MAC College Football Previewby Charlie Parent August 17, 2021 0 comments
The MAC attack is back and better than ever in 2021 after a thrilling year last year which saw upsets and unexpected teams. Ball State won their first title since 1996 with a huge upset over heavily favored Buffalo in the conference championship game. Now, we look past last year’s excitement and into the future of what is everyone’s favorite weekday conference. The now historic MACtion continues to play their unordinary schedule in 2021, one that gives fans entertainment and college football throughout the week.
Make sure to check out all of our other College Football Conference Previews.
Top Conference Players
The MAC is not too star-studded like some other conferences are, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent all around. The loss of Buffalo’s Jarrett Patterson does not help but there are plenty of other good players to go around. For starters, we have Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum. Crum led a super offense last year and should make the case for first-team all-MAC. Toledo’s running back Bryant Koback is the best back in this conference after running for over 520 yards in five games last season. He’s a prime candidate to replace Patterson as the superstar in this league. Receivers like Dustin Hall and Jack Sorenson are very exciting pieces to watch, while linebackers Troy Brown and Brandon Martin will make pushes for defensive player of the year.
Coaches on the Hot Seat
After an impressive start to his head coaching tenure at Northern Illinois, Thomas Hammock was rather disappointing his second year. The Huskies went 0-6 in 2020, which obviously will not cut it for a group of five program that is more well known than most. Another coach that’s looking a little shaky is Bowling Green’s, Scott Loeffler. He went winless in 2020 and fans amongst the program are calling for his termination. Overall, these two need to make some moves in 2021 or they’ll be back amongst the coaching carousel next season.
Three Conference Games to Watch
Not a very prestigious conference, the MAC still brings some fun rivalries to the table. Traditionally, big games like Ohio vs Miami of Ohio, Central Michigan vs Western Michigan, and Kent State vs Akron are all some nice in-state cross-town matchups. Otherwise, the big games are focused on what the stakes are for each team, and we have a lot of those this year.
Toledo vs Ball State
The race for first in the West Division is clearly between these two squads, and it’s honestly a tossup predicting who will win it right now. This game at Ball State will be a massive step in determining who will take the division crown. We can expect a high-scoring affair here but not necessarily a shootout. Overall, it should come right down to the wire, but with Toledo having more unknowns, and being on the road, the prediction as of now is Ball State.
Ohio vs Buffalo
Another of the same situation here, two of the top teams in the division go into this one with massive championship implications. The East is pretty top-heavy, and we could see teams with lots of talent on paper, falling often. Ohio is the favorite in this division but traveling to a tough Buffalo team could get a little hairy, and new Buffalo running back Kevin Marks Jr. is looking to breakout and gash a defense that struggled against the run last season. If Buffalo can knock off Ohio here, the division race will get really exciting with teams such as Miami of Ohio and Kent State waiting in the wings.
Miami of Ohio vs Ohio
We hinted at this rivalry earlier but this is another game that brings so much divisional excitement. Late in the season, these two teams will spill their bad blood for each other and potentially play for a championship appearance. Each squad brings in exciting offenses, with Miami of Ohio being slightly more experienced, but its defense is what will win this duel. The defenses for both programs are on the rise, and it seems whoever will step up first will seal the deal for their team. Overall, this game is a bit of a toss-up now and should be one to tune into this November.
One Bold Prediction
A MAC team will land at least two upsets in Week 1. Being the lower-tier conference that they are, MAC teams are normally scheduled against much higher rankings opponents. This year is no different. We have Bowling Green against Tennessee, Western Michigan vs Michigan, Central Michigan vs Missouri, Ball State vs Cincinnati, and Northern Illinois vs Georgia Tech among others. The prediction here is that one of these power five teams slips up early in their season, for whatever reason, and the MAC takes some games home. These upsets would be huge in college football and some aren’t too far off from being realistic at the end of the day.
Dark Horse Teams
When you look at it, there aren’t too many dark horses in the conference. In all honesty, some of these teams have always been dark horses. Those being Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan. They always can be tricky games but you never really know what you’ll get out of those programs. Kent State is another team that could be considered a dark horse, although it’s also one that will be at the top of the standings all year hopefully. A bit of a bottom feeder in the conference, Northern Illinois has one of the youngest teams in the sport, and while they aren’t expected to do much, they should be a unit to keep tabs on.
- Miami of Ohio
- Kent State
- Bowling Green
- Ball State
- Western Michigan
- Eastern Michigan
- Central Michigan
- Northern Illinois
These standings are a bit of a surprise for most here. The top four in the East are all so interchangeable. But we’ll take the experience and high-powered offenses to slug through the tough schedule. Ball State ends up winning the West, mostly because they have a quarterback solution right now. While the three Michigan teams following can provide some upsets. Bowling Green, Akron, and Northern Illinois are all in for a tough season. However, things should be looking up for every one of these programs. All three shall hopefully see success in the next few years.
Conference Championship Matchup
These teams will not meet up in the regular season but they will provide an exciting championship game. This will be Ball State’s second year back here. While Miami of Ohio finds its way back after winning the championship in 2019. We should be seeing an intense battle in this one with both teams featuring exciting offenses and experienced defenses. Expect a game in the 20s here where neither team can really separate themselves, but they still are constantly scoring. All in all, Ball State’s talent might just be too much for the Redhawks. As they will take home their second straight MAC title.
Follow Charlie Parent on Twitter @Charlie_Parent
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images