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Fleck has been replaced by Tim Lester as Western Michigan’s head football coach.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