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Misc The MAC The MAC Archive The 2012 MAC Football Preview Part One
Written by Mike Spinelli

Mike Spinelli

maclogo1Welcome to the 2012 Mid-American Conference Football Preview. Over the next couple weeks we will be going team-by-team looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each MAC team. We start out with three West Division teams, Ball State, Eastern Michigan, and Central Michigan. The second installment will cover the “Best in the West”, the third covers three East Division teams BGSU, Buffalo, and UMass. The fourth installment covers the top two teams in the East, Ohio and Miami. And we wrap up our preview with the two area schools, archrivals Akron and Kent State.




easternmichigan helmetThe preview kicks off with the Eastern Michigan Eagles. The Ypsilanti-based Michigan State Normal College Normalites began play in 1899, joining the MAC in 1971. They have long been considered one of the least successful programs in Division I football, their 22-57 ten year record is the worst in the west. But last year’s 6-6 record under third year head coach Ron English, and their returning 14 starters (9 on offense) have Eagle fans optimistic about the program’s future.

Senior quarterback Alex Gillett was the team’s leading rusher in 2011 (189 for 918 yds. and 3 TD’s). He completed 56% of his passes for 1504 yards, and 14 TD’s to go with 7 INT’s. This spring he worked to improve chemistry with his receivers and run a more balanced offense, Nick Olds (returning starter), Julius Shelby, and Demtrius Reed. Olds caught 24 passes for 342 yards and 3 TDs to lead the team. . Tight End Garrett Hoskins is one of six returning starters on the improving O Line, and was second last year in receiving with 22 catches for 328 yards and 3 touchdowns. Senior Dominick Sherrer is in his first season starting at tailback after rushing 94 times for 607 with 2 TDs last year.

On defense the players to watch include linebacker Justin Cudworth, and cornerbacks Marlon Pollard and Marcell Rose. The line was improved over 2010, especially in run defense, but needs to improve on size and pass rushing. The linebackers are big and experienced. The weakness of the D is the safeties. Both are sophomores and first time starters, and have a “long way to go” according to English. The wide-open-attack style of play in the MAC will make this weakness stick out like a sore thumb.

The Eagles improved to 6-6 last year (although two of those wins were against FCS schools). This year they play two Big Ten schools (Purdue and Michigan State) on the road, back to back. They also travel to Northern Illinois to cap the season. The program is headed in the right direction, but with their lack of pass D and their brutal schedule I don’t see them breaking their 24 year bowl drought just yet. Predicted finish: fifth in the west.


ball-state-helmetThe next program in our 2012 MAC Football Preview is the Ball State Cardinals. Ball State also went 6-6 last year, head coach Pete Lembo’s first year. The Muncie, Indiana program started football play in 1924, joining the MAC in 1973.

On offense the Cards return 8 starters, including junior QB Keith Wenning. His third year of starting started out slow last year as the team learned a new system under the new coaching staff. He completed 54% of his passes for 1373 yards and 14 TD’s and ints. He is expected to be among the MAC’s best throwers in 2012. Tailback Jawan Edwards(786 yds.) is another returning starter, after averaging 4.4 yards per rush last year. The receiving staff includes first time starters Willie Snead, Jamil Smith, and Connor Ryan are explosive and along with the no-huddle offense will keep secondaries on their heels. Tight end Zane Fakes brings experience and size. The line includes 4 returning starters..

On the defensive side, the outlook isn’t quite as exciting. The D was the worst in the MAC last year, ranking near the bottom in every significant category. The teams’ success depends on this unit’s improvement. Only five starters return. Players to watch include MLB Travis Freeman, CB Jason Pinkston, and DT Nathan Ollie. Strong safety Chris Paulding is the team’s top newcomer, who takes the spot after a great spring. The special teams, on the other hand, ranked among the best in the MAC, with kicker Steven Schott and Punter Scott Kovanda.

The Cardinals improved to 6 wins last year, but with a bad defense and a tough schedule (including the big three in the west, along with Ohio and Miami, road games at Clemson, Indiana and, Army), they’ll have a tough time repeating that win total in 2012. Predicted finish: fourth in the West.



Next up are the Central Michigan Chippewas. CMU started playing football in 1896, joining the MAC in 1971. The program is among the top 25 in the country in winning percentage, despite going 3-9 last season under head coach Dan Enos (6-18). They are considered by some as the most improved team in the country.

The offense is run by senior QB Ryan Radcliff, who completed 71% of his passes last year for 3558 yards, and 17 TD’s and INT’s. He led the MAC with 2491 yards in conference. Andrew Garland and Zurlon Tipton are the top contenders for the RB spot. The receiving corps includes returning starters Cody Wilson (1137 yards ,13.7 avg), Titus Davis 751 yards, 18.8 avg) and Jerry Harris (2 rec). The line includes five returning starters.

On defense, the players to watch include LB Cody Lopez, DB Jahleel Addae, and FS Avery Cunningham. The defense returns six starters. The D gave up 40+ points five times last year and needs to continue improving if the Chippewas are going to climb out of the basement in the West.

The Chippewas play two Big Ten schools this year, Michigan State and Iowa. They also play the best in the west and Ohio. I don’t see the “most improved team” improving enough to finish higher than sixth in the West.

In Part Two of the season preview we will look at the Best in the West, Northern Illinois, Toledo, and Western Michigan.

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