It’s Week No. 2 for college football, but two MAC teams will be starting their 2015 campaigns Saturday. One program planned it that way, while the other was forced into a Week Two opener.
UMass embarks on its final season as a MAC member when it travels to Colorado (0-1) for the Buffaloes home opener. Toledo, meanwhile, tried to start its season last week against Stony Brook and managed to get in just over two quarters of football. Severe weather (lightning) delays, however, eventually led to a permanent stoppage. That game will not be made up, so UT goes for its first win this week against Arkansas.
Eight MAC teams will be on the road, while five are home Saturday. The schedule includes several matchups with Power Five conference members.
Buffalo is at Penn State, Miami is at Wisconsin, UMass is at Colordo, Toledo is at Arkansas, Pittsburgh is at Akron, Ball State is at TexasA&M and Bowling Green is at Maryland.
Let’s take a sneak peek at matchups for the MAC West teams:
Camp Randall Stadium, Madison WI
Saturday, Sept. 12, Noon ET
There will be a lot of red and white on the field as the two teams meet for the first time. Miami is still in the rebuilding mode under second-year head coach Chuck Martin. While he appears to have been very successful on the recruiting paths, that young talent sometimes finds itself either on the front line or just a play away. The RedHawks opened with a win over FCS foe Presbyterian, 26-7, Saturday and start a very tough two weeks in which they face Wisconsin on the road and Cincinnati at home.
Wisconsin opens its home slate Saturday, looking to get back on the winning track after a 35-17 loss to No. 3 Alabama last week in the AdvoCare Classic in Arlington, Texas. While it is the Badgers first encounter with Miami, UW is matching up with a Mid-American Conference team for the eighth time in the last 10 years. The Badgers have won 32 consecutive non-conference home games, matching the eighth most in NCAA history. Only Boise State has won a higher percentage of its home games than UW since 2004.
WISCONSIN – The Badgers hope to give new head coach Paul Chryst his first win this week. Chryst previously served as UW’s offensive coordinator. … Senior quarterback Joel Stave will be starting his 30th game at Wisconsin. Stave completed 26 of 39 for 228 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Alabama. The totals made him only the second quarterback in school history to own 5,000 passing yards, 35 TDs and a completion percentage of at least 59 percent.
Wisconsin football has become almost synonymous with successful rushers. The most recent was Melvin Gordon, whose numerous awards last year included Unanimous All-American, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Doak Walker Award and Jim Brown Award. Gordon, now with the San Diego Chargers, briefly held the NCAA single game rushing record, picking up 408 yards in three quarters of work against Nebraska Nov. 15.
Wisconsin averaged 302.6 ypg rushing over the past two seasons – the best mark of any non-triple option offense in FBS over that span. Last week, Alabama limited the Badgers to a total of 40 yards on the ground (while the Tide gained 238 yards rushing). Corey Clement, an understudy to Gordon and James White before getting the start against Alabama, managed 16 yards on eight caries. Alex Erickson led the UW rushing attack with one carry for 25 yards. One factor in the dropoff could be Wisconsin’s traditional strength along the front line. UW is replacing three starters from last year’s very productive cast up front.
Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda has guided his unit through a couple successful years since taking over. His defenses allowed 18.6 ppg over the last two years. That was best in the Big Ten and fifth nationally. The Badgers were third in total defense, seventh in rushing defense and fifth in passing defense nationally over the last two seasons.
MIAMI -- Nothing replaces game experience, and that is where much of the Miami roster is right now – especially at quarterback. Senior Drew Kummer, getting his first extended game action, played most of the way last Saturday and seemed to get more comfortable as the game progressed. His 52-yard scoring strike to Rokeem Williams answered a Presbyterian score to close within six. Alonzo Smith, added another TD with 6:38 remaining to close scoring.
Kummer completed 14 of 19 for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the win. R-FR Gus Ragland and true freshman Billy Bahl saw limited action. . . . With the QBs having limited experience, it would behoove Miami to protect its passers well. The line, however, is working in some young – and less experienced – talent. Just how well it can protect the quarterback against Wisconsin’s defense will have a lot to say about whether or not the offense can move the ball. If the quarterbacks get time, MU has a nice stable of receivers.
Miami did show signs of life in the running game last week, finishing with 224 yards. Alonzo Smith (5-9, 225, R-Fr) can give the RedHawks a little power inside. He carried 12 times for 89 yards (7.2 ypc) with two TDs. Kenny Young (5-10, 200, R-Fr) picked up 59 yards. Both backs had runs of over 25 yards on the day – something of a rarity in recent years.
