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Misc The MAC The MAC Archive MAC Football Week 12 Preview
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

dri archerI’ll be pinch hitting for Mike Spinelli this week with the Mid-American Conference Football Preview for Week 12. The big story this week from the MAC is that Kent State University has cracked the AP Top 25 poll with their 9-1 record and a marquee win at Rutgers to their name. The Golden Flashes are the third MAC team to be ranked this season, following in the footsteps of Ohio University and the University of Toledo. Both Ohio and Toledo lost their first game after cracking the poll and Kent State will try to avoid that fate in this week.

The playoff picture is taking shape in the MAC, as both KentState and Northern Illinois can punch their tickets to Detroit for the conference championship game with wins this week. KentState, 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the conference, heads to Bowling Green on Saturday to take on the Falcons while Northern Illinois, 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the conference, hosts the Toledo Rockets on Wednesday night. Both BG and Toledo are 5-1 in the conference and would control their own destinies if they can knock of the division leaders.

It’s a great slate of games this week in the MAC, so, without further adieu, here are the Week 12 game previews:

Marquee Matchup: Kent State @ Bowling Green

Can Kent State do what no other MAC team has done this season? Two other MAC teams have been ranked and they’ve both lost their subsequent game. Kent State can clinch their spot in Detroit for the conference championship game by knocking off Bowling Green this Saturday at Doyt Perry Stadium. Kent State’s offense has rolled along in MAC play, averaging just below 39 points per game. In this matchup, however, they face the sixth best defense in the country and far away top defense in the MAC. Bowling Green is allowing just 285.4 yards per game and is holding opponents to 4.47 yards per play.

Thanks in large part to the Top 25 ranking, Kent State’s Dri Archer is starting to get some national love. The diminutive 5’8” junior from Laurel, Florida ranks fourth nationally in all-purpose yardage per game with 199 yards per contest. Archer and the talented Kent State offense will have their work cut out for them, as Bowling Green ranks 14th in total rushing defense, allowing just 3.25 yards per carry and 12th in pass efficiency defense.

Kent State’s defense, which ranks 77th nationally, may have some misleading statistics due to playing with big leads in most of their games. This week, they will have to contend with sophomore running back Anthon Samuel, who is 96 yards away from the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Kent State has excelled at forcing turnovers this season, tied with Fresno State and Southern Methodist in most turnovers forced with 30. They are also tied with Kansas State for the top turnover margin in the country.

The key for Bowling Green will be to sustain drives and keep Kent State’s explosive skill players on the sidelines. The Falcons shut down Ohio’s very talented offense last week in a 26-14 win in Athens, which should give them a lot of confidence entering this showdown. Also, due to playing on Wednesday night, the Falcons have had a couple extra days to rest and prepare for the Golden Flashes.

After starting the season just 1-3, BG has rattled off six straight wins, but four of them came against Akron, Eastern Michigan, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island – three teams with one win and a FCS opponent. This game will go a long way in telling us how good Bowling Green, specifically the Falcons defense, actually is.

Bowling Green has never lost three straight games in this rivalry. They lost 30-6 in 2010 and 27-15 last year.

Other MAC Matchups:

Toledo @ Northern IllinoisThe other game grabbing most of the headlines in the MAC this week is Wednesday’s primetime affair between the Toledo Rockets and the Northern Illinois Huskies. The Huskies could very easily be undefeated right now, dropping a Week One heartbreaker to the Iowa Hawkeyes 18-17. Since then, they’ve run the table, including wins over Army and Kansas, and six conference wins by an average margin of victory of 32 points. NIU is averaging 40.6 points per game this season, which ranks ninth nationally. They are 20th in total offense with 478 yards per game. Their 54 touchdowns are the most of any MAC team. As impressive as all of these numbers are, NIU did not play Ohio, Bowling Green, or Kent State during the season.

Toledo is more than capable of moving the ball up and down the field themselves, ranking 29th in the country with an average of 461.8 yards of offense per contest. Toledo, like NIU, lost a heartbreaker in Week One, falling 24-17 in overtime to the Arizona Wildcats. After that, Toledo rattled off eight straight wins before losing 34-27 to Ball State last week.

This game could come down to red zone efficiency. With yards aplenty in the forecast, these two spread offenses will have to execute inside the 20-yard line. Northern Illinois has come away with points in 41 of their 51 red zone possessions, 27 of those scores being touchdowns. Toledo has scored just 19 touchdowns in 41 trips, settling for 15 field goals. Northern Illinois ranks fourth nationally in red zone defense, allowing teams to score on just 62% of their red zone chances. Toledo’s defense ranks 12th, allowing scores just 69% of the time.

