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Jieret

[2020] MAC Preview Show, Week 6

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Last Week’s pick record: 6-1
Pick record to date: 23-3
 
Welcome back!  On behalf of the lovely #MACtion Jenny and special silent guest star Jose Paniagua, I’m your host Bruce Baguen.
But first, the ceremonial torch lighting as performed by #MACtion Jenny:
 

Spoiler

maction_medium.jpg

 
Thursday Night

None. Wait, what?


Friday Night

 

:wku: Western Kentucky (1-3) at  :ohio: Ohio (1-2, 1-0): non-conference 


Last Week: The Hilltoppers came out on the right side of a winless matchup (W vs. :lt: 28-10), while Ohio looked forward to proving themselves better than they’ve shown so far. (BYE) 

 

When we talk about the Bobcat offense, we normally start with Owen. Freaking. WALTON.  But for this game we’ll start with Damien Arroyo, Jayden Grove, Jake Jennings, Drew Platt, and Shane Poe.  These are the gentlemen who will have the task of neutralizing WKU’s best defenders, RDE Daniel Spivey (9 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and DT Benjamin Chappell (14 tackles, 1.5 sacks).  Chappell in particular is a space clogger who plays much bigger than his 290-pound frame suggests, yet has enough short-area quickness to slip past an unprepared lineman and get to the quarterback.  Expect to see C Jennings frequently slide to whatever side Chappell is on and engage in double-teaming.  If the front five can get good seal blocks on the Hilltopper defensive line, we really like Walton’s chances to put up disgusting numbers against a back seven that would be in the lower third of MAC defenses.  That in turn would really open up space for Ohio’s receivers to find intermediate areas to settle down in.

 

With QB Riley West at the helm (64% completion rate, 1011 passing yards, 11/5 TD/INT ratio) Western Kentucky wants to be a proficient passing team and they are certainly capable of putting up the big numbers:

  • 45 against Oklahoma State
  • 31 against East Carolina
  • 24 against Virginia
  • 28 against Louisiana Tech

The problem for the Hilltoppers is that except for the LaTech game, the numbers on the other side were bigger: 49 for the Cowboys, 34 for the Pirates, 56 for the Cavaliers.  Those gaudy point totals look very much like the results of “throw it up to keep up” games where WKU fell behind.  It says something that West’s worst game statistically (15 of 29 for 155 yards, 2/2 TD/INT) came in their only win - the Hilltoppers coasted to early lead courtesy of a pick-six then worked safer and shorter passes and their running game to a 28-10 victory.
Speaking of running, WKU tapped redshirt freshman Charlie Kurtz as their new starting running back last week.  It seems to the result of a philosophy change rather than a performance issue - the speedy Kurtz’s stats aren’t appreciably different from bruising former starter Gary Foley (74 rushing yards for Kurtz, 76.0 YPG for Foley).  However, Ohio is arguably better defensively at the edges of their front seven than in their middle, even accounting for tackling machine ILB Calvin Blue, with OLBs Donovan Pendleton and Myles Lindsay rounding out perhaps the most complete LB corps in the MAC.  Where Ohio IS shaky is in their secondary, playing converted safeties as their nickel and dime backs.  The Hilltoppers may find some success if they have to go four and five-wide.

 

Prediction: 34-24 :ohio: 
With a, um, shaky (Yeah, let’s go with ‘shaky’) defense, the Hilltoppers’ best chance is to go into a shootout, albeit an unconventional one: Ohio scoring into the 30s and 40s probably means a 3-TD performance from Owen. Freaking. WALTON.  WKU will probably have to rely on West’s arm again, but his O-line is averaging a rating of 4.2 and 1.75 sacks allowed/game; he is going to be one big bruise at the end of this game.

 

:cmu: Central Michigan (0-4, 0-0) at :ball: Ball State (0-4, 0-2)

 

Last Week: A pair of tough non-conference games for them both with Jamel Trufant running around, through, and over CMU repeatedly - they are now well-acquainted with his shoe size (L vs. :wisconsin: 7-35).  Meanwhile, Ole Miss’ (Marquise) Laws was enforced much more diligently than Ball State’s (Austin) Laws (L at :miss: 3-24).

