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    MAC News

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    1. Vote! Which player best deserves your weekly accolades? (Yes, any and all non-MAC coaches are free to vote also.)
    2. Offensive Player of the Week: RB Gabe Ciamo, Toledo 23 rushes for 190 yards, 3 TDs (W at Ball State) Have yourself a day, Gabe! The "Rushin' Rocket" shot around, through, and past all manner of Ball State defenders on his way to 2021 first Offensive Player of the Week honors. We know this game was a mismatch, but over eight yards a carry versus a stout Cardinal defensive line has to raise some eyebrows across the nation. This is somehow only Ciamo's third POTW award ever... weird. If he keeps this pace up or anything close to it, the only thing we can say for sure is that he will hear his name called early in the NFL Draft - perhaps even as early as next year. (Fun fact except for Ball State fans: Ciamo's last POTW award in Week 7 of the 2020 season also came against the Cards.) Defensive Player of the Week: CB Levern White, Toledo 4 tackles, 1 interception return for touchdown. (W vs. Ball State) Toledo's top corner picks up where he left off, already making serious headway in surpassing his 2020 totals (23 TKL, 6 INT, 1 TD). On a loaded Rocket defense White may not stand out enough every week to make the stat sheet. But it's going to be special when he does. This is White's very first player of the week award. Special Teams Player of the Week: K Brendan Higginbotham, Ohio. 4/4 XP, 4/4 FG, made 23, 28, 36, 35. (W at ODU) And if anyone was going to win the special teams award and deny Toledo the clean sweep, figures it's an Ohio kicker. The senior takes over for Bobcat legend TIMMAY Wilhelm and picks up where Wilhelm left off. Higginbotham got to swing his leg quite a few times against the hapless Monarchs, winning him this week's award. That makes his first! Only ten more to go to catch TIMMAY.... Congratulations to all the winners!
    3. With Week 0 only having one game on the books, weeks 0 and 1 are merged for this poll. Vote! Which player best deserves your weekly accolades? (Yes, any and all non-MAC coaches are free to vote also.)
    4. Buffalo fixed, thanks! (Toledo was correct though) While Bailey is the big name to watch from a draft perspective for 2022, it wouldn't surprise us if Gabe Ciamo or Derrick Briggs were to declare for the draft after this season.
    5. The MAC Network has selected a team of players that we think you should all keep an eye out for this season. You should actually watch all of the MAC players (ALL OF THEM), but we expect remarkable things from the young men listed below. Without further ado: QB: Blair Holcomb, (Sr) RB: Gabe Ciamo, (Jr) RB: DeSean Madison, (So) WR: Justin Evans, (Jr) WR: Kenneth Harrison, (Sr) TE: Casey Swann, (Jr) OT: Marc Allen, (Sr) OG: Alex Westbrook, (Jr) C: D.J. Wilkinson, Jr OG: Derrick Briggs, (Jr) OT: Keith Holbrook, (So) DE: Dwayne Briggs, (Jr) DE: Ezekiel Williams Jr., Jr DT: Marlon Bailey, (Sr) DT: Rashaad Malcolm, Sr ILB: Calvin Blue, (Sr) ILB: Oliver McNeal, (So) OLB: Nicolas Kowalski, Jr OLB: Donovan Pendleton, Sr CB: Levern White, Sr CB: Samuel Echols, (Jr) FS: Mekhi Singleton, (So) SS: Thomas Gordon, Sr K: Harry DeMarco, (So) P: Eric Caudill, (So) (Yes, 2 DTs and 2 ILBs.) Selections by team: Akron - 1 Ball State - 1 Bowling Green - 1 Buffalo - 3 Central Michigan - 0 Eastern Michigan - 0 Kent State - 0 Miami (OH) - 2 Northern Illinois - 2 Ohio - 2 Toledo - 9 Western Michigan - 4 "If it's not MAC, it's wack!"
    6. Welcome to the 2021 season! It's great to be back for another season of wild #MACtion. 2020 was a good year for the conference with seven teams making a bowl and their first-ever playoff appearance. Will 2021 be even better? We certainly hope so. But let's look at the teams of the Mid-American! Along with analysis by the MAC Network, the MAC coaches were also polled and asked to rank the teams based on where they think each school will finish this year. Some also provided their comments on each team. Without further ado, in alphabetical order.... (Note: any stats provided are 2020 season stats.) Akron Zips (9-4 last year) Coach: @darkage (3rd year) Returning Starters: Offense: 5 Defense: 5 Key Losses: QB T.J. Zamora (230 of 367 for 2850 yards, 18/7 TD/INT, 57 rushes for 348 yards, 2 rush TDs, 1 Fum Lost), C Jacob Alves, CB Troy Galloway (17 TKL, 5 INT, 1 FR), SS Jadon Boykin (10 TKL) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 3 Projected conference finish: 5th (3rd MAC East) Overview: Departed QB T.J. Zamora may have jump-started the Zips’ run to prominence last season, but it was the “Eater of Worlds” Marlon Bailey (49 tackles, 7.0 sacks) who raised the bar for an Akron team that led the conference in sacks with 28 last year. With Bailey returning for one more go-around, the Zips look to exceed expectations and challenge for the MAC East crown. Position of Strength: The defensive interior. As if dealing with Bailey wasn’t enough, Akron now features a second 5-star player on the line in DT Jeremiah Clarke. The duo is set to make life miserable for opposing offensive linemen and with JuCo MLB Devin Frazier plucked from nearby Kirtland, it’s hard to imagine many interior rushing plays going for positive yardage. Position of Weakness: Secondary. With no starters having higher than 3-star potential - and only FS Aron Ricketts playing to his potential - the Zips’ back four can expect to see a LOT of footballs chucked in their direction. Position to Watch: Quarterback. After four years of the T.J. Zamora Experience, redshirt junior Griffin Donahue will take the snaps under center. It took Zamora all the way until his senior year to put things together, can Donahue harness his talent sooner? It helps that he has underrated RB Nathaniel Ruff (287 carries for 1295, 12 TDs) to lean on. Coaches' Comments: Should run the ball well, offense capable of 25 PPG. Secondary is weakness on Defense. 