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Marc Lawrence’s 2009 MAC Conference Football Preview


Marc Lawrence

Marc Lawrence

Marc Lawrence • PLAYBOOK.com

Entering its 63rd year of gridiron competition, the MID AMERICAN CONFERENCE will once again play a balanced schedule, meaning each team will play eight conference games in 2009. Let’s hope the results are more balanced that last year when Buffalo was the only team in the MAC East Division to finish the season with a winning record.

This is definitely a league that is wide open and one that likes to mix things up.

Seven different teams that have appeared in the last four MAC Championship games while nine different MAC schools that have appeared in a bowl game in the last four seasons. Here is my take on the MAC for 2009.


Coming up next: The MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE. Enjoy…


AKRON – *9 / 6

Team Theme – FIX-a-FLAT

When does improving from 4-8 to 5-7 signify a quantum leap? When your offense and defense combined to improve 97 YPG, that’s when. Had it not been for a heartbreaking 3-game season-ending losing skein the Zips might have landed a bowl bid last year. Instead, J.D. Brookhart will look to 15 returning starters from last year’s squad to try and complete the task this season. The keys to the car will be handed to QB Chris Jacqueman who, along with both of his leading receivers, will look to improve offensive production for the fourth year in a row. One thing is for certain. The Tiremakers will need to avoid season-ending blowouts in their final two games (0-6 last 3 years) this season if they wish to move up to the next level. PLAY ON: vs. Ohio U (10/10)

BALL STATE – 4 / 7

Team Theme – NEUTERED

What a difference a month can make. Last year the Cardinals entered December one of only three undefeated teams in the land. By the time the calendar changed, Ball State suffered back-to-back losses and saw its head coach leave for the comfy climes of San Diego (State). To add vinegar to the wounds they lost all-MAC QB Nate Davis and 4 offensive linemen to graduation. Ouch! Enter BSU OC Stan Parrish to stop the bleeding. Parrish, who was on the staff of the 1977 Michigan national championship team and the 2002 Tampa Bay Super Bowl squad, coached the Cards in last year’s GMAC Bowl loss. “The running backs and receivers should be the strength of our offense this season, but it all starts with the offensive line,” contends Parrish. Not to be snippy, but there’s too much of an overhaul needed for our taste, thank you. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Central Michigan (11/18)



After swimming in a sea of mediocrity the last four years (24-24), the Falcons opted for a coaching change. Out goes Gregg Brandon and in comes Dave Clawson, a head coach for nine seasons, including four years with Richmond. A two-time Division 1-AA Coach of the Year, Clawson took a Fordham team off 12 straight losing seasons to the playoffs. He brings 20 years of coaching experience and 7 new assistants to Bowling Green. The birds of prey will rely on SR QB Tyler Sheehan, a 3rd team all-MAC choice each of the last two seasons. In those two seasons he’s completed 570 of 876 passes, good for 5874 yards and 43 TD’s. Should the Bee Gees find a way to navigate their way through their first nine games they close out the season against a trio of losing teams. That’s when they’ll apply the claw. PLAY ON: vs. Akron (11/20)

BUFFALO – 5 / 8

Team Theme – BULL MARKET

When asked about being in the mix for Auburn’s head coaching vacancy, Turner Gill quickly dispelled the thought. “On the day I came here to be the head coach I told my team that one day we would be successful here at the University of Buffalo. Now, more than ever, I have never been more proud to be the head coach of this program,” said Gill. The two-time MAC Coach of the Year took the Bulls to their first bowl game ever last year. A hard-hitting defense forced 32 fumbles last season, including 21 in the last 7 games, proving that preparation is key, Buffalo played 4 overtime games in 2008, winning 3 of them. RB James Starks (back-to-back 1000 yard seasons) and WR Naaman Roosevelt (1402 yards on 104 receptions) lead the offense. Win, lose or draw, this program looks to be in good hands. PASS


Team Theme – SUPERDAN

This much we know. QB Dan LeFevour is a sure-fire NFL star who has lead his team to 26 wins in three years. His accomplishments are many. He has accumulated 11,702 yards of total offense in three years as a starter (2765 yards rushing) and has been the Chips’ leading rusher each of the last two seasons. To top it off, his top 3 receivers – 199 receptions last year – all return. Close calls were much to CMU’s liking last year. They went 5-1 in the six games that were decided by three of less points. Four non-conference road games against bowl teams may be the only thing that can stop the Chips from becoming the first current MAC member to play in 4 straight bowl games. Hey! Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Super Dan. PLAY ON: vs. Michigan State (9/12)



After floundering for six years in the waters of mediocrity, EMU officials finally raised the white flag and said enough is enough. Jeff Genyk and his 16-42 record was sent packing. Ron English, a former defensive coordinator with Michigan and Louisville, takes his place with his first stab as a major-college head coach. He inherits 16 returning starters from a team that actually improved its offense (77 YPG) and its defense (18 YPG) last season. SR QB Andy Schmitt and Jacory Stone, EMU’s all-MAC receiver, join forces with last year’s top four rushers to solidify the attack. “We want to be able to run the ball and defend the run,” said English. We like the ways he thinks. We also like his pedigree. With 8 of this year’s 12 opponents coming off losing seasons, the turnaround could happen sooner than later. PLAY ON: vs. Temple (10/3)

