Around the MAC with Nick Gerogosian

As we closed the second week of college football I can't help but to think of the letdown MAC fans must have had compared to the previous week. Going into Saturday's game, most of us knew that Kent State and Western Michigan had no chance to beat Ohio State and Michigan respectively.

But many of us had high hopes that Miami would take care of business at home against Iowa and that UCF could win at Arizona State. No one could have dreamed of the nightmare that Ohio Bobcat fans must be feeling right now after a devastating loss to lowly Northeastern.

On a positive note, Central Michigan took care of business at home against Wyoming of the Mountain West Conference and Buffalo surprised everyone by drilling Rutgers in New Jersey. So while many of put our heads down with some gut wrenching defeats this weekend, let us hold on to hope that the top of the MAC will get it done this weekend, and that begins this Thursday night when Marshall travels to Virginia Tech. Before that, let's take a look at a weekend of lost opportunities and analyze what happened.

Finally, our prayers go out to NIU tailback Thomas Hammond for his heart problems that were just diagnosed and most likely, ended his brilliant college football career. Here is a toast to his health and long-term happiness.
Here, here...

A Weekend of Lost Opportunities
Miami hosted Iowa in the first ever visit by a Big Ten team to Oxford in over 100 years of tradition rich football history. The RedHawks lost the game 29-24, but look at these disturbing plays. Miami had two touchdown passes negated by penalties and Ben Roethlisberger was under tremendous pressure all day. Big Ben finished the game with 343 yards passing, going 33-51 with several dropped balls, four sacks, and one INT. Miami's ground game was non-existent drumming up a paltry 14 yards on 17 carries. Miami was flagged only three times for 30 yards, but each and every single one of these came at the wrong time with two negating touchdowns. There is no doubt that Miami let a golden opportunity to win slip by in this contest. As the final seconds ticked off, Iowa fans could be heard screaming "RedHawk down!"

UCF is the self-proclaimed ‘king of the MAC,' but so far, they haven't shown very much to back it up. Following a 27-24 loss at a very average Penn State club, UCF went to Tempe (AZ) with thoughts of a mild upset and a kick-start to their week off prior to visiting Marshall. Here is what happened. UCF squandered two beautiful opportunities to score early touchdowns in the rain at Arizona State in the 1st quarter. Instead of being up 21-3 on the Sun Devile, poor red-zone execution by the offense could only muster up field goals and UCF lead 13-3. ASU found pay dirt just prior to the half and the Knights led 13-10. Now the unbelievable happened in the 3rd quarter, ASU scored 29 points, 15 of these points were scored by their defense, and UCF totally lost composure for a 46-13 drubbing in the rain soaked desert. In the end, UCF had just 8 1st downs, 189 total yards, 17 penalties for 132 yards going the other way, 33 yards rushing, and nine punts with a 31-yard per average boot to brag about. That doesn't sound like a team that can win every MAC game now does it?

Akron had another quality first half when they visited Maryland. After Iowa scored 37-points in the 1st quarter on the Zips the prior week, Akron was down just 14-7 to end the first period this past week. Then to begin the 2nd quarter, Maryland ripped an 81-yard punt return and the 44-14 rout was on. Here are some other details. Akron had six dropped balls in the first half, all killing drives. Akron had two roughing the passer penalties and one roughing the kicker penalty. In the end of this awful performance by Akron, the Zips had more penalties (16) than first downs (14) and more penalty yardage (132) than rushing yardage (82). Akron brought in a new defensive coordinator to shore up the MAC's worst total defense last year. What are the results thus far? Akron has given up 101 points in two games thus far. Said Akron coach Lee Owens: "Right now we are not a very disciplined team." No kidding, coach.

Northern Illinois was down just 7-0 at the half and 16-0 going into the 4th quarter, but USF's speed and DeAndrew Rubin's huge play-making abilities took over as the Bulls romped the Huskies 37-6 in Tampa. Although USF was the better team, never got into synch on offense and the defense finally wore down. The lone touchdown was a 24-yard TD strike from backup QB Ryan Gilbert to Sam Hurd on the game's final play.

