Leading up to the kickoff of the 2019 college football season, The Game Haus will be previewing each FBS conference and those independent teams. As we continue today with the Mid-American Conference, we’ll offer league predictions and look at the top performers while also highlighting key games from each conference.
Here we go with the Mid-American Conference.
The Bobcats were favored to win the Mid-American Conference East last season and finished tied for second. They’re favored again this season and have a good one in quarterback Nathan Rourke.
The reigning Mid-American East champs have a question mark at quarterback, but running backs Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks combined for more than 1,800 yards and totaled 27 rushing touchdowns last season. And most of their offensive line is back.
3. Miami (Ohio)
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the Redhawks as they managed six wins last season but did not earn a bowl bid. There are some solid pieces in place, even with the quarterback back spot still a question, but optimism should be high.
4. Kent State
Kent State has managed two wins in each of the last two seasons, but there is experience on both sides of the ball. The key will be how much QB Woody Barrett (2,339 passing yards, 503 rushing yards) improves.
New coach Tom Arth offers a fresh approach to a program that has some intriguing experience, led by receiver Andre Williams (six touchdown catches in 2018). However, a defense that allowed an average of 27.2 points during last year’s 4-8 term.
6. Bowling Green
We’ve got to go back to 2015 for the last time Bowling Green made a bowl game. The Falcons have a new coach in Scot Loeffler, so while there is excitement for the future, the present likely remains a project.
Once again the Rockets are picked to win the Mid-American Conference West, but like Ohio a year, that did not pan out in 2018. Nine offensive starters return from a unit that scored more than 50 points six times last season.
2. Northern Illinois
The Huskies won their fourth MAC title game last season, but have a new coach in former NIU running back Thomas Hammock. Inconsistency on both sides of the ball has been an issue for NIU of late, but its has two solid RBs in Tre Harbison (1,034 yards) and Marcus Jones. Antonio Jones-Davis is the MAC’s top linebacker.
3. Western Michigan
Looking for a dark horse in the Mid-American Conference West, the Broncos could be the team. They return 17 starters from last year’s 7-6 group. Their success, though, likely depends on the health of QB Jon Wassink (3,405 passing yards, 30 touchdowns passes in 17 career games).
4. Eastern Michigan
Things have certainly turned around for the Eagles’ program with two bowl appearances in three seasons and a win at Purdue last year. Shaq Vann is a solid running back, as EMU should be competitive again.
5. Ball State
The Cardinals have not been to a bowl since 2013 and are 10-26 in three seasons under coach Mike Neu, who could be fighting for his job this year. Road games at North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan won’t help the cause.
6. Central Michigan
Perhaps the biggest news made within the Mid-American Conference during the offseason was former Florida coach Jim McElwain taking over the Chippewas. It’s kind of a revival project on two fronts for McElwain: Making CMU a relevant football team again and reviving his own head coaching career.
Players to watch
Nathan Rourke, QB, Ohio: Rourke has blossomed into a special player within the confines of the Mid-American Conference. He’s thrown for 4,637 yards and 40 touchdowns in two seasons, plus rushed for 1,772 and 36 scores on the ground.
Antonio Jones-Davis, LB, Northern Illinois: It was quite the junior season in 2018 for Jones-Davis, who totaled 130 tackles, 14 1/2 for loss. He’s also drawing attention outside of the Mid-American Conference as well.
Nov. 6: Miami (Ohio) at Ohio. The Bobcats’ lone MAC East loss last season came at Miami, and it essentially cost them the division title. This is payback.
Nov. 13: Northern Illinois at Toledo. As mentioned, it’s never wise to count out the Huskies. NIU won three straight at Toledo before 2017
Nov 26: Western Michigan at Northern Illinois. If Toledo is slated to be the winner of the MAC West, then this could determine the second spot. Western has won two of the last three meetings. .