Defensively, Miami didn’t exactly shine in the opener, despite the 26-7 score. Presbyterian turnovers cost the Blue Hose several chances to score. Sophomore safety Tony Reid capitalized with a couple of big red zone plays (interception, fumble recovery). . . . Presbyterian moved the ball all-to-well early, but as with the offense, Miami’s defensive unit seemed to improve as the game progressed.
An additional concern, especially against a Big Ten team, is pressure on the defense (i.e. time on the field) if the offense has trouble moving the ball.
With the Badgers anxious to restore their running game and defensive swagger, Miami will be facing a big challenge at Camp Randall Stadium.
AT MARYLAND (1-0, 0-0 BIG TEN)
Byrd Stadium, College Park MD
Saturday, Sept. 12, Noon ET
Big Ten Network
It’s the first meeting between the two teams. Bowling Green is coming off a 59-30 loss to No. 25 Tennessee. The Falcons fell behind early before rallying behind quarterback Matt Johnson to trail by one at 21-20 in the second quarter. UT bounced back for two scores before intermission and ended the game with 17 straight points.
Maryland scored 37-straight points as it rocked Richmond Saturday. A good chunk of the Terrapins progress on the day came from an unlikely source -- 5-foot-7 punt/kick returner William Likely. He broke a 76-year-old Big Ten record with eight punt returns for 233 yards and a TD, as well as 63 yards on two kickoff returns.
MARYLAND – Aside from its return game, UM prospered with the running game. The Terrapins used 45 carries to pile up a massive 341 yards rushing. Brendon Ross led the way with 18 totes for 150 yards. Ty Johnson logged 10 carries for 83 yards, while Wes Brown chipped in 74 yards on 13 trips. … The Terrapins defense limited Richmond to 56 yards on 27 carries and 276 total yards. … Junior Perry Hills – in his first start since 2012 -- got the call at quarterback and completed 12 of 21 for 138 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. … Freshman punter Nicolas Pritchard barely got his initiation as he punted just once last week. … Reigning Lou Groza Award winner Brad Craddock hit three field goals – all in the first half – and totaled 14 points on the day.
BOWLING GREEN – Matt Johnson completed 27 of 49 passes for 424 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee in his return after missing nearly all of 2014 due to injury. … Junior Gehrig Dieter hauled in seven passes for 133 yards and one TD. Ronnie Moore had five catches for 95 yards. … Eleven different BG receivers caught passes vs Tennessee. … Fred Coppet paced the ground game with 12 rushes for 63 yards. … The Falcons were 4 of 18 on third down conversions, while Tennessee went 9 of 16. … BG drew 12 flags for 128 yards and lost its only fumble. UT had four penalties for 40 yards and no turnovers.
BUFFALO (1-0, 0-0 MAC)
AT PENN STATE (0-1, 0-0 BIG TEN)
Beaver Stadium, University park, PA
Saturday, Sept. 12, Noon ET
With Penn State returning 15 starters this year (8 offense/7 defense), it was surprising to see the Nittany Lions struggle badly in a 27-10 loss at Temple last week. Temple had not beaten PSU in 74 years and was 0-38-1 during that stretch. Another non-conference loss in the home opener this week would certainly cast an unhappy pall over “Happy Valley.” Buffalo and Penn State are tied in the series, 1-1. The Bulls win was a 10-0 shutout back in 1900.
Buffalo is coming off a 51-14 victory over Albany and is seeking just its second victory in 26 outings against opponents from the Power Five conferences since it joined the FBS ranks in 1999.
PENN STATE – The Nittany Lions built a 10-0 first quarter lead Saturday. They would not score again as Temple’s “defense” pitched a shutout the rest of the way. … Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg was sacked 10 times overall. He finished with 11 completions on 25 attempts, (totaling 103 yards) with one interception. With only 77 yards rushing, PSU left with a dismal 180 yards of total offense to its credit. Temple finished with 317 yards of total offense, with 149 on the ground. … Akeel Lynch led Penn State with 78 yards on 10 carries and Brandon Polk added 50 yards on just two rushes. Hackenberg’s sacks, however, totaled a minus-59 yards. … Chris Godwin collected five receptions for 81 yards to lead PSU receivers.
BUFFALO – Albany scored first last week, using 14 plays to pick up 82 yards and a touchdown. It was pretty much a Buffalo showcase after that. The Bulls defense ultimately limited Albany to 269 total yards and picked off two Great Dane passes. … Offensively, UB displayed the balanced offense new head coach Lance Leipold believes can serve it well in 2015. Buffalo racked up 212 yards rushing and 255 through the air. … Quarterback Joe Licata connected on 20 of 26 attempts with two TDs. … Five receivers caught at least three passes. Tight end Mason Schreck led the way with five receptions for 62 yards. Jacob Martinez and Marcus McGill scored touchdowns. … Anthone Taylor got his season off to a solid start with 104 yards on 17 rushing attempts (6.1 ypc). He found the end zone twice, while Jordan Johnson (11 carries, 69 yards) and Tony Daniels also registered TDs via the ground game. … Linebacker Okezie Alozie led the defensive with seven tackles (1 TFL, 1 FF). Nick Gilbo and Boise Ross came up with interceptions.
