2023-08-31 08:51

Let's look at the next 2 Conferences.

Mid American Conference

The MAC did so far survive the realignments unscratched and unchanged.
The Conference is stable since 1998, only a few teams did come and go as affiliate members, latest was UMass a few seasons ago, but no team did leave and no team did come in as full member since Buffalo joined 1998.
It's hard to say, whether this is a good move or a bad one.
Changes are sometimes a motivation for improvements and with no changes, is there enough improvement to keep the teams on the same level compared to the other conferences?
Because that's what this is all about.
The fat conferences do get fatter, meaning they can have better facilities, better coaches, more whatever and the MAC does stay on the same level.
I doubt the TV income will increase at the same speed as the income of the BIG10 or SEC, so relatively the teams in the MAC will become worse, likely.
At some point, likely, there will be a split in the super-rich conferences and the rest, and the MAC will be likely rest material.
The only thing the MAC can sell is, their stability.
That might have a value, I’m just doubting it has the same value as the entertainment the others do sell.

The conference is still split into 2 divisions, East and West.
The East will be likely decided by Ohio and Miami (OH), but Buffalo and Bowling Green will challenge that.
The West is likely Toledo’s to lose as defending Champ, followed by a bunch of teams, including Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois and Central Michigan.

Let's start with Ohio, led by Tim Albin in his 3rd season. Last year they reached the conference finale but lost to Toledo. The schedule is OK this season; the team should be fine. The so called 'Battle of the Bricks' against Miami (OH) is at home, so all is set to have a championship season, if the team does click.

Miami (OH) has Chuck Martin in his 10th season, which makes him one of the longest serving HC in the MAC, tied at #1 actually, and he won the conference in 2019 and the fans do dream with the return of their QB of another championship. But the schedule is not nice, they even play Toledo as team from the West, and they lost some key players. They might lack the last piece to have the best position to win the division.

Buffalo is on the rise, with Maurice Linguist in his 3rd season, guiding them to a bowl win last year. But the team has not many starters to return, so it will depend on how the backups do flourish in the starter role. Playing 2 of the toughest teams from the West will also not help to boost the conference win total.

Scot Loeffler is in his 5th season with Bowling Green, and it is tough to say, they will finish 4th or 3rd. They have a few more starter back than Buffalo, but they need to find a new QB, have also a tough schedule and have also an unfavorable schedule inside the division, regarding home and away games.

Akron under Joe Moorhead, last year his 1st with the team, did become stronger, so expectations are, they will grow even stronger this season. But it usually takes time to get a team to certain level and it's unlikely this will happen this season. A tough schedule will not help to boost the wins towards bowl region.

And Kent State has a new HC, Kenni Burns, who did serve last as RB-coach for Minnesota since 2019. His 1st gig as HC, taking over a team, which did have a down year last season, and which HC did bold the team to become the OC at Colorado. The team he gets is OK, but this kind of transition is tough. It could happen the team does skyrocket again, but I doubt it.

Toledo is the defending Champion of the MAC and boy, it looks really good for a repeat. Jason Candle is in his 8th season as HC and did bring the program so far 2 Conference Championships. 16 Starters are back from last year, means a lot of experience on the field. A quite good schedule does help, too. Only concerns are that some playmakers of last season are gone and only time will tell whether some other players will step up or the team might lose some games they would have won with those guys on the roster.

I don't get why Chris Creighton, now in his 10th season with Eastern Michigan, does not get (at least in public) offers for a better paid job. The Eagles are one of the toughest spots to coach, they were not bad on his arrival, they were super-bad, and he did turn them around in 3 seasons, went to 5 bowls (but lost 4) and did win last year in a tie the division and only the direct compare did send Toledo to the Championship game. The Eagles are quite good loaded, so they might challenge Toledo for 1st place this year. The crucial game is a road game, so IF they can overcome the Rockets, likely they are in very good shape.

What about Northern Illinois? They had a down season, thanks to injuries to their QB and some other key players. Those are back and the teams’ fans do dream of another Championship. But they have some issues on defense, at least last year, and it will be crucial, if they want to compete, that they solve those issues. Thomas Hammock is now in his 5th season, won the conference surprisingly in his 3rd season and maybe ... maybe, we will be surprised again.

