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Jieret

[2020] MAC Preview Show, Week 7

5 posts in this topic

Last Week’s pick record: 5-0
Pick record to date: 28-3  (Huh? How?)
 
Welcome back!  On behalf of the lovely #MACtion Jenny and special silent guest star Mac Suzuki, I’m your host Bruce Baguen.
But first, the ceremonial torch lighting as performed by #MACtion Jenny:

Spoiler

maction_medium.jpg

 

 

Thursday Night

Still none.  Cool!

 

Friday Night

 

:emu: Eastern Michigan (0-4 overall, 0-1 conference) at :niu: Northern Illinois (1-3, 0-1)

 

Last Week: Both teams studied Peyton Manning’s SNL stint in preparation for his ESPY hosting duties and will present reports on his growth as a comedic actor.  Presentations at halftime! (Both teams on BYE)

 

We’re sticking with the running abilities of Dwayne Curry at QB, it looks like.  The Huskie junior hasn’t lit the world on fire since taking over for Charlie Sanford but he hasn’t been worse either - both QBs are hovering around a 59 percent completion rate and 165 passing yards per game. Combine it with a switch to a more option-based attack, and the move makes sense.  The bigger question might be if it unlocks Daniel Hutchins - well, more than he already is.  The senior RB had a HUGE day last time out (140 rushing yards, 3 TDs) and looks to be getting into a groove as conference play starts in earnest.  Eastern Michigan will surely key in on Hutchins and force him to work for those yards, but with some of EMU’s linebackers tending to attack downfield big TE Emory Johnson will look to exploit that area between the linebackers and safeties.  Eagle SS Shia Russ will have to be very alert and not be overly aggressive in his reads.

 

The EMU offense is the same as it was last year - ball control and play-action to TE Amir Nixon.  But transfer RB Jamel Jamison is not finding the room to run (only 84.25 YPG) primarily due to an offensive line with a season rating just over four.  In what seems to be another MAC trend, the Eagles go up against yet another talented pair of interior linemen: DTs Russel Brandt and Thierno Thomas.  The undersized (6-1, 257!) Brandt uses elite quickness to slip gaps and get in the backfield while the monstrous Thomas (6-6, 334!) holds the fort at the line of scrimmage.  If Jamison can get to the edge, he may have success in running behind the left side of his line against DE Raymond Hodge and ROLB Ivan Rosenberg.  Who will watch for TE Amir Nixon slipping into patterns?  Is it the exciting but young freshman MLB Oliver McNeal’s job or will SS Miles Grady mark him personally?

 

We really don’t expect either cornerback group to be incredibly busy this game.

 

Prediction: 23-17 :niu:
It’s easy to forget, but Northern Illinois has some talented players such as Hutchins and Johnson that should play on Sundays.  In a game where both coaches feel like they’re still getting the full measure of their teams, we default to the team with the higher talent level and that’s NIU.

 

:utah: Utah (0-4) at :zips: Akron (4-0): non-conference

 

Last Week: Utah got boatraced down in sunny California (L @ :usc: 3-38), while Akron showed Indiana Hoosier Daddy (W @ :indiana: 20-17)

 

(We regret nothing.)

 

34.  That is the lowest number of times the “Mormon Lasercannon” Donald Culver has thrown the ball in a game this season.  50.  That is the number of times Culver threw it last week against the Trojans.  Granted, it didn’t help that Utah was behind virtually from the beginning of the game, but there’s no secret behind what they want to do - pass, and pass often.  A 6.21 Yards per Attempt ratio and three touchdowns to five interceptions is not what the fine folks in Salt Lake City were hoping to see.
Having said all that, this is a measuring stick for the Zips secondary.  What Utah does well (or at least a lot of) is the thing Akron is worst at defending, and with a visit to Best!Miami the week after this gives coach @darkage a chance to see how his pass defense holds up under continued pressure. It will probably be a novel experience for SS Jadon Boykin to not be in the box constantly, but the Zips need their defenders to watch all the receivers; Culver is fond of spreading the ball around.  Marlon Bailey (25 tackles, 3 sacks) could also crush the pocket a few times, that would work too.

 

Why would Akron change what’s being working on offense?  The Zips will probably continue to use T.J. Zamora’s dual-threat abilities along with sidekick Nathaniel Ruff to pose exhausting questions that the opposing defense hopefully can’t answer.  For this game a successful run game has an additional benefit; by taking time off the clock, it minimizes the amount of time Culver gets to sling the ball.  It also takes advantage of Utah’s defensive line, the weakest part of their three defensive levels.  It also could bait their talented but inexperienced safeties into playing the run too much and let WRs Ahmed Fleming and Mason Burkett by them.  The Utah linebacker corps led by Patrick Haines will really need to step up and keep that defense on the same page.

