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2015 MAC Football Preview: Championship is Up for Grabs

MAC Football

Northern Illinois has owned the MAC the past couple of seasons, but that could change in 2015. Heading into the new college football season, there are many questions surrounding this conference. Most notably, which team is the favorite? Answering that question is difficult because, quite honestly, no team really stands out ahead of the rest. The MAC has seen better days. 2015 probably won’t be a pretty year for the conference, but here’s a good guide on what to expect in the fall.

The Contenders

The list of contenders must start with Northern Illinois because, until someone unseats them atop the conference, they deserve to be on the list. NIU brings back a solid game-managing quarterback in Drew Ware. Ware isn’t going to light up the stat sheets but he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes either. Defensively, NIU returns 8 strarters from a defense that was solid a season ago. NIU will take a step back because they have to make up for the loss of all their biggest playmakers.

Many pundits are picking Toledo to win this league, and for good reason. Toledo isn’t going to compete on a national level, but they have the playmakers to win this league. Running back Kareem Hunt is one of the top rushers in the country and will continue to torch MAC defenses. Toledo coach Matt Campbell is also banking on his defense to improve, bringing back 8 starters from a defense that gave up far too many points last year. If Toledo or NIU don’t get it done, look for Bowling Green to be the conference champ. The Falcons return 10 starters on offense. Experience is as important as anything in a mid-major conference.

The Darkhorses

As long as former Nebraska coach Frank Solich roams the sidelines at Ohio University, the Bobcats have a shot to compete in this league. 2014 was a down year for this program (6-6). But the Bobcats return 9 starters on offense and 7 on defense. For Ohio to be the conference’s surprise team, they’ll need to get some more consistent play from quarterback JD Sprague and more explosiveness out of running back A.J. Ouellette. In order for that to happen, Solich had better hope having 4 offensive line starters back leads to improved blocking because the Bobcats simply weren’t good enough up front last year.

The Hopeless

There are 3 guarantees in life: death, taxes, and the MAC producing a handful of horrible D-1 college football teams. This year, the really bad MAC teams include Miami(OH), Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Kent State, and Buffalo. Eastern Michigan is the worst of the worst. The Eagles finished 2-10 last year and will be lucky to match that record this year. If you find a sportsbook offering an over/under of 1.5 on EMU’s win total, bet the mortgage on the under and don’t look back. EMU has the perfect mix of terrible offense and terrible defense to make you feel comfortable with that bet.

The Others

UMASS, Western Michigan, Akron, and Ball State will battle it out for the MAC’s last few bowl slots. These teams don’t have conference championship caliber talent, but they have enough quality football players to give those top teams fits and dominate the bottom tier squads. UMASS, despite bringing back 9 defensive starters, will likely miss out on conference championship contention because of the defense. However, quarterback Blake Frohnapfel will make enough plays to keep them in most games. He’s the league’s top passer and has the league’s top receiver (Tajae Sharpe) to connect with.

Final Predictions

  • MAC East Champs: Bowling Green
  • MAC West Champs: Northern Illinois
  • MAC Champs: Bowling Green
  • MAC Offensive POY: Tajae Sharpe, WR UMASS
  • MAC Defensive POY: Perez Ford, DE Northern Illinois

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