MAC Football Preview 2015
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Mid American Football Predictions 2015
#1 Bowling Green
Offense: Bowling Green returns nearly the entire offense from 2014. The Falcons were electric with the ball last season. Matt Johnson was injured early in 2014 but will start again this season. Leading rusher Travis Greene returns. Greene had 949 rushing yards and 12 TD’s. The top four receivers return. Roger Lewis went for over 1,000 yards receiving and caught seven for TD’s. All five starters return on the line.
Defense: The defense loses its top four tackles from 2014. Bryan Thomas led the team in sacks with eight and returns for his senior season. The defensive line returns three starters and Tennessee transfer Malik Brown should make an early impact. LB James Sanford had 71 tackles and CB Darrell Hunter is the only returning member in the secondary.
Special Teams: Kicker Tyler Tate returns after a solid 2014. Tate hit 23-29 FG’s with a long of 52. Punter Joe Davidson is also back, Davidson averaged 43 yards per punt.
Forecast: Bowling Green will be the early favorite to win the MAC title with the offense they have. Bowling Green will get a chance to shock Tennessee in the season opener. Bowling Green also has two B1G teams in the non-conference, both road games at Maryland and Purdue. The Falcons also get C-USA front runners Memphis. As for the MAC schedule, BG gets set up with a favorable road schedule with only West Michigan being a tough one. BG gets UMass, Akron, Ohio and Toledo at home. I like Bowling Green to return to the MAC title game for the third consecutive season.
Offense: Veteran QB Kyle Pohl is back for one last season in Akron. Pohl has struggled with consistency in his Akron career. Pohl will look to leave a legacy in 2015 by leading Akron to a MAC championship. RB Connor Hundley will look to build off a 500 plus rushing season in 2014. The Zips lose their top two receivers. Three returning starters on the offensive line will certainly help Pohl.
Defense: Se’Von Pittman had a good season after his transfer from Ohio State. Pittman is a big DE and should add some sacks to his stat sheet this year. Jatavis Brown was the leading tackler for the Zips in 2014. Brown recorded 99 tackles, four sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. CB DeAndre Scott had two INT’s and 10 breaks ups in the secondary.
Special Teams: Robert Stein can be a game changer with his accuracy kicking. Stein with 13-16 with a long of 46. Zach Paul returns at punter.
Forecast: Akron opens the season at Oklahoma before hosting Pittsburgh in week two. 2014 was a disappointing season for the Zips but they did upset Pitt on the road. The MAC schedule sets up pretty well for Akron this season. Road games at Bowling Green and Mass., will be the only tough tests. Akron will need to win one of those games and hope for Bowling Green to drop a couple games to have a chance to reach Detroit.
Offense: The offense returns double digit starters from 2014. Derrius Vick will start at QB, Vick can beat you with his feet and has a pretty good arm. AJ Ouellette led the Bobcats in rushing with 785 and seven TD’s last season. Sebastian Smith and Brandon Cope will be the go-to guys at receiver. All five starters return on the offensive line.
Defense: Ohio’s defense will be much improved coming into 2015. Ohio returns its top three tacklers. Tarell Basham had five sacks working at DE in 2014. Quentin Poling matched the team lead with five sacks, led with three INT’s and was the top tackler with 89. Ian Wells and Devin Bass led the secondary with break ups.
Special Teams: Ohio returns both kicker and punter. Kicker Josiah Yazdani was 17-26 in 2014. Mitch Bonnstetter averaged 42 yards per punt.
Forecast: Frank Solich has brought winning to a program that never had it prior to his hiring. Solich has a special defense this season. The defense may be the best in the MAC. The schedule is really tough though. Ohio has to play road games at Akron, Bowling Green, and Northern Illinois and also gets Western Michigan at home. It’s hard to see Ohio returning to a MAC Championship game with this schedule. Ohio will return to bowl season though.
