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MAC East Preview: Who Will Feast, Who Will Starve?

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Bowling Green's Matt Schilz will look to lead the experienced Falcons to a division title in 2013. But will experience and desire be enough to knock off surging Ohio and stay off defending champion Kent State? Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.
Bowling Green's Matt Schilz will look to lead the experienced Falcons to a division title in 2013. But will experience and desire be enough to knock off surging Ohio and stay off defending champion Kent State? Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.

Another offseason is flying by and it’s that time of the year again, when the college football preview magazines hit the newsstands.

It’s never too early to start talking about what the upcoming season might bring, and even though we are still about two months out from games, it’s seems to be the right time to join in and make some predictions.

MAC East Preview

The Kent State Golden Flashes took home the MAC East crown in 2012, boasting an incredible 11-3 record and a trip to the GoDaddy.com Bowl. But after ending the season with two straight losses in the two biggest games of the season, Kent State might have missed its best chance at an overall MAC title for the next few years. 

Bowling Green and Ohio are the favorites to top the MAC East this season and win the chance to — most likely — face Northern Illinois in the conference championship. Led by senior QB Tyler Tettleton, Ohio will face one of the best non-conference schedules in the MAC. And aside from the season-opener on the road against Louisville, the Bobcats’ schedule is back-loaded with games against Bowling Green and Kent State coming in weeks 12 and 13.

Bowling Green returns 17 starters and returns good experience — the defense already led the conference in points allowed, rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and total yards allowed a season ago. If the defense keeps its momentum and swagger from last year, the Falcons could wind up in a heavyweight bout, pitting itself against the offensive prowess of Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois come early December.

Here’s how the MAC East shakes out:

7.) UMass

The Minutemen won just one game in all of last season and it came against Akron, who also only won a single game.

The outlook is slightly better in 2013, but not by much. Massachusetts is still young and will likely start 14 freshmen and sophomores this year. In 2012, the Minutemen were outscored 482-152. They will have to narrow that margin by a lot before they can start to truly compete in the MAC. I don’t see them winning more than three games.

Best Case: (3-9, 3-5)

Worst Case: (1-11, 1-7)

6.) Akron

In 2013, Akron will look to avoid their fourth straight season of one-win football. Unfortunately, the Zips will be hard-pressed to break that streak seeing as the two best chances on their schedule will be at home against James Madison and on the road against Massachusetts.

Akron was never shut out in 2012, but held opponents under 34 points only three times. But on top of their defensive woes, the Zips will need a miraculous year from first-year starting quarterback and sophomore Kyle Pohl. Fortunately, Pohl will have upper classmen returning starters at wide receiver and running back.

Best Case: (4-8, 3-5)

Worst Case: (1-11, 1-7)

5.) Miami (OH)

It’s never an easy task to replace a player who was one of the best in the conference at his position. It’s even more difficult when one of the best players coming into the year is dismissed from the team. Such is the case with the Redhawks as they try to move forward without quarterback Zac Dysert, who is now in the NFL, and wide receiver Nick Harwell.  

Don Treadwell will try to lead a Miami team that finished with a 4-8 record a year ago, and show improvement in what is still his first stint as a head coach. Austin Boucher will likely start at quarterback and join seven returning starters on offense.

Without having to play Northern Illinois and getting Bowling Green at home, Miami could make some noise, but it’s far more likely for the Redhawks to finish under .500 by several games.

Best Case: (6-6, 4-4)

Worst Case: (2-10, 2-6)

4.) Buffalo

The Bulls come into 2013 returning eight starters on offense — good for a two-way tie with Bowling Green and behind only Toledo. Senior running back Branden Oliver rushed for 821 yards a season ago despite missing five games and should be an instrumental component to what coach Jeff Quinn does on offense this year.

Despite starting the majority of Buffalo’s games under center a year ago, Alex Zordich will likely be the No. 2 man going into the season under hopeful sophomore Joe Licata.

Khalil Mack will need to live up to his title of being the best defensive player in the league for the Bulls to hang with the top teams in the MAC East. Even if he fails to put up the same kind of numbers, Mack will at the very least make offenses steer away from him on nearly every play.

Buffalo has a lot of potential coming into the season, but has failed to execute on that fact alone in the past. In 2012, the Bulls won just three conference games, each by 10 points or less.

Best Case: (7-5, 5-3)

Worst Case:  (3-9, 2-6)

3.) Kent State

After a tremendous 11-win campaign in 2012, the Golden Flashes enter the season with high hopes once again. Unfortunately, the road to a second straight MAC East title will be much more challenging than the first.

The team returns a total of 10 starters combined and will be led by first year head coach Paul Haynes. And despite having two of the conference’s best players in wide receiver Dri Archer and defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix, Haynes will have a much smaller talent pool to work from, considering what he came from at Arkansas.

The other major issue for the Golden Flashes in 2013 is the schedule. Back-to-back road games with LSU and Penn State and an early-conference game with Bowling Green could see Kent State in a 1-3 hole to start the year. Don’t be surprised if the Golden Flashes are 2-4 at the halfway point.

If Kent State falls too for behind early on in the season, it could wind up being a frustrating first year for Haynes.

Best Case: (8-4, 6-2)

Worst Case: (4-8, 2-6)

2.) Bowling Green

Expectations are running wild coming to the season as the Falcons look poised to make their strongest push at a MAC East title since 2007.

Returning a combined 17 starters, Bowling Green may be the most experienced team in the division. After leading the conference in almost all of the major defensive statistics, they will look to equal or better that performance in this campaign. And they will have to if they expect a chance to win the East. The Bowling Green offense averaged 22.9 point per game in 2012, which was good for 10th in the conference.

Look for the Falcons to pick up where they left off on offense, but heavily rely on the defense to close out and ultimately win games.

Best Case: (9-3, 7-1)

Worst Case: (6-6, 5-3)

1.) Ohio

There are two main reasons that Ohio ranks higher than Bowling Green and wins the MAC East in 2013: quarterback Tyler Tettleton, and head coach Frank Solich.

Solich has put up a 59-44 record in his eight years at the helm of the Bobcats' football program. During that stretch, Ohio has won three MAC East titles. But on top of having a well-respected coach, the Bobcats are one of the few teams in the MAC to have a quarterback who has previously started more than one season. Tettleton enters into his third year under center at Ohio and has already broken the school record for passing yards (6,278) and touchdowns (46). He also retains wide receiver Donte Foster who was his most lethal target last season.

On defense the Bobcats will see cornerbacks Travis Carrie and Jamil Shaw return to the field after both missing almost all of the 2012 season. In  2011, Carrie was named to the All-MAC team. With those two out last year Larenzo Fisher and Ian Wells gained some valuable experience and will now provide invaluable depth in the secondary. Top tackler Keith Moore also returns in 2013, and should help lead Ohio’s defense in a bounce-back year.

Best Case: (11-1, 8-0)

Worst Case: (7-5, 5-3)