Posted: Friday August 24, 2012 11:44AM ; Updated: Monday August 27, 2012 10:56AM
Holly Anderson
Holly Anderson>INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL
MAC 2012 Conference Report
Is Ohio truly a threat to bust the BCS? Can UMass capture a win after moving to the FBS? Which directional Michigan will reign supreme? Holly Anderson answers that and more in her MAC preview. For more coverage, visit our preseason content archive.

Note: The projected standings reflect the author's opinion, not SI.com's.
 
How They'll Finish
 
EAST Conference Overall
Ohio 8-0 12-0
Miami (Ohio) 7-1 8-4
Bowling Green 5-3 7-5
Kent State 3-5 5-7
Buffalo 1-7 2-10
Massachusetts 1-7 1-11
Akron 0-8 1-11
 
WEST Conference Overall
Northern Illinois 6-2 9-3
Toledo 6-2 8-4
Western Michigan 5-3 6-6
Ball State 5-3 5-7
Eastern Michigan 3-5 5-7
Central Michigan 2-6 3-9
Championship Game: Ohio beats Northern Illinois
 
Offensive MVP
 
QB
Tyler Tettleton
2011 stats: 3,306 pass yards, 666 rush yards, 38 TD, 10 INT
2012 projection: 3,550 pass yards, 650 rush yards, 36 TD, 5 INT
If we're going to ride with Ohio -- and by-god we are this year -- we have to ride the Bobcats' bell cow. After redshirting during his second year in 2010, Tettleton set a dozen single-season school records in 2011, including becoming the first quarterback in program history to throw for more than 3,000 yards. With some real experience under his belt, the Norman, Okla., native could be primed for an even bigger campaign in 2012.
 
Defensive MVP
 
DT
Roosevelt Nix
2011 stats: 39 tackles 17 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
2012 projection: 48 tackles, 21 TFL, 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
We feel confident making a repeat pick here despite the toe injury that hampered Nix throughout the 2011 campaign. Even on one good leg, Nix recorded 17 tackles for loss last season, tied for 14th in the FBS. Now that he's healthy again, look for the 5-foot-11, 245-pound junior to improve on the 10 sacks he tallied during his breakthrough 2010 season.
 
Three Key Nonconference Games
 
Ohio at Penn State
Saturday, Sept. 1
Noon ET, ESPN
Add our names to the growing list of those who believe the Bobcats will not lose -- and could potentially make a run at the BCS -- if they can hurdle the depleted Nittany Lions early.
 
Indiana at Massachusetts
Saturday, Sept. 8
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
We know that UMass just moved from the CAA conference in the FCS. WE KNOW. But what if... ?
 
Western Michigan at Minnesota
Saturday, Sept. 15
Noon ET, Big Ten Network
The Broncos are blessed with an out-of-conference schedule that includes three AQ conference teams entirely capable of coughing up an early game. The series begins with Illinois in Week 1, continues at Minnesota in Week 3 and concludes against UConn in Week 4.
 
Key Conference Game
 
Toledo at Northern Illinois
Wednesday, Nov. 14
9 p.m. ET, TBA
Though we expect Miami to rebound from last year's disappointing campaign, we do not expect a tight division race in the MAC East. The West is quite a different story; expect NIU and Toledo to jostle hard for top position, but both to lose a few games along the way. Wouldn't it be grand for the race to come down to one pivotal late-season shootout?
 
Three Key Questions
 
Can Ohio really enter the BCS discussion? Ohio didn't receive a single vote in the AP Poll. Not so much as a courtesy nod in the No. 25 spot from a single voter. So you might be wondering about our 12-0 crazypants prediction. Well: The Bobcats return 14 starters and are fresh off a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory. (Stay with us here.) They catch a Penn State squad that will likely be reeling at least a little bit early on, have Marshall as their only other remotely viable out-of-conference opponent and then settle into a conference slate which features not a single team that produced a winning record in 2011. Of course, we also had Washington as our sleeper national title game pick in 2010, so expect the Bobcats to lose to UMass or something, and expect that to be our fault.
Speaking of which ... will UMass win a game? Maybe! If not at the expense of Indiana, the Minutemen do play Akron on November 10 and Buffalo a week later. It could happen.
Which directional Michigan will emerge triumphant? While none of the programs look particularly promising in 2012, we boldly predict Western to edge Eastern by two games in the conference standings. The Broncos should also top Central by three games.
 

 
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