 

Prediction: 31-21 :zips:
What is Utah supposed to do?  Without a head coach, all the assistants can do is continue the same “throw all the things” gameplan they’ve been using up to now and it makes them easy to prepare for, especially with Culver’s struggles right now.  This was a much harder game on paper at the beginning of the year, but the Utes being coachless should allow the Zips to impose their will on the game even though we expect Culver to have a good day stat-wise.  


Saturday Morning

 

:buffalo: Buffalo (3-2, 0-2) at :kent: Kent State (2-2, 1-0)

 

Last Week: Buffalo couldn’t get much going against the Broncos (L vs. :wmu: 13-24). Meanwhile Kent State watched that game intently - it featured their next two opponents. (BYE) 

 

WMU did it.  Ohio did it.  Now Kent State wants to do it.  It?  
It’s suppressing the Buffalo offense by holding Blair Holcomb to a sub-60 percent completion rate and having him throw as many picks as he does TDs.
It’s holding MAMADOU SMASH to around 70 yards and no TDs.  
Not surprisingly, the Bulls lost both of those games.  There may not be a magic formula to do just that, we suspect WMU and Ohio used different gameplans to get to the same result.  We’re not sure what the Golden Flashes will try, but they don’t quite have the same talent that either the Broncos or Bobcats have on defense.  It will be interesting to see what Buffalo has in mind on offense, as we can see mismatches both at the line of scrimmage and in the secondary in the Bulls’ favor.  We’d expect a much bigger dose of MAMADOU SMASH in this game to re-establish some of the running shine against a vulnerable Kent State interior.  A heavier run game also stays away from SS Quinn Benson, whose pick-six against Bowling Green completely flipped the script.

 

Don’t look now, but John Garland has actually had a pair of pretty good games after dying against Purdue (Combined 65.5 percent completion rate, 433 passing yards, 3/1 TD/INT ratio; 10 rushes for 87 yards and 2 TDs in the last two games).  Having Harrison Mullin be a near-guaranteed 95-100 yards and a TD per game helps immensely, of course.  But Buffalo will probably double-dog dare Garland to make it three games in a row and throw against SS Thomas Gordon and OLB Alexander Moffett; the Bulls defense probably focuses on limiting the rushing game this week.  If Kent State can get more juice out of Mullin this week and onto the statsheet, it could bode well for them - in both Buffalo losses, they surrendered 100+ yards and two TDs to the lead back.
(We know, correlation does not imply causation.  But that’s no fun.)

 

Prediction: 27-17 :buffalo:
Kent State is somehow one of the more unpredictable MAC teams to forecast, but it’s hard not to see Buffalo having its way on the ground or through the air behind that big offensive line.  It’s not the most exciting of picks, but…
"The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's how the smart money bets." 
-Damon Runyon


:miao: Miami (OH) (4-0, 1-0) at :ohio: Ohio (2-2, 1-0)

 

Last Week: Miami had to place orders for a third round of Best!Miami T-shirts and bumper stickers (BYE), while the Bobcats dispatched of a game Hilltopper squad (W vs. :wku: 23-20)

 

This is the most meaningful Battle of the Bricks in some time.  The Redhawks are thinking more ambitiously than just a bowl game; they have designs on the MAC East.  But as a famous philosopher once put it, “To be the man, Woo!, you’ve got to beat the man.”  Ohio was in a much worse position at 1-4 last year before rebounding to win the division.  But the division last year didn’t have undefeateds Akron and Best!Miami.

The story for this game is defense, as in: How will each defense plan to stop what they know is coming?

 

Six different players have made the statsheet catching passes for Miami this season, but their big three are WRs Kenneth Harrison (24 catches for 290 yards, 4 TDs), Keith Barnes (26 for 340, 4 TDs), and TE Casey Swann (23 for 303, 4 TDs).  If we counted only their receiving yards, their total (933 yards) would still be more passing yards than all but four non-Miami MAC QBs.  This makes life very difficult for the Bobcats.  They have a good young CB in Shawn Tillman, but they would potentially match a 2.5/2.5 CB and a 1.5/3.5 SS in coverage against Barnes and WR Melvin Grubbs (who was 1st-team All-MAC in 2017 and 2nd-team All-MAC in 2018. No big).  As the kids say in the business, that’s no bueno.  ROLB Myles Lindsay can cover Swann, but he may not get much help from the Ohio safeties who have a lot of field to scan and cover.  How will the Bobcats play this?  Will they send extra blitzers to try and disrupt Cera’s timing?
What?  You want to know about Miami’s run game?  Well, Ajani Garrett is a person.  A talented one, but running backs don’t get much play in this offense (55.75 YPG, lowest in the MAC amongst current RB starters).  Anything he gets is probably just gravy.

