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Tuesday, May 9, 2006
Can't wait to see these things this fall

By Ivan Maisel and Pat Forde

Three Things I Can't Wait To See This Fall In the MAC
Ivan Maisel
Pat Forde
1. Miami of Ohio may be the cradle of coaches, but the entire MAC is billing itself as the Conference of Quarterbacks. The heir apparent to the legacy of Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Frye, et al, is Luke Getsy of Akron, who threw for 3,455 yards but had an efficiency rating of only 118.1 last fall. With 18 returning starters, the Zips should be better than last season's 7-6 team but may not have a much better record. Opening on the road against Penn State and NC State will test any quarterback.

2. Temple, which plays six MAC opponents, doesn't officially join the league until 2007. The school has been left for dead by the rest of Division I-A and the fans in Philadelphia, but there is some genuine curiosity about first-year coach Al Golden. He not only breathed life into the Virginia defense as its coordinator, but at Temple has put together a good staff, including the wizened George DeLeone as offensive coordinator. The Owls open on Thursday night, Aug. 31, against the MAC's other reclamation project, Buffalo, and first-year coach Turner Gill, and that will be an interesting game.

3. Northern Illinois senior Garrett Wolfe has rushed for 3,236 yards over the last two seasons. The Huskies have 15 returning starters and were, the 31-30 loss to Akron in the MAC championship game notwithstanding, the best team in the league last season. I want to see how Wolfe and the Huskies, if that can be said with a straight face, fare at Ohio State in the Sept. 2 opener. That contest will reveal a lot more about Wolfe & Co.

1. Which MAC team pulls the annual upset of a BCS conference school? It happens every season -- last year it was Ohio shocking Pittsburgh. This year, with more home games against I-A opponents and more BCS-level teams on the schedule than ever, there are a number of possibilities. Two jump to mind: Iowa had better be ready when Northern Illinois interrupts the Hawkeyes' Big Ten focus with an Oct. 28 visit, and NC State is forewarned for its Sept. 9 home game against Akron.

Garrett Wolfe12. Will anyone be able to catch Garrett Wolfe? Northern Illinois' dynamic little tailback, all 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds of him, is a first-team Playboy All-American and the nation's leading returning rusher and all-purpose yardage gainer. Wolfe will have an opportunity to seize the nation's attention in NIU's season opener Sept. 2 against a rebuilt Ohio State defense.

3. The league added two new head coaches with familiar names and some magic on their résumés. Turner Gill, quarterback of Nebraska's great early-80s juggernaut, takes over at Buffalo. Al Golden, ace recruiter at Virginia, is now in charge at Temple, which becomes a full MAC football member in 2007. Good luck to both. They might be inheriting the two toughest jobs in Division I-A.