Last year’s game is etched in everyone’s memory. It was a 63-60 nationally-televised affair with 11 lead changes that coined the Twitter hash tag #MACtion, a lasting reminder of one of the most memorable MAC contests ever played.

Ohio @ Ball State – The MAC should get some tremendous national exposure this week with two excellent games on Wednesday night. The aforementioned Toledo/Northern Illinois game will be broadcast alongside this matchup in the MAC East between Ohio and Ball State. Ohio will be trying to bounce back from last week’s crippling loss to Bowling Green, while Ball State is trying to pad their resume enough to make their first bowl game since 2008.

Ohio enters this game having lost two of their last three, closing out October with a loss in Oxford to the Miami Redhawks and falling last week at home to Bowling Green. It’s fair to wonder what the psyche of Frank Solich’s team is entering this game, since their dreams of a MAC championship and a perfect record have crumbled recently. Meanwhile, Ball State coach Pete Lembo may have his eyes on a bigger job this offseason, as well as the bowl exposure that could come with winning this game.

Ball State’s uptempo style is a drastic shift from what Ohio faced against Bowling Green. The Falcons average just over 68 plays per game while Ball State averages nearly 83. Ohio averages nearly 78, so if you blink, you’re sure to miss something in this game. Ohio’s defensive struggles have come in the passing game, something Ball State QB Keith Wenning is sure to try and exploit. On the flip side, Ball State hasn’t really stopped anybody from moving the ball this season, ranking 108th in the country in yardage allowed per game, something the Bobcats offense has to be excited about.

Miami @ Central MichiganThis battle features one team that hasn’t lived up to expectations and one that has done well to exceed last season’s win total. Just two seasons after winning 10 games and making a Bowl appearance, the Redhawks have to win out over Central Michigan and Ball State just to go .500 this season. Central Michigan, in their third season under Dan Enos, should be excited to not post a third consecutive 3-9 season, but a lot of work still needs to be done in Mount Pleasant.

Miami has just three conference wins this season, two of them over the conference’s dregs, Akron and Massachusetts. They can take some solace in ruining Ohio’s dreams of a perfect season two weeks ago. Now, they just want to send senior quarterback Zac Dysert out with a couple of wins in his final two games. Dysert will pass the 3,000-yard plateau in this game, his second consecutive season above that mark.

The Chippewas could be in for a letdown this week, beating in-state rival Eastern Michigan just one week after losing to other in-state rival Western Michigan. Progress has been evident for the Chips this season, who beat Iowa on the road at Kinnick Stadium back in September, but have won just two games since. Zurlon Tipton, who has rushed for 1,093 yards so far, highlights a decent Chippewa offense, especially when quarterback Ryan Radcliff takes care of the football. Radcliff, a senior, who threw 33 interceptions over the last two seasons, has thrown just seven picks this year.

Central Michigan hasn’t beaten Miami since the 2007 MAC Championship Game.

Eastern Michigan @ Western MichiganThis in-state rivalry will commence for the 21st time and it has been a very one-sided affair. The Broncos are 16-4 against the Eagles, a trend that is likely to continue this season. Eastern Michigan, a year after showing real signs of improvement under Ron English, has just one win this season, a 10-point victory over Army. The Eagles won more than four games for the first time since 1995 in 2011, so this season has to be a major disappointment.

But, as far as disappointments go, Western Michigan has to be at the top of the list. Last year, the Broncos played right with Purdue in the Little Caesars Bowl. This year, an injury to Alex Carder derailed the season before it ever really started. As a result, the Broncos are just 2-5 in conference play and hope to end their season on Saturday with a win over the Eagles.

The most interesting storyline from this game is wondering if this will be Bill Cubit’s last game as the coach at Western Michigan. Cubit, whose contract runs through next season, is just 36-36 since 2007 and a lot was expected from his team this season. Consequently, this could be Ron English’s final game at Eastern Michigan, as he is now just 9-37 as the head coach.

Buffalo @ Massachusetts – Buffalo probably had this game chalked up as an easy win up until last week. The hapless Minutemen were winless in their first season in the MAC and in their first season as a Division I-A team. That changed when they went to InfoCision Stadium and beat the Akron Zips last weekend. Can UMass make it two in a row?

The Bulls certainly hope not. Buffalo can surpass last season’s win total with a victory this week. They’d be wise to take care of business against UMass, since they play against Bowling Green in Columbus the following week. The Bulls have made progress, especially late in the season, posting back-to-back wins for the first time since the final two games of 2009, with victories over Miami and Western Michigan the last two weeks.

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