Will quarterback Alex Hornibrook and the Wisconsin Badgers earn some respect with a win over the Michigan Wolverines?
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Fleck has been replaced by Tim Lester as Western Michigan’s head football coach.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
The Western Michigan Broncos have fielded a Division-I football team since 1962 and they’ve exclusively competed in the Mid-American Conference. The Broncos haven’t won the MAC since 1988 while they’ve also failed to reach the conference title game since 2000, but they are a program that is becoming a force to be reckoned within the conference. P.J. Fleck just completed his third year as the head football coach at Western Michigan and he brings with him infectious energy that could soon make him a big-time name on the college football scene.
Fleck played his college football for the Northern Illinois Huskies who are also in the Mid-American Conference. Fleck played wide receiver at Northern Illinois where he set single-season school records as a senior in receptions (77), receiving yards (1,028), and receiving touchdowns (6). After Fleck’s college eligibility ended, he went undrafted by the National Football League before signing with the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers primarily used Fleck on special teams before injuries ended his NFL career in 2006. But as one door closed for Fleck, another opened as he wanted to pursue a career in coaching.
In 2006, Fleck was a graduate assistant for the Ohio State Buckeyes where at learned at the feet of head football coach Jim Tressel. After one year at Ohio State, Fleck would return to his alma mater in 2007 as the wide receivers coach. After three years at Northern Illinois, Fleck would join the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the same capacity before returning to the National Football League in 2012 as the wide receivers coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But Fleck would receive the opportunity of a lifetime in 2013 when he finally got to lead his own program when he was named as the head football coach at Western Michigan.
Things would start slow for Fleck as the Broncos went 1-11 in 2013 before they would turn things around as they went 8-5 in 2014 to become a contender in the Mid-American Conference.
This season Western Michigan began the season with a record of 1-3, but two of those losses came against Big Ten Conference powers in the Michigan State Spartans and Ohio State. The Broncos would win their first five conference games as a trip to Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan and the Mid-American Conference Title Game appeared to be in the cards until they suffered consecutive losses to the Bowling Green State Falcons and Northern Illinois. Western Michigan would rebound to win their regular-season finale against the Toledo Rockets and in the process hurt their chances of making the conference title game. Then on Christmas Eve, the Broncos knocked off the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders 45-31 in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl for their first bowl win in school history. The Broncos finished 2015 with a record of 8-5 which also marked the first time since 2006 that they had consecutive winning seasons.
Western Michigan finished this college football season with the top offense in the Mid-American Conference while they are currently 17th in the nation in total offense. The Broncos offense also produced three, first-team All-MAC performers in senior offensive tackle Willie Beavers, along with junior wide receivers Corey Davis and Daniel Braverman. The Broncos also had the MAC Freshman of the Year in running back Jamauri Bogan who gained 1,051 yards on the ground. The Broncos have a ton of talent returning on the offensive side of the football which will make them an early favorite to win the MAC in 2016 which would also make Fleck an attractive name for some potential openings at bigger schools.
At the age of 35, Fleck looks like he could be a football player for Western Michigan and the passion that he had as a player is still with him. When Fleck takes the field with his team, he wears a shirt and a tie like Tressel did at Ohio State, but he is also known to put on a pair of cleats while he is one the sidelines, and if he could, he would go out on the field in order to catch a slant pass. Fleck is a native of Sugar Grove, Illinois and he embodies that region of the United States as he is scrappy and he is not going to take anything for granted. And after facing Western Michigan under Fleck, teams know that win or lose, they’ve been in a battle.
Like I previously stated, Fleck’s energy and enthusiasm are infectious, and it won’t be that long before more people around the college football world know about it as it will become very difficult to just keep it bottled up at Western Michigan.
Source: Cfbstats.com, Sports-reference.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.