Offense: The Minutemen have a chance to be one of the best offenses in the MAC in 2015. QB Blake Frohnapfel returns for his senior season and is my pick for MAC OPOY. He was nothing short of impressive last season. He threw for 3,345 yards and had 23 passing TD’s. Frohnapfel has a great supporting cast with leading rushers Shadrach Abrokwah and Lorenzo Woodley back. Leading receiver Tajae Sharpe will look to build on his 1,281 yard receiving season with seven TD’s. All five starters return for the offensive line.
Defense: UMass returns nine starters from last year’s defense. UMass didn’t rush the passer very well in 2014 and will hope for more success with two starters back up front in the 3-4 scheme. LB Jovan Santos-Knox was the leading tackler with 143 last season. Kassan Messiah and Trey Seals also return at LB. The secondary returns all four starters in 2015, none better than Randall Jette. Jette led the team in INT’s and PBU’s. Joe Colton had 98 tackles from the safety position in 2014.
Special Teams: Blake Lucas will start at kicker and Logan Laurent at punter.
Forecast: UMass made some progress winning three games all in the MAC in 2014. UMass has a chance to reach a bowl game in 2015. In order for that to happen, I believe UMass has to win five conference games. The schedule allows for that to happen with Kent, Akron, Miami at home and road games at EMU, Buffalo and Ball State.
Offense: QB Joe Licata returns for the Bulls in 2014. Licata was great in 2014, completing 65% of his passes for 2,647 yards and 29 TD’s. Anthone Taylor rushed for 1,403 yards and 12 TD’s and will be back for his senior season. Leading receiver Ron Willoughby had 50 catches and nine TD’s in 2014.
Defense: The Bulls defense lost its top four tackles from last season. Okezie Alozie and Jarrett Franklin are the leading tackles coming back. Both recorded 49 tackles a year ago. With only one starter returning in the secondary that leaves plenty of concern for the defense.
Special Teams: Adam Mitcheson will start at kicker and punter Tyler Grassman will be back.
Forecast: Buffalo will have one of the better offenses in the MAC for 2015. I really like Licata and Taylor in the backfield, could be the best in the MAC. The defense is a huge question mark for me. Buffalo gets BG, NIU and Mass at home. Road games at CMU, Miami and Kent could all be wins. Buffalo will gets some wins but won’t find enough to make it back to a bowl game.
#6 Kent State
Offense: Colin Reardon made too many mistakes at QB last season for the Golden Flashes to be successful. Kent State was in a lot of ball games last season, but Reardon had more INT’s than TD’s. Kent State returns eight starters but loses its top two receivers and doesn’t have much of a run game. Four starters are back on the offensive line may help jump start a running game.
Defense: Kent State will return nine players on defense. Nate Terhune led the team in sacks with 3.5. Matt Dellinger is the best LB, Dellinger had 90 tackles in 2014. Kent State could have the best safeties in the conference. Nate Holley led the team with 137 tackles and Jordan Italiano added 96 and had 3 INT’s.
Special Teams: Kicker Shane Hynes will start at kicker coming into 2015. Anthony Melchiori averaged 44 yards per punt.
Forecast: Kent State matches up with Illinois and Minnesota in the non-conference slate. The MAC schedule is brutal for the Flashes. A home opener vs Miami is the only good news for them. Road games at Toledo, Mass., Ohio and Akron will be tough. Kent State may build on the 2 win season from 2014, but won’t be much more than 4-5.
#7 Miami (OH)
Offense: Miami had only 4 starters returning on offense this season. Miami QB Austin Hendrix is gone and it looks like the Redhawks will turn to freshman Gus Ragland. Rokeem Williams and Jared Murphy had good years at WR in 2014. Alonzo Smith is another freshman who could get the starting job at RB. The offense will no doubt be a young group.
Defense: Miami’s defense will be much better in 2015. DE Bryson Albright led the team in sacks with 6. Heath Harding was the leading tackler with 98 and had the team lead in interceptions. Joe Donlan and Kent Kern bring stability to the LB’s unit.
Special Teams: Kicker Kaleb Patterson hit 9-13 FG’s with a long of 52 in 2014. Christian Koch averaged 40 yards per punt.
