Last week's MAC record: 3-10. My picks: 7-5. It'll be like this for a while.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
9 p.m. — Toledo (0-1) at Colorado (0-1) (TV: ESPN)
Who left a budding program at a worse possible time: Dan Hawkins or Craig Kilborn? Hawkins departed Boise State for Colorado, a team he has barely turned around. (Or perhaps it turned around so much it got dizzy.) Now look at the Broncos. They've had an undefeated season and are on the fast track to do it again this year. Kilborn, on the other hand, bolted from The Daily Show to become a new late night talk host opposite Conan O'Brien on CBS. You can predict the outcome if Letterman were to use Kilborn's career in "Will It Float?"
Hawkins, meanwhile, is trying his darnedest to justify starting his son at quarterback. Last week's loss to Colorado State sure didn't help. If they lose to the Rockets on national television, you can bet Hawkins will be replaced next year by Jon Stewart. The Rockets could probably score 30 points on CU's defense, but it's their own defenders that will ultimately let the coach's son validate his father's tenuous grip on the coach's seat. Colorado 41, Toledo 28
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
Noon — Pittsburgh (1-0) at Buffalo (1-0) (TV: ESPN Plus/GamePlan)
Without a doubt, this is the weekend's most intriguing game involving schools that I did not attend. Last year, UB almost gave Pitt its second straight loss to a MAC team in as many weeks, but the Panthers escaped with a 27-16 victory. This year, the game's in Buffalo, and it's probably the most anticipated home game the University at Buffalo has seen, perhaps ever.
This is a very trendy upset pick. Trendy enough to appear on a Milan fashion runway. I think everybody gets a sick thrill out of seeing Dave Wannstedt's teams lose games they shouldn't. Accessorize the mustache! PIttsburgh 24, Buffalo 14
Noon — Western Michigan (0-1) at Indiana (1-0) (TV: BTN)
So that's why Tim Hiller looked like Tim Allen at quarterback last week. It was the gloves' fault, not the Michigan defense (second to last item). If the pass ain't complete, you must admit defeat. But it doesn't explain why Hiller saw his open receivers the same way a nation saw Wilson's face.
WMU cannot possibly be as bad as the score in Ann Arbor indicated. Likewise, the point spread on this game indicates a close score (IU by one point.) And if there's no other reason to pick against the Hoosiers, the way you have to drive down I-69 and down Route 37 is one of the most painful drives you'll ever find in the Midwest. WMU 27, Indiana 24
Noon — Eastern Michigan (0-1) at Northwestern (1-0) (TV: BTN)
The last EMU quarterback people talked about without cursing too much was Charlie Batch. I think the year was 1872. Bread cost a nickel and their jerseys had those ridonkulous "EMU" letters emblazoned on each shoulder.
But now it's 2009, and Andy Schmitt is actually worth mentioning as one of the better quarterbacks in the conference, and even the country. Scout.com has him as the 25th best one, right behind Jimmy Clausen. Anytime you're starting your fourth season at quarterback, you're bound to know something about the position. So when his Eagles face a Big Ten team this weekend, he should know when to duck. Northwestern 31, EMU 16
Noon — Central Michigan (0-1) at Michigan State (1-0) (TV: BTN)
Given what has transpired in the economy, this is the state fair. Score a touchdown of 20 yards or more on the Chippewas defense and win some crap!
