I'm going to say that Kent does not make it. They actually have 5 losses, but I think they lose to OU and beating both Army and @WMU is unlikely. (Side note: the Kent front 7 against the Army Run-Only attack has the potential to be a very interesting matchup).
Western could win out and get to 6 wins. They have EMU and Kent at home, each of which I like their chances in, and then they finish at BG, which you'd have to think they have a better than even chance of winning. These late season games for teams not in the title hunt are very tricky to pick though, because you don't know how much people will show up.
I'd say Kent, even with 5 losses, has the harder row to hoe.
2) In the past two years three coaches from the MAC have "moved up". Brady Hoke in 2008 and Turner Gill / Butch Jones in 2009. Which Coach or Coaches more out in 2010. Also which coaches get tossed on the garbage heap of failed and fired MAC coaches.
Moving up: Al Golden, Jerry Kill.
Moving out: Doug Martin, Bill Cubit
3) Right now three MAC teams are getting votes in various polls (NIU, Temple, and Ohio). Is the MAC starting to upswing off of the (real or perceived) fall off from 2004-2009?
First of all, the downswing was real....I don't think there is much debate. Now, as for any upswing, I'm not convinced of that yet. I watched NIU last night, however, and I was very impressed. That is a good MAC team that could have competed with a lot of teams over the past 10 years. There are still very few real upsets--the MAC has only 3 wins over BCS teams (Temple over UConn, NIU over MN, and UT over Purdue) and none of those against teams having great seasons.
I do think the conference is getting a little deeper. UT and OU are probably better than the #3 and #4 teams in recent years.
To believe there is an upswing, I'm going to need to see some bowl wins.
Final note; man, that NIU loss to Iowa State really stings, as does the close loss to Illinois).
4) So far this season what has been the story that defines the MAC? Which player's, team's, or mascot's news headline is most representative of the conference as a whole.
I'm going to say Miami, and for one reason. The story of the MAC is a story of non-permanence. No program has shown the ability to sustain excellence beyond the presence of a specific coach or star player or hot recruiting class. Miami was dreadful last year, and competing for the East title this year with a very young team. UT is also very young and very good. This is a conference in constant upheaval, and Miami represents that. (So, in their way, does CMU).
Finally: I'm looking at you, Eastern.
5) Rank MAC squads in order of pure 2010 Power
11. Ball State
6) Rank the Bottom 5 MAC Squads (from above) by how much improvement you might expect in 2011
A few comments:
I think BG will be improved next season, as the team matures. I also think Buffalo follows that trend, though they are making a transition in offensive scheme which can take longer. I don't know what to make of Ball State. The longer this goes on, the longer you look at Parrish's win-loss record and wonder (This year's 3 wins is his high since he was at Marshall). Akron should never have gotten this bad, and I can't imagine they won't bounce back but it doesn't feel like next year. EMU never seems to get better. Akron