Category Archives: MAC

Five quick college football predictions

I should really get out of the prediction business; I’m terrible at it.

Quitters never win.

Here are five very quick predictions I have on this college football season…

1. Alabama wins the national championship. Mount Union wins the Div. III national championship. Perhaps you’ve seen this movie before.

2. I am previously on record with this: Ball State will get to 12-1 by beating 9-4 Ohio in the MAC Championship Game.

3. There’s plenty of hype surrounding Louisville, but the Cardinals will lose their season finale at Cincinnati and the Bearcats will claim the AAC’s last automatic BCS bid.

4. Braxton Miller will sit on the stage at the Downtown Athletic Club for the Heisman Trophy ceremony in December. Johhny Manziel will sit there, too. A.J. McCarron will win it, and we’ll all hope Katherine Webb is there.

5. Ohio State will win. And win big. And win its first 11 games, then lose at Michigan. Then, the Buckeyes will turn the tables on the Wolverines and win the following week in the Big Ten Championship Game to get to 12-1 and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl, where they’ll beat Stanford.

Ice cream all around at Toledo

This is Toledo coach Matt Campbell’s elaborate way of stopping practice to feed his team ice cream.

Not surprisingly, the players love this guy.

It’s going to be about 122 degrees next Saturday when Toledo opens the season with a 12:22 p.m. kickoff at Florida, but on this night the Rockets were some cool customers.

MAC Football preseason poll – how Zac voted

DETROIT — In case anybody cares or wants to send some hate mail, I figured I’d share my votes in the preseason Mid-American Conference poll.

The poll was released Tuesday at MAC Media Day at Ford Field, and the consensus of the 25 voters was that Northern Illinois would defeat Ohio in the conference title game.

Toledo, Ball State and Central Michigan followed NIU in the West voting, with Bowling Green, Kent State and Buffalo behind Ohio in the West. Six teams got at least two votes to win the conference title game.

I voted a little differently. And here’s what my ballot looked like…

West

1. Ball State
2. Toledo
3. Northern Illinois
4. Western Michigan
5. Central Michigan
6. Eastern Michigan

East

1. Ohio
2. Bowling Green
3. Kent State
4. Buffalo
5. Akron
6. Miami-OH
7. UMass

I picked Ball State over Ohio in the title game. The Cardinals return experience and talent and have the kind of schedule a MAC team needs to rack up 10 or 11 (or even 12 with the right lightning strikes) wins. I believe Ohio’s experience will carry¬† it through the East, too, and the Bobcats schedule seems to set up better than that of its closest competitors.

It’s #MACtion. Anything can happen — and usually does.

A bunch of summer basketball stuff

Before we go into full football mode, a few leftover basketball notes…

*Earlier this week I wrote about Quincy Diggs and his return from a year’s suspension to the University of Akron basketball team.

You can read that story here.

If you want to see highlights from Diggs in the Cleveland-Akron Summer Pro Am at Walsh University, the guys at 3rd Coast Hoops have put this together. Diggs looks like a guy who can play point guard if Akron ends up needing him to, right?

The guys at 3rd Coast Hoops do an outstanding job covering basketball in Northeast Ohio and sharing highlights online. If you want to burn a couple hours, their site is a great place is a start.

*3rd Coast Hoops has landed highlights on major networks and websites all summer, and their timing is right with a bunch of talented prospects coming through the high school ranks in Ohio right now. During major shoe-company showcase events last week, Franklin’s Luke Kennard added offers from Kentucky and Michigan State, while Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph’s Carlton Bragg added offers from UCLA and Georgetown to what was already an impressive list. Bragg and Kennard are Ohio’s top two prospects in the class of 2015.

Those who know say the class of 2016 could be the best basketball class Ohio has produced in years. That group is headlined by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s VJ King.

*Speaking of Diggs and Akron, the Zips are headed to Hawaii at Christmas for the Diamond Head Classic. Dayton is going a month earlier for the Maui Invitational, and the Flyers will play a marquee first-round game there against Gonzaga.

Dayton won the Maui Invitational in 2003; Gonzaga won it in 2009. The Maui Invitational is one of the best early-season tournaments every year, and this year should be no different with Syracuse, Minnesota and Baylor also in the field.

