Previewing MACtion


MAC to continue heated division races

Trevor Colgan / For The Post

The Mid-American Conference had the same football teams play in its championship game from 2013 to 2015: Bowling Green and Northern Illinois.

The past two seasons have brought four different teams to Ford Field in Detroit to play for the conference’s crown: Ohio, Western Michigan, Akron and Toledo. Three of the last four MAC champions have come from the West Division.

The Bobcats had their chance to repeat as MAC East Division champions in 2017, they just couldn’t take advantage of a late-season matchup against the Zips, who finished 7-7.

Ohio figures to be back in contention for the East Division, with needed stability at quarterback with the return of Nathan Rourke.

Buffalo and Miami will likely be the two teams that give Ohio its toughest challenge. The Bobcats lost to the Bulls in the season finale last year. The matchup on Nov. 14 between the two in Athens this season may determine the MAC East Division champion.


Mijana Mazur | FOR THE POST

Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke tries to escape Central Michigan defense during the homecoming game on October 7, 2017.

Headed into his fifth year at Buffalo, coach Lance Leipold’s Bulls show promise. If they can win conference road games at Central Michigan, Toledo and Bowling Green, Buffalo will be a threat.

Over the past few seasons, Miami hasn’t been successful. A 5-7 campaign followed a 6-7 season where the RedHawks lost their first six games and won the last six regular season games.

The RedHawks are 5-17 in one possession games under coach Chuck Martin, who is in his fifth year. They were 0-5 last year in said games. A few different bounces and the RedHawks might have been in Detroit. They were 4-1 in the MAC in the non-one possession games.

If Miami is able to change its fortunes in close games, will it be able to return to Detroit for the first time since 2010?

Bowling Green and Akron have chances to compete in the East Division but will need some help. The Falcons have struggled after winning the East Division for three straight years. When Dino Babers departed for Syracuse after the 2015 season the Falcons hired first-time coach Mike Jinks.

Since then, Jinks has proved to be a solid recruiter, with two top-three classes. The results, however, haven’t been there.

With sophomores quarterback Jarret Doege and running back Andrew Clair in the backfield, there’s hope for the Falcons.

Despite winning the division, Akron was not a great team. The Zips had a 35 percent offensive efficiency rating and a 47 percent rating on the defensive side. Both of those numbers are near the bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision.

To round out the East, Kent State will begin a rebuild. The Golden Flashes will be in the first year of coach Sean Lewis’ tenure.

On the other side of the conference, Toledo should be the favorite to win the division. Jason Candle is headed into his fourth season as the Rockets coach, fresh off of a MAC title. Candle has only lost seven games with the Rockets.

Toledo will lose star quarterback Logan Woodside and running back Terry Swanson. Toledo will have to answer the quarterback question in fall camp. Junior Mitch Guadagni is the most experienced quarterback on the current roster, but he’s just 1-6 in his passing career with an interception.

Blake Nissen | PHOTO EDITOR

Ryan Luehrman runs out of the tunnel before Ohio's game against Kent State University on October 21, 2017. The Bobcats won 48-3.

Whoever starts for the Rockets will have a good receiving core to throw to with Cody Thompson and Diontae Johnson returning.

Northern Illinois teams of old dominated, winning the West Division for six straight years from 2010 to 2015. The past two seasons have not been successful for the Huskies. After a few years of stability at quarterback after the graduation of Jordan Lynch, rising sophomore Marcus Childers will look to give the Huskies stability at the position.

Led by national tackle for losses leader Sutton Smith, the Huskies will hope to get to Detroit by way of a strong defense.

Behind those two teams in the West Division are Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan. After an undefeated 2016 regular season, the Broncos finished .500 last year. Slight improvement may be expected, but in Tim Lester’s second season at the helm, a rebuild will probably continue.

After making its first bowl appearance since 1987 two seasons ago, Eastern Michigan finished last season with a disappointing 5-7 record. The Eagles lost six games by one score.

Take away a few late turnovers, and the Eagles could have made back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time ever.

The MAC is known for its parity and its shown the past two seasons. Will this year continue that trend? Will Ohio make it to Detroit for the second time in three years? Will Toledo continue to be the best team in the West?

Only time and mid-week night games will tell.

Development by: Megan Knapp / Digital Production Editor

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