MAC football has provided the nation some of the most exciting and memorable games of the last few seasons. If you are unfamiliar with MACtion, it isn’t too late to get on the bandwagon and fill your football week with such greatness as this:
Some candidates to carry the banner for MAC football in 2013:
10. Northern Illinois at Central Michigan, Oct. 19
No team was hotter by season’s end than Central Michigan, which went from 3-6 to 7-6 over the year’s final month-plus.
Should the Chippewas extend their winning ways through the season’s first month, reigning champion Northern Illinois just might be entering a trap. The Huskies visit CMU on Homecoming weekend.
9. Bowling Green at Buffalo, Nov. 29
Buffalo has not bowled since Turner Gill led the Bulls to a surprise MAC title in 2008. This year’s UB bunch is the best since ’08, at least on paper. Sixteen starters return, include NFL-bound linebacker Khalil Mack. Mack is the conference’s best individual defensive talent, but in the regular season finale, his team will be up against the MAC’s elite defensive team.
BGSU held opponents to just 106.5 rushing yards per game. The Falcons will need to put forth similar effort to slow down outstanding Bull ball carrier Branden Oliver, who could very well be playing for his postseason life in the regular season finale of his senior campaign.
8. Toledo at Central Michigan, Sept. 21
As mentioned above, CMU finished 2012 on a four-game win streak. However, the Chippewas’ Little Caesars Pizza Bowl defeat of Western Kentucky was their only win against an above-.500 opponent last season.
Toledo’s early season visit to Kalamazoo is the CMU’s first opportunity to score a meaningful victory in MAC play, and perhaps establish the Chippewas as West contenders.
7. Ohio at Bowling Green, Nov. 12
The Falcons stymied Ohio’s offense on this midweek, national broadcast last November. The Bobcats could muster only 14 points off 244 yards, but special teams gaffes were their ultimate undoing.
Ohio’s star running back, Beau Blankenship, averaged 5.4 yards per carry on the Falcon defense. Establishing Blankenship early can free Tyler Tettleton to inflict some havoc with his dual-threat game.
6. Northern Illinois at Toledo, Nov. 20
The Rockets experienced a resurgence in recent years and have become consistent bowl participants, but have been unable to crack into the top of the West. That’s because Northern Illinois has dominated the division for the past three seasons, and is looking for a fourth straight MAC championship game appearance.
With Terrance Owens and David Fluellen in the backfield, Toledo’s is one of the most talented backfields in the conference. Add the magic that seems to linger over most midweek MAC contests, and this has the ingredients for a classic shootout.
5. Kent State at Ohio, Nov. 19
KSU ran the table during the 2012 MAC regular season, en route to a surprising East division title. The Golden Flashes sealed it on the final week with a 28-6 rout of preseason league favorite Ohio.
The Bobcats get the Golden Flashes in Athens this time around.
4. Toledo at Ball State, Sept. 28
Ball State’s surprising turnaround under Pete Lembo last year included a road win over Toledo, which knocked the Rockets out of the Top 25.
UT can return the favor as the likely road underdog in this installment.
3. Bowling Green at Kent State, Sept. 7
The two top teams from the East last season collide early this season. In 2012, Bowling Green’s stellar defense only once gave up more than the 31 points it surrendered to KSU. It allowed 37 in an early season defeat to Virginia Tech.
Yet, despite the Golden Flashes putting up 31 on BGSU, the Falcons nearly clipped KSU in their penultimate regular season weekend showdown. KSU needed 14 points in the fourth quarter to pull away in a back-and-forth contest.
This year’s winner gains an immediate leg up in the conference championship race, and sets the pace for the remainder of the season.
2. Ball State at Northern Illinois, Nov. 13
Perhaps the greatest threat to NIU’s reign of dominance in the West is BSU. The Cardinals return 14 starters, seven on each side of the ball, including the dynamic offensive triumvirate of Keith Wenning, Jahwn Edwards and Willie Snead.
This is the first of a huge, two-game series for the Huskies. NIU faces the Cardinals and Rockets in back-to-back midweek contests that could determine the divisional championship.
1. Northern Illinois at Kent State, Oct. 5
The 2012 conference championship game and default Orange Bowl semifinal was a classic MAC showdown: high scoring, marked with big rallies and determined late. The rematch has a high bar to meet, but both teams are more than capable of doing so.
Both Jordan Lynch and Dri Archer are in the national spotlight, with preseason Heisman campaigns and considerable buzz. Kent State is the fourth road game in a challenging, but manageable opening stretch for the Huskies.
If Lynch shines against the 11-win Golden Flashes — which returns home after a three-game road swing including visits to Valleys Death (LSU) and Happy (Penn State) — his portfolio gets a big boost.