A Saturday showdown with the Auburn Tigers will be a huge test for Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs.
X-Miami (Ohio) Redhawks 7-6 (6-3)
X-Bowling Green Falcons 6-6 (5-3)
X-Ohio Bobcats 6-6 (3-5)
Akron Zips 3-9 (2-6)
Buffalo Bulls 2-10 (1-7)
Kent State Golden Flashes 1-11 (0-8)
Y-Toledo Rockets 10-3 (7-2)
X-Western Michigan Broncos 8-4 (6-2)
X-Central Michigan Chippewas 6-6 (5-3)
Northern Illinois Huskies 5-7 (4-4)
Eastern Michigan Eagles 4-8 (3-5)
Ball State Cardinals 4-8 (2-6)
Mid-American Conference Championship Game-Ford Field-Detroit, Michigan: Miami (Ohio) vs. Toledo
Conference Champion: Toledo
2016 was a banner year for the Mid-American Conference on the gridiron. The highlight of this was seeing the Western Michigan Broncos go undefeated to win the MAC and earn a berth in the Cotton Bowl. And although that the Broncos would fall to the Wisconsin Badgers of the Big Ten Conference in the contest, they showed tremendous grit as they would only lose by eight points. However the Broncos are now set to take step back after last year’s success.
After leading Western Michigan to an undefeated regular season, it was going to be tough for head football coach P.J. Fleck to remain at the school. And the money along with resources of the Minnesota Golden Gophers as well as the prestige of being in the Big Ten Conference were too much for him to pass up on.
Fleck has been replaced by Tim Lester as Western Michigan’s head football coach. Lester spent last year as the quarterbacks coach of the Purdue Boilermakers, but more importantly he is also an alum at Western Michigan as he is very familiar with Kalamazoo. But whereas it was the offense that carried the Broncos in 2016, the defense will have to shoulder the load this time around.
The Broncos arguably have the best linebacking core in the Mid-American Conference as it features a pair of seniors in outside linebackers in middle linebacker Robert Spillane and outside linebacker Asantay Brown, along with sophomore outside linebacker Drake Spears.
But if Western Michigan does take a step back this year as most people expect, a team that could be ready to benefit are the Toledo Rockets. Throughout this decade the Rockets have been close to breaking through to win the Western Division of the Mid-American Conference, but they’ve been unable to get past either the Broncos or the Northern Illinois Huskies.
However this could be the year in which the stars align for Toledo and they can get to the Mid-American Championship Game for the first time since 2004. Last year Toledo had the tenth best passing offense in the nation and they are set to return some key players to that unit.
Quarterback Logan Woodside passed for 4,129 yards while throwing 45 touchdowns last season. Woodside also completed nearly 70% of his passes and you will definitely hear his name in the conversation to be the Mid-American Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. Woodside’s main target in the passing game will be senior wide receiver Cody Thompson who after tallying 64 receptions, 1,269 receiving yards, and 11 receiving touchdowns in 2016 is in the mix to be the best pass catcher in the MAC this year. Led left tackle Elijah Nkansah and right tackle Brant Weiss, Toledo has one of the most experienced offensive lines in the MAC. And after the Rockets lived up to their name last year, expect more of the same this year for head football coach Jason Candle’s crew.
With Western Michigan and Toledo as the two best teams in the Mid-American Conference, it is only fitting that their meting on November 24 in Toledo will decide the winner of the Western Division. And for Toledo this will be their best chance to get to Detroit for the MAC Title Game in a very long time.
Sources: Sports-reference.com, Cfbstats.com, Ourlads.com
Bowling Green State Falcons 9-4 (6-2)
Ohio Bobcats 7-5 (4-4)
Akron Zips 4-8 (3-5)
Buffalo Bulls 4-8 (2-6)
Miami (Ohio) Redhawks 3-9 (2-6)
Kent State Golden Flashes 2-10 (0-8)
Western Michigan Broncos 12-1 (8-0)
Northern Illinois Huskies 11-1 (7-1)
Central Michigan Chippewas 8-4 (5-3)
Toledo Rockets 8-4 (5-3)
Ball State Cardinals 2-10 (1-7)
Eastern Michigan Eagles 3-9 (1-7)
Mid-American Conference Championship Game-Ford Field-Detroit, Michigan
Bowling Green vs. Western Michigan
Conference Champion: Western Michigan
Coach of the Year: P.J. Fleck-Western Michigan
Offensive Player of the Year: Zach Terrell-Western Michigan
Defensive Player of the Year: Shawun Lurry-Defensive Back-Northern Illinois
2015 was another splendid year on the gridiron for the Mid-American Conference. Seven teams made bowl games while the Toledo Rockets scored a road upset victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks of the Southeastern Conference and the Bowling Green State Falcons were victorious against the Maryland Terrapins of the Big Ten Conference. The success of the MAC saw Dino Babers leave the Bowling Green State Falcons to become the head football coach of the Syracuse Orange, and Matt Campbell left Toledo to take over the Iowa State Cyclones program.