MARSHALL (1-0, 0-0 -USA) AT OHIO (1-0, 0-0 MAC)
Pedan Stadium, Athens, OH
Saturday, Sept. 12, 7 p.m.
ASN and ESPN
This non-conference rivalry is serious business for the two programs, and there have been some hard-fought, exciting wins in recent years. Marshall, however, managed to blow out the Bobcats (44-14) in 2014, a season in which QB Rakeem Cato guided the Herd to a 13-1 record. With Cato gone, some might have wondered how good MU could be. After one game, the outlook appears favorable. Marshall knocked off Purdue 41-31 Saturday in Huntington.
Ohio also got off to good start with a 45-28 victory at Idaho. Moving to 2-0 with a victory over rivalry would be huge in Athens, which is where this year’s OU-MU matchup will be played.
MARSHALL – While the Herd scored plenty of points against Purdue, some big defensive plays were important factors in the win. Tiquan Lang returned two interceptions for touchdowns – one to start Marshall scoring and one to end Purdue’s final drive. The Boilermakers were down 34-31 when land picked off an Austin Applebee pass and went 55 yards with 1:20 remaining to seal the verdict. … Purdue had four turnovers (all interceptions) in the game and Marshall gave up three. … Junior quarterback Michael Birdsong completed 23 of 36 with two TDs and one interception in his Marshall debut. … Devon Johnson picked up 89 yards on 11 carries as MU finished with 163 rushing yards. … Davonte Allen paced the receiving corps with five catches for 59 yards.
OHIO – The Bobcats offense was clicking against a suspect Idaho defense Saturday. Three touchdowns came via the pass and two were courtesy of the run game. An interception return for another scored added to Ohio’s touchdown count. … Both quarterbacks threw for scores. Starter Derrius Vick completed 13 of 16 for 192 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. JD Sprague was 7 of 9 for 92 yards, no picks and one touchdown. … Daz’mond Patterson paced the Green and White ground game with 13 carries for 85 yards and a score. A.J. Quellette and Vick combined for another 82 yards. … Brendan Cope led Ohio receivers with four catches for 129 yards and a TD. Jordan Reid and Keith Heitzman also had receiving touchdowns. … Jovon Johnson and Nathan Carperter recorded receptions, with Johnson taking his 29 yards for a score. … Ohio out-gained Idaho 490-397 in total yards and limited the Vandals to an even 100 yards rushing.
UMASS (0-0, 0-0 MAC) AT COLORADO (0-1, 0-0 PAC 12)
Folsom Field, Boulder, CO
Saturday, Sept. 12, 2 p.m. ET
Pac 12 Network
This game will feature two teams likely fired up to play. UMass, which returns nearly its entire lineup on both sides of the ball this year, will be making its first outing of 2015. Colorado is coming off a disappointing 28-20 loss in Hawaii, a game in which the Buffaloes ran out of time at the Hawaii eight-yard line.
COLORADO – The Buffaloes are mighty hungry – for a win. They bring a nine-game losing streak into play this weekend. … A blocked punt set up Hawaii’s first touchdown, and Colorado spent the rest of the day coming close, but never quite catching the hosts. … The Buffalos had three turnovers, although Hawaii nearly returned the favors with two. … Colorado outgained the Rainbow Wariors in total yards, 373-302. UC’s rushing game came through with 215 yards, but the passing game produced only 158 yards. Sefo Liufau hit on 23 of 40 passes with one interception for the visitors. His 81 yards rushing was second only to 90 on 22 carries with two TDs by Michael Adkins II. … Nelson Spuce and Shay Fields combined for 14 catches and 129 yards to lead Colorado receivers.
UMASS – With a healthy QB Blake Frohnapfel at the helm and weapons galore, UMass should be something of a points machine this year. If the Minutemen can stay relatively healthy, avoid costly turnovers and pick up the defensive end, they could be legit contenders in the MAC East and an exciting bowl game candidate. … Frohnapfel was a First Team All-MAC selection, as was WR Tajae Sharpe, who also returns. TE Jean Sifrin, another first team selection, is one of the few regulars to depart after 2014. … Linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox is a defensive leader who earned first team all-fonference honors in 2015. … One of the biggest questions facing UMass this year is can it get the placekicking game turned around.