Friday, November 07, 2014

MAC Blogger Roundtable, Compiled for this week!

The MAC Blogger Roundtable is back this week, hosted by yours truly.  This week, we have responses from Let's Go Rockets, Eagle Totem, Hustle Belt,  and Bull Run.

1. The MAC has 3 freshman in the top 10 in rushing yards and only 1 in receiving yards. Do you think RB is an easier position to break in, or is it just something about these specific guys?

(Eagle Totem) I was originally going to blame this on quarterback play being down this year compared to last year, but statistically, across the league quarterback play is up. Completion percentages, yards per attempt, yards per game, etc. are all up from last year. When you actually dig in to the numbers, the biggest change is that if you go back several years, guys like Eric Page and Jordan White were getting the ball 10 or more times a game. So far this fall no receiver is averaging more than 7 catches per game.

Western Michigan’s Corey Davis is the clear receiving leader, averaging 117 yards and a touchdown each game, and he’s doing that on about half the catches that Jordan White got. In fact, by number of catches, Davis doesn’t even lead the Broncos this year, he trails Daniel Braverman. And that, I think holds the key. Reciever play isn’t down, it may actually be up, but that leads to quarterbacks spreading out the ball a bit more, so there are fewer statistical standouts.

(Let's Go Rockets) We wouldn’t call the RB position “easier” to break into the top 10, but a contributing factor is that to be a top rated WR, for example, it required two players to be in sync — a WR and a QB. You can be the best WR in the conference but without a QB to get the ball out to you, you don’t have a chance to show what you can do. Conversely. the RB position is more of a one man show. Now, you can argue that a handoff has to occur and that without a solid offensive line, a RB is doomed, but for the most part, we feel that a solid RB can stand on their own merits a little more readily than some of the other positions.

(Hustle Belt) I think it's actually a combination of a lot of things. Now, I don't want to take anything away from these players, but hear me out. A couple years ago, it was all about the air raid. Teams that ran the ball successfully didn't look as flashy as the high scoring offenses like Toledo and WMU, and the league shifted towards that. Then Bowling Green and NIU come along with solid run games and defenses to stop the pass and all of a sudden, the MAC becomes theirs.

However, some teams got smart and shifted back to the run game, where many MAC teams lacked in talent to stop (see every MAC team in the state of Michigan). Plus, we're seeing a lot more of the ball being spread around in the passing game, while running backs have tended to be less by committee like the early part of the decade. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think that's the case.

Either way, these kids are studs, and I can't wait to see them progress into stars later in their careers.

(Bull Run) I do think that a receiver has a lot more to learn when moving to a new team/scheme than a running back does. It's also true that a running back who starts, no matter what class, is going to see a higher percentage of the running workload than a receiver will see of the passing workload.

I don't know that I would say that makes it easier "to break in" but it can give them a leg up in starting their college careers.

2. Only 3 MAC teams have kickers making 80% of their FG attempts. Are you surprised the kicking in the MAC isn’t better?

(Eagle Totem) EMU leads the nation in kicks and punts blocked.1 So, I give all credit to the men from Ypsilanti for the MAC’s struggling kicking this fall.

In all seriousness, it’s interesting that you’re asking about MAC kicking this week, because an apparently legitimate email yesterday informed me that yours truly has somehow landed on the (300 person) selection panel for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the top placekicker in the country. I was curious about the history of the award, and took a look at the list of past winners. No MAC kicker has ever won this award. This year the league leader is Jeremiah Detmer, who’s made 15 of 18 field goal kicks (83.3%) for Toledo, plus 35 of 36 PAT kicks (97%), nationally ranking him 25th and 66th, respectively. Let’s just say that this probably won’t be the year a MAC kicker breaks through into the ranks of the elite.

But to answer your question, Robert Stein has made 8 of 10 for Akron — right at that 80% mark — but the team number is dragged down by Tom O’Leary’s two misses in the first two games. The other thing to keep in mind is that field goals don’t get kicked that often (MAC teams are averaging less than two kicks per game), so external factors like bad weather, a bad snap, a bad hold, or a kicker being asked to make an extra-long kick can really skew the average. With that caveat, however, the overall level of MAC kicking really is bad this year, with only five times above 70%. By comparison, in 2012 only two teams were below that.

(Let's Go Rockets) It is somewhat surprising that the kicking game is not more consistent across the conference. Especially on teams where the most prolific chance to score falls to the kicking game, we would expect the kicking to be/get better.

(Hustle Belt) Ehhh, kinda? Like free throws, kicking has gone downhill in quality just in general the past few years. While, yes, there are still great kickers out there, the general reliability of kickers in the NCAA has plummeted. You would never have "should we just eliminate kicking" a couple years ago. Now? The kicker is an endangered species.

(Bull Run) I'm shocked and have no reasonable expectation for the problems. We can't blame a lack of talent across the league because some kickers have shown promise only to fall apart this season.

Patrick Clarke was amazing for his first two seasons at Buffalo. Then he was just good last year. His best days were his freshman and sophomore year.

This season whenever Clarke goes out for a field goal it's a crapshoot. Is MAC special teams coaching actually making kicker worse?

3. Quentin Rollins leads the MAC in interceptions. I know the two-sport athlete is nearly completely gone but do you think there are a lot of players on your football team who could start at another sport for your school?

(Eagle Totem) Well, it seems like every year there are a few football players who run track. Reggie Bell ran track — hurdles, I think — in high school, and watching him on the football field, I think he could find a spot on EMU’s stellar men’s track and field team.

(Let's Go Rockets) We think the legitimate two-sport starter takes a very special type of athlete that is not often seen. Most sports training now includes very specific exercises and skills which are focused on certain aspects of that athlete’s respective sport. This makes the athlete extremely good at the discipline but somewhat lacking in other areas. There may be some cross-over between football and track and field, for example, but generally speaking, you’re not going to see your QB playing goalie or your place-kicker playing catcher.

(Hustle Belt) Possibly. I mean, Fleck is recruiting a lot of athletic kids, so you'd have to assume they could do other things (like run track or play basketball). Daniel Braverman could easily be a track star for short distance for example. However, to start and to play are two different things, and I'm not so sure a two-sport athlete will get the nod more often than not over a one-sport specialist.

(Bull Run) I think the number of players who could be legit division one stars in both football and hoops is very small.Because those are the sports into which many of the best athletes are funneled.

I'm sure there are a number of football players who may have been good enough at an Olympic sport to be scholarship athletes. Sports like Track, Soccer, Wrestling, and perhaps swimming and baseball.

As to Rollins I think that his numbers are deceptive. His four picks came during weeks two, three, and four. He's not had a pick or a pass defended in the past three weeks. No doubt he is a good DB, perhaps an All MAC level player but there are a lot of DB's in the conference I would take ahead of him were the MAC to have a draft.

(Editor's Note: Yes, but were those other DBs standout basketball players, too?)

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