The Mid-American Conference, better known as the MAC is definitely a conference you want to get familiar with if you plan on betting college football. Especially, if you are someone who likes a lot of action. Once conference play gets into full swing, there will be a number of MAC games during the week.
The MAC might not stack up with the likes of the American Athletic (AAC) or Mountain West (MWC) in terms of conference strength from top to bottom. However, there’s a number of strong programs that are more than capable of upsetting some of the Power 5 schools.
Just two years ago we saw Western Michigan make some serious noise out of this conference. The Broncos went 13-0 and were ranked No. 15 in the country, earning them a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl as the highest rated “Group of 5” team.
Mid-American Conference College Football Preview & Predictions
Last year Toledo finally broke through and finished on top the conference. The Rockets won the West with a 7-1 mark in league play and would destroy Akron 45-28 to win their first MAC title since 2004.
As good as Toledo was, they didn’t runaway with the West. Both Northern Illinois and Central Michigan were just 1-game back in the standings at 6-2. It was an equally tight race in the East. Akron came out of nowhere to win that side with a 6-2 record. Ohio was second at 5-3 and Buffalo and Miami (OH) were each just 1-game back at 4-4.
Looking ahead to the 2018 campaign, there’s a number of teams in both divisions who have to feel like they have what it takes to win the title. I have studied all 12 teams and feel like I have a good grasp on where each is headed this year. I’ve provided my predictions below, as well some reasoning behind why I have teams ranked where I do.
Find out who I have winning each conference in my overall predictions. We have a special page dedicated strictly to the win totals of each team. You can also get a jump start on the first games of the season with our Week 1 lines. Lastly, find out who is the favorite to win it all with our National Championship odds.
2018 MAC Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds
It wasn’t that long ago that Northern Illinois was the team to beat not just in the West but the entire conference. The Huskies played in the MAC title game 6 straight years from 2010 to 2015, winning it all 3 times.
While I’m not ready to say they are going to go on another one of those runs, I do believe that they are the clear-cut favorites to win the West Division in 2018. Northern Illinois has 14 returning starters (most since 2014). That includes 8 starters on offense, none bigger than sophomore quarterback Marcus Childers, who was the 2017 MAC Freshman of the Year. This should be one of the most potent offenses in the conference and the defense also figures to rank in the top half of the league.
I’ve been extremely impressed with the job Jason Candle has done at Toledo, as I really thought the program was going to suffer after losing head coach Matt Campbell to Iowa State. We will find out just how good he is this year. The Rockets have to replace their all-time leading passer in Logan Woodside and lose 4 of their top 5 tacklers on defense. I think he’ll keep them headed in the right direction, but they do figure to be down a notch.
I have Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan right on the Rockets’ heels at 4-4 in league play. The Broncos took a big step back in the first year after losing head coach P.J. Fleck, going from 13-1 to just 6-6 (were 4-4 after going 9-0 inside the MAC the previous year). They will have 13 returning starters, including talented junior QB Jon Wassink, but will need to take care of business at home (host E. Mich, Toledo, Ohio and Northern Ill.) to avoid another decline.
As for Eastern Michigan, they are a team I think could surprise. Chris Creighton has done a tremendous job turning this program around. Their 12 wins the last two years are almost as many as they had over their previous 7 seasons combined (15). They went just 5-7 last year, but had 6 losses by a touchdown or less and their largest defeat was by 12 points. They should have one of the best defenses in the conference. It’s just a matter if they can get above average QB play after losing their starter (Brogan Roback).
Ball State isn’t a team I think can contend for a division title, but are a team I believe will be greatly improved. The Cardinals will be one of the most experienced teams in the conference with 16 returning starters (9 offense, 7 defense). Injuries derailed the offense last year and they put up just 17.9 ppg. I think they could put up 28+ ppg this year and the defense will benefit from not having to be on the field the entire game. They went from allowing 30.1 ppg in 2016 to giving up 40.7 ppg last year, despite allowing almost 50 yards fewer per game.
That leaves Central Michigan as the bottom feeder in the West. I had a hard time slating the Chippewas this low, as they went 8-5 a year ago. The thing is, they only bring back 10 starters and look like they are headed for a decline on both sides of the ball.
As you can see from the odds in the table above, the oddsmakers have Ohio as the clear-cut team to beat in the East. It’s easy to see why, as the Bobcats return 8 starters from an offense that put up 39.1 ppg. That includes star dual-threat quarterback Nathan Rourke, who threw for 17 scores and rushed for another 21. While the offense will be potent, Ohio does have just 4 starts back on defense and suffered major losses to the front seven.
I still think this is a very good team, but I’m going to take a shot here and call for Miami (OH) to finish on top. The Redhawks didn’t live up to expectations last year, failing to reach a bowl at 5-7, despite returning 17 starters from a team that went to one the previous season. The thing is, while they had all those starters back, this was still a young team, as most of those starters were juniors. This year they have 16 starters back and could have as many as 15 senior starters. Not to mention they get Ohio at home.
The big sleeper in the East is Buffalo. The Bulls were better than expected last year and finished 6-6 (weren’t invited to a bowl). That might not seem like a great year, but it was only the third time since moving up to the FBS that they were bowl eligible. That speaks volumes to the job Lance Leipold has done here. He’s got 14 returning starters and Buffalo should finish in the top half of the league on both sides of the ball.
Akron surprise run to the top of the East last year was a bit of a fluke in my eyes. The Zips only averaged 22.1 ppg and didn’t wow you at all when you watched them. The defense will be strong, but I just think the lack of fire-power offensively will keep them from contending.
Bowling Green is another team in the MAC that isn’t really a contender, but should be a major player. The Falcons went just 2-10 last year, but did have an impressive road win over Miami (OH). they have 13 starters back and I’m excited about the potential of sophomore quarterback Jarret Doege, who flashed in 6 starts as a freshman last year. If new defensive coordinator Carl Pelini can get the defense on track, this team will pull off some upsets.
I have Kent State far and away the worst team in the East. The Golden Flashes have just 13 starters back from a team that went 2-10 and are going to be adjusting to new schemes under first year head coach Sean Lewis. The biggest being the offense moving to a more fast-paced spread attack. While they will score more, I think the defense will be exposed and they will struggle to keep games competitive.