo needs plenty of help in the receiving corps.
On defense, three of the four starters in the secondary return, but Buffalo was 116th in scoring defense, 109th in rushing defense and 100th in total defense. There is plenty of work to do.
BUFFALO KEY ANGLE: Bulls 12-3 ATS provided Buffalo enters off back-to-back SU and ATS losses.
Not since 1972 has Kent State been to a bowl game. But with plenty of talent back, along with a wide open MAC East, the Golden Flashes are dreaming.
Expected to be at the top or near the top of the standings this fall, Kent needs some good things to happen to make that climb from a 6-6 campaign one year ago.
On offense, with eight starters returning, including 9 of the top 10 offensive linemen, quarterback Julian Edelman is a big playmaker. He threw for 1,859 yards last season, but needs some help from his receivers. Leading rusher Eugene Jarvis (798 yards) also returns.
Better news comes from the defensive side of things, where nine starters are back from a unit that finished the year 24th in the nation in total defense.
One big hole for Coach Doug Martin is the kicking game, one that was woeful a year ago.
KENT STATE KEY ANGLE: Golden Flashes 6-20 ATS provided their foe arrives off a blowout win of 20 points or more.
Coach Shane Montgomery and Redhawks fans canâ€™t wait to erase the bad taste from last fallâ€™s 2-10 campaign. Miami is used to winning and Montgomeryâ€™s 9-14 record isnâ€™t doing it.
The Redhawks have a lot of holes to fill, but quarterback Mike Kokal is back, along with running back Brandon Murphy, who wants to help his squad climb from its lowly 105th spot in rushing last season.
The right side of the offensive line is back, and both placekicker Trevor Cook (10 of 13 field goals) and punter Jacob Richardson (41.1 per kick) return to stabilize the special teams.
The defense has to be able to stop the rush. After a lofty 9th in the nation standing in pass defense, Miami nonetheless was 101st against the run last fall.
MIAMI KEY ANGLE: RedHawks 10-4 ATS provided Miami enters off a momentum-building SU win of nine points or more.
Coach Frank Solich guided the Bobcats to the East Division crown in only his second season at Ohio.
Defending that championship could be tough - only five starters are back on offense and defense.
But Ohio has talented Kalvin McRae back. He gained 1,252 rushing yards and scored 15 touchdowns in the Bobcats 9-5 2006 season.
Senior Brad Bower or sophomore Theo Scott have to step up at quarterback - Ohio was 115th in the nation in passing a season ago.
The defense, riddled by graduation, will be hard pressed to match the level of last season, when that unit was 29th in the nation in total defense. But defensive ends Ernie Hodge and Jameson Hartke (led the team in sacks) return.
OHIO KEY ANGLE: Bobcats are 4-17 ATS off a SU and ATS loss provided Ohioâ€™s opponent checks in off a SU loss too.
Coach Al Golden brings the Owls into MAC play after a 1-11 campaign in 2006. But the one victory was over Bowling Green, an East Division opponent.
Some 22 true freshman saw plenty of action a year ago, so Temple will have plenty of experience as it enters league play.
Eight starters are back on defense and another 11 have game experience from a year ago. Free safety Dominque Harris, who led the team with 59 tackles, returns in the secondary - but that unit finished 117th in the nation in total D.
On offense, a battle is shaping up at quarterback between junior Adam DiMichele, who had limited success, and sophomore Vaughn Charlton.
Temple needs help at running back. The most successful returnee, Jason Harper, only gained 186 yards in 2006.
There is hope for the future, but Temple hasnâ€™t had a winning football season since 1990.
TEMPLE KEY ANGLE: Owls 12-20 ATS when priced as a favorite.