Friday, January 27, 2023

CFB Week 1 Football Preview: Mid-American Conference

Thursday, September 2

Western Illinois at Ball State | 7 pm (ESPN+)

The defending Mid-American Conference Champion Cardinals return 16 “super seniors,” 20 starters, and three key specialists from the 2020 team which won the program’s first MAC title since 1996 and earned the first bowl victory in school history. Ball State finished 7-1 to earn a year-end ranking of No. 23 in both the AP and Amway Coaches polls. The Cardinals are currently riding a seven-game winning streak, which is tied for the eighth-longest streak in program history and is the tied for the fourth-longest active streak in the FBS. Matched with Louisiana, Ball State trails only Alabama (14), Oklahoma (eight) and Texas A&M (eight) for the longest-active winning streak in the country.

Wagner at Buffalo | 7 pm (ESPN3)

The University at Buffalo football team will kick off the 2021 season against Wagner on Thursday night at UB Stadium. Under new head coach Maurice Linguist, the Bulls are coming off a season in which they went 6-1, won the MAC East Division and defeated Marshall in the Camellia Bowl for their second straight bowl win. Buffalo returns 12 players who started two or more games in 2020. The Bulls have five players on the roster who took advantage of their extra year of eligibility due to Covid and are playing their sixth year. Offensive linemen Jake Fuzak and Jack Klenk, tight end Jake Molinich, wide receiver Dominic Johnson and linebacker Kadofi Wright are all in their sixth year.

Bowling Green at Tennessee | 8 pm (SEC Network)

Bowling Green opens with an SEC opponent for the first time since facing the same Tennessee program to open the 2015 season. BGSU is 4-8 all-time against current members of the SEC. Three of the four wins have come against Missouri, while the other one was against Kentucky in 1985. The Falcons have 71 combined student-athletes on its roster from the classes of 2020 and 2021, which means that 67.6 percent of its current roster was in high school the last time the Falcons played a non-conference game.

Friday, September 3

St. Francis at Eastern Michigan | 7 pm (ESPN3)

The 2021 Eastern Michigan University football season is set to begin Friday, Sept. 3, when EMU welcomes Saint Francis University to town for a 7 p.m. matchup at The Factory inside Rynearson Stadium. Friday’s game will mark the sixth time in eight years under Head Coach Chris Creighton that his team has opened its season in Ypsilanti. Starting the year in front of a home crowd has worked well for the Eagles in that span, as the team is 4-1 in season-debuting home games since 2014. Overall, Creighton-led EMU teams are 5-2 in its season openers, with the two losses coming to Old Dominion in 2015 and Kent State in 2020. Those two contests were lost by a combined eight points.

Saturday, September 4

Western Michigan at Michigan | Noon (ESPN)

Michigan and Western Michigan will meet for the eighth time on Saturday, with the Wolverines having won all seven previous meetings. Bronco QB Kaleb Eleby owns the top passer rating among returning FBS signal callers entering 2021. His rating of 195.08 last season trailed only Alabama Heisman finalist Mac Jones and BYU’s Zach Wilson. Pro Football Focus rates Western Michigan’s offensive line the best in the MAC entering 2020. The Bronco front returns four of five starters from a season ago when WMU had the second-rated line in the conference according to PFF.

Miami at No. 8 Cincinnati | 3:30 pm (ESPN+)

The “Battle for the Victory Bell” between Miami and Cincinnati is the longest-lasting collegiate football rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains, first being played in 1888. It is also the fifth-most played rivalry in Division I (FBS only) with 124 all-time meetings and is the oldest non-conference rivalry in the nation. The “Battle for the Victory Bell” between Miami and Cincinnati is the longest-lasting collegiate football rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains, first being played in 1888. It is also the fifth-most played rivalry in Division I (FBS only) with 124 all-time meetings and is the oldest non-conference rivalry in the nation.

Central Michigan at Missouri | 4 pm (SEC Network)

Central Michigan returns 22 starters this season – 10 on offense, nine on defense and three specialists. Overall, CMU returns 47 letterwinners while losing just six off last year’s team. Central Michigan features one of the best receiving duos in the nation in junior Kalil Pimpleton and senior JaCorey Sullivan. Both earned First Team All-MAC honors in 2019 while Pimpleton was also named a firstteam all-leaguer as a punt returner. Pimpleton earned second team honors last season at wide receiver. CMU has won seven of its last 10 seasonopening games with all three loses coming to Power 5 opponents.

Norfolk State at Toledo | 7 pm (ESPN3)

With a 4-2 record in 2020, Toledo kept its streak alive for seasons without a losing record. The Rockets have not had a losing season since 2009, a streak of 11 years. The Rockets are 85-41 in that span. Toledo returns every starter and 57 letterwinners from last year’s team. Among the starters returning from last season’s squad are a total of nine players who have made All-MAC at some point in their career. Six returners made All-MAC in 2020, and three others were honored in 2019. Thee Rockets had the No. 2 ranked defense in the MAC in 2020 after finishing dead last in 2019. The offense is packed with veterans at every position, including junior running back Bryant Koback, who has run for 2,626 yards and 30 TDs over the past three seasons.

Syracuse at Ohio | 7 pm (CBSSN)

Ohio opens the 2021 season on Saturday (Sept. 4) as it entertains ACC opponent Syracuse for the first time in 100 years inside Peden Stadium. Tim Albin enters his first season as head coach in 2021 after serving as Ohio’s offensive coordinator for the past 16 years under Frank Solich. Ohio’s offense has thrived under Albin’s watch while he served as the Bobcats associate head coach and offensive coordinator, with the Bobcats setting a total of 17 team records and 70 individual records. Nine of the top-10 seasons in terms of points scored and nine off the top-10 seasons in terms of yards gained in program history have occurred under Albin’s watch. Ohio’s offense has taken it to another level the last three seasons.

Akron at Auburn | 7 pm (SEC Network)

The game between the Zips and Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium will mark the second-ever encounter between the two schools. Last season, the Zips rated second in the NCAA in fewest penalties per game (31.67), fourth in fewest penalties per game (4.00), seventh in fewest penalty yards (190), eighth in fewest penalties (24), 13th in blocked punts (1), 22nd in first-down defense (124), 33rd in red-zone defense (.778), 34th in blocked kicks (1), 43rd in red-zone offense (.857) and 51st in time of possession (30.35). QB Kato Nelson is Akron’s active career leader in rushing attempts (335), pass attempts (762), pass completions (399), passing yards (5,138) and passing TD’s (34) and is responsible for 36 career offensive TD’s.

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