6-8 Wins ceiling Expect a career year for Nathaniel Ruff, with behind a solid O-line, as opposed to an average receiving corp. Would be higher, but they have too may holes in the defense to claim a contender spot. Zips backfield is great, O-line okay, receviers meh. Running on this defense may be next to impossible, but that secondary is not good at all Strengths- run game, d-line. Weaknesses- Cbs/Wrs Ball State Cardinals (1-11 last year) Coach: @npklemm (1st year) Returning Starters: Offense: 6 Defense: 5 Key Losses: WR Chan Pease (55 rec for 696 yards, 4 TDs) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 12 Projected conference finish: 8th (4th MAC West) Overview: In what was a shocking move to many - but shouldn’t have been- former Virginia coach npklemm left the Cavs after their first playoff appearance ever to return home to his alma mater. No one will doubt the coach’s credentials, but they do doubt Ball State’s ability to make a bowl this year. Npklemm hopes to accelerate the rebuilding process and bring the Cardinals to the same heights he brought the Hoos, sooner rather than later. Position of Strength: Defensive line. MAC coaches are tired of seeing Twin Tower DTs Isamaeli Afamasaga (20 tackles, 4.5 sacks) and Rashaad Malcolm (34 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR) lining up next to each other - this is their third and final year doing so. But they’re lining up differently this time; with Ball State’s move to a 3-4 defense Afamasaga has been moved to the 5-technique DE spot. Position of Weakness: Linebacker. Three of their four starters (2.5/3.5. 2.5/3.5, 3.0/3.0, 2.5/3.0) are underclassmen and wouldn’t normally be starting. But lack of depth again rears its head, forcing players to play too early. Position to Watch: Quarterback. Which one would you like to have starting? QB A: 69 of 126 for 805 yds, 6/6 TD/INT in 5 games, 114.62 QBR QB B: 100 of 170 for 1089 yds, 4/7 TD/INT in 7 games, 112.16 QBR It was a rough year for any Ball State signal caller, but with no blue-chip QB prospect in the fold coach klemm gave the starting nod to Marquis Causey. Causey didn’t take the step forward many expected him to when Chan Pease was there; can klemm do his QB whisperer magic for Causey like he did with Matteo Rook? Causey is QB B, by the way. Coaches' Comments: You can see the beginnings of a potent offense, but even a coach like npklemm needs some time to mold his team. Only the defensive line scares you here QB is an issue. Back 7 leaves a lot to be desired. 6 Wins Ceiling Potential for a fun gun slinging offense with a host of well rounded staff. Defense on the whole seems under staffed with the exception of a few standouts. This feels too low. Offensive spark and a new coach with pedigree could have them surprise people. Strengths- d-line/safeties...COACH. Weaknesses- lack of depth at key postitions Bowling Green Falcons (2-10 last year) Coach: @Popadom17 (2nd year) Returning Starters: Offense: 8 Defense: 6 Key Losses: OLB Brandon Thomas (50 TKL, 5.0 sacks), DE Theodore Bergeron (17 TKL, 3.0 sacks, 1 FF) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 10 Projected conference finish: 10th (6th MAC East) Overview: Good news: There’s a surprising amount of continuity on the Falcons roster with 14 of 22 starters from 2020 returning including five pro-potential offensive players. The bad news: Last year’s team badly underperformed compared to their skill level. Coach Popadom17 should raise the Falcons’ win total just by being a coach with a pulse and if he can harness the talent on this roster, a bowl game may be in play. Position of Strength: Interior offensive line. Left guard Maximilian Pope (4.0/4.0), center Jonas Zambrano (4.0/4.0), and right guard Derrick Briggs (5.0/5.0) are the best center/guard combination in the MAC, and match up favorably against any other interior group in the country. Bowling Green gave up the second most sacks in the conference with 25, but that was more about the putrid tackle play they had last year. Position of Weakness: Outside linebacker. The Falcons have only three OLBs on the roster and two of them are true freshmen. Expect both Fr Joshua Lyles and Jr Thierno McNeal to get tested a lot by tight ends and outside zone runs. Position to Watch: Running back. Zack Odell returns as the starter after a not-great year statistically (234 rushes for 982 yards, 8 TDs, 3 Fum Lost). His style doesn’t seem to mesh well with BGSU’s strengths on the offensive line, plus there’s the fumbleitis he suffered from last year. How will coach Popadom get Odell on track this year? Coaches' Comments: With 4.0 LG, 5.0 C, and 4.0 LG, this would be a Power RB's dream offensive line. But with Zach Odell, a speed RB, might not have as great of gains due to weaker OTs. Despite solid safties, the defensive line is paltry and the LB corp not much better. Teams with good RB's could just chip away with 4 yard carries all game and win comfortably. Strengths-o-line/safety. Weaknesses-tackles/guards/olbs Still good pieces scattered here and there, but who is Eddie Connelly throwing to? Coaches' focus could be on the recruiting trail as much as it is on the field. Good OL. Not much else on Offense. Defense will be a struggle too. Odd blend of senior experience and young "talent". 5 Win Ceiling Buffalo Bulls (10-3 last year) Coach: @SodapopSeth (6th year) Returning Starters: Offense: 5 Defense: 9 Key Losses: RB Mamadou Wynn (268 rushes for 1349 yards, 16 TDs), OT Marcus Waterman, OG Edward Galloway Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 4 Projected conference finish: 6th (4th MAC East) Overview: Out with MAMADOU SMASH, in with the Fabulous One. Tough-nosed Mamadou Wynn graduates, but Denzel Porter transfers in from the highly-competitive Fashion Institute of Technology. But it’s reigning MAC Offensive Player of the Year QB Blair Holcomb that determines how the Bulls season will go. Holcomb clearly has the talent and the trust of coach SodapopSeth, but a suddenly weak offensive line may derail the Holcomb train before it leaves the station. Position of Strength: Quarterback. Senior Blair Holcomb (268 of 399 for 3532 yards, 35/7 TD/INT) is undoubtedly the best quarterback in the MAC, and the improvement in the Bulls’ offensive output since he arrived on campus is startling. With a quartet of experienced pass-catchers to throw to, Buffalo’s fortunes are riding on Holcomb’s right arm. Position of Weakness: Offensive Line. It almost feels sacrilegious to type this, but these are not the implacable Buffalo road graders of years past. Although junior center D.J. Wilkinson is ready for the pros now, centers are playing at both guard positions and both tackles really needed another year or two to develop (2.5/3.5, 1.5/3.5). How well will Holcomb do when he doesn’t have the pockets develop for him like they did last year? Position to Watch: Placekicker. With no true placekicker on the roster that any coach would feel good about, Mohamed Saylor is