Day three brings our preview to take a look at the local MAC teams and the conference as a whole. Getting things started is my current school, Central Michigan.
The Chippewas may goal to start this season was to replace three-year starter at quarterback Ryan Radcliff. Head coach Dan Enos had to decide between Cody Kater, Alex Niznak and Cooper Rush and had this to say on the decision:
We had three guys all competing for the position, and we like all three of those guys and think they have bright futures. The competition at the end of the day made all three of them better. It was really to watch them leave spring practice and be challenged with different things they had to work on, whether that be fundamentally or schematically. It was a great competition, Cody Kater was the guy we eventually decided to go with. He will be a redshirt junior and he’s from right here from the state of Michigan who was a very good high school quarterback and basketball player. He’s athletic, he can run and obviously he can make all the throws we are going to ask him to make.
Kater has the benefit of having senior running back Zulon Tipton with him in the backfield. Tipton, one of the MAC’s best players, finished last season with 1,492 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. He also had seven consecutive games of over 100 yards rushing to end the season, including 243 yards and three touchdowns against Akron.
Central has to replace the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, Eric Fisher, but will have sixth-year senior Jake Olson at left tackle to help anchor one of the bigger offensive lines in all of college football. The defense plays a bend-don’t-break style so they won’t be putting up any shutouts, just trying to slow some of the explosive spread-offenses the MAC has to offer.
The schedule is not in Central’s favor with only five home games all season and two BCS conference teams plus UNLV on the docket. If Kater can be comfortable running the offense I see an upset over NC State in the cards. Central has the talent to finish in the top-half of the MAC West division and I am predicting a second-place finish behind Northern Illinois.
Tyler Benz has the chance to be a great quarterback for the Eagles. He has one of the better mentors in college football, Stan Parrish, who spent six years at the University of Michigan coaching Drew Henson, Brian Greise and Tom Brady in his time. Benz threw for 1,506 yards and 14 touchdowns after becoming a starter in the fourth game of the season, including 301 yards and two TD’s against Toledo and 369 yards and five TD’s against Army in back-to-back games.
Eastern has a multi-back system that helps keep players fresh, but the focus of the rushing attack will be Bronson Hill. Hill had 905 yards in his first season in Ypsilanti with six touchdowns. He exploded for 283 yards and four touchdowns against Toledo and 185 yards and one touchdown against Army on back-to-back games. Eagles fans hope those massive numbers for Hill and Benz carry throughout the 2013-14 season.
As for the schedule, Eastern only has five home games and only one looks like a high-percentage victory. Trips to Penn State and Rutgers out of conference along with at Northern Illinois look to be the guaranteed losses. But Ron English has this team headed in the right direction and they could possibly be bowl bound for the first time since 1987.
The Broncos were a dark-horse pick to win the MAC West last year before injuries to star quarterback Alex Carder, then the wheels fell off. Western struggled to a 4-8 record that cost coach Bill Cubit his job. Enter the youngest head coach in Division I, P.J. Fleck, former wide receiver at Northern Illinois.
Western has a brutal nonconference schedule with trips to Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa. Kent State is the first MAC game for the Broncos and Northern Illinois is the finale. I see another rough season for Western, but if they can remain the course they will be better and more experienced for 2014, which is the best case scenario I see.
As for the conference as a whole I see it coming down to a matchup between Kent State and Northern Illinois. Both teams have a dark horse Heisman candidate in Dri Archer, Kent State, and Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. Archer had 1,429 rushing and 561 receiving yards last season with 20 total touchdowns. He is the fastest player on the field all times he is on it and should have a monster season again.
Lynch had 3,138 yards passing last season and 1,815 rushing yards with a total of 44 touchdowns. He led the Huskies to their first ever BCS bowl and has the talent around him and the schedule to do it again. If NIU can go in to Iowa and win the first game of the season, plus potentially two matchups with Kent State, there is no reason they can’t potentially crash the big dance again.
So what do you think fans, who’s going to come out on top in Michigan MAC action? And do the Huskies, or any other MAC team, have a chance at making the BCS? Let us know at DetroitSportsBloggers.com or on Facebook and Twitter.