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Nick’s Picks for Week #1 – 2012

> Nicks MAC Football picks - Follow @VandelaySports

 

MAC Football Notes:

  • MAC football continues its 66th season of competition and will hold its 16th championship game in 2012. This year’s Marathon MAC Football Championship tilt will be Friday, Nov. 30 at Ford Field in Detroit. Northern Illinois is the defending MAC Champion as the Huskies defeated Ohio 23-20 last season

  • This season will bring the transition of three new head coaches into the conference. For two of the three new head coaches this will be the first head coaching opportunity in their career

  • Akron ’s Terry Bowden ( Salem, Sanford, Auburn, North Alabama) is the only new head coach with previous collegiate head coaching experience. Toledo elevated Matt Campbell from offensive coordinator and UMass named Charley Molnar to lead the Minutemen program

  • The MAC will open the season against nine schools from BCS Conferences. Northern Illinois will host Iowa in a neutral site game at Chicago’s Soldier Field and Akron will host Central Florida (C-USA); road games include visits to Connecticut (Big East), Florida and Georgia (SEC), Illinois, Ohio State and Penn State (Big Ten) and Arizona (PAC-12)

  • The MAC opens the 2012 football season with a slate of contests against the top ranked teams in college football. In the preseason AP Top 25 football poll, the MAC will face eight of the Top 25 ranked programs this season

    • #6 ranked Georgia will host Buffalo on Saturday, Sept. 1 and #8 Michigan will host new MAC member UMass on Saturday, Sept. 15. Central Michigan will host #13 Michigan State at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 8, while the Spartans will host Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 22

    • #14 Clemson will host Ball State on Saturday, Sept. 8, while #16 Virginia Tech will host Bowling Green on Saturday, Sept. 22. Former Bowling Green head coach Urban Meyer’s #18 Ohio State will host Miami on Saturday, Sept. 1 and former Meyer’s #23 Florida will battle Bowling Green also on Sept. 1; #24 Boise State will host Miami on September, Sept. 15

  • The NIU Huskies have the nation’s longest winning streak in FBS at 9 games; Northern Illinois finished the 2011 season with the program’s first MAC football championship in 28 years with a 23-20 win over Ohio in the Marathon MAC Football Championship Game. The Huskies completed their magical season with a 38-20 win over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl; NIU ended the season with an 11-3 record including a season-ending nine-game consecutive winning streak—longest FBS streak in the nation

This Week’s MAC Schedule

  • Thursday, August 30

    • Central Florida at Akron, 7:00 pm ET (ESPN3)

    • Eastern Michigan at Ball State, 7:00 pm ET (ESPN3)

    • Southeast Missouri at Central Michigan, 7:00 pm ET (ESPN3)

    • Towson at Kent State, 7:00 pm ET (ESPN3)

    • UMass at Connecticut, 7:30 pm ET (ESPN3)

  • Saturday, September 1

    • Buffalo at Georgia, Noon ET (ESPN3/SEC Network)

    • Miami at Ohio State, Noon ET (Big Ten Network)

    • Ohio at Penn State, Noon ET (ESPN)

    • Western Michigan at Illinois, Noon ET (ESPNU)

    • Bowling Green at Florida, 3:30 pm ET (ESPN)

    • Iowa at Northern Illinois (at Chicago), 3:30 pm ET (ESPNU)

    • Toledo at Arizona, 10:30 pm ET (ESPNU)


Nick’s Picks:

Central Florida at Akron

Thursday, August 30, 2012 • 7:00 pm ET • Akron, Ohio • InfoCision Stadium - Summa Field (27,881); ESPN3; Series: Akron leads 5-2

Notes: The Knights finished last year 5-7, 3-5 in Conference USA...Entering his first full season as a starter, QB Blake Bortles looks to improve on his redshirt freshman campaign, named All-Conference USA Freshman Team honors...UCF has led C-USA in total defense each of the last two years. The Zips return 13 starters and 40 letter winners from last year’s squad that finished 1-11... Akron named Terry Bowden head coach on Dec. 22 – programs 27th head coach...Bowden brings a 140-62-2 record over an 18-year career and spent the previous three seasons at Division II North Alabama...Bowden was an assistant coach at Akron in 1986 under then Zips’ head coach Gerry Faust.