back for a second year of double duty. He struggled mightily on field goals converting only two-thirds of his attempts (24 of 36, long 42), and this phase of the game cost the Bulls at least two wins last year. If Saylor struggles again coach SodapopSeth’s best option after him is senior Charles Luther (2.0/2.0) who has never taken a snap in-game. Coaches' Comments: Blair Holcomb is the obvious front runner for the best QB in the MAC, but will probably be spending most of the time running for his life behind a weak o-line that lacks depth. Tough to tell how defense will fare... but there is potential for it to be surprisingly resolute. This alone should keep Buffalo firmly in the middle of the MAC. QB Holcomb and RB Porter are a potent backfield, but outside of center D.J. Wilkinson this O-line is bad. Worst kicking game in the conference Passing Team Now? OL will be downfall of Offense in games. Lack on talent on Defense. Plenty of shootouts this year. 7 win ceiling Strengths- Pass Game/Run game. Weaknesses- kicker/ lack of depth at d-line Central Michigan Chippewas (2-10 last year) Coach: @johnkirk (2nd year) Returning Starters: Offense: 4 Defense: 8 Key Losses: CB A’Shawn Ellison (20 TKL, 6 INT, 1 TD) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 9 Projected conference finish: 7th (3rd MAC West) Overview: 2020 was always a bridge year for the Chips, as Matt Rowland kept the QB seat warm until phenom Byron Suggs was ready. Now Suggs is ready to show that the hype is justified. Position of Strength: Passing game. It helps that Suggs has a pair of big targets to throw to. Junior TE Jasper Rowley (37 rec for 465 yards, 6 TDs) is the reliable safety valve over the middle who has raised his game every year, and redshirt freshman Joseph Aikman is a HUGE (6’5” 227) target that will make life difficult for opposing CBs - especially when they could giving up as many as nine inches in height differential. Position of Weakness: Offensive Line. However, Central can’t be as confident in their front five to keep all their shiny weapons safe. This was the worst performing unit in the MAC last year (4.07 rating, 21 sacks allowed), and only senior LT Victor Reaves (3.5/3.5) qualifies as someone most coaches would be okay starting. Everyone else either needs another year or is “okay.” “Okay” and “needs another year” probably won’t fare well against the Marlon Baileys and Donte Pennels of the world. Position to Watch: Front seven. Even with bookend DEs Nazir Tatum-Kimbrough (17 TKL, 1.0 sack) and Rory Bolin (24 TKL, 4.0 sacks, 2 FF) back for yet ANOTHER year*, this unit failed to get any significant pressure on the QB last season with only eight sacks. They return virtually the same players, but with no one starting specializes in getting to the QB and the ROLB spot again manned by an ILB it’s hard to see a dramatic improvement in this area. Coaches' Comments: Most exciting freshman in conference (Byron Suggs). Could score a ton. Average Defense. 9 Win ceiling Strengths- Great passing game/o-line. Weaknesses- Cbs/inconsistent starters. NOT going to be fun dealing with Byron Suggs and Joseph Aikman for the next few years. LBs and O-line hold them back from making serious waves. The pieces of an offense are coming into place. But youth and large losses on defense will be the story. Should be better than last year, but another year away. Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-8 last year) Coach: @DrFootball (1st year) Returning Starters: Offense: 9 Defense: 7 Key Losses: RB Jamel Jamison (256 rushes for 1086 yards, 10 TDs), DT Shane Horton (29 TKL, 6 sacks, 1 FF), FS Zachary Dumas (8 TKL) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 8 Projected conference finish: 11th (5th MAC West) Overview: The Eagles boast 16 returning starters including 3-year starter Giovanni Shaw so the experience is there. But the RB situation is certainly not experienced, and even with all the continuity this looks like an average roster at best. Position of Strength: Quarterback. Giovanni Shaw’s stats last year were not good (174 of 302 for 2059 yards, 9/19 TD/INT, 51 rushes for 380 yards, 3 TDs) but he and graduated RB Jamel Jamison had absolutely no help from an O-line that produced a 4.41 rating and 19 sacks allowed. Now they have a line that on paper looks competent (if not inspiring), and having an actual fullback in JuCo transfer E.J. Greer play the position will help in the run and pass game. Shaw has long been thought of as better than his stats indicate, he might get a chance to show it this year. Position of Weakness: Secondary. FS Zachary Dumas didn’t put up many numbers last year, but his graduation leaves the back four as all 3.0/3.0 Man coverage personnel. This group is probably going to get tested a lot. Position to Watch: Linebackers. New coach DrFootball has moved to a 3-4 scheme to accommodate his best player in ILB Julian Rinehart (4.0/4.0) and incoming JuCo ILB Mosi Gary (3.5/4.0). Along with OLBs Brayden Winters and Brian Pearson, this group will probably get leaned on to provide most of the defensive activity for EMU especially with Eagle legend Shane Horton no longer blowing things up inside. Coaches' Comments: Giovanni Shaw is a favorite QB of mine that isn't my own. However, A poor running back crew really holds back this offensive potential of this offense. One of the stoutest interior D's but has issues in the secondary. There are a lot of good QB's in the MAC this year to let that go. No real Cohesion on Offense. Defense is kinda average. 