Forecast: Since Miami won the MAC in 2010, the Redhawks have averaged just 2.5 wins per season. As a betting man and I would say Miami will not reach their season average of 2.5. Miami’s defense should be able to keep them in some ball games. The offense will struggle to move the ball with all of the inexperience and lack of depth. Miami could match the 2 wins from a season ago with one being over Presbyterian. It’s sad to see such a great program as Miami struggle year in and year out.
#1 Western Michigan
Offense: Zach Terrell is one of the nine returning starters on offense. Terrell had a breakout season at QB. Terrell completed 68% of his passes for 3,443 yards and 26 TD’s against 10 INT’s. Jarvion Franklin introduced himself to MAC in a dominating fashion. Franklin won both the freshman player of the year and conference player of the year on offense. Franklin finished with 1,551 yards rushing and 24 TD’s. Corey Davis had 78 catches for over 1,400 yards and 15 TD’s. Daniel Braverman was right behind him with 86 catches for 997 yards. Three returning starters on the offensive line will help this team.
Defense: The Broncos defense returns seven starters. Cleveland Smith led the team in sacks with 5.5. MLB Grant DePalma recorded 102 tackles with 2.5 sacks. Ronald Zamort had a team high four INT’s with 17 pass break ups in 2014.
Special Teams: Andrew Haldeman was converted on 14-17 FG’s with a long of 44. Punter J Schroeder averaged 43 yards per punt.
Forecast: Western Michigan was a big story in 2014. Putting up eight wins after only one the year before. I love this Broncos team but the schedule in-conference is pretty daunting. Don’t mind the non-conference games vs Michigan State and Ohio State, those will more than likely be losses. Western Michigan has to visit Ohio, Northern Illinois and Toledo. Western also has to face MAC East favorite Bowling Green at home. I know the Broncos are talented enough to win the MAC, but will the schedule allow that to happen is the biggest question coming into the season.
#2-T Northern Illinois
Offense: QB Drew Hare returns for the Huskies. Hare was solid in 2014 throwing for over 2,300 yards while throwing only two INT’s to 18 TD’s. Hare is a true dual threat as he rushed for 900 yards and eight scores. Joel Bouagnon will be the featured back, he rushed for 655 yards and five TD’s. Juwan Brescacin had six receiving TD’s in 2014 and is back to led the WR unit. Only two returning starters on the line could be a major concern.
Defense: Northern Illinois returns eight players on defense including leading tackler Marlon Moore. Moore recorded 99 tackles in the secondary. Rasheen Lemon added 90 tackles at LB. Paris Logan had 15 pass break ups and three INT’s. DE Perez Ford is looking to add to his five sacks in 2014.
Special Teams: Christian Hagen went 9-12 from field goal range with a long of 40. Freshman Peter Deppe will be the starting punter.
Forecast: Northern Illinois seems to always post double digit win seasons. Games with UNLV and Murray State should be early wins for this team. NIU could surprise Boston College in late September. As for the MAC schedule, NIU opens with 4 very winnable games before heading to a showdown with Toledo on the road. NIU gets to finish the season with back-to-back home games with Western Michigan and Ohio. I’m predicting NIU to finish in a tie for second behind WMU. The inexperience on the offensive side of the ball could cost them a conference game or two.
Offense: Toledo comes into the season with two QB’s who are capable of excelling at the collegiate level. Phillip Ely was injured early in the season, posting 541 passing yards and four TD’s in two games. Logan Woodside stepped in for him and had a very strong season. Woodside threw for 2,263 yards and 19 TD’s. The man everyone will be talking about is RB Kareem Hunt. Hunt is a solid runner who ran for 1,631 yards and 16 TD’s. Hunt averaged a whopping eight yards per carry! The Rockets return the two leading receivers from 2014. Corey Jones and Alonzo Russell. Jones led the team in catches with 68 and yards with 842, Jones led with 8eightTD receptions. Toledo will be breaking in a group of all new players on the offensive line.
Defense: DT Orion Jones returns on a DL with four starters back, Jones led with six sacks in 2014. Toledo also returns Trent Voss who was a boss coming off the edge. Voss had 77 tackles, 10.5 for loss. The secondary returns all four of its starters as well. Chris Dukes and DeJuan Rodgers will be the players to watch.