 

Owen. Freaking. WALTON. On the other hand, is the gravy, and mashed potatoes, and a turkey leg or two also.  You know he’s coming, the Bobcats know you know he’s coming, and it doesn’t matter - the bruiser still gets his 100+ yards and a TD, if not more.  What you may not know is that Ohio has a pretty decent set of players to throw to (WR Dwayne Simpson, TEs Aaron Thibodeaux and Caleb Holman) but that’s because they tend not to throw that often; Stephen Peters’ forte is not orchestrating a passing game.  He can occasionally hurt a defense that sells out to play the run (4 TDs to 2 INTs on the season, but only 176 YPG), but the Bobcat offense fully revolves around what Walton is capable of doing.
Miami’s defense is capable but outside of DE Donte Pennel and their safety duo of Nicholas Mingo and Ian Huntley there aren’t any true standouts.  Their M.O. is good, responsible, opportunistic (6 INT) team defense that has held their opponents to an impressive average of 12.5 points per game.


Prediction: 34-21 :miao:
Oh, we hate to bet against Owen. Freaking. WALTON.  But it’s really, really hard to not look at WRs Barnes and Grubbs against Ohio’s CB2 and CB(SS)3, and not wonder if they might get 180 receiving yards between them.  The FLAMETHROWER ZACK CERA is really playing at a high level right now, and while we trust in coach @beeznik’s ability to scheme it’s so hard to hide two corners.  We like Miami to come out on top and set up a potential clash of unbeatens in the “BATTLE OF THE CENTURY OF THE WEEK” next week against Akron.

 

:toledo: Toledo (3-1,1-0) at :ball:Ball State (1-4, 1-2)

 

Last Week: Toledo needed big plays from their offense and defense to put away the Falcons (W vs. :bgsu: 31-24), while Ball State is happy to finally have a mark on the left side of the ledger (W vs. :cmu: 20-14)

 

It seems clear at this point that this Ball State offense is Austin Laws’ offense (24 rushes for 117 yards, 1 TD), and Marquis Causey is second fiddle.  Although Causey had a tidy game last week (16 of 25 for 193 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) through the air, they still aren’t stats that make a defense want to respect your passing ability.  One man (outside of Laws) who will get some attention from the Toledo defense is WR Chan Pease who went 5 for 83 and a score last week.  From a talent standpoint there are few MAC cornerback tandems that can match up with Pease and fellow WR Jayson Zarate-Lima, but Toledo has one in Levern White and Adam Haywood.  Coach @deathcpo will feel pretty confident in leaving them on islands in order to stack the box against Laws.  Speaking of Laws, the focus from the Cardinal sideline will be how to scheme their star RB and get him loose against an inconsistent LB corps.

 

Another 1.5 sacks and 5 tackles for DT Isamaeli Afamasaga last week against Central Michigan; he and his fellow twin tower Rashaad Malcolm will need to duplicate or exceed those results if Ball State is to stand a chance of slowing down the potent Rocket offense.  If Toledo has a (relative) weakness on offense, it’s that their line is prone to occasional concentration lapses.  It’s imperative for the Cardinals that their front four be able to put pressure on reigning MAC OPOTW Benjamin Hanson without sending linebackers; that back seven will be busy watching the WR triplets Justin Evans (23 catches for 326 yards, 3 TDs), Justin Yang (15 for 229, 3 TDs), and Daniel Addison (14 for 189, 3 TDs).
When you have Hanson slinging the ball all over the place, it somehow manages to push a talent like Gabe Ciamo out of the spotlight.  But MAC coaches know that doesn’t make him any less dangerous.  The 5-star redshirt sophomore (!) is averaging a tidy 114 rushing yards and a TD per game, and ensures that a defense can never fully sit back and guard exclusively against the pass.  Ciamo has the speed to turn the corner quickly, and if Ball State can’t keep him from getting to the outside Ciamo can wreak serious havoc against those second and third-level defenders.

 

Prediction: 28-13 :toledo:
Unfortunately for Marquis Causey, the Toledo defense is a much harder riddle to solve than Central Michigan’s.  Pease and Zarate-Lima are evened out by White and Haywood, and Causey is not playing well enough to reliably put the ball where it needs to be.  That leaves the Cardinal offense resting on the shoulders of Austin Laws, but Toledo knows that too.  It’s the play on this side of the ball that leads us to forecasting a Rocket victory.

 

Byes::bgsu: Bowling Green (1-4), :cmu: Central Michigan (0-5), :wmu: Western Michigan (4-1)

 

On behalf on #MACtion Jenny and special silent guest Mac Suzuki, I'm Bruce Baguen for the MAC Network ("If it's not MAC, it's wack!"). Until next time!
 

caesari, beeznik, smckenz3 and 4 others like this

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21 hours ago, Jieret said:

We like Miami to come out on top and set up a potential clash of unbeatens in the “BATTLE OF THE CENTURY OF THE WEEK” next week against Akron

To be fair @beeznik we really wanted this.

beeznik likes this

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