5 win ceiling Strengths- Decent pass game/d-line/lbs. Weaknesses- Hard team to coach since they all have different preferences on how they play the game the best. Giovanni Shaw can't do it by himself (stud RB Tyler Pearson isn't ready yet) but he may have to. Kent State Golden Flashes (6-7 last year) Coach: @TazerMan (2nd year) Returning Starters: Offense: 6 Defense: 4 Key Losses: WR Thaddeus Torrez (43 rec for 540 yards, 7 TDs), WR Iye Parris (46 rec for 628 yards, 4 TDs), WR Cayden Sampson (30 rec for 369 yards, 1 TD), CB Richard Roberts (19 TKL, 6 INT), SS Quinn Benson (20 TKL, 2 INT, 1 TD) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 7 Projected conference finish: 9th (5th MAC East) Overview: Another team feeling the sting of coachless years past, Kent State has to take a mulligan on building off of their inspiring bowl season. They are getting much better but a lack of ready depth to replace the 12 lost starters means it probably won’t show on the field this year. Position of Strength: Quarterback. Senior John Garland (238 of 391 for 2749 yards, 19/15 TD/INT, 59 rushes for 441 yards, 7 TDs) often feels like a member of House Greyjoy: “What is dead may never die.” He’s been beaten and battered ever since stepping foot on campus, and yet here he is. He isn’t the most talented player on the roster, but coach TazerMan had him playing better than you’d expect last year. Garland is going to need to do the same this year. Position of Weakness: Cornerbacks. No one in the two-deeps at this group has potential higher than 2.5. Even with support from JuCo SS Steven Gordon, the CBs are going to get picked on early and often. Position to Watch: Wide Receiver. Kent State’s top four receivers all graduated so this position is extremely thin. With the #2 WR a 2.0/3.0 true freshman and the slot receiver a 1.0/3.5 true freshman, it makes us wonder if the Golden Flashes will move to a 2-TE base set to compensate. Coaches' Comments: Scoring won't be easy. Stopping people from scoring won't be easy either. 3 win ceiling The coachless teams of years past catch up to Kent this season. If TazerMan can get this team anywhere near a bowl berth he's a miracle worker. 2022 on looks much better. Could be a difficult year for Kent State. The only thing that could be consider a standout playmaker for them is SS Steven Gordon, a 3.5/4.5 JUCO transfer. An impressive class of redshirts waiting in the wings should make them feel better for the future. Strengths- Decent D-line/ beating akron. Weaknesses- Everyone else is on the redshirt. Miami (OH) Redhawks (8-5 last year) Coach: @caesari (3rd year) Returning Starters: Offense: 9 Defense: 8 Key Losses: WR Melvin Grubbs (41 rec for 396 yards, 4 TDs), DE Jabari Hilliard (27 TKL, 4.0 sacks), CB Shamar McClendon (17 TKL, 3 INT, 1 TD) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 6 Projected conference finish: 4th (2nd MAC East) Overview: With an unreal 17 of 22 starters coming back, there is a lot of hype and expectations surrounding the Redhawks. Miami is the primary challenger for Ohio’s MAC East crown, and the success of that challenge is primarily going to depend on their ability to cover their one or two weak points. Position of Strength: Passing game. We know that aerial fireworks comes to town along with Zack Cera and the Redhawks. Not many teams have been able to stop them. Cera (340 of 570 for 3745 yards, 36/11 TD/INT, 1 Fum lost) has another year of experience under his belt and all his primary weapons return - the lone graduate from the receiving corps was their #3 WR. With WR Kenneth Harrison (74 rec for 787 yards, 11 TDs) on the outside and Mackey winner Casey Swann down the middle (79 rec for 1038, 14 TDs), defenses are going to have a hard time deciding where to focus their efforts. Position of Weakness: Cornerback. Your #1 CB as a 3.0/3.0 (Jr Travis Watson) won’t inspire much confidence from the fans, but coach caesari was forced to double down and put talented but raw (1.0/4.0) CB Jeremiah Christy in the fire right away opposite Watson. Miami has a very good safety duo to back them up in FS Nicholas Mingo (30 TKL, 6 INT) and Ian Huntley (18 TKL, 3 INT), but the CBs and Christy in particular will be tested a lot. Position to Watch: Running Back. As in is it worth watching to see Miami’s running game? Redshirt junior Ajani Garrett (163 rushes for 700 yards, 8 TDs) isn’t a bad RB by any means, but his carries seemed to be of the 1/2-yard TD plunge variety or else just to keep defenses honest. Coaches' Comments: Strengths-Great passing game. Weaknesses-cbs Cera will destroy MAC (again). Solid OL. Defense is kinda meh. 10 win ceiling It's all on Zack Cera again, but an improved O-line should keep him upright better than last year. Inexperienced CBs might mean a lot of their victories are "last score wins" Pray that our good lord and savior protect Miami from injuries. A lack of depth at WR, CB and RB is concerning, but should they stay healthy, I'd be surprised if they don't have the best offense in the MAC. Defense while not quite as all around amazing is still quite formidable. Northern Illinois Huskies (2-10 last year) Coach: @subsequent (2nd year) Returning Starters: Offense: 6 Defense: 6 Key Losses: RB Daniel Hutchins (292 carries for 1519 yards, 14 TDs), TE Emory Johnson (49 rec for 680 yards, 6 TDs), DT Russel Brandt (18 TKL, 2.0 sacks) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 11 Projected conference finish: 12th (6th MAC West) Overview: Once the class of the MAC, several years of inattention are finally catching up to the Huskies. There are still talented players on this roster but zero depth, making an injury in the wrong spot devastating. Position of Strength: Quarterback. Junior Charlie Sanford again gets his chance at the head of the NIU QB Carousel. But without the likes of NFLers Daniel Hutchins and Emory Johnson it’s on Sanford’s shoulders to make plays for the Huskie offense; his skill players are talented but unproven - out of his entire WR and TE groups only WR Nathaniel Alford has any in-game experience, and that was just 5 catches for 58 yards in 2020. Position of Weakness: Defensive End. Brand new starters Miles Beasley (3.0/3.0) and Cristopher Carmona (2.0/3.5) won’t scare many tackles coming off the edge. Look for MAC tackles to be on islands while DT Thierno Thomas commands the double-teams until either Beasley or Carmona show they deserve respect. Position to Watch: Cornerback. Juniors Samuel Echols and Alpha Mitchell are a good CB tandem, but their nickel back is a (1.5/2.5) true freshman and they have no other CBs on the roster. Will teams be tempted to go 3 and 4-wide to exploit that? Coaches' Comments: 3 WR's and 3 CB's would put me in a panic, but a pretty capable roster is on the table here. I think we will be dreading facing Oliver McNeal for a long time, both CFB and NFL. They'd be much higher if I knew the coach would be capable. This year's NIU is shorter on talent than years past, but should be better with a steady coach. Strengths-lb/dt. Weaknesses- serious lack of depth on offense especially o-line/wr Offense could keep things interesting. Who starts at QB? Defense OK. 4 Win ceiling Ohio Bobcats (9-5 last year) Coach: @Chad_Michael (1st year) Returning Starters: Offense: 6 Defense: 7 Key Losses: RB Owen Walton (310 rushes for 1616 yards, 19 TDs), OG Jayden Grove, FS Robert Mahoney (34 TKL, 5 INT, 1 TD) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 