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MAC (Mid American Conference) College Football Preview 2017

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The MAC has long been a great mid major conference and last year was no different with Western Michigan playing in a New Year’s six game. Toledo should be a force again this year and while Northern Illinois and Bowling Green had a down years they should be back this year. Last year Eastern Michigan went bowling for the first time since 1987 so perhaps they can continue the momentum and go bowling yet again. Miami (OH) started the season 0-6 but ended at 6-6 and lost a bowl game to SEC heavyweight Mississippi State on a blocked field goal. This year the MAC should be loaded again with a pretty open race to win it all.

EAST DIVISION

1. OHIO BOBCATS
Last year everyone had Bowling Green winning the east but I called for Ohio to win the division which is what actually happened. Frank Solich has long been doing great things with this Ohio program. They haven’t had a losing season since 2008 so expect the Bobcats to bowling again this season. The man to watch is sophomore QB Quinton Maxwell for his decision making may tell the tale for Bobcats season. The out of conference schedule has games vs Hampton, @ Purdue, vs Kansas & @ Umass.

All four of those games are winnable for Solich but I expect Purdue & Umass to be much improved. I’m going to say they go 2-2 or 3-1 in those four. On the road in the MAC they get games at Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green, Akron & Buffalo. I’m thinking 3-1 here or potentially 4-0 but the only for sure win should be Buffalo. At home in Athens they get Central Michigan, Kent State, Miami (OH), & Toledo. I’m thinking 3-1 here with the only L coming against Toledo. All together that means the Bobcats should be looking at an 8-4 or 9-3 season with potential to win more than that if they get a few bounces.

2. MIAMI (OH) REDHAWKS
What a 2nd half to the season Miami had, they were easily one of the hottest teams in the nation when last December rolled around. This year the Redhawks should pick up right where they left off with the return of star QB Gus Ragland. 9 of 11 starters return for an offense that could be one of the best in the MAC. The out of conference schedule has matchups @ Marshall, vs Austin Peay, vs Cincinnati, & @ Notre Dame.

With exception to the Austin Peay matchup those aren’t easy games. I’m thinking they go 2-2 there but they need not go 1-3. On the road in conference they have games at Central Michigan, Kent State, Ohio & Ball State. I’m thinking 3-1 or 2-2 there with the toss up game being at Central Michigan. At home in Oxford Miami gets Bowling Green, Buffalo, Akron & Eastern Michigan. They should be favored to win all four but I’m just going to say they go 3-1 in those but 4-0 is certainly possible. I’m thinking a 7-5 or 8-4 season for Miami.

3. AKRON ZIPS
Last year the Zips went 5-7 but were a tough out. Considering how young this team was I think it was a solid coaching job by Terry Bowden. This year all that youth turns into experience and should have Akron as a real player to potentially win this division. Quarterback Thomas Woodson and former Ohio State running back Warren Ball should lead the way for the Zips and be quite the dynamic backfield. The out of conference schedule has matchups @ Penn State, vs Arkansas Pine Bluff, vs Iowa State & @ Troy.

That’s pretty brutal but maybe the Zips can pull the upset against Iowa State or on the road at Troy. I’m thinking 1-3 here but maybe 2-2. The conference road games are at Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Toledo & Miami (OH). Ouch! Those are all very tough road games. I’m thinking 1-3 or 2-2 here but this very well could be the bowl indicator for the Zips. At home in Akron they get matchups vs Ball State, Buffalo, Ohio & Kent State. I’m thinking 4-0 or 3-1 here. All together if the Zips want to go bowling they’re going to need to show up on the road and maybe pull off a couple of upsets. I see the Zips at 6-6 for the year.

4. BOWLING GREEN FALCONS
1st year head coach Mike Jinks really struggled right out the gates with Bowling Green last year but towards the 2nd half of the season there were plenty of signs of life for Falcons fans. The offense should still be top notch with sophomore QB James Morgan back at the helm. The real story for the Falcons will be if their defense decides to show up. They bring back 6 of the 11 starters but none of that means anything if they aren’t improved.

The out of conference schedule has matchups @ Michigan State, vs South Dakota, @ Northwestern & @ Middle Tennessee. I’m thinking 1-3 here even though I would love to see them knock off a big 10 team. In conference on the road the Falcons have games at Miami (OH), Kent State, Buffalo & Eastern Michigan. I’m thinking 2-2 or 3-1 on the road, which means if they can just take care of work at home they could be bowling. The home games are vs Akron, Ohio, Northern Illinois & Toledo. That’s where the season fails for Falcons. I got them winning one of those and going 4-8 on the season.

5. KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES
Them or Buffalo was a tough call but I decided to go with the Golden Flashes and head coach Paul Haynes strictly because the Golden Flashes are a decent defensive team. If only they could get some offense to go with that defense. They return 7 starters to the offense which will be led by senior QB Nick Holley but can they just get some points? The out of conference schedule is absolutely brutal with games @ Clemson, vs Howard, @ Marshall & @ Louisville.

They better win the Howard game because I don’t see them winning any of the others. On the road in conference Kent State plays at Northern Illinois, Ohio, Western Michigan & Akron. Brutal! I can’t see them winning any of those and going 0-4. At home in Kent they get Buffalo, Miami (OH), Bowling Green & Central Michigan. I’m thinking 1-3 here as they beat Buffalo and maybe just maybe they pull an upset over BG or CMU. All together that means I have the Golden Flashes going 2-10 or 3-9 on the year.

6. BUFFALO BULLS
Head coach Lance Leipold really impressed my two years ago when his team narrowly missed out on a bowl game but last year the Bulls really ate it going 2-10 for the year. I’m really not sure what to make of them this year. Can Leipold pull off some of his magic and get this team back headed in the right direction? They have a lot returning on the offensive line and the defense but still they have a ton of questions at the skill positions. The out of conference schedule has games @ Minnesota, @ Army, vs Colgate & vs Florida Atlantic. This could get interesting for the Bulls. Minnesota is clearly much better but hey they get the gophers in their first game with new head coach PJ Fleck. Then they get Army who they beat last year, then Colgate. Those are two winnable games.

Then they get Florida Atlantic in the end of september where perhaps cold weather could play an issue? FAU will be favored but hey I could see this being close with some rain or cold weather. I’m going to say 1-3 but they have plenty of great opportunities here. On the road in conference the Bulls have games at Kent State, Miami (OH), Akron & Ball State. I’m thinking 0-4 here but it’s possible they go 2-2. At home in Buffalo they get Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Bowling Green & Ohio. They’ll be underdogs in all four of those but I’m thinking they upset one of them (Bowling Green I’m looking at you). All together I got the Bulls going 2-10 but if they can get off on the right foot this team could surprise.

WEST DIVISION

1. TOLEDO ROCKETS
The Rockets have been one of the really good football teams no one in American knows about. 2nd year head coach Jason Candle did great in his first year leading Toledo to a 9-4 record and this year they should be even better. Logan Woodside is back at QB for Toledo and he’s one of the best kept secrets in America. The Defense returns 7 starters so this could be a very good football team yet again.

The out of conference schedule has games vs Elon, @ Nevada, vs Tulsa & @ Miami (FL). I’m thinking 3-1 here but the Tulsa game could be a good one. On the road in conference the Rockets play at Central Michigan, Ball State, Ohio & Bowling Green. I’m thinking 4-0 or 3-1 here with the big game being @ Ohio. At home in Toledo they get games vs Eastern Michigan, Akron, Northern Illinois, & Western Michigan. They should be favored in all those but need not sleep of Northern Illinois or WMU. I’m going to say 4-0 which would leave the Rockets at 11-1 for the season.

2. NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES
Head coach Rod Carey is entering his 5th season and some say he’s on the hot seat. I have a hard time seeing that considering last season was his first losing season and they barely missed out on a bowl. In fact if you look closely at last season Northern Illinois lost a ton of close games which means they were probably better than that 5-7 record they posted. I expect the Huskies to be much improved and to be a real player in the MAC this year.

The out of conference schedule has games vs Boston College, vs Eastern Illinois, @ Nebraska & @ San Diego State. That’s a real tough slate of games there but I think they could potentially pull an upset against BC or San Diego State and make them 2-2 for the out of conference schedule. The road games in conference are at Buffalo, Bowling Green, Toledo & Central Michigan. I’m thinking 3-1 here or at worst 2-2. Then home in DeKalb they get games vs Kent State, Eastern Michigan, Ball State & Western Michigan. I’ve got the Huskies going 4-0 here and going 8-4 for the season.

3. WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS
This division is really loaded. Every team is pretty good, between WMU and Central Michigan I had a hard time picking who would be better but I finally decided on WMU because of their experience. Sure, Tim Lester is a new head coach but he’s a familiar face at WMU. Not too long ago I remember Lester playing QB at WMU. The big question in Kalamazoo will be who will be their QB in week 1? Sophomore Jon Wassink or Joe Flacco’s little brother Tom Flacco?

The defense returns a lot so the real question for WMU will be on the offensive side of the ball. The out of conference schedule is pretty brutal with games @ USC, @ Michigan State, vs Idaho, & vs Wagner. I’m thinking 2-2 here but don’t sleep on Idaho they were a bowl team last year. On the road in conference the Broncos have games at Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois & Toledo. Thats pretty challenging but I’m going to say 2-2 there. At home in Kalamazoo they get games vs Ball State, Akron, Central Michigan & Kent State. They should be favored in all of those but that Central Michigan game could be a toss up. I’m going to say 4-0 here which will leave the Broncos at 8-4 for the year which would be a great first year for head coach Tim Lester.

4. CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS
CMU remains to me to be the real question mark team of the MAC for me. In one hand they could be serious contenders to win the whole thing and in the other they could be in the basement of this division. Head coach John Bonamego has 9 starters back on offense plus they add in veteran QB and Michigan transfer Shane Morris so the talent is certainly there for the Chippewas to be contenders.

The out of conference schedule has games vs Rhode Island, @ Kansas, @ Syracuse & @ Boston College. Playing 3 power 5 schools is impressive, they just better hope it doesn’t blow up in their face. I got CMU going 2-2 out of conference but Kansas is improving so that’s no longer a for sure win. On the road in the MAC they have games at Ohio, Ball State, Western Michigan, & Kent State. I’m thinking 2-2 here but the rivalry game vs WMU is always crazy. At home in Mt. Pleasant CMU gets Miami (OH), Toledo, Eastern Michigan & Northern Illinois. That’s an incredibly tough home schedule that has me thinking 1-3 and 5-7 for the year.

5. EASTERN MICHIGAN EAGLES
EMU was easily one of the cinderella teams of last year. Chris Creighton did a heck of a coaching job and if you really study the numbers over the past 20 years he might be doing one of the best jobs ever at a mid major. To really say that though they’re going to need to do it consistently year in and year out. This year I may have the Eagles rated 5th in this challenging division but there’s plenty of room to be excited if you are a Eagles fan. First they bring back star QB Brogan Roback who is one of the best QBs in the MAC. Mix that with the return of 8 starters on defense and this team could be a real player in the MAC.

The out of conference schedule has games vs Charlotte, @ Rutgers, @ Kentucky, & @ Army. I’m thinking 2-2 here but who knows maybe they give Rutgers or Kentucky a game. The Army game will need to be a key win for this team if they want a shot at bowling. On the road in the MAC they have games at Toledo, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, & Miami (OH). That’s the main reason why I have the Eagles 5th. I’m thinking 1-3 at best in those four and very well could be winless on the road in conference. At home in Ypsilanti they get Ohio, Western Michigan, Ball State & Bowling Green. I’m thinking 2-2 here but maybe they sneak past WMU and go bowling. I’m not betting on it though. I’m thinking 5-7 for the Eagles but that’s still a solid season when you think of how far they have come.

6. BALL STATE CARDINALS
Last year was head coach Mike Neu’s 1st season at Ball State and I thought he did a decent job considering the division is loaded and they lost a lot of close games. The only problem is that the division is probably even more loaded than last year but hey there’s a reason why they play the games. QB Riley Neal is back at under center for Cardinals and if he can learn to cut down on the turnovers Ball State might just become a player in the division.

The out of conference schedule has matchups @ Illinois , vs UAB, vs Tennessee Tech, & @ Western Kentucky. 2-2 is possible here and I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave Illinois a run for the money. On the road in conference Ball State plays at Western Michigan, Akron, Eastern Michigan & Northern Illinois. I can’t see them winning any of those but maybe the EMU game. At home in Muncie the Cardinals get Central Michigan, Toledo, Buffalo & Miami (OH). I’m thinking 1-3 there or at best 2-2. All together that means I have the Cardinals going 3-9 for the season.

Colby Dant is a stand up comedian and The Sports Gambling Podcast's official college football and basketball expert. Unfortunately he's also a huge Jets fan.

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