2019 Mid-American Preview

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2019 Mid-American Conference (MAC) PREVIEW

Long Time Between Drinks Of Water

The MAC hasn’t produced consecutive conference champions since 2011-12, and four different programs have claimed the league title over the last four years. Northern Illinois enters the 2019 season as the defending champion, but the Huskies have question marks on both sides of the ball and 6-year veteran head coach Rod Carey has left the program to take over the Temple program. Meanwhile, Ohio U appears the team to beat in 2019.

Rivalries Abound

The MAC has its fair share of intense rivalries, including the Battle of the Bricks (Ohio vs. Miami), the Michigan MAC Trophy (Central, Eastern, and Western Michigan), the Battle of I-75 (Toledo vs. Bowling Green) and the Wagon Wheel (Akron vs. Kent State). Rest assured, despite being Group of Fivers, these rivalries remain intense.

Bowl Busts

The MAC has been a major disappointment in bowl games, especially the past 11 seasons as they are just 16-46 SU and 20-38-2 ATS overall, including 1-5 SU and 2-4 ATS last postseason.

Worse, in bowl games against foes coming off a loss the MAC has gone 3-22 SU and 4-20-1 ATS since 2008, including 0-7 SUATS as either a pick or a favorite (see Buffalo last year). Yikes.

The numbers following each team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, along with the number of returning linemen, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. The RPR represents each team’s overall, offensive and defensive rankings in overall returning production experience.


AKRON (Offense - *7/3, Defense - 3/1, RPR: 101/55/115)


The Zips No. 2 ranked Red Zone Offense in 2018 was not enough to save Terry Bowden’s hide. As a result, Bowden is gone after seven seasons in the Rubber City and new head coach Tom Arth enters with a new playbook. Arth, a Northeast Ohio native and former QB at Cleveland St. Ignatius and the Indianapolis Colts, served as a head coach at John Carroll and UT Chattanooga, where he was 49-21, including 5-3 in Division III playoffs. His Moccasins at UTC had the top recruiting class in the Southern Conference. Arth insists that Akron has no returning starters and that every position must be earned. Stay tuned as he cracks the whip.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Zips have been outyarded in 29 of their last 39 games overall.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Kent State (10/12)

BOWLING GREEN (Offense - *8/4, Defense - 5/2, RPR: 98/43/120)


The Mike Jinx era in Bowling Green was doomed before it started. After taking over a 10-win squad with heavy graduation losses, the Falcons won only 9 games the next three seasons. Bill Connelly of SBNation.com called it the “dumbest coaching search in college football” when they brought in Jinx, an inexperienced former running back aide at Texas Tech (a school known for its air-raid passing attack). The next savior up is Scot Loeffler, who coached-up Tom Brady and Tim Tebow (sounds like an oxymoron if ever there was one). He’s also had big busts at Boston College and Virginia Tech. Even worse for Loeffler, his starting QB Seth Doege decided to bail into the transfer portal. Uh-oh.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Falcons went 39-6 SU in games where they won the stats, and 6-37 SU when they lost the stats over the last seven years.

PLAY ON: vs. Toledo (10/12)

BUFFALO (Offense - 5/4, Defense - 3/1, RPR: 127/122/112)


On the heels of a record-setting 10-win season in 2018, the Bulls will have a new look in 2019. One of the biggest priorities heading into the new campaign will be finding a replacement for Bulls’ starting quarterback Tyree Jackson, the 2018 MAC Offensive Player of the Year, who declared for the NFL Draft. In addition, all-MAC receivers Anthony Johnson and K.J. Osborn have departed. Head coach Lance Leipold can rely on the return of four starting offensive linemen but make no mistake – Jackson leaves large shoes to fill. He was the primary reason the SU stats winner in Bulls’ games was 14-0 SU and 13-0 ATS last season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Since joining the MAC in 1999, Buffalo is 10-62 SU versus winning opponents.


KENT STATE (Offense - *9/4, Defense - 6/0, RPR: 8/6/34)


When the Flashes brought Sean Lewis in to replace Paul Haynes and his 14-41 record with Kent, they were optimistic that the former Dino Babers assistant at Syracuse would pick up the pace. The offense responded by improving 91 yards and 11 points per games behind Lewis’ new playbook. The problem was, like Babers’ defenses, the stop-unit couldn’t stop a fart when they allowed more than 500 yards in five contests (all losses). And therein lies the dilemma. A once-solid defense has now regressed across the board for three straight years. Seven road games, including visits to Arizona State, Auburn, and Wisconsin, could have them guzzling Imodium by season’s end. Gulp.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Flashes 1-28 SU and 9-20 ATS in games in which they score less than 24 points.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Bowling Green (9/21)

MIAMI OHIO (Offense - 5/3, Defense - 5/2, RPR: 95/89/86)


At first glance, a 6-6 record last year looked like another disappointing season as the RedHawks have now gone 8 straight years without a winning record. But a deeper look inside the numbers tells another story as Miami won 5 of its final 7 games of the season while going 8-1 ATS and averaging 34 points per game to conclude the campaign. Unfortunately, the offense was gashed as 55.2% of the starts made last season (8th most in the nation) were by 19 seniors. When the Hawks opened spring camp, there was not a single quarterback on the roster that had ever thrown a pass in a college game. So while the spirit is willing, the heart is fluttering.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Miami Ohio led the nation in Red Zone Offense (.977) last season.

