CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: MAC Preview
The 2017 CFN MAC Preview with the top players, teams that will surprise and disappoint, and shoes to fill.
2017 MAC Preview
The MAC isn’t going to ever get to the College Football Playoff – it’s just not going to happen. But Western Michigan proved it could do the next best thing by earning the Group of Five’s spot in a New Year’s Six game, pushing Wisconsin in a solid Cotton Bowl performance.
Now do it again.
As always, the MAC will have its curveballs. There’s always another 2016 Eastern Michigan season coming from somewhere – that’s what the MAC does. But there’s a realistic goal now for everyone to go after.
It really is possible to get into the spotlight.
It’s almost never going to be easy for a conference that always plays a slew of Power Five teams to make the NY6 showcase – Western Michigan got by Illinois and Northwestern last year – but Northern Illinois went to the Orange Bowl in the 2012 season, making twice in five years the MAC got into one of the premier games.
But if that doesn’t happen this season, winning a few bowl games would be nice, too.
Just getting into the New Year’s Six is the goal – everything past that is gravy. The Broncos losing to the Badgers is no big deal, and Miami University pushing Mississippi State in a 17-16 St. Petersburg Bowl loss was acceptable – but they were both losses.
Ohio pushed Western Michigan in the MAC title game – and lost to Troy in the Dollar General Bowl.
Central Michigan got destroyed by Tulsa in the Miami Beach, Eastern Michigan lost to Old Dominion in the Bahamas, and Toledo lost to Appalachian State in the Camellia.
That’s 0-6 in the bowl season with four of the defeats coming to other Group of Five teams. But no one remembers those, since Western Michigan got to the New Year’s Six.
This year’s MAC won’t be as strong as the 2016 version, with the Broncos taking a step back – going to USC to start the season will end the idea of repeating the regular season fun of last year – Northern Illinois and Bowling Green still trying to get back to their 2015 selves, Ohio being Ohio – always very good, just not very great – and hoping for Miami University to continue the success from the end of last season.
Which puts all eyes on Toledo to rip though the conference and get the league back to one of the glory games.
The Rockets are loaded with a terrific offense, and outside of a trip to Miami, they have a manageable schedule. Go 12-1 with a MAC title – or shock the Hurricanes and go 13-0 – and the league has another Western Michigan.
And that’s the realistic goal now. Keep fielding a great team or two every year, fill the bowl slots, and keep being interesting and surprising.
MAC Team That Will Surprise
Bowling Green Falcons
After a year off, the 2015 MAC champions will be back among the living again. The defense didn’t really rock when the Falcons won the conference title, but the explosive offense made up for it. Last year, the defense didn’t really rock, and the offense didn’t, either.
No, this won’t be as good a team as the version two years ago, but it’ll be strong enough to be back in the title chase. Getting Ohio at home will help, and the conference road games at Miami University, Kent State, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan aren’t that bad.
MAC Team That Will Disappoint
Eastern Michigan Eagles
Last year was a whole lot of fun as Eastern Michigan went from being college football’s favorite doormat to bowl eligible. The team is still going to be okay, but the schedule is relatively brutal. Here’s the big problem – where are the wins?
The Eagles are almost certainly going to be be underdogs at Rutgers, Kentucky, Army, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Miami University. And the home games? After starting out against Charlotte, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan, Ball State, Bowling Green. Good luck.
MAC Game Of The Year
Western Michigan at Toledo, Nov. 24
The Broncos aren’t going to crash – even if they’re going to be far worse – and they’ll at least be among the MAC’s top three teams. Toledo should be the star of the show if everything breaks right. If that’s true on both sides, the regular season finale in Toledo should be for the MAC West title, and almost certainly, for the MAC championship. That was pretty much the case last year, too, with WMU winning a 35-30 battle.
5 Big-Time MAC Players Who Deserve A Bigger Spotlight
Five players who have been a bit under the radar on a national level, but should rise up and be among the season’s best players.
1. CB Heath Harding, Sr. Miami Univ.
2. LB Malik Fountain, Jr. Central Michigan
3. WR Cody Thompson, Sr. Toledo
4. LB Ulysses Gilbert, Jr. Akron
5. DE Anthony Wimbush, Sr. Ball State
5 MAC Coaches On The Hot Seat
Five MAC coaches who’d better win this season. Being on a hot seat doesn’t necessarily mean a coach is about to fired, but the pressure is on to produce up to expectations and beyond.
1. Lance Leipold, Buffalo
2. Paul Haynes, Kent State
3. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
4. Mike Jinks, Bowling Green
5. Mike Neu, Ball State
5 Non-Conference Games That MAC Opponents Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
These are the games that could define the MAC season with some big non-conference wins. The Power Five opponents had better be prepared.
1. Central Michigan at Kansas, Sept. 9
2. Toledo at Miami, Sept. 23
3. Ohio at Purdue, Sept. 8
4. Boston College at Northern Illinois, Sept. 1
5. Ball State at Illinois, Sept. 2
5 Best MAC Pro Prospects
1. LB Quentin Poling, Sr. Ohio
2. CB/KR Darius Phillips, Sr. Western Michigan
3. LB Khalil Hodge, Jr. Buffalo
4. P Joe Davidson, Sr. Bowling Green
5. OT Chukwuma Okorafor, Sr. Western Michigan
5 Biggest MAC Shoes To Fill
1. Western Michigan WR Anton Curtis for Corey Davis
2. Toledo RB Terry Swanson (at least in a full-time role) for Kareem Hunt
3. Western Michigan QB Tom Flacco for Zach Terrell
4. Ohio LB Evan Croutch for Blair Brown
5. Eastern Michigan DE Clay Holford for Pat O’Connor