We’ll have a longer Giving Away Money coming later this week. But on this special Tuesday, I’m sure your thoughts are occupied by something far more significant:
THE RETURN OF MAC FOOTBALL!
In honor of this momentous occasion, we’ll pick all six Wednesday MAC games.
Kent State -5 vs. Eastern Michigan — EMU is one of the better coached traditionally-terrible teams in the country. Chris Creighton has taken the woebegone Eagles to three of the programs’ four bowl teams in history, including B2B in 2018 and 2019. But, that was with Mike Glass, the MAC’s 2nd team OPOTY...who is now gone. And, even with Glass, the EMU offense wasn’t great. Neither was the defense for that matter. Both were middle of the road. Kent on the other hand is trending way up, led by its basketball-on-grass (the FastFlash) — think Dino Babers — and a defense that is surprisingly competent. They also use a two QB and two-QB-set system that is a nightmare to defend. It was a strong enough scheme to win 6 of 7 down the stretch and then lit up Utah State in a bowl. It’s too bad for Kent that they’re in the tough division with Ohio and Miami and Buffalo, but the Flash are more than good enough to cover this win. Kent 38 — EMU 27
Western Michigan - 18 1⁄2 at Akron — Yes, the Zips went 0-fer last year, but they were mostly competitive in league play, led by a pretty sound defense. This year, it’s a more experienced bunch in Year Two of Coach Arth’s scheme. The Broncos meanwhile had a chance to win the Western Crown last year, but imploded on the road (in some fairness, it was a tough slate.) That said, even with a very veteran group they had a propensity to play tight games, even when they should not have. And in 2020, they lose a lot of starters. The Zips won’t win this one, but I bet the veteran defense notches a cover at home. WMU 34 — Akron 21
Ball State +2 at Miami (OH) — How is this for an early season Big Game? Ball State has been a lot more competitive than its record suggests and returns its most veteran team in four seasons. That would usually be enough to get a blessing from us. However, they travel to face the Redhawks who also return their deepest and most veteran team in three years. Last season, UM played for the MAC crown with a true freshman QB and three freshman on the OL, so they are very much a favorite again this season (particularly with that stifling defense). UM doesn’t do anything flashy on offense, but it is just good enough to get Ws. QB Brett Gabbart should have a bigger season after having to start last year as a freshman...and, if not, their top two RBs return to pick up the slack. BSU’s +8 turnover margin in 2019 (+5 in FR) usually bodes poorly for the next season, as regression to the mean is an actual thing in that flukish category. I think that TOM regression will matter. Miami comes outta’ the gate strong. UM 31 — Ball State 24
Ohio -1 1⁄2 at Central Michigan — I usually don’t bet against the Bobcats in the MAC...pretty much ever (unless they’re playing Buffalo). Until today, that is. This is as toss-up a game as you’ll see. Eastern and Western division favorites collide in what could be the first of two meetings. There’s a lot to like about the Chippewas, including the fact that they dominate offensively (Jim McElwain didn’t forget how to coach). But they do not have a returning signal caller, and the CMU backfield is thin. Ohio, meanwhile, was the MAC’s top offense, but also loses its QB — a three-time All-MAC player. At most every other position the Bobats are set though — including a defense that returns almost everyone. We would ordinarily say that’s the difference in this one, but we also ride trends. The trend is this — Frank Solich has been pretty awful against CMU, and he’s not won against them in almost a decade (that said, he didn’t forget how to coach either.) The homefield in Mount Pleasant makes the difference here as the Bobcats have one too many turnovers against a similarly veteran CMU defense; home team with the slight upset. This will be the game of the night, though. Tune in. Central Michigan 35 Ohio 34
Buffalo -13 at NIU — Buffalo returns 16 starters off what was already the MAC’s best team and its best defense. NIU is in year two of the Hammock era and the scheme change has greatly affected the roster: Not only has NIU’s recruiting fallen off, he has had 11 guys hit the portal this offseason. Making matters worse, NIU also returns just 7 starters total. That home field won’t matter; 10 months to prep won’t matter; and don’t let that usually-solid NIU name brand fool you. The Bulls crush the Huskies on the road. Buffalo 37 NIU 14
Toledo -22 at Bowling Green — The Falcons are just terrible...far worse than last season’s 3-9 record suggests. Scot Loeffler is in over his head. This team isn’t athletic. It’s not competitive. And, worse, it can’t score...in the MAC. When was the last time you saw a MAC team held to 10 points or fewer...by other MAC teams? Toledo, meanwhile, vies with Buffalo as the league’s best squad. Did we mention that Toledo is at home? Yeah, because they are. This will be an ass-beating out of the gate. Rockets 52 — Falcons 10