2015 NCAA Football Preview: Mid-American Conference

September 2, 2015

Thanks to my geographic location, this next preview actually gets some love, whereas it would not in most regions of the country.

Moving along to the Mid-American Conference.


In ATC’s book, if you’re someone who will sit down in the middle of November and watch a Wednesday night battle between Buffalo and Ohio, you’re a true college football fan. That, in essence, is what the Mid-American Conference is good for; it separates the true gridiron junkies from those who just tune in to see what happens at the top of the polls.

No one is going to suggest that the top athletes are coming to the Midwest to get themselves a taste of the midweek “MACtion”. The players are a step slower, jump an inch lower and in many cases are physically a bit smaller than their counterparts in the Big Ten and Big 12. They are the overlooked athletes, the ones that still love to play but for one reason or another settled on a smaller program. In a sense, they embody the student athlete in a way that some of the bigger names do not. Additionally, the MAC is known for producing ultra-competitive division races and exciting offensive football when there isn’t anything else on TV during the week. But good football is still played in this conference, and it would be a shame if you missed it because you were too caught up in semantics.

College Football Playoff Contenders


It doesn’t make sense to go on an extended rant about how none of these teams have the talent or relative starting position in the preseason rankings necessary to break into playoff in 2015. In the past, teams such as Ohio and Bowling Green have been good enough to make a BCS bowl. They just didn’t capitalize.

This year, there will be very competitive football played in the MAC. No team will go undefeated because there is too little separating the best teams in the conference from the middle of the pack. It’s as simple as that.

Watch Out! (Team That Could Surprise)

Western Michigan

The Broncos had a good year in 2014, finishing strong with six wins in the final seven regular season games and competing for the majority of its bowl game against a strong Air Force squad. That’s why, with so many returning starters on both sides of the ball, it’s odd that Western Michigan isn’t being regarded as a very serious threat to win the MAC Championship.

No team has more individual stars on offense than the Broncos, who return quarterback Zach Terrell (top completion percentage in the MAC in 2014), running back Jarvion Franklin (MAC leader in rushing touchdowns in 2014) and wideout Corey Davis (leading receiver in the MAC in 2014) to an offense that will only continue to improve. The conference has always been regarded as an offensively dominated league, which puts the Broncos is great position for success.

Hi, My Name Is… (Players to Watch)

Travis Greene, Bowling Green senior running back

Greene had a bit of a down year after a breakout sophomore campaign in 2013, but that can be contributed as much to the lack of production from Bowling Green’s offense as a whole as it can to Greene himself. The senior was one of the few consistent figures in Bowling Green’s up-and-down 2014 and should experience a resurgence this season as the Falcons are poised to return to form.

With quarterback Matt Johnson back under center following a hip injury the previous season, Greene should be able to take advantage of open lanes that were not always there when he was the only real focus of opposing defenses. His speed and ability to change direction on a dime will once again be something that keeps defensive coordinators in the MAC awake at night.

Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan sophomore running back

Franklin, a freshman All-American selection last season, was the biggest surprise in a rather large crop of stud running backs in the MAC. His 24 rushing touchdowns set the pace for the league and second place was not even close (Toledo’s Kareem Hunt had 16). It is scary thinking about what Franklin may be able to do with a year of experience under his belt and an offensive line consisting of four players over 300 pounds.

In a spread offense that is predicated on the run game, the name Jarvion Franklin could quickly join the ranks of “best running backs in the country”. Western Michigan has the ability to strike quickly with multiple options, meaning that there will be plenty of opportunities for Franklin to punch it into the end zone. Thirty rushing touchdowns may not be an unattainable goal for him.

Out-of-Conference Games to Watch

Bowling Green vs. Tennessee [in Nashville] (September 5)

At a not so neutral site, Bowling Green will take on the Volunteers in an excellent opportunity to find out just how solid Tennessee’s defense has truly become. Tennessee appears to be a very balanced squad, which means that the Falcons will need to step up in the defensive secondary to have a chance.

The Falcons will likely need to force this game into a shootout in order to win, but that could be difficult to do. Tennessee brings back a lot of pieces to a defense that improved steadily throughout 2014, and the only potential soft spot is in the middle where both starting linebackers must be replaced.

Western Michigan at Michigan State (September 4)

This in-state battle would be more competitive than it looks on paper, if the Spartans weren’t one of the most disciplined teams in the country. Western Michigan has a potent offense that would give many Big Ten teams trouble, but the Broncos will be hard pressed to do so against Mark Dantonio’s squad.

Expect a fair amount of yards to be racked up by both offenses, but only the Spartans will be able to capitalize with a lot of points. The Broncos may end up having their lowest scoring output of the season in this one.

In-Conference Games to Watch

Akron at Bowling Green (October 17)

It has been a long and arduous process for head coach Terry Bowden, but it appears as though Akron is finally ready to take the next step in the MAC. We’ll find out just how ready the Zips are when they take on perennial MAC title contender Bowling Green on the road.

If quarterback Kyle Pohl can stay healthy, the Zips will have their best offense since Bowden took over the head coaching job in 2012. This will be necessary to beat the Falcons at home, even considering the fact that Bowling Green was unable to stop even mediocre passing attacks in 2014.

Western Michigan at Toledo (November 27)

There’s always Northern Illinois to deal with, but chances are this game will decide the West Division champion.

Western Michigan may have the edge in this one if Toledo’s defensive secondary does not improve upon last year’s 291.7 yards allowed through the air. But the Rockets have a penchant towards forcing shootouts late in the season, regardless of how good the opposing defense is assumed to be.


East Division

1. Bowling Green (8-4, [7-1])

2. Akron (8-4, [6-2])

3. Ohio (6-6, [4-4])

4. Kent State (4-8, [3-5])

5. Massachusetts (4-8, [3-5])

6. Buffalo (5-7, [2-6])

7. Miami (OH) (2-10, [1-7])

West Division

1. Western Michigan (9-3, [7-1])

2. Northern Illinois (8-4, [6-2])

3. Toledo (8-4, [5-3])

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

5. Ball State (4-8, [3-5])

6. Eastern Michigan (1-11, [1-7])

Championship Game (Bowling Green vs. Western Michigan)

Winner: Western Michigan

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