The Dayton-Gonzaga game is Monday Nov. 25 and the Maui championship game is in its traditional spot two nights later on the night before Thanksgiving.

Akron opens its tournament against Oregon State. Iowa State, Boise State, George Mason, South Carolina, Hawaii and St. Mary’s are also in the field.

*Things didn’t go as planned for Team USA at the World University Games in Russia earlier this month as the Americans went 6-2 but did not medal.

Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick averaged 7.5 points per game off the bench but shot just 32 percent. Iowa’s Aaron White, a native of Strongsville, Ohio, averaged 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds, and Michigan State’s Adreian Payne started three games and averaged 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds.

*Xavier sophomore guard Semaj Christon has accepted an invitation to the exclusive Chris Paul Elite Camp next month in the Clippers’ point guard’s hometown of Winston-Salem N.C.

At least two other Ohio players have been contacted by the camp but their attendance hasn’t yet been confirmed.

A hilarious act of, um, bravery

I’m late to this party, but that happens all the time.

Anyway…

The Mid-American Conference might never get a team back to the Orange Bowl, but the MAC keeps raising the bar for maximizing exposure and selling its brand.

The latest bit of MAC innovation comes from Bowling Green sports information director Dave Meyer, who came up with the idea of suiting up and taking a sack from defensive tackle Ted Ouellet.

Meyer is, um, brave. And Bowling Green is boldly racking up the YouTube hits.

Notice the label on Meyer’s helmet with his blood type.

This is brilliant. This is #MACtion.

You’ll be missed, Charlie Coles

I only have a minute because I’m on the road this weekend for a wedding, but I’m very saddened to learn of the death of former Miami University basketball coach Charlie Coles.

Charlie had a minute for everybody.

Charlie Coles stories provided laughs for days and years.

He wasn’t well, which led to his retirement just over a year ago. It positively stinks that he didn’t get more time to enjoy his retirement, but I’m absolutely certain that he never got cheated while he was here.

This is a guy who died on the court once — really — before medics brought him back. That was 25 years ago.

He kept coaching, kept cracking jokes, kept telling the truth. Kept entertaining everybody he encountered.

I knew when I wrote this in the winter of 2012 that it was an obituary of sorts at least terms of his coaching career, and that it didn’t do Charlie justice. I just read it myself a few minutes ago and I laughed. I’d have started to cry, but I pictured Charlie laughing.

And making faces like he did after that famous Kentucky game.

And getting all red-faced like he did with officials.

Read (and heed) the beer-buying offer at the end of the story. That was Charlie. He meant it.

I’ll toast one him this weekend. Charlie Coles was truly one of a kind.

Toledo lands QB transfer from Alabama

Toledo played two quarterbacks in 2011 and for parts of last season, too. One, Austin Dantin, has exhausted his eligibility. Terrence Owens, who emerged as the starter last year, will be a senior this season.

The Rockets have added three quarterbacks since February: Freshman Logan Woodside of Kentucky, freshman Michael Julian of South Carolina and now Alabama transfer Phillip Ely, a native of Florida.

Think this mid-week TV exposure thing is working for the Mid-American Conference?

Toledo won nine games in Matt Campbell’s first season as head coach last year. The Rockets turnaround started under Tim Beckman, who rode two years of success to the job at Illinois following the 2011 season. Toledo hasn’t been able to get past Northern Illinois to win the MAC West but the Rockets have played in three straight bowl games following a five-year drought.

Another good season could be on the horizon, though the Rockets open the season at Florida and at Missouri. If they can survive that SEC double with their starters healthy and intact, they’ll be right in the mix in the MAC West again, likely with Northern Illinois and Ball State.

According to this AL.com article, former Toledo coach Nick Saban helped Ely find a new home.

Multiple reports last month said the MAC is working on extending its mid-week TV deal with ESPN, a deal that would be good for both sides and is crucial to the MAC’s continued growth and sustaining last year’s success. SportsTime Ohio remains the league’s Saturday TV partner.

