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Dr. Saturday

Debriefing: The MAC coaching carousel turns, turns, turns

The least you should know about the Mid-American Conference. Part of Mid-Major Week.

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Cradle of coaching turnover. Few conferences seem to go through more coaching turnover than the MAC. Sometimes coaches leave for better jobs, as was the case of Temple's Al Golden, who's now at Miami, Jerry Kill, who moved from Northern Illinois to Minnesota, and former Miami coach Mike Haywood, who was with Pitt for about two and a half weeks before being fired. OK, so they're not all winners.

But for the most part, the coaching turnover has occurred because winning in the MAC isn't all that easy. It's not that the competition is stiff -- the top teams tend to cycle -- it's that coaches have a tough time recruiting against the Big Ten and Big East, which shares it's recruiting area. This year, the MAC has five new coaches and unfortunately, that's not a good thing. Last year, Rob Ianello won one game in his first year at Akron, Jeff Quinn won two games at Buffalo and Dan Enos won three games at Central Michigan. Even for Don Treadwell (Miami), Steve Addazio (Temple) and Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois), who inherit three of best teams from a year ago, the transition won't be easy.

Glass half empty. The MAC is one of the worst offensive conferences in the country. Eight teams ranked 80th or worse in scoring offense, including Buffalo, which ranked last with a measly 14.17 points per game, and nine MAC teams were ranked 80th or worse in total offense, with Akron coming in at 119th with just 268.50 yards per game. So, what was the worst deficiency? Rushing. The conference had six teams ranked 100th or worse in rushing offense and Bowling Green and Miami, the MAC champions, didn't even crack 100 yards per game.
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Glass half full. The MAC's defenses were outstanding. Now whether you want to contribute that to the poor offenses or claim that the stellar defenses are what made the offenses so poor is up to you. But Kent State, Northern Illinois and Temple were among the top three in the conference in total and scoring defense and all three were in the top 26 in total defense and NIU and Temple were in the top 16 in scoring defense. There are several good defensive names to watch, including Kent State's Roosevelt Nix, who led the conference in sacks and tackles for loss and forced four fumbles, Ball State defensive back Sean Baker, who had six interceptions for the second time in his career, and Bowling Green's Dwayne Woods Jr., who averaged more than 11 tackles per game.

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Holy Toledo. With all the coaching turnover and several other second-year coaches trying to find their footing, Toledo might have a chance to sneak in and steal the MAC West title. The Rockets were a quiet 8-5 last year and defeated Purdue and Ohio. The Rockets have the league's best returning rusher in Adonis Thomas, who was one of only two 1,000-yard rushers in the entire conference, and the best returning receiver in Eric Page (right), who had 99 catches for 1,105 and eight touchdowns; he was responsible for more plays covering at least 40 yards than all but one other player nationally. Overall, the Rockets return 17 starters from last year, the most of any MAC team.

Piquing national attention? For the first time since 2003, the MAC had two teams with double-digit wins and neither of them was Central Michigan. Northern Illinois was 11-3 and Miami was 10-4. However, both of those win totals are a little misleading. NIU lost games to Iowa State and Illinois and its only win against an AQ program was Minnesota. Miami lost to all of its AQ opponents, but it did play a tough slate with Florida, Missouri and Cincinnati. The MAC will once again take its crack against the AQ's in an attempt to gain national momentum. Combined, the MAC will play 29 games against AQs this season.

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