 

Two teams that were expecting a better start to the year meet up to start up the long road to glory at the expense of the other.

At the MAC Network we’ve been singing the praises of Ball State’s twin tower DTs Rashaad Malcolm and Isamaeli Afamasaga as a reason they could surprise in the MAC West.  Well, Malcolm and Afamasaga have delivered (combined 19 tackles, 4.5 sacks) but the rest of the defense haven’t played quite as well.  The only opponent held to under 100 yards rushing was Virginia (80 yards), and that’s because they weren’t particularly interested in it - Matteo Rook went 27 of 37 for 328 yards and 4 TDs.  Granted, they’ve had a tough slate of games so far (@Akron, Buffalo, @UVA, @Ole Miss) but coach @lrickar1 must be getting concerned with opposing offenses doing virtually whatever they want.
Fortunately for the Cardinal defense, the Chippewa offense is in just as bad a state of disarray if not worse.  RB Makai Carr has struggled to find traction so far, averaging only 80.25 yards per game.  CMU QB Matt Rowland hasn’t fared much better, averaging a paltry 162 yards per game while throwing 6 picks and 6 interceptions.  Their offensive line has an average rating of 4.4.  

 

And then there’s the other side of the ball.

16 of 23 for 199 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 6 rushes for 29 yards, 0 TD.   That is a statline that most MAC coaches would take if that was the average result from their quarterback.  They wouldn’t be thrilled with it, but they could live with it.

That is the statline for Marquis Causey’s BEST game this season.  Coming into this season most observers expected Causey to take a step forward, especially with an experienced group of receivers like Siali McMullin, Chan Pease, and Jayson Zarate-Lima.  But his continued struggles are the biggest reason why Ball State is winless on the year.  Outside of the above-quoted game against Buffalo, Causey has not thrown a touchdown pass but has thrown five interceptions total. It’s all too easy for defenses to stack the box against Austin Laws and dare Causey to throw right now.
It doesn’t help that the Chips defense is easily the stronger part of their team right now.  Sophomore bookends Nazir Tatum-Kimbrough and Rory Bolin provide formidable presences off the edge, and senior cornerback A’Shawn Ellison (8 tackles, 1 INT returned for TD) does a good job working against the offense’s top wideout.  Normally, Ellison vs. Pease/Zarate-Lima would be a highlighted matchup but the Cardinal gameplan may dictate otherwise - at least if things go accordingly to Ball State’s plans.

 

Prediction: 17-13 :ball:
The big question here is whose defense will force more offensive mistakes. We expect the Cardinals to feed the Chips a steady diet of Austin Laws and put Causey in caretaker mode until he gets his confidence back.  We actually expect Central Michigan to do the same, but it’s the Ball State defense that will prove the difference and provide several short fields for their offense.  As dynamic as Ellison is, the cornerback position is the one that might have the least potential to affect this week’s game.


Saturday Morning

 

:zips: Akron (3-0, 2-0) at :indiana:Indiana (2-1): non-conference

 

Last Week:  The Zips enjoyed the view from atop the MAC East Mountain (BYE), while Indiana needed a fourth-quarter comeback to shake off pesky Tulsa (W vs. :tulsa: 24-21)

 

