MAC Blog: The changing of the guard

Rebuilds have to start from the top and work their way down into the talent pool. It all starts with the leadership taking charge of a situation and finally causing a change to occur. Usually, the best way to improve a team in college football is through an athletic director finally firing that head coach they thought would change the culture. It’s never pretty, but it serves a distinct purpose in college athletics. Now, just a year into the start of their rebuild, the Akron Zips are looking much more competitive than in previous years.

It all started with the hiring of head coach Terry Bowden. Yes, he’s of the Bowden family. He’s the son of former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden. In fact, he has the pedigree to be a coach at some of the top schools in the nation. Just two decades ago, Bowden led the Auburn Tigers to an 11-0 record, which started a 20-game winning streak in his first two seasons.

His team would never recapture their glory of those first two years though, and he resigned after six games in 1998. Now he’s back to the FBS, coaching a mid-major school in the Mid-American Conference where the coaches seem to be better than ever before. Not only that, he’s now coaching a team that took the No. 11 Michigan Wolverines to the very last play of the game with a chance to win it this past Saturday.

Akron now features Jim Tressel in an advisor capacity, and in this circumstance he could be considered a helping hand in the dismantling of Michigan. For a team that went 1-11 last season, they looked ready to compete in the BCS like Northern Illinois did last season. With two big name former coaches in the mix, Akron is looking like a hot ticket for recruits looking to make it big who may not be as talented as the guys attending Ohio State or Florida.

Fransohn Brickley and Akron nearly toppled Big Ten power Michigan. The win would have been Akron's first road win in five years (maizeandgoblue.com)

Fransohn Brickley and Akron nearly toppled Big Ten power Michigan. The win would have been Akron’s first road win in five years (maizeandgoblue.com)

While Akron was able to push Michigan to the limit, Buffalo was on the other end of the spectrum this weekend. Playing against FCS standout Stony Brook, the Bulls seemed to be no more than an average team. The Sea Wolves were able to push them to a five-overtime near upset finish that ended with Buffalo walking away with a 26-23 victory.

Stony Brook has a history of being a difficult opponent. The Alabama of the CAA, they’re looking for their fifth straight championship this year. Though they couldn’t revenge a 2011 blowout against Buffalo, they also took UTEP, another FBS school, to overtime and finished with just a seven point loss. In 2012, they took on a bigger school in Syracuse and only suffered an 11-point loss. Stony Brook is no joke.

Buffalo took them as one though, and nearly paid a big price. The 67th ranked passing offense had to use everything they had to produce against this Stony Brook squad, and look like they’re falling behind in the Mid-American now as other teams such as Akron make huge strides toward contending in the big picture. It’s too bad the BCS is turning to a playoff system soon, or there could be many more chances coming up of MAC schools in big bowl games.

With that, let’s take a look at the top stories of the week:

Offensive Player of the Week: Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois. This kid is on fire once again this season. The Huskies are not a very defensive team. In fact, you may say they’re setting up the picket line and have a formal strike against defense. The team is ranked 90th in points allowed per game in the NCAA, and had to make last minute plays to take the 45-35 victory over the Idaho Vandals this weekend. It all came on the back of their quarterback as Lynch threw for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns to go with his 159 yards on the ground and 2 touchdowns there. He even managed a 61 yard run that could take your breath away.

Defensive Player of the Week: Devin Bass, CB, Ohio. If you watched the game on Saturday, it seemed as though Bass was everywhere on the field. He may have been the one to finally figure out teleportation. Though, maybe he just was smart and knew where to be at all times. The sophomore cornerback had a career-high of 11 tackles against Marshall to go along with his first interception of the season and a career-high four pass deflections.

Goat(s) of the Week: Central Michigan and Ball State. Comebacks run rampant in football, with most teams reverting back to the mean over the course of a game or a season. However, no one could see what was coming for these teams. Central Michigan took a 21-point lead over UNLV, but by the end of the third quarter was tied and ended up losing the game 35-21. Ball State, on the other hand, took a 20-3 lead over North Texas in the first quarter, only to suffer a loss to the Mean Green. Quarterback Derek Thompson gave North Texas the lead with nearly 10 minutes left in the game on a 26-yard run to seal the deal.

Mistake(s) of the Week: Kent State fails to cover the pass. Going into Sunday, no one seemed to expect Kent State to put up much of a fight against the LSU Tigers. It was worse than expected however, as the Golden Flashes struggled to keep up with the Tigers’ offense. Kent State’s biggest mistake was early in the game as Zach Mettenberger had all day and threw it toward a corner route where three Kent State players could be seen near the LSU receiver. None of which seemed able to locate the ball and make a play.

Game of the Week: Akron at #11 Michigan. What else could it be? Eastern Michigan and Rutgers was a close second because of the retiring of Eric LeGrand’s number. However, nothing can top the excitement of seeing a team that managed only one win last season take one of the top contenders of this season to the very last minute. A last second throw going off the fingertips of a receiver gave Michigan the close win, but it wasn’t easy.

Quote(s) of the Week:

“We almost lost to Akron, no disrespect to Akron,” Devin Gardner said to reporters after the game.

I think there was some disrespect in that comment.

“I don’t care if we are playing Saline High School or the Super Bowl champs, you can’t turn the ball over,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.

It seems that Michigan didn’t take kindly to Akron nearly beating them, first the disrespect from Gardner then a comparison to a high school team.

Game(s) to Watch Next Week: Western Michigan will take on Iowa at noon on Saturday. After Iowa’s loss at the start of the season to Northern Illinois they’ve been unstoppable. Could Western Michigan pull it off after giving Northwestern a run for their money?

Also, Toledo visits Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan plays host to Ball State as conference play starts to open up more. So far there’s been one conference game, a Bowling Green beat down on Kent State. It’s time for the MAC to get more exciting.

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