Two seasons ago, I fell in love with the MAC. There was very little (or no) defense, and who doesn’t enjoy watching Freddie Barnes snag 20 passes in the snow on a Tuesday night? But my, how times have changed. This conference has a clear divide of haves and have nots, and some very, very bad offenses. But given the right matchup, you can still find some sneaky bye-week plug-ins from a conference that produces its share of no-name fantasy stars. It seems like a predicable year, as there are too many references to our conference previews, but maybe I’ll guess right a few times out of 13.
Akron – Running Back Jawon Chisholm
Wow, we really start this one out with a bang. My boss, BMAC, couldn’t have been more right in his MAC East Preview (reference #1), Akron is downright bad. Last season, the Zips featured two backs who ran a combined 295 times for 1,344 yards and eight touchdowns. Why does this matter? Because all of those 295 carries need to be replaced, and this is a team that just two years ago churned out a leading rusher whose line was 55-244-2. Broderick Alexander wasn’t that man, and his 3.4 ypc, coupled with a 2010 season missed to injury gives me hopes that Chisholm can reach 700-800 yards and eight scores with consistent carries. Both are worth watching to see if one can beat the other out. Chisholm flashed this spring, going for 124 yards and two scores, and I think that momentum carries into fall.
Ball State- Running Back Cory Sykes
Two years ago, I thought Sykes could be MiQuale Lewis’ heir apparent. Yes, I know he is 50 pounds lighter, and clearly can’t go 30 times per game. It also feels like it was also two decades ago, before Lewis was granted his 47th year of eligibility. But take a look at his production down the stretch in 2009. Sykes boasts a 5.83 ypc for his career, and I think the senior is ready to handle 12-20 touches in his final year. Last year’s leading rusher (Eric Williams) has transferred, and Sykes is hands down the veteran of this group. And when all else fails, why not take a kid whose class is listed as “unknown?”
Bowling Green – Quarterback Matt Schilz
Do I really have to pick someone here? Seriously, where the hell did the offense go in the MAC? Schilz had a respectable 2223 yards in just ten games last season, missing two due to injury. He was also a rookie, and the Falcons’ leading rusher (Willie Geter) has departed. His fill in (Jordan Hopgood) averaged a whopping 2.2 ypc. Though Schilz’s 8-14 touchdown to interception ratio aint great, expect some leadership development from the sophomore. An absence of a legit rushing game, and the presence of a top wideout, (Kamar Jorden) give us some reason for optimism with Schilz. Just make sure he actually is the starter!
Buffalo – Quarterback Jerry Davis
Unbelievable. This is the fourth straight team whose offense ranked no better than 106 last season. How on earth can I recommend a player, let alone tell you that someone who was useless last year can make a fantasy impact this year. If for no other reason than disagreeing with my boss (reference #2), let’s take Davis here. Davis had two games with three touchdowns, and one with four. He’s got a decent receiver in Marcus Rivers and no rushing game (sound familiar) so if he can play every week, why not expect 2500 yards and 20 touchdowns?
Central Michigan – Wide receiver Jerry Harris
Finally, we are cooking with gas! A top-50 offense from a year ago, the Chips quarterback Ryan Radcliff, threw for 3358 yards, but just 17 touchdowns. He’s a staff favorite here, and his favorite target is a 5-foot-10 kid who quadrupled his catches from 2009. That kid, Cody Wilson, is a stud. But he won’t catch em all, and the 6-3 Harris seems like the perfect complement. He may be the biggest beneficiary of Radcliff’s pending touchdown increase. Keep an eye on running back Zurlon Tipton too. He scored four times in the final two games of 2010, and may be poised for more carries.
Eastern Michigan – Wide receiver Kinsman Thomas
If there were more of a one-man offense than quarterback Alex Gillett in 2010, I’d like to know. He led the team in passing and rushing, and running back Dwayne Priest’s 716 yards aren’t back. Thomas led the Eagles in receiving in 2010, with a meager 473 yards. He’s from BENNETTsville, South Carolina. So I expect his production to triple, and help lead the Eagles to a bowl game. Seriously.
Kent State – Running back Dri Archer
Click here (reference #3) and read please. The Golden Flashes’ offense should show flashes, pun intended, but there really isn’t much hope for a breakout star. Archer gets the nod here simply because he was one of four backs last year, and barring a freshman rising, will now be one of two, sharing carries with Jacquise Terry. He still needs an injury to be fantasy relevant.
Miami (OH) – Running back Willie Culpepper
Time to really, really go out on a limb. Quarterbacks Austin Boucher and Zac Dysert will battle things out this fall, and we expect The Waterboy’s cousin to head back to the sidelines, thus setting up a breakout season from Dysert. And that could include leading this team in rushing. Last year’s leader, Thomas Merriweather is gone, and his backup, Tracy Woods, is no longer with the team due to academics. Culpepper is all of 5-foot-9, 156 pounds. But he’s got athleticism the likes that this conference rarely sees. Obviously, he won’t carry as often as Merriweather’s 176 rushes, but someone here has to step up. There are also three true frosh ready to climb the chart, including Justin Wiley.
Northern Illinois – Running back Jasmin Hopkins
My heart wants to say Jamal Womble here, but since I think one of my superiors is on his bandwagon, I’ll go with the most likely ying to Womble’s yang. I mean this in the nicest, sarcastic way possible, but it’s awfully hard to have faith in a running back named Jasmin. That being said, Northern Illinois has led the MAC in rushing two straight seasons, and is replacing a 1,300-yard, 22-score rusher. Womble is up to 240+ pounds, and I don’t think he can do it alone. Hopkins upside will be limited by Womble’s goal line prowess, but I like this system to churn out multiple fantasy capable rushers.
Ohio – Quarterback Tyler Tettleton
Apparently the MAC is easy to predict. Conference Preview reference #4 , and I agree. I just completed a 16-round, 24-team draft, and not one Bobcat was selected. That should tell you something about the hopes here. Tettleton is an unknown who is penciled in to replace the somewhat known Boo Jackson. Someone has to do something in Athens, other than smoke herbs, may as well be the signal caller.
Temple – Wide Receiver Rod Streater
This just seems too obvious, and that’s without citing our conference preview (indirect reference #5!) Streater’s second half of 2010 was respectable for an Owls receiver (3.6 catches, 58 ypg, and four scores.) You have to expect more opportunities with a new coach Steve Addazio coming to Philly, and the 6-foot-4 receiver is certainly a nice jump ball candidate. He could threaten 7-9 scores.
Toledo – Quarterback Terrence Owens
This just seems too good to be true. Owens has a hose for an arm, but isn’t as talented rushing the ball as his competition, Austin Dantin. But guess what, the Rockets have the best 1-2 running back pair in Adonis Thomas and former Boston College Eagle Josh Haden. What does this mean – it means they don’t need a rushing quarterback. In Owens’ last four regular season games of 2010, he threw for 237 ypg, and 11 touchdowns. He’s a top breakout player from the MAC if he can secure the reigns.
Western Michigan –
That space was purposefully left blank. I like this conference, a lot, even if it doesn’t sound sexy on paper like it did a few seasons ago. But I’ve worked hard to establish contacts and provide better coverage for the MAC. One unnamed school (first person to email me with their guess as to who gets a prize) has been oddly difficult to work with. Alex Carder is a good quarterback, and Jordan White is a terrific wideout. His sidekick from a season ago (Juan Nunez) is gone. Robert Arnheim and Ansel Ponder are reasonable guesses to share his departed 1,032 yards.