Written By: Colby Dant (@TheColbyD) also check out:
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MAC West Preview
1. Western Michigan
The Broncos have quietly put things in place to win the MAC and not only that they could actually run the table if things work out. P.J. Fleck has done one hell of a coaching job in Kalamazoo. I’m betting several big time programs come calling for him after the season. Seriously, the Broncos could run the table. They start off the season on the road against a 10 win Northwestern team but trust me that game could go the Broncos way. That’s how good they are. Next comes what should be an easy victory against North Carolina Central from the 1AA ranks.
Then they go Champaign, IL to take on Lovie Smith’s Fighting Illini and I expect the Broncos to be small favorites. Now here’s where things get tricky. Lets say the Broncos are 3-0 and 2-0 against Big 10 teams, they have to watch out for maybe the biggest trap game of the year for any of the non power 5 schools when they welcome a dangerous Georgia Southern team to Kalamazoo. If they can go 4-0 out of conference watch out because the Broncos could run the table. Division wise they get Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo and Toledo all at home. In fact the toughest road games should be @Central Michigan in the first week of divisional play and potentially a dangerous game at Kent State but I think they go unbeaten in conference and win the Mac West. Keep an eye out for this team they could really make it a special year.
2. Northern Illinois
Rod Carey is back for yet another year at Northern Illinois. The Huskies have been a great non power 5 program for what seems like 15 or 20 years to me. The big boys would rather schedule Army or UAB then take a chance against the Huskies. Last year the Huskies went 8-4 and that was a disappointing year for them. This year they should be even better. Schedule wise the Huskies have a tough non conference schedule. They open up the season @Wyoming and I know Wyoming was terrible last year but I expect them to be greatly improved this year and bowling next year. Lets say the Huskies pull one out there although I wouldn’t bet on it.
The Huskies then travel to Tampa to take on South Florida. I don’t think they pull that one off but like I said before the Huskies are known to pull off the upset. Then comes week 3 where they welcome the San Diego State Aztecs. San Diego State has one of the best defenses in the country and some experts think they could potentially be playing in a New Years 6 bowl game. I could see the Huskies giving them a hell of a game. Then comes Western Illinois from the 1AA ranks which should be a win. Conference play starts up with a game at Ball State in which they should win before the MAC Super Bowl when they travel to Kalamazoo to take on Western Michigan. I have the Broncos winning it strictly because they are at home. If the Huskies can win that game I expect them to take the east. They have home games against Central Michigan, Bowling & Buffalo before they on Toledo in Chicago (practically a home game). All in all another good season for the Huskies is in place.
3. Central Michigan
The Chippewas coach John Bonamego is back for another year at his alma mater and there is great reason to be excited Mount Pleasant. Last year they lost a lot of close games against the big boys. Well its a new year which brings new opportunity and since the Chippewas are more experienced perhaps they might be able to pull of some big ones. Schedule wise they start off with a nice game vs 1AA Presbyterian which should be a win before they hit the road to Stillwater, OK to take on Oklahoma State.
No matter how experienced they are I just don’t see them winning that one. Week 3 they take on a UNLV team which they need not overlook I expect the Rebels to be much better than years past. I think they get the W though. Next they travel to Charlottesville, Virginia to take on UVA. This is perhaps the game they could steal. I still like the Cavs to win this but I could see the upset happening. Conference wise they open up at home against Western Michigan if they can win that than watch out they might be able to win the East. They have some tough conference road games @Northern Illinois, & @Toledo so I expect them to finish 3rd but still go bowling.
Matt Campbell is gone but what did I warn you about these MAC schools? Ask Arkansas about their experience at home against Toledo last year? First year head coach Jason Candle got promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach so he knows the roster and the system will stay the same. They have an experienced QB who sat out last year but still he went 8-2 as a starter in 2014. The rockets still could be pretty damn good. Schedule wise they start off @Arkansas State which is a very good football team that also went bowling last year.
If they can get past that they then get 1AA Maine and Fresno State travels to Ohio so they should win those. Then they get a bye week before traveling to Provo, Utah to take on the mormons of BYU. That’s a game they won’t be favored in but could pull the upset. In Conference they got it tough because they get Bowling Green and Ohio from the east. Along with games pretty much @Northern Illinois (in Chicago) and @Western Michigan. When it’s all said and done I think they still go bowling but take a step back under the first year coach.
5. Eastern Michigan
Say what. Yeah I’m finally picking them to not come in last in the division. Sure, they’ll still be a ways away from a bowl game but I expect the Eagles to actually get another road win when they take on Ball State. That will tell the tale for them not finishing in dead last. Schedule wise out of conference they get Mississippi Valley State (Jerry Rice’s Alma Mater) that’s a winnable game for them, they also play @Charlotte which is winnable however I think they lose at Missouri and home to Wyoming.
In Conference they just might be able to get two wins. Miami (OH) has to travel to Ypsilanti so thats a very winnable game and like I mentioned above I think they steal one at Ball State. All in all I can see 3 shit wins for the Eagles. Hey thats better than several other years in the past decade.
6. Ball State
Mike Neu is the new head coach at Ball State, just shy of a decade ago Ball State was playing for Mac Championships now they’re in the cellar of the division. It’s year one for Neu which normally is the hardest year. Your installing new offenses and defenses and your doing it with players you didn’t recruit. Thus is why I have the Cardinals in last place this year.
Schedule wise out of conference they get games @Georgia State, @Indiana, vs Eastern Kentucky & @Florida Atlantic. They would be lucky to come away with two of those but its also possible that they lose three or more. In conference they start off at home with Northern Illinois then travel to Central Michigan & Buffalo so they should lose all those. In fact when it comes to wins in conference I think maybe just maybe they win @Miami (OH) and maybe they prove me wrong and win against Eastern Michigan at home.