2013 NCAA Football Preview: Mid-American Conference

August 22, 2013

I got asked last night if I really preview every conference, even the smaller ones such as the Sun Belt. My answer to those who have followed the blog over the past three years know the answer to this question, but for those of you that are new to the site, the answer is that I write a preview for every FBS conference.

I’m a fan of all college football, not just the marquee teams and conferences. This next preview is one of my favorites to write every year, primarily because of my proximity to many of the schools in the conference. Being from the Midwest and currently in college, I have several friends scattered amongst various MAC schools. It’s one of the few previews I know people will read.

So let’s dive right in to the first of the mid-major conferences to be previewed on Around The Corn for 2013, the Mid-American Conference.


If you like surprises, then you should really pay attention to the Mid-American Conference if you’re not already doing so. Every year the so called “experts” predict the order they believe the teams in the MAC will finish, and every year the actual outcome rarely resembles what the experts thought would happen. The conference is as close as you’ll get in FBS division college football to a crapshoot, where everyone has a shot at getting to the conference championship game.

This year should be no different. Although Northern Illinois is coming off of perhaps the greatest season ever by a team from the MAC, they could have trouble simply making it back to Detroit for the conference title game. If Ohio and Kent State’s powerful offenses, Bowling Green’s stout defense and a mystery team-to-be’s upstart success has anything to say about it, then the Huskies will definitely have their hands full.

I always urge people not to put too much faith into the predictions that I make for this conference, because it’s really just a formality. Things in the MAC play out differently each season, and you wouldn’t think write the stuff that ends up happening before it actually does. But it’s fun to watch. Definitely lots of fun.

Team(s) With the Best Shot at a National Championship Bid


In the college football world, it’s easy to misinterpret the word “excitement” to mean “has a bearing on the national title picture”. That isn’t always true, as is the case with the Mid-American Conference. Although the games will be exciting, with lots of scoring and close finishes bound to occur throughout the season, no one is making the argument that there is a team in the MAC with a real shot at the national championship game.

The Northern Illinois situation in 2012 was a fluke. I’m as big a fan of the little guy busting the BCS as you’ll find, but it was a fluke. The Huskies were the first team in history outside one of the Big Six conferences to make a BCS bowl despite a loss during the regular season. It’s not going to happen again, and the MAC certainly won’t be finding itself with a surprise national title participant in 2013.

Watch Out! (Team That Could Surprise)


The Bulls return 15 of 22 starters from a team that wasn’t all that bad in 2012. This is good news, because normally the team in the MAC that surprises people is a team that returns a lot of pieces from a squad that was making positive strides the previous season. The biggest question mark for Buffalo will be at quarterback, which is normally a red flag, but not in this case. For the Bulls, incumbent starter Alex Zordich will be competing with sophomore Joe Licata, who has a better arm but may not be able to completely compensate for Zordich’s dual-threat ability.

If Buffalo can find a way to make either a two quarterback system work, or Coach Jeff Quinn decides to stick with either Zordich or Licata permanently, the Bulls could have a lot of success offensively this season. Senior tailback Branden Oliver and wideout Alex Neutz bring leadership and scoring capabilities to the table, and there is plenty of experience on the line with three returning starters. Defensively the Bulls are set, with seven returning starters including all-conference linebacker Khalil Mack. Do not be surprised if Buffalo is at least in the MAC East title discussion down the stretch.

Hi, My Name Is… (Player To Watch)

David Fluellen (Sr.), Toledo running back

The MAC is not strapped for fairly high profile individuals; Tyler Tettleton, Jordan Lynch and Dri Archer have all been raved about on national television at some point during their careers. However, Toledo has a few talented athletes on offense to boast as well, most notably senior running back David Fluellen. The 6’0″, 215 pound wrecking ball is going to be on the radar of NFL scouts for more than just his physical attributes. Fluellen is the rock of an offense that has shown the ability to put up major numbers the past few seasons.

In 2012, Fluellen rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns in route to an all-conference selection. Don’t expect the powerful back to slow down in 2013 barring any injuries; without Fluellen, quarterback Terrance Owens becomes much easier to contain. While Tettleton and Lynch are definitely the most important pieces to their team’s offensive success, it can be argued that Fluellen is nearly as important to Toledo’s.

