Culbreath: Ohio should rule the MACWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Just when the dregs of summer were starting to get to me, it was there.
Just when a vast wasteland of an empty sports schedule was staring me in the face, it was there.
Just when the thought of “My goodness, we still have 62 games of regular season baseball left” was starting to depress me, it was there.
Just when I started to feel like I was losing my mind, Mid-American Conference Football Media Day came to save me. Football: It’s just around the corner.
(Don’t get me wrong; I like baseball, but it gets to be too much after the All-Star Break. I’m all about cutting about 30-40 games out of the schedule. Come at me, Old Man Baseball.)
We all got together in Detroit earlier in the week to talk MAC pigskin, and boy did that feel good. What felt better was the preseason poll as filed by the media. I know: only a fool takes stock in preseason polls. But hear me out: the MAC Media picked the Toledo Rockets to win the West Division, and the Bowling Green Falcons to not only win the East, but to win the conference title. Cool, huh?
(Granted: the Rockets were picked mere points above Northern Illinois in the West, but we’ll set that aside for now.)
Forgetting that these polls aren’t often accurate — last year, Ohio was picked to win the East, they finished third — let’s focus on what it means: respect for both programs. The Toledo Rockets are coming into this season without a for-sure starter at quarterback. With Terrance Owens gone, coach Matt Campbell is looking at a three-man race for the position, and it’s honestly anyone’s game. And despite losing David Fluellen and Bernard Reedy, we saw loads of talent last year from Kareem Hunt, Marc Remy, Damion Jones-Moore, Alonzo Russell, Alex Zmolik … not to mention four returning starts on the offensive line. Defensively, they lose a bit on the line, but return a lot in the secondary, which means the “all-or-nothing” defense that we’ve seen in the past couple of years should start to become a bit less bipolar. Quarterback, schmarterback; the media recognizes a good thing in the Toledo Rockets.
Yes, the Huskies lost quarterback Jordan Lynch as well, but they said two years ago that they wouldn’t be able to replace Chandler Harnish, and his records were toppled in a heartbeat. I swear those Huskies have a pact with some dark force.
And as for looking down I-75, you have to show some respect for the defending champion Bowling Green, picked to repeat. Again, the press making that call despite a major change: Dave Clawson left the Falcons last year to take the open job at Wake Forest. Enter Dino Babers, a coach in the Chip Kelly school of wanting to run Eleventy-Billion plays a game. (That’s a technical term. I swear it.) It would seem foolish to take the system that already won the conference and turn it on its ear, but Coach Babers has the team loose enough to buy into it, and quarterback Matt Johnson, who exploded onto the scene last year after getting the starter’s job in Week 2, feels like they’re picking up the new system nicely. Think about the arm strength and accuracy that he had, crank it up to ludicrous speed, and then tell me you aren’t circling Nov. 19 on your calendar.
Accurate or no, the preseason poll shows that the MAC media has a lot of respect for these two programs — respect that has been earned. Both Toledo and Bowling Green will dictate play in the conference at the end of the season. You gotta take I-75 to get to Detroit for the MAC Championship Game, so this is one time where you can say that the road to Ford Field literally goes through Northwest Ohio.
Football returns in August. Can’t wait.
Tags: Alex Zmolik, Alonzo Russell, Baseball, Bowling Green, Bowling Green State University, Damion Jones-Moore, Dino Babers, Falcons, football, Kareem Hunt, MAC, MAC media, Marc Remy, Matt Campbell, Matt Johnson, Mid-American Conference, Mid-American Conference Football Media Day, MLB, Northern Illinois, pigskin, Sports, Toledo Rockets, University of Toledo