As the 2016 college football season is set to begin, the Mid-American Conference will once again be a 12-member football conference after the Massachusetts Minutemen are now a football independent which shouldn’t in any way shape or form take away from what has gone on in this conference in recent years.
Although that Babers has left Bowling Green, there is still talent there in the form of senior running back Fred Coppet. Led by senior left tackle Jacob Bennett, the Falcons have a veteran offensive line that will allow senior quarterback James Knapke to get his feet wet under center.
Bowling Green was ranked 86th in total defense last year, but they have a strong linebacking core which consists of senior outside linebackers James Sanford and Trenton Greene, along with junior middle linebacker Austin Valdez. Senior cornerback Alfonso Mack has a nose for the football as he had 6 interceptions last year and he definitely has a future in the National Football League. Senior defensive end Terrence Bush could be a problem for Falcons opponents coming off of the edge as Mike Jinks who is entering his first year as Bowling Green’s head football coach has a team that is definitely worthy of winning the Mid-American Conference.
Frank Solich is set to begin his 11th year as the head football coach of the Ohio Bobcats and all that he has done there is win, but he and his program have gone under the radar. However will Solich’s coaching ability alone be enough to allow Ohio to hang with Bowling Green in the race to win the Eastern Division of the Mid-American Conference?
The Western Division of the Mid-American Conference will be a war of attrition as it is home to some conference heavyweights. The Northern Illinois Huskies have dominated this division in recent years, but there should be a push this year from the Western Michigan Broncos, while Toledo and the Central Michigan Chippewas will be laying in the weeds.
Last year there was a four-way tie atop the Western Division between Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Toledo, and Central Michigan, but who will reign supreme here in 2016?
P.J. Fleck is set begin his fourth year as the head football coach at Western Michigan and he has a squad that is worthy of winning the Mid-American Conference, while he could get some attention if head coaching positions open up with bigger programs. Western Michigan senior quarterback Zach Terrell has to potential to be the MAC Offensive Player of the Year. And aside from Terrell, there is a plethora of talent at the skill positions for the Broncos that includes sophomore Jamauri Bogan, along with senior wide receiver Corey Davis. Defensively junior cornerback Darius Phillips and junior outside linebacker Caleb Bailey could both be All-MAC performers as Fleck arguably has the most talented team in the conference.
Northern Illinois heads into the 2016 college football season looking to rebound after their first six-loss season since 2009. As the Huskies look improve here in 2016 under head football coach Rod Carey, it will begin with their ability to run the football which has been a staple at Northern Illinois. The three-headed monster of senior quarterback Drew Hare, along with senior running back Joel Bouagnon and junior running back Jordan Huff will look to dictate the pace as they will be running behind an offensive line that features three seniors which includes senior left tackle Levon Myers.
Defensively for the Huskies, junior cornerback Shawun Lurry should be in the mix to win the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back after a 2015 campaign that saw him have 9 interceptions, while senior outside linebacker Sean Follard has the blend of being a strong pass rusher that can also drop back into coverage.
Central Michigan has not been a serious title contender since 2009, but as they are set to begin their second season under head football coach John Bonamego, there is potential for them to be a dark horse. Senior quarterback Cooper Rush has the potential to be a 4,000-yard passer this season and he could put the Central Michigan offense on his shoulders and carry them to the conference title game.
And although that Toledo was right there in 2015, it will take a Herculean effort from senior running back Kareem Hunt in 2016 if the Rockets are going to be able to leap frog the other contenders in the Western Division to make it to Detroit for the conference title game.
Games to watch in the Mid-American Conference are when Central Michigan hosts Western Michigan on October 1, the Western Michigan-Northern Illinois contest on October 8, and when Bowling Green travels to face the Huskies on November 1 as these games will have a huge bearing on who will win the conference here in 2016.