Turnabout is Fair Play
Here is a look at the turnovers by MAC teams this past weekend. One note, Ball State has not had a positive turnover ratio since 1996, their last championship team:

Eastern Michigan had 5 INTs and one lost fumble in a 65-13 home loss to Toledo.
UCF had 3 INTs and 2 lost fumbles in a 46-13 loss at Arizona State.
Buffalo forced three INTs and only lost one fumble in a 34-11 win at Rutgers.
NIU lost 2 fumbles and one INT in their 37-6 loss at USF.
Akron had 3 INTs and lost a fumble in their 44-14 loss at Maryland.
Western Michigan had 2 INTs and lost a fumble in their 35-12 loss at Michigan.
Ball State lost four fumbles and had one INT in their 41-6 loss at Missouri.
Ohio lost three fumbles and had two more INTs (11 total turnovers in two games this year) in their 31-0 home loss to Northeastern.

The Stage is Set This Week!
After the MAC laid the proverbial egg last weekend, this weekend offers a lot of great opportunities for the MAC to shine nationally again. Marshall is nearly a two-touchdown underdog at Virginia Tech Thursday night and all eyes will be on Byron Leftwich and how he handles the Hokie defense. On the VT side of the ball, look for Tech to ride their outstanding rushing attack of Kevin Jones and Lee Suggs. If Marshall can play any defense at all, the Herd will have a chance to win this game in Blacksburg. Byron & Company are going to get their yards and will score points. This is the best offense that Virginia Tech will face all year and should be a thriller on national television (ESPN). Marshall can make a strong claim for a BCS bid and Byron can earn his plane ticket for New York (Heisman ceremony) with a win.

At the HHH Metrodome, Minnesota is off to a 2-0 start and looks for revenge against Toledo. The Rockets hammered the Gophers 38-7 to open the season last year at the Glass Bowl. Minnesota is recovering from the death of DT Brandon Hall, who was shot and killed just after their game with SW Texas State. Both the Rockets and the Gophers have beaten up on a I-AA patsy and a I-A bottom feeder to open the season, so this is a good test for both programs. Surprisingly, Toledo is a 7-point underdog on the road. Look for Coach Amstutz to use this as motivation for his team not getting any respect against a Big Ten opponent after beating two straight teams (Minnesota last year & Penn State in 2002) and winning four of their last seven against that conference since 1992.

Bowling Green is hosting is Missouri, the first team from the Big Twelve Conference to ever visit Doyt-Perry Stadium. In fact, the Falcons have had only eight home games against Division I-A non-conference opponents from the other nine major conferences over the last quarter-century. "I'm going to make sure that enters into the picture," Coach Urban Meyer said. "A lot of times young guys don't realize what a privilege they have. Missouri - a good Big 12 team - is coming into here to play. That's never been done before, and I'm honored to be the coach who gets to jog the orange team out there." Another interesting twist to this game is that Gary Pinkel, the former head coach of arch-rival Toledo and a former BGSU assistant coach, makes his return to northwest Ohio. Pinkel was 5-5 against the Falcons as a Rocket coach, but just 1-4 at Bowling Green. His Tigers lost at home to the Falcons 20-13 to open his coaching tenure last fall, so look for a lot of sub plots in this game to unfold. Bowling Green is a slight underdog at home, but can really turn some heads with a win over Missouri after the Tigers manhandled Illinois and Ball State to date during this young season.

Miami lost a difficult game at home versus Iowa after winning at North Carolina the prior week. This week, it's on to Baton Rouge for the RedHawks who are playing the most demanding non-conference schedule of any conference team. Miami won at LSU in 1985, 21-12, in a game Sports Illustrated dubbed as "The Upset of the Year." Miami has the talent to win this game, but will need to cut down on the errors (see above's lost opportunities section) to have a chance at victory. LSU has been less than impressive thus far this season in a 26-8 blow out loss at Virginia Tech and a sluggish 35-10 win at home against The Citadel.

Western Michigan played poorly at Michigan last week but has a good chance to change their fortunes at Purdue this weekend. Last year the Boilermakers beat Akron 33-14 and Purdue has a history of losing to MAC schools as Miami, Bowling Green and Toledo, all have multiple victories over PU in their football history. Like a lot of MAC versus BCS conference contest, Western Michigan will need to play a near perfect game to win, but most certainly the Broncos have the talent to get a "W" in West Lafayette. After this game, Western Michigan will host the same Virginia Tech team that Marshall is playing, on September 14th in Kalamazoo.