2 Projected conference finish: 3rd (1st MAC East) Overview: The MAC East winner the last two years, Ohio looks ready to make another run at the division. With stud Jeffrey Flowers ready to take over for Owen Walton and the best linebacking corps in the conference, the Bobcats certainly have the tools to go as far as their new coach can take them. Position of Strength: Linebackers. With as much talent as Ohio has at this position, it makes a world of sense to put them in a 3-4 alignment. Senior Mike LB Calvin Blue (40 TKL, 2 INT, 0.5 sacks) is the heart and soul of their defense and directs traffic for outside linebackers Donovan Pendleton (22 TKL, 3.0 sacks) and Myles Lindsay (50 TKL, 1 FR). Position of Weakness: Offensive line. Specifically the right side where two new starters are playing in 2.5/2.5 So OG Ethan Felder and 3.0/3.0 Sr Devin Golden. They’re not the worst G/T combo in the conference, but defensive coordinators will likely be looking to overwhelm the duo in order to get to the backfield. Position to Watch: Quarterback. 4.0/4.0. This is new QB Austin Lowe’s rating as a redshirt freshman. Lowe stepped onto the campus in Athens with much fanfare and expectations he’d start from day one, but then-coach @beeznik redshirted him in favor of then-struggling QB Stephen Peters. The gamble paid off as Peters had the best season of his career, but it is clearly Lowe’s time to shine in a packed MAC East. No pressure, kid. Coaches' Comments: Strength- Run game, receivers. Weakness- O-line, secondary Still a very solid team. Potent offense, but new coaching and a weakened secondary would put them just a hair below from last years prestige, but very much not a team to sleep on. Bobcats have the talent to be fighting for the MAC East again, most consistent team in the division. Right side of OL only weakness on Offense. Safeties big weakness on defense. 9 win ceiling. Toledo Rockets (8-5 last year) Coach: @deathcpo (6th year) Returning Starters: Offense: 6 Defense: 9 Key Losses: QB Benjamin Hanson (249 of 358 for 3213 yards, 28/6 TD/INT), WR Thomas Yang (57 rec for 851 yards, 9 TDs), DT Dwayne Montgomery (32 TKL, 2.5 sacks) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 5 Projected conference finish: 1st (1st MAC West) Overview: IT’S HERE, THE PROMISED TIME IS UPON US. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, you’ve all looked forward to it for so long. Now it is… #TOLEDO2021 But in all seriousness, this is on paper the best team in the MAC and the best team coach deathcpo has probably ever had. Now it’s just a matter of turning that paper talent into on-field results. Position of Strength: Defensive line. The Rockets lose two starters to graduation (one to the NFL), and they get better? Okay, sure. Check this line out: DE Dwayne Briggs 6-1 251 (Jr) Germantown (Germantown, WI) 4.5 of 4.5 [Contain] (38 TKL, 7.5 sacks) DT De'Shawn Beckwith 6-3 285 Jr Northfield (Northfield, MN) 4.5 of 4.5 [1-Gap] DT Damian Larkin 6-2 287 (So) Lompoc (Lompoc, CA) 4.0 of 5.0 [2-Gap] DE Ezekiel Williams Jr. 6-1 265 Jr Southwestern Community College (Creston, IA) 4.0 of 4.5 [Blitz] (But really, we could choose almost any group on the field) Position of Weakness: Placekicking. 5-star redshirt freshman Sam Painter is promising but untested. Their long snapper is a 3-star tight end. Shaky special teams have cost many games over the years, could it derail Toledo’s hype train? Position to Watch: Offensive line. It’s a group any other coach in the MAC would love to have, but there is a lot of inexperience and untapped promise here. New QB Michael Thompson will need his big men to play to their potential and not their floors. Coaches' Comments: All-in this year, this team is obviously built to win NOW. A key injury could make everything fall apart though, very little depth. #Toledo2021 Not sold on #Toledo2021 (but I might get a shirt for Toledo 2022, a lot of their starters return). A few low rated - high potential guys might make the difference for Toledo. Probably best Offense in MAC (untested QB though). Very experienced & talented on Defense. 12 win ceiling Strength-Star players. Weakness- Inconsistent star players. Western Michigan Broncos (12-2 last year) Coach: Jieret (3rd year) Returning Starters: Offense: 7 Defense: 6 Key Losses: FB Marquise McQueen, DE Michael McKinney (28 TKL, 7.5 sacks, 1 FF), ILB Kareem Boykin (46 TKL, 3 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR), CB Sean Taylor (19 TKL, 5 INT, 1 TD) Last Year's Power Ranking finish: 1 Projected conference finish: 2nd (2nd MAC West) Overview: Fresh off a CFB playoff appearance, the Broncos sport an improved offense. But the early declarations of Western’s two best defensive players will make it difficult to defend their conference title, let alone make it the top eight again. Position of Strength: Running back. It’s year two of the DeSean Madison era and opposing MAC coaches are already tired of facing him. The redshirt sophomore is fresh off a 1600-yard, 21 TD campaign and looks to break New York Jets legend Emmanuel Fields’ school record of 3480 career rushing yards. Position of Weakness: Linebacker. Outside linebacker was already set to take a hit with no one on the depth chart ready to replace Shia Kenney, so the job goes to blue-chip prospect Christian Reese (1.0/5.0). But Reese’s security blanket was lost with Boykin’s early declaration, so he is going to have to learn on a VERY steep curve. The other LBs (3-stars Walter McGregor and Eric Holbrook) can hold their own but aren’t players to fear. Position to Watch: Defensive line. DTs redshirt sophomore Silas Booker (21 TKL, 4.0 sacks, 1 FR) and redshirt junior Rocco Gifford (23 TKL, 3.0 sacks, 1 FR) were sneaky-good last season, mostly because the attention was on the Broncos secondary. But with the secondary and linebacker groups taking steps backwards, these two plus redshirt freshman Victor Roberson will have to pick up the defensive slack. Coaches' Comments: Can DeSean Madison transfer pls? Defense is OK, nothing special. 11 win ceiling Strength-Secondary. Weakness- o-line can be inconsistent When the only negative thing I can come up with is something along the lines of "the receiving corp is good not great", that usually rockets a team to the top. Not an easy road to a repeat with many teams improving, but my pick to win it all again. Better offense, much worse defense. Can DeSean Madison and Chase Sims score enough to make up for losing Sean Taylor and Kareem Boykin?