I would have bet, that Jim McElwain, now in his 6th season with Central Michigan, would be on a hot seat after the 4-8 season last year. He had won the division a year before and in his 1st season, but that drop last year was big, in terms of wins. But instead, he got an extension for 3 seasons, which means, that firing him will come with a hefty price, if he would fall from grace. More likely he would be kept, and he is save this season for sure. The team has an ok level of returning starters, but only a QB better on his feet than through the air and the team will have to do something on the turnover rate, which was really bad last year. They might get to a bowl.

Mike Neu is in his 8th season with Ball State, but since the last Championship in 2020, the team did not manage to have a winning season, most of the time by losing close games. I doubt the team will turn around fast, but it will all depend on how the team will react in close games. It seems they do lose the control and lose the game by that, but if they fix this, they can get a lot of more wins.

And on last place is left Western Michigan, which hired Lance Taylor, last year’s OC of Louisville, as new HC. The Broncos were once, most of the time, the better team of the 3 Michigan teams in the Division, but it seems the team has lost some juice and it will be interesting to see, whether Taylor will have a huge impact on the team, or not. Only 2 starters returning, the rest will be new, backups or transfers. The coach was once handled as the next hot thing, and this job will be his 1st prove, or not.

Bottom line is, I think the MAC will have a strong competition inside the conference, but I doubt they will make a big impression on the non-conference games. It seems the teams did cover up internally and what happens outside their conference is beyond the horizon.

Next in line is from my point of view then the

Mountain West Conference

The Mountain West had some changes 10 years ago, was threaten by some movement plans of valued members, but overall, there are so far, no changes.
Well, one change did happen this season, the conference did eliminate the division model and put every team together, as many other conferences did or do right now.
The 2 best record teams will then play for the conference championship.
Means, gone are the division- and inter-division-games, now it's 8 opponents from the conference and if you are lucky, they are easy, if you are not, they are the top 8 teams.

Last year, Fresno State won the conference in the championship game against Boise State. This season the by far highest rated teams internally to win the conference are Boise State, Air Force, Fresno State and San Diego State.

Boise State under Andy Avalos, now in his 3rd season, did rise in the ranks and did almost win the conference last season. Likely the reasons for the high expectations this season are the program itself, which is a top team in the conference for many years and did prove to bring in every year new talent, the returning QB and also the fact that the departures are spread over almost every position group, but never too severe. I think the offense will be a force, the defense might take a small step backwards, but nothing the offense won't cover.

Air Force under Troy Calhoun, his 17th season, is a force, especially on defense. The team won 10 games the last 2 season each. Main concern for me is, they have to find new offense playmakers on QB and RB, which might become easy or not. The line is great, so IF he finds a good pair of playmakers, Air Force ins heavily in the game. If not, 2nd place won't be in reach.

Fresno State won last year, but Jeff Tedford does face the same issues as Air Force, playmakers are gone and now in his 5th season as HC, he might have to face a reloading seasons. Hard to judge, since the defense looks still impressive. The schedule is a bit in their favor, how much ... we have to see.

San Diego State had already a game on week zero and did show some explosive offense, but also some bad defense. They won, but in a close one. Brady Hoke is in his 6th season and rebuilding the defense will likely be his top priority with only 2 starters back. The offense got a new coordinator to get the production up, which was bad last year. Locking at the schedule, this team could land almost on any place in the conference. If they win the hard games, they are championship caliber, if they lose the softer ones, they will drown in the pit of the conference.

Brent Brennan is in his 7th season with San Jose State and the team won the conference in 2020, but since then and before only average seasons. No wonder the team has some expectations to fulfill. They have likely the best QB at their side and a good core returning on defense, but the schedule is one of the hardest you can have inside the conference. So, either they will flourish or not. I think they will win some and lose some, likely will have again an average season.

When Craig Bohl was given the HC job at Wyoming, I thought he either would suck or get things done and leave for something better paid. Well, he did get the job done, did turn Wyoming into a winning team, but he did not move on and now his 10th season. Maybe the conditions are great, maybe the lack of winning it all, whatever does keep him at Wyoming, the team should be glad. Unfortune the offense is a project and needs to get better, the defense should be the anchor to keep the team in the game.