That Arizona game was terrible for CMU. They should've lost by 20 points or more, but their red zone defense force the Wildcats to settle four field goals and one touchdown. An in-state upset isn't looking likely either, because the Spartans haven't lost to a MAC team since 1992, even though that team was Central Michigan. Times have changed, and coaches aren't slapping themselves in the face during press conferences. Michigan State 35, CMU 16
2 p.m. — Morgan State (0-0) at Akron (0-1) (TV: Nope)
After a lickin' to Penn State last week, Now it's Akron's turn to beat up on inferior competition! But wait, not all FCS teams are created equal. Let's see just how relatively good the Morgan State Bears are in their … you say they're picked sixth in the MEAC? Out of nine teams? Never mind then. Akron 35, Morgan State 10
2 p.m. — Kent State (1-0) at Boston College (1-0) (TV: ESPN360.com)
Quick! Hire Jeff Jagodzinski to be the quarterbacks coach for Kent State. This game needs a great subplot. Or any subplot, really. Boston College 44, Kent State 14
7 p.m. — Bowling Green (1-0) at No. 25 Missouri (1-0) (TV: FSN)
This may not be the most intriguing MAC game, but it could potentially be the most intriguing game in the Big XII. Chew and stew on that for a moment.
You'd never guess it, but BGSU has a 3-1 advantage in the all-time series with Missouri, including two wins this decade. One of those wins was in 2001, at Missouri, as Gary Pinkel's first game with the Tigers. But then again, it was also the first game of a man named Urban Meyer, who turned paltry depth charts into offensive prodigies. (Also, Missouri's starting quarterback missed the game because he broke his hand punching a guy in the face.) Times have changed, and Missouri is no longer a Big XII pushover.
I am giddy at seeing what Freddie Barnes can do at wide receiver the rest of the season. But I am less than excited to see how Missouri sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert will top what he did last week against Illinois. It may get so ugly, Gabbert may have a Pavlovian aversion toward seeing defenses adorned in orange and consistently account for four touchdowns. Missouri 41, Bowling Green 25
7 p.m. — Ohio (0-1) at North Texas (1-0) (TV: Nope)
The Mean Green can't go 2-0 in the MAC. They just can't. Because if that happens, the conference will try to annex them next year, making the UCF years look geographically sane by comparison. Ohio 16, North Texas 9
7 p.m. — New Hampshire (1-0) at Ball State (0-1) (TV: Nope)
The way Ball State played last week, one might suggest that UNH, ranked ninth in the FCS poll, is good enough to stroll into Muncie and win this. But as a well-wisher of the MAC — and knowing that a two-loss team can't possibly turnaround and be terrible the following season, even if they lost Nate Davis early to the NFL Draft — picking a cross-subdivisional upset borders on masochism. Ball State 28, UNH 20
7:30 p.m. — Western Illinois (1-0) at Northern Illinois (0-1) (TV: Nope)
I thoroughly enjoyed the way the Huskies rebounded from a deep deficit to Wisconsin and forced a laugher of a game into a competitive one. I shouldn't be surprised, but I was.
Of all the MAC teams, they have the third most wins this decade, right behind Toledo and Bowling Green. It probably would've taken me about six guesses before I thought of the Huskies, and for that I feel ashamed. They've only had one season with fewer than six wins since 2000. They're rarely terrible, and as a neurotic sports fan, that's something I'd love to say about my own teams. A romp over a directional Illinois brother oughta help the trend continue to finish out the decade. NIU 31, Western Illinois 6
8 p.m. — Miami (0-1) at No. 12 Boise State (1-0) (TV: BroncoVision)
Staying on the topic of the top MAC teams of the decade, Miami is fourth on that list, but no other team in the conference won 13 games in a single year. That was the year Ben Roethlisberger broke onto the national spotlight with 4,486 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Those numbers are nowhere near the type of digits Big Ben is known for when he and his Steelers win Super Bowls, let alone typical games. Other than one year in which he threw 32 touchdowns (2007), he's never escaped the teens in that department.
Instead, Roethlisberger's NFL numbers look more like Daniel Raudabaugh's stats as a junior last year with Miami. Senior quarterbacks are typically polished, game-changing leaders, but I don't see Raudabaugh being mentioned even in the top half of MAC quarterbacks this year. But considering the campus, perhaps he'll grow up to be a fantastic coach. Unfortunately, simply knowing Xs and Os won't help much in Boise, where there lurks a team that knows Xs, Os, and how to beat the snot out of anybody who steps into their blue realm. Boise State 37, Miami 18