Impressive Start for MAC

The Mid-American Conference is a few years removed from the Jordan Lynch era at Northern Illinois where they represented the group of five conferences in the New Year’s Day bowl games. But it has been as impressive start for MAC teams, and the conference put itself back on the map with some surprise results in college football’s opening weeks.

Week One

The opening weekend served more as a warning shot to the world of college football. The main game that caught the eye was Bowling Green’s 59-30 loss at Tennessee. The margin of victory flattered the Volunteers as Bowling Green managed to hang with their SEC opponents into the second half. At one point in the second quarter the Falcons moved to within one point of Tennessee and it was only late in the third quarter that Bowling Green ran out of steam. Matt Johnson was impressive at quarterback with over 400 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no picks.

Elsewhere Central Michigan proved themselves to be tough opposition as they went to Stillwater and lost by eleven points to Oklahoma State. The Chippewas were down by just four going into the fourth quarter and pushed Oklahoma State all the way in this game.

Week Two

If the exploits of week one slipped under the radar then it was impossible to miss what the MAC did in week two. Bowling Green didn’t just beat a power five opponent in Maryland, but beat them comfortably by 21 points. Toledo shut down #18 Arkansas in a stunning 16-12 victory.

Once again Matt Johnson was fantastic for the Falcons throwing for six touchdowns and nearly 500 yards as Bowling Green scored 28 points in the fourth quarter to power past Maryland. The Terrapins were stunned by the loss as they had no answer for the high powered offense of Bowling Green. Toledo’s victory was arguably more impressive as they held a ranked Arkansas team to just 103 yards rushing despite the Razorbacks boasting one of the best offensive lines in the country coming into the season. Arkansas went 6-16 on third and fourth down scoring just one TD even though they managed over 500 yards of offense. It was definitely one of the biggest upsets by a MAC team in recent memory.

Normally a win for Ohio at home to Marshall would be big news in the MAC, but it was obviously overshadowed by the results mentioned above by Bowling Green and Toledo.  Marshall was a double overtime loss away from going a perfect 13-0 last season which included a bowl win over MAC champions Northern Illinois. But this year they were taken down by Ohio as the Bobcats forced four turnovers in a 21-10 win in Athens, Ohio.

Upset Watch Week Three

There are a number of non-conference games this week which see the MAC taking on some good teams with the chance of an upset. Northern Illinois takes on #1 Ohio State. Realistically, they will be looking at stay in the game for as long as possible, much like Hawaii did against the Buckeyes last weekend. Kent State goes to Minnesota and UMass welcomes impressive Temple. They are similarly unlikely to surprise anyone this week with a win.

Elsewhere, there are more opportunities for the MAC to pull a few shock wins. Central Michigan goes to Syracuse from the ACC. The Orange are probably in the bottom five teams in a power five conference. They also lost their starting quarterback Terrel Hunt in the opening game of the season so I expect Central Michigan to make this one close. The other opportunity to knock off a power five team is once again with Toledo as they host Iowa State. The Cyclones just lost their rivalry game with Iowa and have only won three of their last fourteen games. Although they did beat Toledo 37-30 last year at home, I’m calling another win for Toledo in their quest to make a New Year’s Day bowl game.

The final matchup sees Bowling Green in their third game against a tough opponent as they host Memphis. The Tigers eased past Kansas last week 55-23 and won ten games last season so this should be a fantastic game with lots of points scored by both sides.
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