KENT STATE – 8 / 7


Were it not for a season-ending upset win over eventual MAC champion Buffalo last year, Golden Flash head coach Doug Martin would likely have the dreaded “former” label attached to his moniker. He will be on the hot seat to save his hide in 2009 and, unless he dramatically improves on a current 2-14 SU and 2-12-1 ATS run in games played on Saturdays, Martin will join an ever-increasing line of Americans looking for a new job. Replacing 3-year starting QB Julian Edelman, who rushed and passed for 3190 yards last season, will not be an easy task. The brunt of the offense will be shouldered by RB Eugene Jarvis, who rushed for 801 yards and 9 TD’s in 9 games last season. Take a number, Doug. Yours looks like it’s up. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Buffalo (11/27)

MIAMI OHIO – *8 / 5

Team Theme – RADA BALL

When you were the preseason choice to win your division and you go 2-10, for the second time in three years, it’s understandable you are one of a growing legion of Americans looking for work these days. Such was the plight of Shane Montgomery, the former RedHawks’ boss. Enter Mike Haywood, a strong recruiter, who has coached under notable mentors such as Nick Saban, Mack Brown and Charlie Weis. He brings a pro-style offense with multiple formations to Miami, one that should please returning starting QB Daniel Radabaugh. “We’re going to try and get our best players matched up against our opponents least athletic players. We want to get them the football,” said Haywood. In other words, it should be bombs away in Oxford this fall. PLAY ON: vs. Kent State (9/26)


Team Theme – KILL, KILL, KILL

We love the new chant that erupts from the student section at NIU football games these days. Kill, Kill, Kill. That’s exactly what the defense did last season in head coach Jerry Kill’s first year with the Huskies. Because NIU ended the 2008 season with the second-best overall defensive improvement in both yardage (138 YPG) and scoring (12.8 net PPG), Kill led his team to the Independence Bowl. Unfortunately, the Huskies were hit hard by graduation, losing 20 seniors from last year’s roster, including NFL 1st round DE Larry English. SO QB Chad Harnish, who led the Huskies in rushing and passing in his first year running the offense, is back. He joins SO Me’co Brown, who rushed for 510 yards on 110 carries last year, to shape a formidable backfield. Strike up the band and let the chants begin. PLAY AGAINST: as favorites vs. Toledo (10/17)

OHIO U – *7 / 7

Team Theme – BOOBCATS

A strong battle took place this spring for the starting quarterback job at Ohio University. Head coach Frank Solich views it as a nice problem. In ten starts last season, Senior QB Boo Jackson set single-season OU records for touchdown passes (19) and total offense. Challenging Jackson was another senior quarterback, Theo Scott. Scott was the starter heading into 2008 before a broken collarbone ended his season after just three games. Both men fit the mold of what Ohio U. wants, namely mobile, strong-armed passers who can create plays on the run. OU also returns most of its entire receiving corps and all four of its running backs from last season. However, the Bobbies will not improve their 4-8 mark from 2008 without better defense and fewer mistakes. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Kent State (10/24)

TEMPLE – 8 / 9


Its 2009 and the times are definitely changing around the football program at Temple. After a 1-22 run in 2005 and 2006, Al Golden’s gang is all about change and the signs are there. The five wins recorded last year were the most by a Temple football team since 1990. Better yet, five of the seven losses in 2008 were by 4 or fewer points. Compare that to the fact that 17 of the previous 19 losses under Golden were by double-digit margins. With seventeen starters back, including nine from a defense that improved 75 YPG last year, it’s understandable the Owls are anxious to get back on the field. “We really have a nice group coming back. We really do,” exclaimed Golden. Yea, we can read the signs. PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Buffalo (9/26)

TOLEDO – *9 / 9


Tom Amstutz, the roundest mound in town, has stepped down from his head coaching post in Toledo. In nine years with the Rockets, Amstutz was 58-41, but only 13-23 the last three seasons. Tim Beckman, the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State the past two seasons, arrives with a highly competitive game plan. Beckman split the squad into 8 teams in a continuing spring and summer-long series of off-season competition skills, rewarding the winners and penalizing the losers. Beckman welcomes 18 starters from last year’s disappointing team, including 3-year starting QB Aaron Opelt and his entire offensive line. The first order of business will be addressing a defense that has been pummeled harder than former president George W. Bush on a speaking engagement in Iraq. That’s not an indictment. Just a fact. PASS



The Broncos kicked their heels and went bowling for the second time in three years last season and, thanks to the schedule maker, they could be in position for a holiday party once again in 2009. That’s because Bill Cubit’s crew’s first six games this season are against teams who finished with losing records in 2008. Unlike last year, when eighteen returning starters were on board, only eleven grace the roster this season. The good news is QB Tim Hiller (3725 yards and 36 TD’s last season) and RB Brandon West (1026 rushing yards in 2008) are among the returnees. The bottom line is that the three road games at Big 10 venues will go a long way in determining WMU’s post-season fate. FYI: they are 3-15 on the Big 10 road. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Michigan State (11/7)

Note: Marc Lawrence is a 30-year veteran handicapper. He finished No.1 in the nation (88-63 +25.7 Net Units) in MLB during the 2007 season as documented by Sports Watch in Las Vegas. Comments are Welcome!!!


Marc Lawrence Has Been Handicapping Sports Professionally Since 1975 – Check Out His Weekly Picks & His DAILY MLB PlAYS Today Here at Capperspicks.com >>>


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