Every Friday, our staff at The Comeback will share our conference predictions for the 2017 season. This week, we go on the record with our picks for the MAC, which is a conference full of intriguing storylines to follow.
MAC East Division
Miami (4 first-place votes)
Ohio (1 first-place vote)
It seems pretty convincing that the Miami RedHawks will be returning to the MAC championship game for the first time since 2010. There were some mild differences in opinions in the East, but for the most part our standings tended to follow similar trends with the order.
MAC West Division
Toledo (5 first-place votes)
Two things about the MAC West were nearly unanimous among our staff. Toledo winning the division was unanimous with the Rockets sweeping the first-place votes. Ball State coming in last was nearly unanimous, with four of five sixth-place votes and one fifth-place prediction.
Michigan will enter the 2017 season with the least experienced two-deep roster in the FBS, according to Phil Steele.
However, Jim Harbaugh and Co. have continued to reel in elite recruiting classes while in Ann Arbor. Entering his third year at the helm, Harbaugh has not yet seen an incoming position group as talented as his 2017 wide receivers. Unanimous five-star Donovan Peoples-Jones is without a doubt the crown jewel of this five-man group, and he will look to make an immediate impact this fall.
Without top receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, incoming freshman will compete for starting positions alongside Nate Johnson, Maurice Ways, Eddie McDoom, and Kekoa Crawford. Grant Perry has been working out with the team but is indefinitely suspended until the conclusion of his legal proceedings on July 17 when he will appear in the Ingham County Circuit Court.
This years competition is unusual because of the lack of experience for the incumbent players, who are usually more experienced than their younger cou
Continuing our MAC position previews here at The Comeback this week, I break down the conference’s tight ends and wide receivers. Even though All-Americans Corey Davis and Michael Roberts have moved on to the next level, the league still has plenty of outstanding pass catchers.
Q. Who are the top returning receivers in the MAC?
4. James Gardner, WR, Miami – Top receivers take their play to another level against tougher competition. Gardner certainly fits that category. In two games against Power 5 opponents last year (Iowa and Mississippi State), he caught 11 passes for 187 yards (17. 3 ypc) and three touchdowns. In addition, he was one of the more explosive players in the league, ranking fourth in yards per catch (16.67) and third in receptions longer than 20 yards (17). He’ll team up with Jared Murphy and tight end Ryan Smith to form one of the better trios in the conference.
3. Scott Miller, WR, Bowling Green – A dependable target, Miller earned first-team All-MAC honors last season. He caught
Illinois is very bad at football. The Fighting Illini haven’t had a winning season since 2011 and haven’t won more than seven games since 2007.
So how do they stick out to recruits? Apparently by going after a 10-year-old who is faster than other 10-year-olds.
The coach of fourth-grader Bunchie Young tweeted that Young had received an offer from Illinois, and that tweet was retweeted by Illinois quarterback coach Garrick McGee. There’s a lot of lunacy here. The biggest lunacy is that schools and coaches do this because they can’t show value by paying players, so instead they try to show value other ways. Other ludicrous aspects:
This offer isn’t committable until 2024, so it really means nothing.
Young won’t be a college freshman until 2025, which would be coach Lovie Smith’s 10th season, and Illinois hasn’t had a 10-year coach since 1959.
We have no idea whether Young will be a great football player.
Very excited for Illinois to offer a scholarship to Tom Brady’s next unborn child.
Is 2017 the year that Toledo returns to the MAC championship game? 20 years ago, the answer to that question would have been a resounding yes. Under the leadership of Gary Pinkel and Tom Amstutz, the Rockets appeared in five of the first nine MAC championship games, capturing the title in 2001 and 2004.
Unfortunately, Toledo hasn’t appeared in the league title game since then. They’ve come close, capturing a share of the MAC West title in 2005, 2011, 2014, and 2015. However, the Rockets managed to lose the wrong game at the wrong time, finding themselves on the wrong side of the tiebreaker in each of those seasons.
Will that change this year? In a word: yes. In fact, I’ll go on record as saying that Toledo will win the MAC in 2017.
Don’t get me wrong: the Rockets still have holes to fill. After all, they have to replace a number of first and second team all-MAC performers such as Kareem Hunt, Michael Roberts, Storm Norton, Mike Ebert, John Stepac, Treyvon Hester, and Dejuan Rogers. Despite these losse