The return of the MAC.
No, not the 90’s jam by Mark Morrison, but the return of the most electric Group of Five conference in college football.
Back in January, I wrote about the conference and how there hasn’t been the same team in the league title game in the past four seasons, and that there hasn’t been a team appear in consecutive championships since 2014 and 2015.
You never know what’s going to happen in this league.
It’s hard to gauge who’s going to wind up on top of each division and who’s going to fall off from the previous season. It’s hard to gauge who has the toughest conference schedule and who might have an easier path to a division championship.
Nonetheless, there’s still a lot to take in when looking at the 2023 MAC football schedule. Let’s take a dive into it:
Home and away stretches
One of the first things that stands out about the league-wide schedule is the amount of at home or road stretches teams will have. For instance, following a visit to Illinois to open the season, Toledo then has four consecutive home games. The Rockets’ next three contests will be on the road.
Interestingly enough, Ball State will never play at home and on the road in consecutive weeks. Miami (OH) and Western Michigan also have three straight road games, but for those programs, it will come at the start of the season. That leads us to our next subhead.
Tough early season opponents
Miami’s three-game stretch on the road will feature two Power Five opponents. First, the Redhawks will visit the other Miami, and then take on UMass before traveling to Cincinnati to face the Bearcats. Kent State also faces a pair of P5 programs in the first two weeks when it travels to UCF and Arkansas. Bowling Green has to play Liberty, Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia Tech in September, which won’t be an easy month of football.
Out of all the teams, Central Michigan might have the toughest start to the season, and the hardest schedule across the league. The Chippewas face Michigan State, Notre Dame, and South Alabama in three of the first four weeks of the year. All three are on the road. The rest of their schedule features games against Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, Toledo, and Ohio — the top four teams in the MAC last season.
Breaking down top dogs
Opposed to CMU, EMU has a much easier schedule on paper. The non-conference slate for the Eagles isn’t very difficult and for the most part, they play the lower echelon of teams from last season. Ohio has a pretty light conference schedule but will face some challenges in the non-conference with San Diego State and Iowa State.
Toledo’s late-season push will have to go through EMU, Buffalo, and Bowling Green, which could be a tall task. Buffalo also faces a tough late stretch with three of its four contests coming versus EMU, BG, and Toledo.
Other things of note
Kent State faces a midseason stretch that features contests against Ohio, EMU, and Buffalo. That should be a few weeks that can make or break the Golden Flashes’ season. Something interesting is that four of the five final regular season games will be cross-division contests. Still, there should be a lot on the line in a conference that had eight teams finish at .500 or better last season.
Another interesting tidbit is that there won’t be any conference games until Week 4. And there is only one Week 0 game involving a MAC team — Ohio vs. San Diego State. That means it’s going to take longer than we might like to consume some MACtion, but I’m sure it’ll be well worth the wait.