Never boring Kent State baseball wins another wild one

AKRON – Standing in the Canal Park dugout as the game wore on and the scoreboard re-started the inning count, Kent State coach Scott Stricklin had a little deja vu.

Maybe the most famous game in Kent State’s famous run to the College World Series last summer was the first, a 21-inning win over Kentucky in the regionals. And here, Thursday night, with not as much on the line but still in an important spot, Stricklin thought back.

It’s a different year and a totally different set of circumstances, but the Flashes finally beat Akron, 5-4, in 17 innings Thursday night to keep their hopes alive of winning the Mid-American Conference regular-season title. The winning run was produced when Derek Toadvine advanced from first to third on a Sawyer Polen bunt in the top of the 17th, then scored on an Evan Campbell top fly.

All are familiar names from last year’s run.

“It was after that 21 inning game that we really took it to a new level last year,” Stricklin said.

So the challenge is there again. Kent State will have to win next week’s MAC tournament in Avon, Ohio to get back to the NCAA tournament; either the Flashes or Buffalo will be the No. 1 seed.

Kent State took a 4-0 lead in the first three innings Thursday night; the Zips got all their runs in one big inning. Three times in extra innings Thursday Akron left a runner stranded on third base.

The night’s other big winner was Akron Children’s Hospital; the seventh annual Diamond Classic for Kids drew a crowd of more than 2,200 and raised almost $21,000 for the hospital.

“Get something to eat and get some sleep,” Stricklin told his team after the game — and about 12 hours before they were due back on the bus for the second game of the series. In college baseball, the show goes on quickly.

A boring program Kent State is not. It is one that’s used to playing its best at this time of year, and we’ll see starting today (game two of the series started at 3 p.m.) if the Flashes can ride the momentum they gained from winning in 17 innings.

Toadvine’s baserunning heroics can be seen in the video below

‘One tough dude,’ Cribbs signs with Oakland

We knew the Browns and Joshua Cribbs were going to part ways, and after several false alarms it has happened.

Cribbs has a new team, the Oakland Raiders. He signed a one-year deal on Wednesday after a prolonged and strange free agency courtship that included plenty of suitors — and plenty of concern about the knee Cribbs had scoped after the Pro Bowl.

As recently as this week, Jets general manager John Idzik said publicly that his team’s medical staff believed the knee “wasn’t there yet.”

The Browns weren’t one of the suitors for Cribbs. Even though they never gave a straight answer as to why, it’s understandable. The Browns are new again at the coaching and administrative levels, and Cribbs was fazed out of the offense last year, became eligible for unrestricted free agency in March and turns 30 in June.

He’s not the same player he once was, but for a long time he was darn good.

Cribbs’ eight kickoff returns for touchdowns are tied with Leon Washington for the most in NFL history. He was also good covering kicks, and there was never any question about his work ethic or his desire to win. He never shied away from sharing his feelings in public, and his desire for a new contract in 2009 caused a stink, in part because the team stunk then.

He ended up getting his desired extension at a salary that wasn’t as big as advertised. The team got its money’s worth.

The best three players of the “new” Browns era are, in some order, Phil Dawson, Joe Thomas and Cribbs. Dawson and Cribbs both left via free agency for Northern California this offseason.

Signing a one-year deal with the Raiders means Cribbs needed a job. The Raiders figure they’ll get their money’s worth, too, and see what’s still in the tank. Even if Cribbs never gets to play in a playoff game, his journey from skinny Kent State quarterback to undrafted utility man and top-level return man has been a remarkable one.

Someday, he’ll go into the Browns’ Ring of Honor (or whatever the people who are running the team at the time call it). That his exit now is nothing more than a simple line in the daily NFL transactions says a lot about the fleeting, unforgiving nature of the NFL.

To say the least, it’s a tough business. Here, Cribbs will be remembered as one tough dude.

Fence can’t hold Ohio centerfielder on game-winning grab

This is how Ohio University won its first-round Mid-American Conference softball tournament game on Thursday.

Somebody put up a temporary fence at Akron’s Firestone Stadium, but it wasn’t strong enough to hold Alyssa Wolfe.

(Twitter h/t to @AndrewGaug)