MAC West Preview: Breaking down the conference as UB's league schedule begins
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 01:10
The Bulls’ (2-2) first league game is Saturday at noon at UB Stadium against Eastern Michigan (1-3, 0-1 Mid-American Conference). With conference play beginning, here is the first edition of a two-part series breaking down the MAC this season.
The West division produced the first BCS bowl team in conference history last season. Northern Illinois upset MAC East champion Kent State in the conference’s title game and earned a bid to play Florida State in the Orange Bowl. This season, both Northern Illinois and Ball State jump out as viable candidates to bring the MAC West back to the national stage.
Ball State (4-1, 2-0 MAC)
The Cardinals’ offense has displayed explosiveness. Led by senior quarterback Keith Wenning, they have scored at least 27 points in every game, including two 51-point outbursts.
Wenning – coming off a 3,000-yard season – has 1,650 passing yards through five games. He has thrown for at least 317 yards in every game and has nine touchdowns through the air.
Wenning and junior wide receiver Willie Snead have picked up where they left off last season. The two have combined for 611 yards and four touchdowns after connecting for 1,148 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012.
On the ground, sophomore Horactio Banks and junior Jahwan Edwards have combined for 569 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
Led by a volatile passing attack, look for Ball State to compete for the West championship.
Toledo (2-3, 1-1 MAC)
Toledo began the season with an impressive defensive performance, holding No. 10 Florida to 24 points in a 24-6 loss. Since that game, its season has been highlighted by two straight 30-point performances, including a 38-17 victory over MAC rival Central Michigan (1-4, 0-1 MAC).
Senior quarterback Terrance Owens has struggled at times this season – throwing more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (three). Owens had only eight interceptions last year and three his sophomore season.
Senior running back David Fluellen, coming off a nearly 1,500-yard season, has kicked off 2013 running for over 100 yards in four of the five games, including 197 at Central Michigan. He’s totaled 626 rushing yards while averaging 5.9 yards per attempt.
In two MAC games, Toledo defeated Central Michigan and narrowly lost to Ball State, 24-21.
Northern Illinois (4-0)
The two-time defending MAC champion Huskies have a new coach, but the results have stayed the same. Former head coach Dave Doeren is now coaching at North Carolina, and some have questioned North Illinois’ chances of winning a third straight MAC title behind a first-year coach (Rod Carey).
Fresh off his impressive 3,138-yard season, quarterback Jordan Lynch led the Huskies into Iowa in Week One and handed the Hawkeyes (4-1) their only loss of the season thus far. Lynch threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns and also led the ground game with 56 rushing yards.
Through five games, he has 869 passing yards and 439 rushing yards with 13 total touchdowns and only two interceptions.
The offense goes as Lynch does. If he can replicate his 2012 season, expect to see Northern Illinois compete for not only another MAC title, but also another BCS bowl game.
Eastern Michigan (1-3, 0-1 MAC)
The Eagles only won two games last season and are struggling again in 2013. In its three losses, Eastern Michigan has been outscored 124-37.
Junior quarterback Tyler Benz has 872 passing yards, but has thrown just as many interceptions as touchdowns (four).
Junior running back Bronson Hill – who totaled 905 yards rushing and 6.5 yards per carry last season – is averaging only 3.9 yards a rush this season.
After a 51-20 blowout loss to Ball State, it could be another long season for the Eagles.
Central Michigan (1-4, 0-1 MAC)
The Chippewas closed out last season winning five of their last six games, including a 24-21 bowl victory over Western Kentucky. They have been unable to carry their momentum into the start of this season, though.
After graduating quarterback Ryan Radcliff and losing last year’s leading rusher Zurlon Tipton for likely the season with a broken ankle, the Central Michigan offense has struggled.
It’s now freshman quarterback Cooper Rush’s offense, but the rookie’s nerves have been on display in his first few games.
His inexperience has shown in his 51.8 completion percentage, six touchdowns and seven interceptions. Rush has found a favorite target, however, in Titus Davis, who has 484 yards and four touchdowns on 26 receptions through five games.
Western Michigan (0-5, 0-1 MAC)
The Broncos challenged themselves early, scheduling Michigan State (3-1), Northwestern (4-0) and Iowa for three of their first four games. After holding Michigan State within 13 points, Western Michigan has struggled mightily. The Broncos dropped their opening MAC contest, 32-14 to Kent State.
Senior quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen has already thrown nine interceptions in the young season.
Senior running back Brian Fields has totaled 370 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in his first season as the featured back.