Lets Go College Football Lets Go Week 9: The MAC Has A Top 4 While The Rest Are A Snore
Last year the Mid-American Conference gave us two unlikely surprises. One was a sure fire heisman candidate in Northern Illinois Jordan Lynch. The other was a number 1 overall draft pick in Eric Fisher of Central Michigan. Both huge in regards to overall impact of the conference. While Lynch returns at N. Illinois and looks towards more heisman hype his Huskies have 3 other teams that could contend against them for the MAC Championship this fall. The rest of the conference is doing their normal bidding of rebuilding and adjustments as they look to play schedule food for non conference opponents this year. After last year this can be looked at as a down year for the MAC,but last year was not supposed to be spectacular and look how it turned out. Only time will tell. Lets take a look.
The Top 4
So who are these top 4 you say. Well obviously we start off with Northern Illinois. Outside of the return of Jordan Lynch the Huskies return a few playmakers on offense. He has a ton of receivers to turn to but will rely heavily on senior tailback Akeem Daniels to carry some of the weight this season in the backfield. Their underrated defense takes a senior hit as few return from a year before. While it may hurt them early the youngsters on defense should be ready to play October 5th at Kent St. N. Illinois looks once again to be the class of the MAC. Toledo did not enjoy as much success as The Huskies in 2012 but the Rockets return and look to once again be in the mix for a MAC title. Finally starting the season with a solid starting QB look for Toledo to open up the playbook a little bit this year. Also returning for the Rockets is stud senior running back David Fluellen who will add to his already impressive career at Toledo. Toledo will have a rough go of it early against two SEC squads. How they show up for those two early games could dictate how good this team will be once they start conference play October 21st. Bowling Green has been giving teams fits the past few years. Last year I felt they underachieved as they lost some games I thought they would have been more competitive in. They return tons of talent on both sides of the ball. Its true Ball State may be better but I favor the schedule and defense of Bowling Green. Gabe Martin leads a defense that was one of the best in the nation. I look for Bowling Green to represent the east in the conference championship game. Its a toss up between who is better between Ohio U and Ball State. I like Ohio as a team better but I like Ball State’s schedule. I think they both have a chance at 10 wins and will contended for their share of a division title. They both have stud’s at QB and a ton of talent with them. The Bobcats are better on D so thats why I would give them the nod. Don’t think for a second Ball State won’t be around and take note of their September 28th against Toledo as it could change the face in the western division.
The Rest of The Bunch
While we hope for a return of good play in Buffalo and also would like to see Central Michigan continuing to play top rated football, I don’t think it will be this year. A conference like the MAC always has a chance to show up against national non conference powers because usually they have a more senior laden teams. Think of the teams in college basketball that are the mid majors. The main issue this years is too many of these teams just don't have many answers at the skilled position and most of their depth is lacking. Some players to keep an eye out for are Bronson Hill from Eastern Michigan, Titus Davis and Zurlon Tipton both from Central Michigan, and can’t forget special teams stud Dri Archer from Kent St. I look for all of these teams to improve by season’s end and don’t be surprised to see a few of theses teams bowling. Some of the MAC teams have one or two heavy hitters on their schedules but most of their other opponents are considered cake walks. This is good scheduling for these teams as it will give their young talent room to grow. You can expect a few of these teams making noise in the next few years as its just the norm in regards to the MAC conference.
Similar to the last conference preview the Mid-American Conference is west heavy. There is only two real viable teams on the east in Bowling Green and Ohio, but on the west N. Illinois, Ball State, Toledo and even Western Michigan could win some games and be in the mix. Anytime a conference is lopsided it allows you to think they would hold an advantage for the title game. If that was the case I would lead towards Toledo to take the crown as not only do they face The best competition in the MAC their two SEC opponents aren’t shabby either. The Ball State versus N. Illinois game on November 13th just might give us our western division champion and it could leave Ohio on the outside looking in as they don’t play either.
Final Thoughts and Who Wins The Mac
Its hard not to agree with most out there that we will see a Bowling Green vs N. Illinois MAC Championship game. I would love to see the offense of Ball State play the defense of Bowling Green, but the Falcons match up with Toledo on October 26th should be a good indication. It would be too easy just to go with N. Illinois but I really think Ball State will have what it takes to show up on the young defense of N Illinois. Since this is a pre season prediction It won’t kill me to suggest it but I really think we will see Ball State playing Bowling Green in the MAC final. I’ll give them the nod once again and say that Ball State will be my pick to win the MAC this year.
So even though this maybe a down year in the MAC there is still some quality teams in the division. It scares me to think how some of these teams will match up in bowl games as they should have a better showing than last year. There will be tons of eyes on the conference due to Lynch but others will have a chance to shine this year and if any of the teams can step up to the Huskies challenge then a ton of noise will be made. While I don’t think we will see a number 1 overall pick two years in the row from the MAC there are a few guys who may play on Sunday including the coveted QB from Northern Illinois. Join me next week and we conclude our conference previews and analysis by examining the Mountain West Conference!