Nick’s Pick: UCF 31 – Akron 13

Comment: Akron will be much better under Bowden just not yet. Look for the Zips to take a few on the chin early in the season.

 

Eastern Michigan at Ball State

Thursday, August 30, 2012 • 7:00 pm ET • Muncie, Ind. • Schuemann Stadium (22,500)

ESPN3; Series: Ball State leads 30-21-2

Notes: The Eagles return 17 starters and 42 letter winners from last year’s squad that went 6-6, 4-4 in the MAC...Last year’s six wins were the most wins for the program since 1995...EMU rushed for 2,620 yards and 16 TDs last season, which ranked 16th in the nation...QB Alex Gillett has played in 33 games, 27 starts, and thrown for 3,900 career passing yards and 30 TDs during his collegiate career. Cardinals return 13 starters and 30 letter winners from last year’s team that finished 6-6 overall, 4-4 in conference action...Offense features four returning offensive linemen, along with starting QB Keith Wenning (2,786 yds/19 TDs) and RB Jahwan Edwards (11 TDs)...Ball State is 20-15 in its last 35 conference games.

Nick’s Pick: Ball State 27 – Eastern 24 (double OT)

Comment: Quite possibly the best game in the MAC this weekend. Expect a hard fought game that goes down to the wire as these two up-and-coming MAC programs will look back at this game that led to their bowl-eligible status or kept them from it.

 

SE Missouri State at Central Michigan

Thursday, August 30, 2012 • 7:00 pm ET • Mount Pleasant, Mich. • Kelly/Shorts Stadium (30,255); ESPN3; Series: Central Michigan leads 1-0

Notes: The RedHawks return 16 starters and 46 letter winners from last year’s team that finished 3-8 overall, 2-6 in conference play...Offense returns nine starters, while defense returns seven starters...Senior LB Blake Peiffer totaled 151 tackles and led the defense last season. Central Michigan returns 18 starters and 45 letter winners from last year’s team that went 3-9 overall, 2-6 in the MAC West...QB Ryan Radcliff ranks second in school history in passing yards (6,759), completions (549), touchdown passes (42), total offense (6,639) and 300-yard passing games (10)...24 players made their first career start last year for the Chips, including 10 true freshmen.

Nick’s Pick: Central 48 – S.E.M.S. 16

Comment: This is a “feel good” game for the Chips as they need a win and they need to win big before their schedule gets much harder.

 

Towson at Kent State

Thursday, August 30, 2012 • 7:00 pm ET • Kent, Ohio • Dix Stadium (25,000)

ESPN3 • Stream live on mac-sports.com; Series: First Meeting

Notes: Towson finished last year with a 9-3 overall record and the CAA championship...RB Terrance West enjoyed a remarkable freshman campaign last year with 1,294 yards (6.7 avg.) and was the second-leading rusher in the CAA, named as the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and earned first team All-CAA honors. The Golden Flashes return 19 starters and 38 letter winners from last year’s team that finished 5-7 overall, 4-4 in the MAC...QB Spencer Keith was named starter and ranks third among Kent State’s career leaders in completions (549), passing yards (6,041) and TD passes (33)...Senior LT Brian Winters, senior LB Luke Batton and junior DT Roosevelt Nix were named team captains.

Nick’s Pick: Kent State 19 – Towson 13

Comment: Towson is no slouch and they won a very good I-AA league last year (CAA). Kent State’s defense should be fine; it’s their offense that needs to wake up.