QB Adrian Rupp is the man to watch when Indiana has the ball.  The redshirt junior makes everything go for the Hoosiers, and we’re not just saying that because the ball gets hiked to him.  Check out the stats in three games: 36 of 89 (68.5%) for 761 yards, 6/2 TD/INT ratio.  And he does damage with his legs too (19 rushes for 135 yards and 3 TDs), so you can’t just drop everyone into coverage.  Indiana is trying to find a complement for Rupp so he doesn’t wear down too much, and they’re trying Brendan Devine out after starting with FB/RB Julian Early for a couple of games.  Devine had a good day against the Golden Hurricane, so there’s hope in Bloomington.  (We’ll come back to this game later)
Defensively, the Zips are going to lean on big Marlon Bailey to disrupt up the middle and force Rupp to decide on his Run-Pass Option sooner than he wants to.  With 18 tackles and 3 sacks on the young season, the Hoosier offensive line hasn’t encountered anyone like the 6-7, 322-pound monster.  Much like Rupp does for the Indiana offense, Bailey drives the Akron defense.  But Bailey isn’t the only talent on his squad, his linemate Corey Brantley and SS Jadon Boykin show promise (although oddly enough, both have been blanked on the statsheet so far this year).  The Zips’ shallow secondary is vulnerable to spread teams, but that’s not Indiana’s MO (only 132 yards and 1 TD combined for Indy’s #3 and 4 receivers).

 

Akron got its dual-threat offense rolling early in the season, averaging 216 yards passing (eh) and 146 yards rushing (pretty good) per game so far.  Despite the pedestrian yardage T.J. Zamora has been efficient with the ball completing nearly two-thirds of his passes and tossing five touchdowns to two interceptions so far.  His rushing totals aren’t as gaudy as Rupp’s (95 rushiing yards), but he has the better backfield partner in Nathaniel Ruff (114 YPG, 4 TDs).  Indiana’s defense doesn’t have the same amount of talent as their offense, and a Zamora/Ruff two-headed monster have already dispatched stop squads of similar skill levels, although LOLB Felix Hinojosa may require some scheming.

 

Prediction: 24-21 :zips: 
We’re leaning homerish with this one, sure, but we’re willing to buy into the current good version of T.J. Zamora sticking around.  Good!Zamora and Ruff can do some damage, but the biggest reason for picking the Zips?  Last week’s Indiana game against Tulsa.  A C-USA team that couldn’t keep up with Fresno State or Buffalo took Indiana to the wire by using their strong running and a timely turnover or two. Ohio State didn’t even have a takeaway but used the running game more effectively in their win against Indy.  We’re willing to bet that Akron can follow the same plan.

 

:toledo: Toledo (2-1, 0-0) at :bgsu: Bowling Green (2-2, 0-2)

 

Last Week:  The Rocket staff’s focus was on recruiting (BYE), while Bowling Green misread the schedule and showed up to play a half late.  (L at :kent: 28-41)

 

So Bowling Green:

  • Had Eddie Connelly completed 75 percent of his passes for 270 passing yards, averaging 11.25 Yards per ATTEMPT and threw three touchdowns (against two interceptions, but still)
  • Ran for 167 yards with Zack Odell breaking the century mark and scoring another touchdown.

...and still got blown out.  Kent State’s Quinn Benson took a Connelly pass back to the house and the dam broke; it was 28-0 at halftime.  The individual stats look good for Bowling Green, but together they made for an ugly picture.  A lot of the blame can be laid at the collective feet of their Falcon offensive line; a 4.4 rating and 2 sacks allowed led to a 2 for 13 third down conversion rate for the game.  And really, the O-line is the story of the BG offense.  Talented but very inconsistent; if they fall on their faces like they did against a less-talented Kent State defensive line the Falcons are going nowhere.  And now here comes a Toledo defense only surrendering 267 offensive yards per GAME.  It doesn’t matter how good Connelly and Odell are if the offensive line can’t keep the Two Dwaynes (Montgomery and Briggs) out of the backfield.

 

Speaking of underachieving… for all the issues the Falcon offense had last week, they weren’t the only culprits in giving up a huge lead to Kent State.  The vaunted Bowling Green Sack Factory is tied for last in the conference in sacks with four, and two of them came from OLB Brandon Thomas in one game.  They’re also surrendering 131 rushing yards per game and allowing a 3rd down conversion rate of 34%; that percentage would be good for second in the conference if it belonged to a specific team!  The Falcon defense is in a bad place right now, and new coach DJSquiggle has a lot of work to do.  The Rockets are not the team you want to face with your defense in disarray.  Not with Benjamin Hanson have thrown seven TDs to one pick on the season and RB Gabe Ciamo rushing for four TDs while averaging 115 YPG.