Special teams: Toledo will be using freshman kicker Jameson Vest or Sophomore Samuel Vucelich. Punter Nick Ellis returns.
Forecast: Toledo has a decent chance at winning three of four non-conference games. MAC games at UMASS and Bowling Green are major concerns for me. Toledo gets Northern Illinois and Western Michigan at home. I have Toledo in a tie for 2nd in the division. The offensive line scares me and the road trips to UMASS and Bowling Green will be tough ones. Toledo should return to postseason play though.
#4 Ball State
Offense: Ball State returns 10 starters on the offense for 2015. They lose their best player in RB Jahwan Edwards. Jack Milas struggled in his first season with the Cardinals. He threw for only nine TDs and had five INT’s. James Gilbert and Darian Green will see carries at RB. Leading receivers Jordan Williams and KeVonn Mabon returns. They combined for nearly 1,500 yards and 11 TD’s. The offensive line returns all starters from a year ago.
Defense: Just like the offense; the defense returns most of its 2014 starters. Senior Michael Ayers will look to build off a 65 tackle season. Leading tacklers Zack Ryan and Ben Ingle are back. The secondary returns just two starters, they accounted for only 2 INT’s.
Special Teams: Punter Kyle Schmidt averaged over 42 yards per punt. The Cardinals will be breaking in a new kicker.
Forecast: Usually when a team is returning 18 starters great things are expected. Ball State has some tough conference games vs Toledo, @NIU, UMass, @WMU, @Ohio and Bowling Green at home. I feel like all of those may be losses and even if they still a couple they will be a 4-5 win team.
#5 Central Michigan
Offense: Cooper Rush returns to a Chippewa offense that will look to replace six starters from last season’s bowl team. Rush had a great year with 3,157 passing yards and 27 TD’s. Rush’s leading rusher and receiver have departed. Devon Spalding averaged over five yards per carry last season. Jesse Kroll had 36 catches with four bring TD’s. Three starters returning on the offensive line will be a key to the early success of the offense.
Defense: DE’s Blake Serpa and Joe Ostman return after combining for seven sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2014. The defense loses as many players as the offense. Brandon Greer had three INT’s as a junior. Safety Tony Annese is the leading returning tackler from 2014. Annese had 74 tackles and 10 break ups in the secondary.
Special Teams: Kicker Brian Eavey wasn’t called on much in 2014, but when he was he was accurate going 8-9 with a long of 43. Punter Ron Coluzzi will also return.
Forecast: Central has won at least six games for the past three seasons. A new head coach and a lack of experience and depth could see that streak of six win seasons snapped. The non-conference schedule is really tough with OK St and road games at Syracuse and Michigan State. The MAC schedule is one of the toughest I’ve seen. If the new players step up six wins is possible. But I’m seeing a down year with 3-4 wins.
#6 Eastern Michigan
Offense: Dual threat QB Reginald Bell returns for his junior season with the Eagles. Bell completed 57% of his passes for 1,297 yards and rushed for 562 yards. Three returners on the offensive line will help those numbers increase. Bell doesn’t have many playmakers around him so it will be interesting to watch him this season.
Defense: Great Ibe was the leading tackler for the Eagles in 2014. Ibe recorded 133 tackles, 10.5 for loss. The defense returns eight starters from 2014 that gave up almost 500 yards per game. DT Pat O’ Connor had 7.5 sacks and 64 tackles. Anthony Zappone had 90 tackles and Jason Beck added 86 from the secondary. The defense should be in much better shape than the offense.
Special Teams: Dylan Mulder returns at kicker and Austin Barnes will be the punter.
Forecast: It will be another tough season for the Eagles. The defense should be improved but the offense just doesn’t have the players to compete in the MAC. I could see EMU going winless in 2015, but they may sneak away with a win or two.
MAC Offensive POY
Blake Frohnapfel, QB, UMass
MAC Defensive POY
Paris Logan, DB, Northern Illinois
MAC Coach of the Year
Terry Bowden, Akron