 

UMass at Connecticut

Thursday, August 30, 2012 • 7:30 pm ET • Storrs, CT • Rentschler Field (40,000)

ESPN3; Series: UMass leads 36-33-2

Notes: UMass returns 15 starters and 42 letter winners from last year’s team that went 5-4 in their final year in the CAA...Fifth-year senior DB Darren Thellen is the leader of the corps from his free safety position after having a break-out year in 2011, where he broke school records for interception return yardage (172) after picking off five passes during the year. UConn returns 15 starters and 29 letter winners from last year’s 5-7 overall, 3-4 conference record...RB Lyle McCombs ranked second in the Big East in rushing last season with 1,151 yards, which was the fourth-highest total by a first-year player in Big East history...Huskies tied for Big East lead and ranked fifth nationally with 31 turnovers gained last season.

Nick’s Pick: UConn 37 – UMass 16

Comment: Old rivals meet once again and for the first time as IA members. Needless to say UConn is further ahead and that will show Thursday night.

 

Buffalo at Georgia

Saturday, September 1, 2012 • Noon ET • Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)

ESPN3 • SEC Network; Series: First Meeting

Notes: Buffalo returns 18 starters and 55 letter winners from last year’s squad that finished 3-9 overall, 2-6 in conference play...QB Alex Zordich was named starter during camp...RB Branden Oliver set a school record for single-season rushing attempts (306), yards (1,395), 100-yard rushing games (8) and all-purpose yards (1,760). Georgia will return 15 starters from the 2011 squad whose 10-game winning

streak was the school’s first since the 1980s...QB Aaron Murray threw for 3,149 yards, his second straight year of 3,000 yards or more, and 35 TD passes to set the school’s single-season record...RB Isaiah Crowell earned 2011 Freshman All-America and SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

Nick’s Pick: Georgia 49 – Buffalo 10

Comment: This one could get ugly quick as MAC teams rarely perform well at SEC schools.

 

Miami at Ohio State

Saturday, September 1, 2012 • Noon ET • Columbus, Ohio • Ohio Stadium (102,329)

Big Ten Network; Series: Ohio State leads 4-0

Notes: Miami returns 17 starters and 49 letter winners from last year’s team that finished 4-8...QB Zac Dysert ranks second among active NCAA QBs in attempts (1,192), third in games (34), passing yards (8,530) and fourth in TDs (48)...WR

Nick Harwell (129.6) ranked second in the MAC last year in yards per game. The Buckeyes have 17 starters returning from last season (eight on defense; seven on defense) and 47 letter winners...Ohio State begins the Urban Meyer era as head coach -- born in Toledo, raised in Ashtabula and had his first head coaching position with Bowling Green...QB Braxton Miller set a freshman single-season school record with 13 TD passes last season.

Nick’s Pick: Ohio State 38 – Miami 14

Comment: The Buckeyes have their swagger back but Miami is better than most may believe; the RedHawks have the firepower to make this interesting.



 

Ohio at Penn State

Saturday, September 1, 2012 • Noon ET • State College, Pa. • Beaver Stadium (106,572); ESPN; Series: Penn State leads 5-0

Notes: Bobcats return 16 starters and 49 letter winners from last year’s team that finished 10-4 overall, won the MAC East Division and won the programs first ever bowl game with a 24-23 win over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl...QB Tyler Tettleton set school single-season records with 3,302 yards passing and 28 TDs last season. Penn State returns 9 starters and 34 letter winners from last year’s team

that finished 9-4 overall, 6-2 in the Big Ten...Penn State has a 252-63 record at home...LB Gerald Hodges was instrumental in the Nittany Lions having the nation’s No. 5 scoring defense in 2011 and became the 22nd Nittany Lion to post at least 100 tackles in a season.

Nick’s Pick: Ohio 14 – Penn State 10

Comment: Everyone knows about the mess in un-Happy Valley right now, just getting on the field and hitting someone will be change for the better. What most people don’t know is just how good this OU team is…and that they will be the first MAC team to win at State College since Toledo dominated the N’Lions 24-6 in 2000.