Last year it looked like UNLV would get things done after a great start, but the team lost almost every game of the last 7 and the HC was let go. New in is former Missouri HC and latest Arkansas DC Barry Odom. Expectations are, he does get UNLV into the winning group again. The team actually got one 1st place prediction inside the MWC, which is quite surprising, since the sum of all prediction does see them at 9th place. The pieces are absolutely there to have a winning season, they only have to work together. With a mix of problems at the start and getting it done later in the season the team will likely end in mid-field somewhere.

Blake Anderson came in at Utah State from Arkansas State and won the conference in 2021, but last year the team did crash and now has to pick up the pieces to eventually fly again to the championship game. Talents did transfer out, the incoming guys are promising, but new and it's open, whether the team will click as good as 2021. Likely not.

I did not really understand why Jay Norvell did leave Nevada to become the HC of Colorado State. Must have been a huge raise he got. But CSU was not really good in his 1st season, winning only 3 games. Many starters do return, so with having 1 year under the belt on the new offense and defense, the team should make a jump. How far is open, I do not expect a giant leap.

Hawaii did show they can play last week with the game against Vanderbilt, but how good the team will be is open. Timmy Chang is in his 2nd year and last year the team did not play well, lost many games. The hope is of course that the team get used to Changs offense in the 2nd year and the team turns around. If the Vanderbilt game was a real indicator, the team will play better and might win some more games. The home advantage is quite huge, so if the team has skills they might win more at home and get to a bowl.

Ken Wilson took over last year a quite good Nevada team and it did respond with just 2 wins. That can happen, since the new coach brings in new assistants, change of systems and so on. Transfers should help to strengthen the team, we will have to see, whether that will be enough. I don't expect a fast progress here.

I guess Danny Gonzales, now in his 4th season, is on a hot seat at New Mexico. The team was bad last year, winning only 2 games and lost the last 9. The recruiting and the talent do not look promising on a turnaround, so either he gets some more wins by the team by coaching or the team will have a new coach next year, I guess.

For me the Mountain West has the potential to become a much stronger conference, since years, but somehow it lacks the last step. Instead, it looks like the conference will again become one of the strongest, but not THE strongest group of 5 conference this season. I hope they manage to get some upsets done against power 5 conference teams.


The concept of the independent schools becomes more and more strange, since what drives budgets are the TV incomes and sustaining high income as individual independent program is tough. Some did try it on purpose and did from my point of view fail like BYU in the past decade or so, some do still manage to do it, like Notre Dame. Most teams in this mix did for whatever reason not manage to get an invite to a suiting conference and were left alone as indy team. They are more or less the homeless teams. The win record inside the group is meaningless, only wins do count towards bowl eligibility and eventually towards playoffs.

Because of the realignment this group did shrink heavily compared to last season.
Liberty and New Mexico State did join the Conference USA, BYU did join the BIG 12.

Left are 4 teams, as different as it can be.

Notre Dame is the best build independent team there is, thanks to a hefty TV contract with NBC, and as long as that contract runs, any flirtation to get the team into one of the power 5 conference is fruitless. Why NBC still likes the model is a mystery for me, I can only guess they get good income on the games they do broadcast exclusively.
Marcus Freeman is as HC of the Irish in his 2nd season. He did win 9 games last year, including a bowl win. Most concerning was they did not win many games against the good teams.
This season they have a quite similar schedule and likely their offense will be a bit better, but they do lack a good defense line, which might cost them again the important games to get seriously into the playoff conversation.
The team will for sure get back to a high value bowl, I doubt a playoff spot.

Army is the next team, and they have a very different situation compared to Notre Dame. They have no money problem, they have a recruiting problem. Because the military units do only recruit out of their troops, or better every recruit will be a soldier and if you have top level talent, most likely you will sign up to become a soldier, you want to become a millionaire.
Jeff Monken is in his 10th season with the team and had great seasons with 10+ wins and some seasons with much less, not getting into a bowl.
This season they need a new QB and need to get the units a bit up, after a 6-6 season. The defense, especially the secondary will be good, but overall the team will likely have a similar season as last year. Only if the QB does overachieve the expectations, the team will win much more games.

UConn, the University of Connecticut, was a mess for several seasons and made a splash move on the coaches market last year, hiring Jim Mora, former HC of several teams in NFL and college. The team did respond in a great manner by winning 6 games, much more than a lot of years in the past. It’s expected the team will flourish a bit more this season. The schedule is challenging, the team could land actually between 3 and 9 wins I think, so likely it will depend on injuries and how the team does grow in Moras system.
The college itself is one of those homeless teams, they seemed not to fit in any conference. It will be interesting to see, whether they will get an invite at some time.