Sources: Sports-reference.com, Ourlads.com, Cfbstats.com
Bowling Green State Falcons 8-5 (6-3)
Buffalo Bulls 6-6 (4-4)
Ohio Bobcats 3-9 (2-6)
Massachusetts Minutemen 3-9 (2-6)
Miami (Ohio) Redhawks 3-9 (2-6)
Kent State Golden Flashes 2-10 (1-7)
Akron Zips 1-11 (0-8)
Northern Illinois Huskies 11-2 (9-0)
Central Michigan Chippewas 8-4 (6-2)
Toledo Rockets 9-3 (6-2)
Ball State Cardinals 8-4 (6-2)
Western Michigan Broncos 7-5 (5-3)
Eastern Michigan Eagles 7-5 (5-3)
MAC Title Game: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green
Conference Champion: Northern Illinois
As the 2015 college football season is set to begin, will anyone be able to stop the roll that the Northern Illinois Huskies are on? The Huskies have played in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game in each of the last five years and they’ve done it with three different head football coaches. Rod Carey is in his third season as the head football coach at Northern Illinois and he has junior quarterback Drew Hare who could be the MAC Offensive Player of the Year.
Northern Illinois will face stiff competition in the Western Division of the Mid-American Conference as the Central Michigan Chippewas, Toledo Rockets, and Ball State Cardinals will all give them a run for their money. The Chippewas have a solid quarterback of their own in junior Cooper Rush while it’s all about the ground game for Toledo and their junior running back Kareem Hunt who is arguably the best tailback in the conference.
The Eastern Division of the Mid-American Conference isn’t as strong as the West and the Bowling Green State Falcons should have their way there as they look to reach the conference title game for a third consecutive year. Led by junior quarterback James Knapke, senior running back Travis Greene, and sophomore wide receiver Roger Lewis, Bowling Green has a ton of offensive talent returning under head football coach Dino Babers.
2015 looks like it will mark the third consecutive season that Bowling Green and Northern Illinois will meet in the MAC Title Game. The last two years have seen each school get the best of one another, but the Huskies appear to be a team on a mission this year.
Bowling Green State Falcons 8-4 (5-3)
Ohio Bobcats 7-5 (5-3)
Akron Zips 5-7 (4-4)
Miami (Ohio) Redhawks 4-8 (3-5)
Massachusetts Minutemen 3-9 (3-5)
Buffalo Bulls 4-8 (2-6)
Kent State Golden Flashes 3-9 (2-6)
Northern Illinois Huskies 9-3 (8-0)
Central Michigan Chippewas 10-2 (7-1)
Ball State Cardinals 7-5 (5-3)
Toledo Rockets 5-7 (4-4)
Western Michigan Broncos 3-9 (2-6)
Eastern Michigan Eagles 3-9 (1-7)
MAC Championship Game-Ford Field-Detroit, Michigan: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green
MAC Champion-Bowling Green
The Mid-American Conference is rather unique as it is the only Football Bowl Subdivision conference that has 13 teams.
Ohio Bobcats head football coach Frank Solich is hopeful that his squad has what it takes to win the MAC East for the first time since 2011 and their first conference crown since 1968. Solich lost a ton of talent to graduation, but you can expect senior wide receiver Chase Cochran to fill some of the void.
It won’t be that easy for Ohio in the East due to the defending conference champions in the Bowling Green State Falcons. Junior quarterback Matt Johnson threw 25 touchdown passes last year for Bowling Green and if he is able to exceed that number in 2014 he could be the conference player of the year. Junior running back Travis Greene gained nearly 1,600 yards on the ground last season and he could flirt with 1,800 mark this season.
In the past few years quarterback Jordan Lynch was the face of Northern Illinois Huskies football. Lynch is now in the National Football League, but the Huskies still have a ton of talent led by a trio of seniors in running back Cameron Stingly along with wide receivers Tommylee Lewis and Da’Ron Brown that should be able to carry the load for Northern Illinois head football coach Rod Carey.
For the Central Michigan Chippewas, their head football coach Dan Enos is hopeful that senior wide receiver Titus Davis and junior running back Saylor Lavallii can lead the way as far as spoiling the Huskies plans of winning the MAC West for a fifth consecutive year.
All in all this should be another exciting year of MAC football.