 

Western Michigan at Illinois

Saturday, September 1, 2012 • Noon ET • Champaign, Ill. • Memorial Stadium (69,249)

ESPNU; Series: Illinois leads 3-1

Notes: The Broncos return 15 starters and 34 letter winners from last year’s team that finished 7-6 overall, 5-3 in the MAC West...QB Alex Carder re-wrote the record book last season with 3,893 yards passing, including five games with 400 yards or more...WMU offense returns four of five starters on the offensive line with all averaging over 70 snaps per game last season. Illinois defeated UCLA, 20-14, in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to finish with a 7-6 record last season...Marks the debut of the Tim Beckman era as head coach, who served the last three seasons as head coach at Toledo...Illinois returns 14 starters (7 off/ 7 def.) from last year... Illinois returns five of its top seven tacklers from a defense that ranked seventh nationally in 2011.

Nick’s Pick: Western 27 – Illinois 23

Comment: The Broncos will spoil Tim Beckman’s debut and avenge their heart-braking 23-20 loss last year at IU.

 

Bowling Green at Florida

Saturday, September 1, 2012 • 3:30 pm ET • Gainesville, Fla. • Florida Field (88,548)

ESPN; Series: First Meeting

Notes: Bowling Green returns 20 starters and 42 letter winners from last year’s team that finished 5-7 overall, 3-5 in the MAC...Falcons return 10 starters on defense, including DT Chris Jones tied for first in sacks (8.5), tied for 4th in tackles for loss (14) and tied for 4th in forced fumbles (4)...QB Matt Schilz finished 4 th in the MAC in passing yards per game (252.0 ypg). Florida ended last year with a 24-17 win over Ohio State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl and finished 7-6 overall...MLB Jonathan Bostic started all 13 games last year and led the team with 94 tackles and finished tied for second with 10.0 TFL for a total of 57 yards for loss.

Nick’s Pick: Florida 30 – BGSU 12

Comment: It should be interesting to see how the weather affects this game…tough road game for a Falcon team that is fielding their most talented roster in the Clawson era.

 

Iowa at Northern Illinois

Saturday, September 1, 2012 • 3:30 pm ET • Chicago, Ill. • Soldier Field (61,500)

ESPNU; Series: Iowa leads 7-0

Notes: Iowa returns 11 starters (6 off/5 def) from last year’s squad that finished 7-6 overall...QB James Vandenberg started every game last season with 3,022

yards and 25 TDs...Hawkeyes return their top two tacklers from last season in junior linebackers James Morris (6-2, 230) and Christian Kirksey (6-2, 220). The Huskies return 18 starters and 49 letter winners from last year’s 11-3 overall record...NIU has a nine-game consecutive winning streak, the longest current FBS streak in the nation...Huskies are one of ten FBS programs with 11 win in each of the last two consecutive seasons...NIU has appeared in a bowl game in four consecutive years.

Nick’s Pick: Iowa 35 – NIU 16

Comment: For what ever reason the Huskies have not performed well in games played at Soldier Field.

 

Toledo at Arizona

Saturday, September 1, 2012 • 10:30 pm ET • Tucson, Ariz. • Arizona Stadium (57,803)

ESPNU; Series: Arizona leads 3-0

Notes: Toledo returns 12 starters and 48 letter winners from last year’s team that finished 9-4 overall, 7-1 in the MAC...QBs Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens both ranked in the top 20 nationally in passing efficiency in 2011...DE T.J. Fatinikun missed the final six games of the year (arm injury) and still tied for the team lead with 7.5 tackles for loss and earned third-team All-MAC honors. Arizona returns 16 starters and 55 letter winners from last year’s team that finished 4-8 overall...Starting FS Marquis Flowers 68 tackles ranked fourth on the team in 2011...RB Ka’Deem Carey ranked second on the club with 425 yards on 91 carries as a true freshman in 2011, with team-best six scoring runs...Game marks the debut of Rich Rodriquez for the Arizona Wildcats.

Nick’s Pick: Arizona 28 – Toledo 13

Comment: Probably the most difficult game to pick this weekend. On paper this is a game that Toledo should be able to win, Rich Rod historically does not do well in his first season at any school he coached at…including a 13-10 loss to Toledo in his first season at Michigan. Still, the Rockets have been outscored 105-28 in their three games with the Wildcats and their offensive line has question marks.

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