UMass, University of Massachusetts, is the last team on the indy list, another homeless team. They did not fit in any conference so far. As UConn, the school is more a basketball first school, so football is just side project. Don Brown is back as HC, since last season, and had in his first session with the team (as FCS team) a good record, won their conference twice. Now he took over a mess, nickname UMess, and won 1 game last year. Expectations are high the team does turn around fast, but the circumstances are hard. Likely the team will not win many games, but hopefully they will get tougher, stronger and then win some games, they did lose last year. I don’t see a bowl game coming.

Let's have a look at last weeks game.


Sat. Aug 26
Navy @ #13 Notre Dame
There was not much resistance from Navy in this game.
The 1st game of a season is always tricky to judge, you can interpretate everything into this.
The fact is, it's roughly 10 years ago Navy lost with that kind of margin or higher.
Last year, this game was a 3-point-difference-game, this year 39!
Navy was unable to score until garbage time in 4th quarter, when they were behind 42:zip.
Is Notre Dame ready to get into the playoffs? Don't know.
Is Navy bad as it can be? Don't know.
The circumstances were clearly in favor of the Irish and Navy under a new coach has obviously a lot of work to do.
Everything else is your interpretation as you like it.
Navy 3 @ #13 Notre Dame 42 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 1-0

Ohio @ San Diego State
Ohio did play good, but not good enough.
At the half the team was behind 6:10, in the 3rd quarter it looked like the teams found some sort of even level of strength, but Ohio did not use their chances and SDSU did, when they finally scored then already in the 4th quarter.
Afterwards Ohio was unable to move the ball and the Aztecs did put another TD on top, so that Ohio was already way behind.
But they did answer the TD with their own TD right afterwards, stopped SDSU and managed to get a fast drive going, which ended with an INT.
I think Ohio is in good shape for the MAC, not sure about the Aztecs.
Ohio 13 @ San Diego State 20 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 2-0

Hawai'i @ Vanderbilt
This year this game was much closer, and Hawaii was never really close to an upset, but they did at least scare the Commodores a bit.
Vandy scored 1st, then did Hawaii and at that point they were leading by 1.
Then a great kickoff return TD by Vandy and on the next drive another Vandy TD and Hawaii is down by 14.
But Hawaii did not give up, they trailed 14:21 at the half, trailed even 14:28 after the 3rd and 14:35 at the beginning of the 4th quarter, when Vandy did punch in another TD, but then Hawaii had enough, scored 2 TDs in a row, and had the ball for a last chance.
The drive ended with an INT and Vandy won by 7, but I think Hawaii will give more teams a scare than last year.
And Vanderbilt? Not sure, but I think they will have a hard time inside the SEC.
Hawai'i 28 @ Vanderbilt 35 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 3-0

And the other interesting games are (all of then, there are not too many):

UTEP @ Jacksonville State
UTEP came close in the 4th quarter, but at the end the Gamecocks did win their FBS home opener 17:14.
Jacks interesting games Score: 1-0

UMass @ New Mexico State
Who loves stats? This is for you. Last time UMass won the opener, on the road? Well ... to be precise it's Saturday, but beside that? 1973 and in total 24 games in that period.
So UMass won this season the opener, 41:30, and the Aggies did lose, big. Which did surprise me.
Jacks interesting games Score: 1-1

San Jose State @ #6 USC
USC won 56:28, and I think USC has all the tools to play on top level.
Jacks interesting games Score: 2-1

Florida International @ Louisiana Tech
FIU did surprise me, or maybe just the weakness of the Bulldogs, still LT won 22:17.
Time will tell, whether FIU is on the rise or LT will have a hard time this season.
Jacks interesting games Score: 3-1

And now a look at the upcoming games. As you might know, the 1st few weeks of college football are dominated by inter-conference games and usually the big teams do schedule cupcake opponents from weaker conferences and often also from FCS, the level below the FBS level.
Traditionally that means AFTER the weekend we see several upsets and many 40+ point margin wins. Also, some close games, where the wanna-be-stronger team did get away with a scare against the has-to-be-weaker team. Most of those games have no real meaning, since the playoff ranks are mostly based on the later games, but if a contender struggles early, it sometimes does change the direction of the program.
But usually, several good games are also in the mix on the weekend, no wonder with 100+ teams having their 1st game, not all can be cupcake games.


