If you don’t love the MAC, what kind of a monster are you? This week’s dose of MACtion comes straight out of Athens, Ohio. Eastern Michigan and Ohio come in with identical records at 4-2, but one thing they do not have is identical records against power five conference opponents. Eastern Michigan has played just one opponent from a power five conference, a 40 point loss at Missouri. Ohio has played in two games against opponents of that caliber, defeating Kansas by a decent margin on the road, and giving what some call an overrated Tennessee team their all in a close loss in Knoxville.
Eastern Michigan hasn’t been off to this hot of a start in, well, ever. But Ypsilanti, Michigan has been rocking this season because the Eagles are midway through the season, but already nearly bowl bound. Ian Eriksen carries most of the load thus far, having rushed 98 times for 404 yards and 5 scores. A major problem within the Eagles offense lies at the quarterback position. Tod Porter provides a large spark offensively with over 1000 passing yards and 173 on the ground. The problem with Porter is that he has been responsible for 8 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. Careless handling of the football will kill any team. It will also put a coffin in any hopes for a win that EMU has this week if they can’t hang on to the ball. I like Eastern Michigan. They’re on the upward swing and that’s easy to see, but I’m not sure they will have enough fire power to hang with the Bobcats if they can’t protect the pumpkin.
The Ohio Bobcats have been what I consider one of the surprises in the MAC, putting up strong performances in every game this season. The lone bad loss I’ll credit the Bobcats is one to Texas State in the opening week. However, that was a multiple overtime thriller, and many teams struggle to play to their full potential in the opening game. Ohio bolsters a powerful rushing attack that features five players with over 100 yards. Senior quarterback Greg Windham leads all rushers with 352 yards and three scores, and has thrown for 1179 yards and 8 more touchdowns. The Bobcats have impressed me after six games against some solid opponents, and I like this matchup because of EMU’s tendency to turn the ball over coupled with the weaker defense the Bobcats will be going up against. This should create a really tough matchup for EMU. I’ll take the Bobcats in this one.
JACKSON’S PICK: OHIO 31-17
12 Ole Miss (3-2) @ 22 Arkansas (4-2) 6PM CDT, ESPN
We flip the script to the SEC now in a game between what I think are two overrated teams, but the matchup still intrigues me. Ole Miss seems to be trending down a bit, losing major pieces all around the ball such as Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil. Arkansas is on the flip side, seemingly trending upwards, but fighting against a very deep SEC conference to make gains. Arkansas has come up short in their first two conference games against Texas A&M and top ranked Alabama, but looks to right the ship against their fourth ranked opponent this season.
For Ole Miss, they have had their ups and downs this season, posting a convincing win against Georgia, but also handing games away late against Florida State and Alabama. The self-proclaimed best quarterback in the nation, Chad Kelly, has aired the ball out for nearly 1600 yards and 13 touchdowns, and contributed over 120 and another score on the ground. Kelly’s primary target in Evan Engram has caught 30 passes for 479 yards, and has shown big play ability, averaging 16 yards per catch. The interesting thing about Engram is that he’s a tight end. You would think with the numbers he has posted so far this year that he’s just the top receiving threat. Engram checks in at 6’3″ 227, but has speed and strength to make plays down field. His versatility proves to be a huge tool for the Rebels. Engram has 10 more receptions than the next man in line, Damore’ea Stringfellow, who checks in with 20 catches and 305 yards. The electric combination of Chad “swag” Kelly, Evan Engram, and Damore’ea Stringfellow sprinkled in will prove to be tough for the Arkansas defense to stop.
The Arkansas Razorback defense allows just over 27 points per game, and they will have a huge test on hand this week going up against the Ole Miss Rebels, but I have reason to believe they will be just fine. Last week, Arkansas got ran over by the train that is Alabama. The Tide handed Arkansas a 19 point loss in Fayetteville, and that generally doesn’t sit well with teams. Arkansas got it handed to them in their house, and I expect a response. An angry Razorback squad will be ready for redemption against the Rebels. Austin Allen and the Razorback offense have already put up impressive numbers, and that will need to continue if they want to get a win this week. Rawleigh Williams III has impressed me far more than any other Arkansas player this season, filling in for last year’s sensation, Alex Collins. Williams has carried the load 113 times for 605 yards and five scores. Williams is a reliable back that the Razorbacks can count on to move the ball down the field. Arkansas also has tools on the outside, with three receivers tallying over 300 yards through the air, led by Jared Cornelius’ 408 yards and four scores. Coach Brett Bielema, I’m sure, has been scheming all week in an effort to get back into the win column, and in my opinion, Ole Miss is grossly overrated. I look for Arkansas to grab their first SEC victory this week.