    7. Voted upon by the coaches of the MAC. What a season for the fine members of Everyone's Favorite Conference. Seven teams bowling this post-season, and the first ever playoff invite for a MAC team! The MAC is raising its national profile, and it's all thanks to the outstanding young men on the gridiron. With that in mind, why don't we honor some of the most superlative performances for this year? OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Blair Holcomb, QB, Buffalo 246 of 369 (66.67%) for 3292 yards, 32 TDs, 6 INT. What a transformation for the Buffalo Bulls. Once a team that regarded a thrown ball as anathema, they've embraced the ways of the forward pass with an eagerness and proficiency no one outside of New York would have imagined and it's all due to the JuCo from Hudson Valley CC. Holcomb placed either first or second in the MAC for every passing category that we track. DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Marlon Bailey, DT, Akron 49 tackles, 7.0 sacks Mere mortal linemen quiver in fear when the "Eater of Worlds" is lined up across from them. Bailey's made a practice of devouring double-teams whole all season long, and he single-handedly turned a good Akron defense into a great one. Offensive coordinators everywhere outside of Akron are hoping he decides to declare for this year's draft. SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Timmy Wilhelm, K, Ohio 27/30 FGs, 12/14 40-49 FG, 1/2 50+ FG, 43/43 XP, 124 Points One more award for Timmy. The all-time leader in MAC Player of the Week awards gets a bigger shiny to put on his crowded mantle as he tries to find a place kicking on Sundays. COACH OF THE YEAR: Jieret, We suppose leading a MAC team to the conference's highest ever poll ranking and its first playoff berth tends to get some notice. OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: DeSean Madison, RB, 262 carries for 1393 yards (5.32 ypc, 116.08 ypg), 19 TDs, 2 Fumbles lost Coming into this season, the big story around Kalamazoo was coach Jieret's decision to start the redshirt freshman over incumbent Gabriel Shields. After all - Shields had only run for over 1600 yards and was Western's best offensive player last season, so that definitely raised some eyebrows. And they got higher when Shields transferred down the street to East Lansing and Sparty. But Madison validated his coach's trust in him and then some, carrying on a tradition of outstanding Bronco running backs. DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Eddie McGill, FS, 38 tackles, 4 INT Free safety was a "Position to watch" for the Cardinals but the redshirt freshman held up pretty well, actually. McGill settled down as the season progressed and was opportunistic enough to make quarterbacks pay for testing his range. 2020 West Winners: Western Michigan Broncos 2020 East Winners: Ohio Bobcats 2020 Champions: Western Michigan Broncos First Team All-MAC Offense (* indicates unanimous selection) QB: Blair Holcomb, RB: Daniel Hutchins, RB: DeSean Madison, (FB: Harrison Mullin, ) WR: Justin Evans, WR: Kenneth Harrison, TE: Casey Swann, OT: Marcus Waterman, OT: Marc Allen, OG: Alex Westbrook, OG: Edward Galloway, C: D.J. Wilkinson, K: Timmy Wilhelm, Second Team All-MAC Offense (* indicates unanimous selection) QB: Benjamin Hanson, RB: Gabe Ciamo, RB: Owen Walton, WR: Thomas Yang, WR: Christian Holguin, TE: Xavier Frey, OT: Marc Owens, OT: Damien Arroyo, OG: Jayden Grove, OG: Xavier Bridges, C: Billy Alailima, K: Josh Booth, First Team All-MAC Defense (* indicates unanimous selection) DE: Dwayne Briggs, * DE: Donte Pennel, DT: Marlon Bailey, * DT: Rashaad Malcolm, * ILB: Jayden Kessler, OLB: Brandon Thomas, * OLB: Raymond Smith, CB: A'Shawn Ellison, * CB: Levern White, FS: Nicholas Mingo, SS: Thomas Gordon, P: Eric Caudill, RET: Cayden Sampson, Second Team All-MAC Defense (* indicates unanimous selection) DE: Chase Woodson, DE: Rory Bolin, DT: Shane Horton, * DT: Isamaeli Afamasaga, ILB: Russell Owens, OLB: Ivan Rosenberg, OLB: Myles Lindsay, CB: Troy Galloway. CB: Richard Roberts, FS: Eddie McGill, SS: Quinn Benson, P: Mohamed Saylor, RET: Ibrahima Griggs, Congratulations to all the winners! If it's not MAC, it's wack!
