College Football Upsets: Big MAC Attack

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIIJuly 23, 2008

My wife read an article in The Wall Street Journal one recent Saturday on the psychology of golf’s hole-in-one.  Most golfers, the article read, even the touring professionals who have on their records multiple holes-in-one, believe there is no psychology to achieving the hole-in-one.  It is all luck, they say.  In fact, according to, the odds of getting a hole-in-one on a par 3 are 7,500 to one for a professional and 12,500 to one for us mere mortals. 

Advice: Don’t skip lunch waiting around.  Those are lottery big-money scratch-off numbers.

However, according to a sports psychologist interviewed for the WSJ piece, the odds improve greatly after one’s initial ace, even for hackers like me.  The psychologist surmises that a mental barrier is broken, a barrier of non-belief, similar to flying faster than the speed of sound.  The hole-in-one golfer has seen it, all in one stroke.

If it happened once, it can happen again.

One could say Appalachian State’s improbable victory over Michigan in The Big House last year is college football’s hole-in-one.

The state school from Boone, North Carolina, has opened the floodgates of upset possibilities.

No one is safe. 

I look to the Mid-American Conference, the MAC, to bring it to the Big Ten and take it home this year, or at least frighten the devil out of the Big Boys in their own backyards.  The best prospects are:

September 6 – Miami Ohio at Michigan

September 20 – Ball State at Indiana

September 20 – Central Michigan at Purdue


I’ll support my wild and crazy suppositions with numbers from Phil Steele’s 2008 College Football Preview and Sporting News College Football ’08.  Opinions are mine and will seriously tick off a large number of fans.

Miami Ohio at Michigan


First, the numbers: Miami is 0-4 versus Michigan, with their last game played in ’04 when a number 8 Michigan team pounded Miami 43-10.  Miami is 1-9 on the road in non-conference road games in last four years, having beaten Cincinnati in ’05. 

Now, for the most relevant fact: Miami sent its Big Ten road opponent to overtime twice in the last two years.  It took Purdue, a 17 point favorite, one OT to dispose of the Redhawks 38-31 in ’06, and in ’07, 8-1/2 point underdog Miami held on for 3 OTs before giving up to Minnesota 41-35.  Heartbreakers, for sure, but it has become obvious that the Redhawks of Miami can swoop with the big birds.

With the MU vs UM battle being an early game, I’m counting on Rich Rod’s Michigan offense to struggle.  It certainly did in 2001, during his first season at West Virginia.  The Rodster went 3-8, winning only home contests against Ohio, Kent State, and a pre-wood chopping Rutgers team. 

With their sufficient offense and nine starters returning on a swarming D, Miami should give Michigan more problems than they give themselves.  Hint: Anger issues persist; watch Rich’s neck.  I’m sure he’ll pop a few blue-veiners during this one.  We in Morgantown have seen it happen.

Ball State at Indiana


The 2007 edition from Muncie, Indiana, is the 21st century version of the Cardiac Cards.  The good news is the offense has everyone returning from an ’07 campaign during which Ball State averaged 32 points per game, forcing number 25 Nebraska to score 41 to win and MAC foe Central Michigan to dial up 58 for the victory.  The bad news is Nebraska scored 41 and Central Michigan dialed up 58.  Oh, and by the way, Rutgers hung 52 on the Cardinals in the International Bowl.

Indiana dominates MAC opponents, as do most Big Ten teams.  The Hoosiers have beaten Ball State the last two years, by 17 last year.  Two problems exist this year: 1) Ball State will throw at will from their outstanding quarterback to their excellent receivers over the heads of Indiana’s questionable corners, and 2) one has to wonder about the rest of Indiana’s defense with seven returning from a unit that gave up 49 to Oklahoma State and was tattooed by Big Ten teams at an average of 30 points per game.

This game means much more to Ball State.  The Cardinals can taste the juicy suet.  The Hoosiers are looking not to be embarrassed. 

One must consider that Ball State could get the upset win only nominally.  Indiana is so potentially bad on paper that the Cards could be the favorite going into the week of the game.  I still stand with my upset call.  The Big Ten has so much momentum on the Mid-American Conference, some MAC team will have to have a big breakout game to make the Big League release the stranglehold.

Central Michigan at Purdue


At kickoff time, Central Michigan and Purdue will be playing for the third time in a span of just days over a year.  You’d think they’d know each other by now.  Still, that why they build the stadiums so the games can be played and the scintillating analysis by guys like me can be ignored.  Presently, the Boilermakers own the Chippewas by an average score of 48-35, with the comeback of the year belonging to Purdue in their meeting in last year’s Motor City Bowl.

Eight starters return to a defense that sadly gave up 37 points per game.  Clemson got 70, Purdue 45 and 51, and I-AA (or FCS) North Dakota State banged the gong for 44 while holding Central Michigan to 14. 

Question: How is this team going to beat anybody this year, much less a perennially competitive Purdue?

Answer: Offense.  More and more offense.

CMU is talented and deep at every position on the attack, with the ability to challenge the remarkable numbers they put up last year.  Scoring 35 points per outing, the offense is led by the offensive line as four starters return.  It’s always good to have that core, making the skill positions that much stronger. 

So, with regard to the Boilermakers and the Chippewas, how is an upset going to happen?  I’ll put it succinctly: playground basketball.  The last one with the ball wins.  This time, it’ll be Central Michigan.