 

Prediction: 28-10 :toledo: 
We’re not ready to call the Bowling Green Sack Factory closed, but they may have to cut back their hours.  Toledo is out to prove that it’s premature to write them off for the season, and it’s hard to see the Falcons stopping them with their current form.


Saturday Evening

 

:buffalo: Buffalo (3-1, 0-1) at :wmu: Western Michigan (3-1, 1-0)

 

Last Week: The Bulls’ focus was on evening their conference slate (BYE), while the Broncos forgot about saving points for this week’s contest (W vs. :sdsu: 44-14)

 

It’s PRIME TIME for the MAC!

 

Western has to be hoping this visit to the bright lights of Saturday goes better than their last, when Toledo completely shut them down in a 24-6 loss.  DeSean Madison has gotten better and better every game, but the most encouraging sign for the Broncos has to be the game Chase Sims had last week against the Aztecs - 75% completion rate for 249 yards and 3 TDs?  Yes please.  TE Carlos Vargas (19 catches for 281 yards, 3 TDs) has emerged as Sims’ favorite weapon and will undoubtedly draw LOLB Alexander Moffett’s attention, so this could be a good game for deep threat Josh Whitt.  
When we talk about the Bulls defense, we start with Moffett.  The true freshman (yes, you read that right) started from day one and helped compensate for losing Second Team All-MAC DT Patrick Garber to graduation.  While he’s made a few statsheets (12 tackles), his coaches rave about his instincts for the game and his ability to do the little things that don’t show up in the boxscores.  Someone who has shown up in statsheets?  SS Thomas Gordon.  The junior isn’t just a thumper in the box (21 tackles), he can ballhawk when necessary (3 INTs).  Sims will have to account for Gordon at all times, as the Bulls like to move around a lot.

 

Well, we were wrong.  When Buffalo secured QB Blair Holcomb’s services last year, we didn’t think the JuCo transfer would make much of a difference.  Boy, were we wrong.  The Bulls stopped being one-dimensional (no matter how awesome that dimension was) and show greater offensive punch than before; an 11/3 TD/INT ratio and 266 passing YPG attest to that.  The Buffalo receivers are basically the same ones from last season, so the difference between Holcomb and Stephen “I shouldn’t throw past 9” Coates is something to behold.
Oh, we can’t leave the Bull running game out of this.  MAMADOU SMASH isn’t putting up the awe-inspiring numbers we’re used to seeing, but that doesn’t make him any less fearsome.  (105 rushing YPG, 5 TDs)  Buffalo also still has the best offensive line in the MAC, and they still specialize in road-grading.  Will WMU use the same gameplan they followed against San Diego State and trust Sean Taylor and company to cover the back end while focusing on the run?  It worked last week, but MAMADOU SMASH is a far, far different beast.  Can DTs Rocco Gifford and Silas Booker replicate their success from last week (combined 7 tackles, 2 sacks)?

 

Prediction:  24-17 :wmu: 
A real coin-flip game, but one that landed in the Broncos’ favor (at least in the studio) and the reason for it is one we haven’t talked about yet: Special Teams.  The Bulls are asking punter Mohamed Saylor to pull double duty as their placekicker, and results have been mixed.  Despite leading kickers in total points, Saylor is only 7 for 11 (63.64%) on field goal attempts while WMU’s Harry DeMarco is perfect (7 for 7).  In a tough battle that should feature a lot of ugly trench warfare, the third phase of the game could decide everything.
 


BYES::kent: Kent State (2-2), :miao: Miami (OH) (4-0), :emu: E. Michigan (0-4), :niu: N. Illinois (1-3)
 
On behalf on #MACtion Jenny and special silent guest Jose Paniagua, I'm Bruce Baguen for the MAC Network ("If it's not MAC, it's wack!"). Until next time!
 

TazerMan, caesari, darkage and 1 other like this

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