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Published: Sunday, 8/25/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Commentary

Promising year for local college teams

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

It is finally that season so many of us wait for breathlessly. Not much beats college football. And it is right around the corner. Our college previews begin today, and kickoff is less than a week away. Heck, for Bowling Green the lights come on in four nights.

As a public service, we’ll tell you not how it should start, but how it will end. That way, you can read this, roll back over for about four months, and wake up in time for bowl season.

Toledo

The Rockets may have the best combination of players at skill positions among all Mid-American Conference teams. Best quarterback? No. Best running back? Not quite. Best receiver? Bernard Reedy is a candidate, but probably not. Best defensive back? Not close. But they’re all good or better, and taken in total it may be the best combination.

That said, the people responsible for this schedule bit off more than the Rockets can chew. Toledo opens with back-to-back road games at Florida and Missouri. If UT is still in one piece, or not, it will then start league play with two straight on the road against pretty decent teams. The Bowling Green game also is away.

Yes, Northern Illinois comes to the Glass Bowl, and the path to the MAC West title goes through the Huskies. The last three seasons, UT has surrendered 159 points and 1,712 yards to NIU. Until proof to the contrary, Toledo’s defense remains on the hook.

■ Overall: 7-5. MAC: 5-3.

■ Championships: None.

■ Bowl: Probably, providing the MAC subs for leagues that don’t fill their quota of bowl-eligible teams.

Bowling Green

The Falcons return nine starters on defense, but one of the missing was the biggest bully in the MAC. Replacing tackle Chris Jones won’t be easy; in fact, it’s impossible. But BG’s defense should still be plenty stingy and could be of championship caliber.

To say the same about the offense takes a leap of faith. If quarterback Matt Schilz is to have a better year, then his receivers will have to do the same. Our scouts say the running game may prove to be a pleasant surprise.

Tulsa is a quality opening opponent on Thursday night, and the Falcons could well be 1-2 after the first three games. But BG fans shouldn’t panic. There’s a lot of cake to walk over after that.

■ Overall: 9-3. MAC: 7-1.

■ Championships: MAC East.

■ Bowl: GMAC or Little Caesar’s Pizza.

Ohio State

Will the Buckeyes live up to all the hype? Are you kidding? Have you glanced at that schedule?

Still … it’s one thing to say a team should run the table, and it’s another thing to actually do it. And you could make the case OSU was smiled upon a year ago with two overtime wins and a total of five victories in games decided by a touchdown or less.

But, we repeat, have you glanced at that schedule? There are two potential stumbling blocks on the road against Northwestern and Michigan.

Since the dawn of the 2000s, only two big-time programs (Miami and Southern Cal) have posted winning streaks of at least 25 games. If the Buckeyes play for the national championship this season, it means they will be 25-0 under Urban Meyer.

■ Overall: 12-0. Big Ten: 8-0.

■ Championships: Leaders Division, Big Ten.

■ Bowl: BCS.

Michigan

There is a three-game stretch past the halfway point of the season — at Michigan State, vs. Nebraska, and at Northwestern — that will pretty much define the 2013 Wolverines. I think they will win two of them. But it depends on who the loss is against whether UM will advance to the Big Ten championship game.

Michigan State will have a better defense. Nebraska and Northwestern should have better offenses. But that doesn’t mean UM won’t be the best overall team in the division.

While most teams are spreading their offenses, Michigan is un-spreading. We’ll see how that works out. And we’ll see how fast a young defense grows up. If it all works out, we’ll likely see back-to-back UM-Ohio State games to close the Big Ten season.

■ Overall: 9-3. Big Ten: 6-2.

■ Championships: Legends Division.

■ Bowl: Rose.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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