    8. (Note: For our previous look at potential award winners from a month ago: http://cfbhc.com/index.php?/topic/19176-2020-mid-american-conference-national-awards-watch/) There's still plenty for the MAC fan to look forward to: The big Championship game between Western Michigan and Ohio, Bowl season with seven (!) MAC teams participating. But some players compiled some serious tape during the season, enough that it might get them some elite national awardage! Unfortunately some of the players we highlighted in this space last time have fallen off the pace, but there are still those with reasonable claims to trophies. Let's take a look! John Mackey Award (top tight end) TE Casey Swann, (So), Miami (OH). 74 catches for 944 yards, 13 TDs, 1 Fumble lost. Swann doesn't quite have the numbers of, say, Baylor's Hastin Rider. But they are good enough to mention him in the conversation, and they are good enough to lead the MAC in all major receiving categories. As a tight end! Also, unlike Rider, he is coming back to play at least one more year alongside the FLAMETHROWER ZACK CERA and that potent Redhawks passing game. Jim Parker Trophy (top offensive lineman) OT Marcus Waterman, Sr, Buffalo. Offensive line has a 6.15 rating, allowed 7 sacks. (80 rating by NFL scouts) Death, taxes, Buffalo having a good offensive line. As the Bulls left tackle Waterman is the key figure in the last of those truisms being, er, true. It may have taken QB Blair Holcomb to transform the Bulls' identity but Waterman and his fellow linemen gave Holcomb a place to safely stand while doing so, and he may have earned himself a shot at hearing his name called on the first day of next season's NFLHC draft. Bronko Nagurski Trophy: top defensive player Bill Willis Trophy: top defensive lineman Rotary Lombardi Award: top defensive lineman/linebacker Outland Trophy: top interior lineman on either offense or defense: DT Marlon Bailey, (Jr), Akron. 49 tackles, 7.0 sacks. The "Eater of Worlds" absolutely belongs on the shortlist for each and every single one of these awards. You want to know why Akron is bowling for the first time ever? Look no further than the big man in the middle. Yes, T.J. Zamora is having a bounce-back year, but Bailey is why the Zips have 26 sacks and are allowing only 93.42 rushing yards per game - both figures leading the conference. Bailey may not win all these awards, but if he doesn't come away with at least two of them he will have gotten robbed in our slightly biased opinion. Lou Groza Trophy: top kicker K Harry DeMarco, (Fr), W. Michigan. 23/24 FGs (95.83%), 36/36 XPs. 9/9 FGM 40-49 yds., 0/1 FGM 50+ yds. Long 48 DeMarco did not miss a kick until the very last game of the regular season, and it was from 50. He was calm and composed the entire year for Western as a freshman, and the Broncos will love having him and his reliable kicking for the next few years. K Timmy Wilhelm, Sr, Ohio. 24/26 FGs (92.31%), 40/40 XPs. 10/11 FGM 40-49 yds., 1/2 FGM 50+ yds. Long 50 Speaking of reliable, that's what the Bobcats are about to lose with Timmy Wilhelm's graduation. TIMMAY has won Special Teams Player of the Week honors eleven times throughout his career, and it only seems right he ends it with some national love for his consistency - his only two misses have been from 46 or greater. Burlsworth Trophy: top player with a current skill of 3.0 or less As we did before, we will only consider players with a potential of 3.5 or less. RB Makai Carr (Jr), C. Michigan (2.5 of 3.5) - 259 carries for 1184 yards, 10 TDs, 1 Fumble lost. WR George Boyd (Sr), Buffalo (3.0 of 3.0) - 47 catches for 749 yards, 5 TDs. CB Richard Roberts (Sr), Kent State (3.0 of 3.0) - 16 tackles, 5 INTs. ILB Russell Owens (Sr), C. Michigan (2.0 of 2.0) - 57 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR. ("Rudy!") OLB Raymond Smith, (SO), Akron (3.0 of 3.5) - 33 tackles, 1 INT, 4.5 sacks, 1 FF "If it's not MAC, it's wack!"
    9. Offensive Player of the Week: QB T.J. Zamora, Akron . 24 of 34 for 300 yards, 3/0 TD/INT. 4 rushes for 14 yards. (W vs. Ohio) ) The Bobcats had already won the MAC East prior to this game, but the Zips definitely made sure Ohio knew it was by the skin of their teeth via a 41-14 drubbing that NO one outside of Akron saw coming. Zamora ended the regular season on a high note, beautifully orchestrating the Akron offense wherever it needed to go against a tough Ohio defense. Zamora earned his second POTW honors for the season, a nice way to end his collegiate regular season career. Defensive Player of the Week: MLB Kareem Boykin, W. Michigan . 7 tackles, 1 INT. (W at E. Michigan) A somewhat surprising early declarer for the upcoming draft, Western's stud linebacker put up a typically efficient and effective stat line for him. However unlike his other stat lines this was enough to get him his first ever Player of the Week award, so congrats to him for that! A nice little something extra to add to his resume as he prepares for the MAC Championship Game and a bowl, then the pros. Special Teams Player of the Week: WR Cayden Sampson, Kent State . 129 Punt return yards, Punt return TD. (W vs. C. Michigan) Not to be outdone by E. Michigan's Ibrahima Griggs, Kent State's Cayden Sampson also took matters into his own hands. With his team going down to the CMU Chippewas 13-0 at halftime, Sampson's punt return to the house energized the Golden Flashes and sparked the comeback that took them to their very first bowl berth. Definitely a fitting honor for Sampson (his first), and an uplifting way to bring a close to this season's weekly awards. Congratulations to all the winners! But more importantly thanks to everyone for reading along, we'll see you next season!
