It was our turn this week to host the MAC Blogger Roundtable, we sent three questions around the table. Here are the responses we got back. Any thoughts?
1. There was an excellent article in Grantland about "paycheck" games. The author, Michael Weinreb, makes a couple interesting points that I'd like the group's reaction to. First:
"There used to be little difference between a season opener against Toledo and a season opener against Eastern Kentucky, but that's not true anymore. The gulf between the Mid-American Conference and the Big Ten has narrowed to the point that I'm starting to think the entire Leaders division should be relegated to the MAC West."
Saddle Up, Fight On
I love, love, LOVE that quote. When I first read it, I stood up and cheered. And why not? Is the MAC West not as competitive as that joke of a division? Seriously, look at it! Illinois? Almost 2 competitive games against WMU at home and a loss to them in Detroit in the last 5 years. Purdue? Almost lost to WMU in the Pizza Bowl last year (although they did shell shock a very weak EMU team last weekend). Penn State? Indiana? LOL.
The only really true teams in that division could be Ohio State and Wisconsin, both of whom have had their struggles. Ohio State looks poised to finally get back to being the dominant team in the state of Ohio after narrowly avoiding a loss last year to Toledo, but how long will that last? How long does Urban Meyer stay before he gets bored and goes home? As for Wisconsin? They look like they are in deep, deep trouble after winning the Big Ten last year.
We all know this will never happen though. With the way the Big Ten wants to control everything, including shutting me out of the Minnesota game last weekend (rat bastards), relegation and promotion will never happen in the NCAA, although it would be pretty cool. How long would the MAC champion last in place of say Indiana, Penn State, or Minnesota's spot? A few years? More than a decade? Quarter of a century or more? I'd like to think that the bump in recruiting for a team like 2003 Miami or 2011 NIU (or even this year's Ohio team if they can continue their success).
Great question, and the answer is no, no, no, no, no. Eastern Michigan lost to Purdue by 38 points. Purdue doesn't beat people by 38 points. It's a bit of hyperbole by Weinreb to say that either of our divisions caught up with a power-conference one. Now, can the MAC's three best teams beat the Big Ten's worst four? Give me OHIO, NIU and Toledo against Indiana, Minnesota, and Penn State. I would watch those games, they would be competitive, and the MAC would win more.
Over the Pylon
In some respects, I can see that and in other ways I can’t. The onfield product is becomingly increasingly closer in terms of quality but only at the very bottom of the Big 10 and the top of the MAC. This year’s BSU beat Indiana and could hang with several others, but the overwhelming majority of the Big 10 would put up some impressive numbers on their way to an impressive win. I think the main thing is about money and support though, as it always seems to be more about the dollars and cents than the x’s and o’s. Even as arguably the worst team in the Big 10, IU still was 44,000+ against BSU. I think in the last decade, we’ve cracked 20k maybe three times at home. That gulf is still present and maybe more prevalent than ever and that’s a shame. I think when you have that kind of support, it makes little sense to schedule a team like a BG, BSU or NIU that could actually beat you. Pay your money to a much more submissive whore and get your W.
2. Secondly, his point is that the advent of a playoff will make paycheck games a thing of the past. Do you agree and how will the advent of a playoff impact the MAC?
Saddle Up, Fight On
Yes I do agree in that those teams that currently pay for an easy win will have to schedule more tough teams in order to make this playoff. Sure the lesser teams of the "Power Conferences" will continue to play us during their down years, but don't expect UMass/Michigan or Buffalo/Georgia to happen under the new format as I understand it's set-up.
I personally hate this new playoff. What is in it for the MAC or any of the smaller conferences? Do you think the committee will honestly pick a 13-0 Ohio team that played no one non-conference over a 11-1 USC team that lost to Stanford, a 13-0 Oregon, 13-0 Alabama, and 1-loss Oklahoma, Stanford, or LSU team? Do you REALLY think that? Let's not kid ourselves here. This playoff is meant to keep the "haves not" out of the picture entirely. The MAC might as well delegate themselves down to the FCS level and win some national championships on that level. We'd kill there!
I think these games still serve as value to AQ conference teams more than they realize. Ohio State can play a B-minus game and still beat the Miami RedHawks by a huge margin. They can work out the kinks and prepare themselves for larger-scale tests. They may not play two or three of these games — maybe just one — but one might be enough.
Over the Pylon
In some ways, I think it depends on how the playoff is organized and what exactly the selection criteria and committee impact who is selected. For example, playing an FCS school may make getting to the playoff impossible. Playing a good FBS team and losing makes that even more so. So to me, it seems like lower tier FBS schools that look for those paycheck type games could come in very handy. So the Wisconsin’s, Michigan’s, and Ohio State’s of the world will be looking for close FBS teams that won’t likely beat them but won’t drag their standing down. Seems to me like the MAC would have about 13 of those said teas happy to make that work. From a selfish standpoint, I hope it doesn’t stop the paycheck games. If it does, I think I’ll have to get President Gora an account on PartyBingo.com so she can buy new uniforms for the women’s track team.
3. Is MAC football stronger than it was three years ago? Is it as strong as it was in the Marshall/Rothlisberger era?
Saddle Up, Fight On
Without a doubt it is stronger than it was 3 years ago. I think you see MAC schools being able to hang with the bigger schools and even possibly beat them. I'm talking pure top-to-bottom strength (or so it seems) minus CMU, EMU, and UMass. Akron and Buffalo are getting back there. Kent State as well. So while there is no "power" team like the late 2000's CMU, 2003 Miami, or the Marshall teams, the MAC is getting better as a whole.
I can't speak for the Pre-2005 era, because I'm a bit too young to judge those days. But I'll let you old farts discuss that.
Top-to-bottom I would say this hasn't changed much over the years. The noticeable difference is number of good teams at the top, and three years ago there weren't many outside Central Michigan. And I don't think you're going to see a class of great teams like we did in 2003 for some time. Miami, Marshall, BGSU, NIU, Toledo and even Akron all had the ability to beat top-25-talent teams. What we are better at, however, is opportunity to play teams slightly better, and the recent bowl record is reflecting that.
In terms of better teams, no the MAC is not better than they were 10 year ago. But especially factoring in realignmentpocalypse, they are in better shape.
Over the Pylon
I think at it’s core, it is. At least for those that know the conference well. Three years ago we had more marquee names like Chandler Harnish, Nate Davis, and Dan Lefevour, but there was very little parity. Now though there aren’t household names like then, there is a much more considerable feeling that the conference from top to bottom is better as a whole. Well… assuming you don’t count UMass.