PLAY AGAINST: at Ohio U (11/6)

OHIO U (Offense - *4/2, Defense - 6/2, RPR: 113/119/69)


For the second season in a row, the Bobcats squared off against only two teams during the regular season that owned a winning record the previous year. As a result, Frank Solich’s troops notched 9 wins in 2017 and 2018. The question begs how will they fare this year against an itinerary filled with no less than 6 foes that went bowling last year? We do know this: OU has managed to win four MAC division titles while also going bowling 10 of the last 11 years. With a boatload of experience suddenly gone (54.8% of last years starts were by seniors), Solich is left to fend for himself in 2019.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Ohio U has played 26 games decided by a TD or less the last five seasons.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Kent State (10/19)


BALL STATE (Offense - 8/5, Defense - 9/2, RPR: 18/56/10)


With 10 wins in three seasons, Cardinal head coach Mike Neu realizes his job is suddenly on the line. For a team that retains most of its two-deep, and with only two home foes with winning records last season, Neu couldn’t have asked for anything more. For nothing else, he has made numerous pit stops as a head coach at minor programs, including the Augusta Stallions, Carolina Cobras, and the New Orleans VooDoo. The former New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach also started 38-of-41 games at quarterback in his four seasons at Ball State. A string of 6 straight bowl foes from Games Four thru Nine will likely determine Neu’s fate.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: BSU is one of only two FBS schools to average less than 10,000 fans (UL-Monroe the other) – or 100K fewer fans than Michigan.

PLAY AGAINST: at Western Michigan (11/5)

CENTRAL MICHIGAN (Offense - *8/3, Defense - 3/1, RPR: 76/10/124)


Ouch. After winning 7, 6, 7, 7, 6 and 8 games each of the previous six seasons, the Chippewas fell off the map last year with just one win. The culprit was an offense that ranked dead last in the FBS, and whose failure led to the annoying departure of one of our favorite coaches in John Bonamego who managed to beat cancer while coaching CMU. Thus, as a four-year bowler, the Chips become a ‘mission team’ in 2019 under new head coach Jim McElwain, the former head honcho at Florida. He immediately signed seven 3-star offensive recruits, which should be good news with the Chips being ranked in the Top 10 in return production.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Chippewas are 5-0 ATS as dogs of 20 or more points since 2013.

PLAY ON: at Ball State (11/16)

EASTERN MICHIGAN (Offense - 6/2, Defense - 4/1, RPR: 117/100/107)


It’s been a slow but steady rise for the Eagles in five seasons under head coach Creighton, whose troops have witnessed defensive improvement for three straight years. Closer inspection finds 11 of the 13 losses they suffered the past two seasons came by a touchdown or less, a sure sign this team is aching to breakthrough. In order for Creighton to keep his troops on track, he’ll need to overcome an inordinate 7 away games dotting this year’s itinerary. Given EMU’s 11-49 record in seasons they’ve been forced to play 7 away games, the task could prove tricky. But we’re not betting against Creighton. Not with five JUCOs coming in to fill holes on defense this season.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: Eastern Michigan has allowed the fewest points in school history last season each of the last two seasons.

PLAY AGAINST: at Northern Illinois (11/19)

NO ILLINOIS (Offense - *6/3, Defense - 7/2, RPR: 37/61/29)


On the heels of winning its fifth MAC championship last year, for the first time since 2013 NIU will open the season with a new head coach, Thomas ‘Easy Breezy’ Hammock, a former running back with NIU and an assistant coach with Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Baltimore Ravens. The good news for Hammock is the Huskies return QB Marcus Childers, who threw for 2,175 yards on 234 completions on 397 attempts. In addition, their top four rushers are back, as well as the top four tacklers from a defense that allowed a mere 2.7 yards per rush in 2018. The big test will come with three consecutive road games at Utah, Nebraska, and Vanderbilt in September.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Huskies are 35-13 SU and 32-15-1 ATS in their last forty-eight road games.

PLAY ON: at Miami Ohio (10/19) - *KEY

TOLEDO (Offense - *6/3, Defense - 5/2, RPR: 107/57/82)


Mark it down. Like his predecessor, Jason Candle will be the next Toledo head coach to move on to a Power 5 conference. For the past nine years with the Rockets, Candle has been instrumental in UT’s success. First as an assistant, and then as a head coach, his teams have gone 79-37 while appearing in 8 bowl games over that span. With 13 seasons under his belt as an assistant, Candle was just 27 years old when he was named an offensive coordinator at Mount Union. It didn’t hurt that UT scored at least 50 points six times in 2018, a school record, as well as eleven times in Candle’s three years as the lead Rocket.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: The Rockets were one of four teams that did not start a single freshman last season.

PLAY ON: vs. Northern Illinois (11/13)

WESTERN MICHIGAN (Offense - *8/3, Defense - 10/4, RPR: 1/9/6)


Meet America’s most experienced team. According to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly, as confirmed by the RPR numbers above, the Broncos bring back more playing experience this season than any FBS squad. And after head coach Tim Lester lured the second-best class in the MAC with 19 three-star recruits in his first year, he didn’t stop there: eight 3-star WRs and TEs, four 3-star OL and a pair of 3-star RBs dotting the roster. And we didn’t even mention the return of QB John Wassink, who broke his ankle in the Toledo game (WMU was riding a 6-game win streak prior to the injury). Look for the Broncos to kick up a storm this year.

STAT YOU WILL LIKE: As many as 14 seniors will be starting for the Broncos in 2019.

PLAY ON: at Syracuse (9/21)