Northern Illinois needs to regroup right away as they visit Wisconsin this weekend. NIU played a terrible game at South Florida last weekend and also must cope with the loss Thomas Hammock, who will likely miss the entire season due to a heart problem. Hammock was the MAC's best RB and was the heart and soul of the offense with his "bowling ball" running style. Considering that NIU is very close to the state of Wisconsin in proximity and that the Huskies recruit this area very hard, a good showing that could produce an upset would be huge for this program. Before anyone laughs at the possibility of an upset, Wisconsin has struggled with these teams in the past few years; Cincinnati, Fresno State & Western Michigan.

Thomas Hammock's Career Likely Done
Northern Illinois RB Thomas Hammock's career is likely done after suffering from a heart ailment that can become fatal. Hammock played in NIU's 42-41 win over Wake Forest and gained 172 yards with two TDs. After the game, he became short of breath and was later diagnosed with this heart condition. Hammock was a Doak Walker Award finalist and is only one of two players to rush for back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons and also be named Academic All-American. His loss is huge for the Huskies and the MAC.

Ohio University Update
While Buffalo's home loss to Lehigh two weekends ago was difficult to stomach, at least UB came back this past weekend and beat Rutgers 34-11 on the road and the Mountain Hawks have moved into second place in the I-AA poll. Ohio's home loss to Northeastern, a bottom I-AA team from the Atlantic Ten was despicable. The Bobcats gave up two defensive touchdowns, the Bobcats had five turnovers and just 141 total yards. Outside of running back Chad Brinker, this entire team played like wimps, and there is no other kind way to it. Since Jim Grobe left Athens for Wake Forest after the 2000 season, Ohio has gone just 1-12 and has never won a home game in their newly renovated Peden Stadium. Ohio is somehow averaging over 20,000 fans for home games during these difficult times, but that is likely to free fall soon after this performance.

Brian Knorr is one of the nicest guys around, but he is in trouble because there are only three or four winnable games on the schedule from this point, and that may not be enough to hold off the dogs. In fact, an 0-12 record is highly probable right now. Considering that Athletic Director Thomas Boeh fired a basketball coach two years ago after he had won 20 games in a season, Knorr may not last the rest of this year. Boeh was walking the sidelines of the Northeastern game livid over his school's play on the field.

And now the really bad news: Ohio travels to "the swamp" this weekend to tangle with Florida. How bad is this week's game going to be? Sure Spurrier is gone, but the ‘Gators were embarrassed on national TV last weekend at home against Miami (Fl), so I'm guessing 84-0 sounds about right for this one.

Best Quote
Kent State Coach Dean Pees after losing to Ohio State 51-17: "We played hard until the end, this game wasn't ugly. Even with a 51-17 loss I told these guys that we can win a MAC championship. If we don't make the mistakes we made today, we can win the whole thing. I know that's boastful, but there isn't anybody in our league that we can't line up and play against and beat. We are not intimidated by anybody in the MAC."
Excuse me coach; did we watch the same game? 51-17 is not ugly when Ohio State starting playing their reserves late in the 1st half when the score was 38-0? Beating anyone in the MAC and not being intimidated? Have you seen Marshall, Toledo, Bowling Green or Miami yet coach? Very scary statements above in my opinion.

Crowd Shots
With only a few home games in the MAC this past weekend, here is what happened at the gate. Miami led the MAC this weekend with 25,934 for Iowa; Ohio had 21,002 for Northeastern; Central Michigan had 18,251 for Wyoming & Eastern Michigan had 16,843 for Toledo.

The marquee home game within the MAC this weekend is Missouri traveling to Bowling Green. At this point, the Falcons are expecting a crowd in the neighborhood of 26,000. Let's hope they do better than that and get over 30,000 since this is the biggest name team to ever come to BGSU in their long football history.

‘VanDelay's' MAC Power Rankings After Week #2:
Marshall (East) Still the MAC's top dog.
Toledo (West) Surprisingly better than expected this year.
Bowling Green (West) A win over Missouri at home is likely.
Miami (East) Tough loss at home, now on to LSU.
Central Michigan (West)MAC surprise team has momentum.
Northern Illinois (West)Poor outing at USF, looks to rebound.
Western Michigan (West) Very good team at home, not so on the road.
UCF (East) Very poor effort at ASU was embarrassing.
Kent State (East) Still has a long way to go to be good.
Ball State (West) Negative turnover ratio since 1996 continues.
Buffalo (East) Actually becoming a IA football team now.
Akron (East) New defensive coordinator, same crap defense.
Ohio (East) All of Jim Grobe's efforts have been wasted.
Eastern Michigan (West) The worst team in IA football, period!

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