JACKSON’S PICK: ARKANSAS 35-28
Stanford (3-2) @ Notre Dame (2-4) 6:30PM CDT, NBC
This next matchup is interesting, but for reasons other than what we may have looked forward to at the beginning of the year. Both Stanford and Notre Dame have been incredibly underwhelming in the first six weeks of this season. Stanford is coming off of two straight blowout losses to conference opponents, and boy did they look bad. Washington exposed just about every possible issue for the Cardinal, and then Washington State just up and did the same thing, but at the farm. Notre Dame will come into this week hoping for fairer weather and much more execution, following a 10-3 loss at N.C. State in a game played through a torrential downpour thanks to Hurricane Matthew.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s seat may be getting hotter and hotter as the weeks go by. The Irish have looked anything but impressive, posting just two wins against the likes of Nevada and Syracuse. Preseason rankings placed Notre Dame in the top 10, but this season’s performances have really put them near the bottom. DeShone Kizer has played reasonably well for a team that has struggled as much as the Irish have, tossing for over 1600 yards and 14 scores, as well as adding 200 yards and six scores rushing. Kizer is directly responsible for 20 of the 25 touchdowns Notre Dame has scored this season, so where does the problem lie? That question is all too simple to answer: with the defense. Notre Dame allows nearly 30 points per game, and frankly, hasn’t played any opponents that have shown to posess true talent, losing to pretenders in Texas and Michigan State. Both of these teams showed they may possibly be a team worth paying attention to, but have fallen right on their faces. Notre Dame is a disaster defensively and if they can’t figure it out this week, they’re in for a rough one.
Stanford could also fit into the aforementioned pretenders category, starting out with potential national title expectations and a Heisman trophy frontrunner in Christian McCaffrey. Speaking of McCaffrey, I’m not sure of what to make of him this season. The Stanford star has rushed for 520 yards and caught 18 passes for 154 more, but has only found the end zone four times this season. It may have been the sky high expectations pinned to McCaffrey, but he has really not impressed me this season, and the offensive struggles that Stanford has faced have proven to be a large issue for this team, given their defense’s struggles as well. The Stanford defense gives up just over 24 points a game, and with the tools the Cardinal posess, you would think that number is solid. However, only scoring 19 points per contest themselves will create an issue that needs to be addressed. This matchup between two struggling squads will be intriguing to keep an eye on for the sole fact that both of these teams need wins in the worst way. But who will come out on top? I think McCaffrey and company rebound and hand Notre Dame their fifth loss.
JACKSON’S PICK: STANFORD 27-17
Kansas (1-4) @ 11 Baylor (5-0) 2:30 PM CDT, FS1
The Kansas Jayhawks are fresh off of what is arguably the best all around performance of the David Beaty era. The only problem is, they still didn’t come out with the win. The Jayhawks had the TCU Horned Frogs on the ropes, but three missed field goals by Matthew Wyman, the third being a miss at the buzzer, handed the Jayhawks their fourth loss of the 2016 campaign. Baylor comes in off of a bye week, and some may consider this week a continuation of the bye, against the recent doormat of the Big 12 in the Jayhawks. I’m here to tell you any person expecting Baylor to roll over Kansas will be sorely disappointed this weekend, but the undefeated Bears will look for a 6-0 start at McLane Stadium this weekend.
The Baylor Bears look to be the Big 12’s only hope at a possible playoff contender, off to a hot start at 5-0, but needing a comeback effort their last time out against Iowa State. Shock Linwood and Terence Williams have posted over 400 yards on the ground and combined for 7 touchdowns. This Baylor team is much different than the Baylor we’ve seen in the past. Generally a pass heavy offense, the Bears have shifted to a powerful ground game that is complimented by their passing game. Don’t worry, Seth Russell can still sling the ball around the yard. The senior quarterback has thrown for over 1300 yards and 14 touchdowns, providing a large spark for the Bears offensively through their first five games. Russell has a strong ground game in addition to his arm. Russell has rushed for over 230 yards and three scores. Baylor is a solid team, surprise, surprise, we saw it coming, or did we? Given the tough off field issues within the Baylor community in the last year or so, I think many people expected the Bears to fall off, but not I. The Baylor Bears may not be the same as before, but the important thing to keep in mind is that they are still really good, Art Briles or not. They have tons of weapons and there is no denying it.
The Kansas Jayhawks are 1-4, but I would argue they are the most dangerous 1-4 team in the nation. This last week we saw something that we haven’t often seen from the Jayhawks, a dominant defense. Yes, I said dominant. Kansas held TCU scoreless in the first quarter for the first time this season, and forced TCU into a corner where the Horned Frogs needed a late field goal to go ahead, and even that still wasn’t enough. Players like Dorance Armstrong, Cameron Rosser, and Keith Loneker who filled in for the injured Joe Dineen Jr., all stepped into huge roles against TCU, and I’m looking for that success to translate into Waco on Saturday. The disruptive defensive line of the Jayhawks showed they are more than capable of hanging with conference opponents, holding Kenny Hill and the Horned Frogs to a season low in points. The crucial blow for KU came offensively, although there were several positives to takeway. One positive, being Ryan Willis. It looks like Willis will be the guy for Kansas at the QB spot after throwing for nearly 350 yards, offering a much needed change for KU after Montell Cozart struggled heavily for the first few weeks of the year. The negative to takeaway is how Kansas failed to get into the endzone on multiple drives, and had to settle for field goals. The Jayhawks will have to sustain drives to have a shot at staying in the game against Baylor. I think Kansas is on the right track, but I’m not sure they’ll have what it takes to stick with the high powered Bears.