Take Toledo to win Mid-American title
By Jeff Frank
Sports Analyst, Inside the Numbers
Let's Be Frank
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Toledo last won the Mid-American Conference championship in 2004. This year, the Rockets have a great chance to do it again as the 5-2 second choice, behind only the 5-4 favorite, Bowling Green.
Unlike the Sun Belt Conference, where home favorites went 15-25-2 (38 percent) the past two seasons, the MAC is paradise - 35-21-2 at 62 percent the last two years - for the gambler who wagers on the home betting choice.
Time now to take a deeper look into the league, along with conference championship odds and predicted SU (overall and conference) records for those wagering on over/unders for team victories. In addition, all statistics provided are from conference-only play unless otherwise indicated. (All odds courtesy of LVH.)
7) MASSACHUSETTS (100-1) - The Minutemen are 4-9 as road underdogs the last two years. Their straight-up win total did not improve (one win in both 2012 and 2013) the past two years, but that could change this season with upgraded talent at the skill positions. Don't expect massive improvement due to a defense that is still not where it needs to be.
Final thought - The Minutemen will score more points than they did each of the last two seasons, which will bring more "overs" than the three they posted one year ago. Predicted overall and conference records - 2-10, 2-6.
6) MIAMI-OHIO (75-1) - The RedHawks are 1-8-2 in their last 11 games as road underdogs. They bring in a new coach (Chuck Martin) and a new quarterback (Andrew Hendrix) to a team that not only was winless in 2013 but one that averaged 17 fewer points per game than in 2012. Expect better offensive numbers this year.
Final thought - This team is still a few years away but might get a quick fix with Hendrix under center. Predicted overall and conference records - 3-9, 2-6.
5) BUFFALO (25-1) - The Bulls are 5-12 in their last 17 games as home favorites. They were fortunate to have such an easy conference schedule last year and took advantage with a 6-2 mark. There also was top-notch talent on the squad in Khalil Mack (100 tackles last year), Branden Oliver (over 1,500 rushing yards), Alex Neutz and Fred Lee (119 combined receptions). All four of those players are gone, along with six other defensive starters.
Final thought - The schedule is on the favorable side once again, but this is not the same team that went bowling in 2013. Predicted overall and conference records - 3-9, 2-6.
4) AKRON (25-1) - The Zips are 6-14 as home underdogs the last five years. They moved from 1-11 to 5-7 in 2013 and could be even better in 2014, but that hinges on the return of two suspended players from the defensive backfield. If Donte Williams and Johnny Robinson are not reinstated, opposing teams will carve up the secondary on a regular basis.
Final thought - It is tough to back a team that has been to one bowl game and has won seven games in a season just twice in the last 11 years. Predicted overall and conference records - 5-7, 4-4.
3) OHIO (25-1) - After going 13-4 ATS in conference play (2009-2010), the Bobcats are 8-17 the last three years. They have averaged between 28 and 30 points every year since 2009. However, just four starters return this season so expect a big drop in scoring.
Final thought - Ohio has been an "under" machine with 13 unders in its last 20 games. With all the losses on offense and 12 of the top 15 tacklers back on defense, expect more "unders" in 2014. Predicted overall and conference records - 6-6, 4-4.
2) KENT STATE (15-1) - The Golden Flashes are 5-0 as road favorites the last three years. They have allowed between 20 and 25 points each of the last five years. With eight of their top 12 tacklers back in 2014, the opposition will have a tough time scoring points. Furthermore, they will be improved on offense after scoring 12 fewer points per game than they did in 2013.
Final thought - Last year, I predicted the Golden Flashes would have one of the nation's biggest regular-season collapses, going from 11-1 to 5-7. They were even worse as they won only four games. This year, the opposite could hold true with one of the biggest turnarounds in the country. Predicted overall and conference records - 8-4, 6-2.
1) BOWLING GREEN (5-4) - The Falcons are 30-13 ATS on the road the last seven years. The return of a healthy Gabe Martin (2012's leading tackler who played just half the 2013 season) and Darrell Hunter (missed the entire season) will help offset the loss of six defensive starters. Offensively, the Falcons are the class of the East.
Final thought - Take the "over" in Game 1 of the season against Western Kentucky. Moreover, look for the Falcons to win the division for the second straight season. Predicted overall and conference records - 9-3, 7-1.
6) EASTERN MICHIGAN (100-1) - The Eagles are 2-14 ATS off a straight-up victory the last seven years. They won one conference game each of the last two years but instead of coming within five points of a win (as they did twice in 2012), their closest 2013 defeat was by 28 points. This year's team will be better statistically with Massachusetts and Akron replacing Bowling Green and Ohio, but winning two league games seems out of the question.
Final thought - Eastern Michigan has had just one above-.500 ATS record since 2005. This year will be no different. Predicted overall and conference records - 2-10, 1-7.
5) WESTERN MICHIGAN (30-1) - The Broncos are 4-12 ATS in conference play the last two years. Head coach P.J. Fleck mentioned this spring that his team won't compete for the league title, so I would not have high hopes coming into 2014. Still, Western Michigan is a club on the rise and if some of the freshmen from this past recruiting class earn starting jobs, the Broncos could surprise, especially against the spread.
Final thought - Don't forget, the Broncos came into last year without their entire starting offensive line and four of their five top receivers. Expect much better production this season. Predicted overall and conference records - 4-8, 2-6.
4) BALL STATE (15-1) - The Cardinals are 25-8 as road underdogs the last eight years. After winning 12 games in Nate Davis' last year (2008), they won two games the following season, with an 18-point drop in scoring. This year's squad has a much more experienced offensive line than the one that returned in 2009, but the loss of three starters on the defensive line will keep opposing offensives on the field most of the season.
Final thought - Ball State will have one of the biggest collapses of any team in the country. Predicted overall and conference records - 5-7, 3-5.
3) CENTRAL MICHIGAN (30-1) - The Chippewas are 4-18 as underdogs the last three years. If there is one team that might upset the apple cart in the MAC, it is Central Michigan. Fifteen of the top 18 tacklers return to a defense that allowed just 23 points per game - an 11-point improvement from 2012. In addition, all 11 offensive starters are back after an injury-plagued campaign.
Final thought - Unfortunately, the Chippewas have to travel to Toledo and Northern Illinois, which will stifle any conference championship hopes. Predicted overall and conference records - 9-3, 6-2.
2) NORTHERN ILLINOIS (5-2) - The Huskies are 9-2 as road favorites the last two years. They averaged 40 points or more the last four seasons but will not make it five. Back in 2012, I predicted they would win the conference title (6-1 odds) because Jordan Lynch was talented enough to replace Chandler Harnish. This year's starting quarterback is not in the class of either of them.
Final thought - Since 2011, Northern Illinois has the second-best road record in the country (behind Alabama) at 15-2. Predicted overall and conference records - 8-4, 6-2.
1) TOLEDO (5-2) - The Rockets are 12-4 as road underdogs the last four years. They lose starting quarterback Terrance Owens but bring in Phillip Ely from Alabama, and they are solid everywhere else. After a down season a year ago (7-5 and no bowl bid), look for Toledo to bounce back in a huge way.
Final thought - The Rockets are the choice to defeat Bowling Green at home on Nov. 19 and in the title game as well. Don't forget, they have defeated the Falcons the last four meetings. Predicted overall and conference records - 10-2, 7-1.