Out-Of-Conference Game To Watch

Toledo vs. Florida (August 31st)

The Rockets travel to Ben Hill stadium for their season opener to take on the No. 10 Florida Gators, and at first glance this looks like a game that will be over by halftime. But I’d be very surprised if the Gators don’t have at least a little bit of trouble slowing down Toledo’s offense and the crowd at Ben Hill gets just a little bit nervous.

Florida will undoubtedly be the Rockets’ most difficult test of the season defensively, but David Fluellen is a power school caliber back that should still be able to get his yards against the Gators. While Toledo would normally crumble against an SEC team thanks to its porous defensive secondary, it got lucky in the fact that Florida had the worst passing attack in the conference last season. With Jeff Driskel behind center once again, don’t be surprised if they have trouble again, at least in the season opener. This isn’t a game Florida should lose, but it is a game where things line up for Toledo to be surprisingly competitive.

In-Conference Game To Watch

Ohio vs. Bowling Green (November 12th)

Last year a loss to Bowling Green in mid-November began a three game skid for the Bobcats that resulted in Frank Solich’s team losing its grip on the MAC East title. This year the matchup should be similarly important to deciding the MAC East crown, as both the Bobcats and Falcons return enough pieces from their 2012 squad to compete for a chance to play in Detroit. This should be a classic smash-mouth offense vs. shutdown defense that you don’t get to see all that often in MAC play.

Bowling Green quietly put together the best defense in the conference last season, and although they lose MAC defensive player of the year tackle Chris Jones, they are poised to repeat their success on that side of the ball. Nine starters return to the team that shut down Tyler Tettleton in last year’s game, which saw Ohio’s quarterback struggling to get anything going on the ground. This time around, Ohio should be better on defense thanks to the return of two cornerbacks that were injured for the game in 2012. It’s all adding up for a defensive showdown, with the eventual victor being the team that can punch in a hard earned touchdown late in the game.

Conference Predictions

East Division

1. Ohio (10-2, [7-1])

2. Bowling Green (9-3, [6-2])

3. Kent State (6-6, [4-4])

4. Miami (4-8, [4-4])

5. Buffalo (6-6, [4-4])

6. Akron (2-10, [1-7])

7. Massachusetts (1-11, [0-8]) 

West Division

1. Toledo (9-3, [7-1])

2. Northern Illinois (9-3, [7-1])

3. Ball State (9-3, [6-2])

4. Western Michigan (5-7, [4-4])

5. Central Michigan (3-9, [2-6])

6. Eastern Michigan (1-11, [0-8])

Championship Game (Ohio vs. Toledo)

Winner: Ohio

Questions from the Readers

Q. Which MAC school makes a run at a BCS bid? (Submitted by @MGG614)

Unfortunately for fans of the MAC, I’m not sure that any team really has a great shot at busting the BCS party one last time. As I mentioned in the “best shot at a national championship bid” section, Northern Illinois’ inclusion in last year’s BCS lineup was more of a fluke than anything else.

The problem is that the best MAC schools are concerned more with preparing themselves for the in-conference slate than remaining perfect throughout the entire year, so they normally schedule pretty difficult out-of-conference matchups. For example, Toledo goes to Florida, Bowling Green travels to Mississippi State, Ohio takes on Louisville and Kent State faces LSU. None of those games are at home for the MAC team, and all but one of them are very early in the season.

In order for one of those teams to truly have a shot at a BCS bid, it would have to pull off a major upset and then run the table in what has become an increasingly competitive Mid-American Conference. I just don’t see it happening this year. However, if I had to throw a school in the mix just for conversation’s sake, I’d go with Ohio. The Bobcats have felt the pressure before, they have what I believe is the most winnable “difficult” game against Louisville and they could be just as good as they were last season before injuries derailed their perfect season.

– K. Becks

One Response to 2013 NCAA Football Preview: Mid-American Conference

  1. mancolepig on August 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    The player to watch is DRI ARCHER. He’ll be playing four positions and will be the most explosive player in the MAC. And Kent will win 8 games at least. take it to the bank

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