    10. MAC Team Stats Offensive Line Rating 1. 6.63, 2. 6.27, 3. 6.15 Sacks 1. 26, 2. 20, 3. 19 Sacks Allowed 1. 7, 2. 11, 3. 13 Points per Game 1. 32.92, 2. 30.17, 3. (tie) , 28.17 Points allowed per Game 1. 16.67, 2. 17.00, 3. 19.08 Point Differential 1. +166, 2. +158, 3. +120 Turnover Ratio 1. +11, 2. +10, 3. (tie) , +5 Yardage Stats
    11. Full statsheet found here. MAC Passing Leaders Attempts 1. Zack Cera, (So) 531 2. Blair Holcomb, (Jr) 369 3. John Garland, Jr 364 Yards 1. Zack Cera, (So) 3442 2. Blair Holcomb, (Jr) 3292 3. Benjamin Hanson, Sr 3047 Completion Percentage 1. Benjamin Hanson, Sr 7.87% 2. Chase Sims, (So) 67.62% 3. Blair Holcomb, (Jr) 66.67% QB Rating 1. Benjamin Hanson, Sr 170.89 2. Blair Holcomb, (Jr) 166.97 3. Chase Sims, (So) 152.08 Touchdowns 1. Zack Cera, (So) 33 2. Blair Holcomb, (Jr) 32 3. Benjamin Hanson, Sr 27 MAC Rushing Leaders Attempts 1. Daniel Hutchins, Sr 292 2. Nathaniel Ruff, (Jr) 271 3. Gabe Ciamo, (So) 270 Yards 1. Daniel Hutchins, Sr 1519 2. DeSean Madison, (Fr) 1393 3. Gabe Ciamo, (So) 1371 Yards per Carry (min. 120 carries) 1. DeSean Madison, (Fr) 5.32 2. Daniel Hutchins, Sr 5.20 3. Gabe Ciamo, (So) 5.08 Touchdowns 1. DeSean Madison, (Fr) 19 2. Gabe Ciamo, (So) 17 3. Daniel Hutchins, Sr 15 MAC Receiving Leaders Receptions 1. Casey Swann, TE, (So) 74 2. Kenneth Harrison, WR (Jr) 69 3. Keith Barnes, WR, (So) 63 Yards 1. Casey Swann, TE, (So) 944 2. Justin Evans, WR (So) 834 3. Thomas Yang, WR, (Jr) 806 Touchdowns 1. Casey Swann, TE, (So) 13 2. Xavier Frey, TE, (So) 10 3. Three players tied with 9. MAC Defensive Leaders Tackles 1. Jayden Kessler, ILB, (Jr) 64 2. Russell Owens, ILB, (Sr) 57 3. Brandon Thomas, OLB, Jr 50 Interceptions 1. A'Shawn Ellison, CB, Sr 6 2. Four players tied with 5. Sacks 1. Dwayne Briggs, DE, (So), 7.5 2. Three players tied with 7.0 MAC Special Team Leaders Field Goals Made 1. Josh Booth, K, Sr, 28 2. Timmy Wilhelm, K, Sr, 24 3. (tie) Mohamed Saylor, P, (So), 23 3. (tie) Harry DeMarco, K, (Fr), 23 Field Goal Percentage (min. 10 attempts) 1. Trent Michaels, K, (Sr), 100.00% (10/10) 2. Harry DeMarco, K, (Fr), 95.83% (23/24) 3. Simon Hand, K, (Jr), 94.12% (16/17) Longest Field Goal 1. Trent Michaels, K, (Sr), 56 yards 2. Josh Booth, K, Sr, 51 3. Timmy Wilhelm, K, Sr, 50 Punting Average 1. Eric Caudill, P, (Fr), 41.42 ypp 2. Mohamed Saylor, P, (So), 40.44 ypp 3. Maximilian Wilkes, P, So, 38.87 ypp
    12. Vote! Which player best deserves your weekly accolades? (Yes, any and all non-MAC coaches are free to vote also.)
    13. Offensive Player of the Week: QB John Garland, Kent St. 18 of 29 for 305 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT. 4 carries for 54 yards, 1 TD, 1 Fumble (0 lost). (W vs. Miami(OH) ) John Garland just won't die, and he won't let his Golden Flashes die either! At least, not this week. Facing a tall order against the Best!Miami Redhawks, Garland had another superlative performance to keep Kent State's bowl dreams alive, torching Miami deep with his arm and his legs. If he can do it one more time against Central Michigan, Garland will have taken Kent State somewhere they have never been before - a Bowl Game. Defensive Player of the Week: SS Quinn Benson, Kent St. 7 tackles, 1 INT. (W vs. Miami(OH) ) Of course the 41-28 victory over the Redhawks isn't all on the offense, especially when the FLAMETHROWER ZACK CERA has his one of his worst games of the season. The Golden Flashes were all over him and the field that day, and the senior safety exemplified that better than anyone. His sure tackling prevented the yardage after catches that Miami loves to rack up, and he even got a interception to set Kent State up for a short TD. Benson can taste the bowl game he's missed out on his entire college career, and he's hellbent on getting there before taking his shot at the pros. Special Teams Player of the Week: SS Ibrahima Griggs, E. Michigan 94 Punt return yards, Punt return TD. (W vs. Georgia St.) Hey look, we got one! A special teams touchdown, that is. The true freshman from Holland, Michigan made his mark on the game early, weaving a dazzling punt return for a TD as part of a 17-point first quarter outburst by the Eagles. Eastern rode their special teams play to an upset victory over the Georgia State Panthers, and Griggs was the catalyst for that oft-ignored third phase of the game. Congratulations to all the winners! (All previous winners found here)
    14. Because reasons, the normal time slot for discussing the MAC Players of the Week was bumped, and we have this abbreviated version. You'll notice a certain tinge of Royal Blue and White to last week's winners: QB Blair Holcomb, Buffalo. 23 of 27 for 350 yards, 5/0 TD/INT. (W vs. BGSU) ILB Lucas Callaway, Buffalo. 6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery. (W vs. BGSU) P/K Mohamed Saylor, Buffalo. 3/4 FGs (made: 42, 29, 28 - missed: 44), 6/6 XPs, 41.2 punting average. (W vs. BGSU) We DO, however, have a spicy set of nominees for you MAC coaches (and non-MAC, Everyone's Favorite Conference doesn't discriminate) to vote on for Week 15!
    15. A short week, but the was definitely not short on mind-blowing performances! Vote! Which player best deserves your weekly accolades? (Yes, any and all non-MAC coaches are free to vote also.)