Fri. Sept 1
Florida @ #14 Utah
Billy Napier is in his 2nd season with Florida and last year his team managed a 6-7 record, including a bowl loss. Utah on the other and is still in the hands of Kyle Whittingham, who is in his 19th season with the team and who managed to win back-to-back-PAC-12-Championships.
On first look, no wonder Utah is favored to win here.
But the line is only -4.0, while all signals do point towards Utah.
Strong team, at home, opponent a piece of work, rebuilding not done.
But Florida is one of those schools, which can become strong very fast.
SEC-resources, a good name, a good coach, now one year already in the box.
We might see a surprising strong team here.
And last year we saw a Utah loss, in Florida, with the new coach.
Utah did rebound from that and won a lot of games, but it did show, the 1st game of the season is tricky.
Overall, for me, this is a coin toss, since several factors are hard to judge.
Which team will be ready? I mean, READY!
Which team did improve most?
How much does the home field count?
My gut feeling says Florida will have the edge here, but this can go any way.
Gators win.

Sat. Sept 2
Boise State @ #10 Washington
Boise State is a solid team, the problem here is, they do face on the 1st gameday a team which was transformed by Kalen DeBoer, now in his 2nd year, in very short time.
The Huskies did almost get to the Championship game last year and all expectations are they will be equally good, if not better, this year.
Washington is favored by 14.5 points, and I think they will only lose this, if the team does underestimate the Broncos.
If the Broncos do solve their open issues and play a perfect match, they can upset the Huskies, on the road.
But that's a heavy task for the 1st gameday, hence I pick the home team.
Huskies win.

#5 LSU @ #8 Florida State
This is meant to be a top clash.
Both teams are highly ranked in the pre-season.
Whether this is justified ... we will see.
LSU had some sort of reborn season under new HC Brian Kelly. Not sure why he never managed to make Notre Dame THAT tough as LSU was in his 1st year, but the Tigers did play tough, won the division and lost to later National Champion Georgia in the Championship game.
Now the expectations are through the roof, of course.
On the other hand, is Florida State, which was not really in a good shape since the departure of Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M. Mike Norvell was close to firing, when he only won 3 and 5 games in his first 2 seasons with the team. But last year the team won 10 games and expectations are of course now, they do not only win games, they win the important ones.
This game here is one of those, even it's only inter-conference.
A win against a SEC-team would mean that the team is pointing at the right direction, the top, national attention.
Not sure there is more hope in this than fact, the betting line is only -2.5 LSU, means, a close game is expected.
And within a close game, everything can happen.
Me personally, I believe in FSU when I see them winning. Until then ...
Tigers win.

And some other interesting games:

Fri. Sept 1
Nebraska @ Minnesota
A new coach for Nebraska, after the hail-to-the-former-Husker-Hero-Experiment did fail. Matt Rhule did prove he can coach, and he can turn teams around, but not on the 1st gameday in his 1st season. Minnesota is a well-coached team, an upset in Gophers country would be a huge surprise. Minnesota is favored by 7.0 points.
Golden Gophers win.

Louisville @ Georgia Tech
Last year, 1/3 of the season gone, Brent Key was named interims coach of the yellow jackets and did win games, which were thought to be losses.
The team did show some spirit, which did earn him the job permanently.
Now he has to show, he can transform GT further.
Louisville has also a new HC, Jeff Brohm of Purdue, and it will be interesting to see, how he can make Louisville a winner again.
The Cardinals are favored by 7.5 points to win against the jackets, but I think that will be hard piece of work, if they want to do that.
If the jackets come out prepared, I think they can actually win this.
Yellow Jackets win.

Sat. Sept 2
#21 North Carolina @ South Carolina
This is tricky. Betting line is -2.5 in favor of UNC, even they are guest on 1st gameday against a rival , which does get stronger so far with every season.
I'm willing to bet on the Gamecocks here, since North Carolina did lack consistence over the seasons and even I do expect a close game, I think the home team factor will be big.
Gamecocks win.

'Til next time

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