There’s a reason it’s called MACtion.
Anything can happen any given day or night. The conference is filled with parity, and this season continued to support that.
Eight teams finished at .500 or better in the conference — the most in any Group of Five league. Still, the competitiveness of the MAC carries into the postseason. In fact, there hasn’t been the same team in the conference championship game in the last four seasons. Yes, there have been eight different teams in the last four conference title games. No other league in the FBS can say that.
Not only that, but a team hasn’t played in consecutive title games since Northern Illinois did in 2014 and 2015. This year’s winner — Toledo — hadn’t played for a championship since 2017, and its opponent — Ohio — hasn’t made an appearance since 2016.
If only we got this type of uncertainty in every conference.
In Toledo’s case, however, it was one of the favorites to win the MAC. College football betting odds listed the Rockets at +300 entering the season. On a two-game skid, things looked a little bleak for the Rockets going into the championship game. Unfazed by that and Ohio’s seven-game win streak, the Rockets never trailed in the title game.
The Bobcats’ win streak followed an overtime loss to Kent State, which was their lone conference loss of the regular season. Behind MAC Player of the Year Kurtis Rourke, they went on to win those next seven games by an average of 17.4 points, winning each game by at least a touchdown.
Looking back now, beating Ohio was probably the highlight of Kent State’s season. Either that or only losing to Georgia by 17 points. Maybe a team from this league would have made the FBS national championship more entertaining. There was already some MACtion in the air:
Starting 2-5, the Golden Flashes overcame a tough start and defeated Buffalo in their final game of the season to end the year on a high note.
Like Kent State, it was a bumpy ride early in the season for Buffalo. An 0-3 start was followed by a 6-6 finish. A win over Akron in the final game of the campaign secured a bowl bid for the Bulls, where they went on to beat Georgia Southern.
In something that we should not be so surprised about happening in this league, Akron finished 1-7 in the conference with its only win coming against the media’s preseason favorite to win the thing — Northern Illinois. However, it was a subpar season for the Huskies, to say the least.
After winning its first game, NIU went on a five-game losing streak before the Huskies picked up one of its two conference wins by defeating Eastern Michigan. They only went on to win one more game, finishing 3-9.
The win over Eastern Michigan was a big one, though. It ultimately helped keep EMU out of the MAC title game as the Eagles finished 5-3 and tied with Toledo in the MAC West. EMU exceeded expectations this season and was one of the biggest surprises in a league that’s full of them. The Eagles were picked to finish second to last in their division.
Just like EMU, Bowling Green was another squad that caught the league by surprise. The Falcons finished tied with Buffalo at 5-3 and second in the MAC East. And just like EMU, the Falcons were picked to finish second to last in their division. Although resulting in a loss to New Mexico State, Bowling Green went (you guessed it) bowling for the first time since 2015.
That was only one of two losses for the conference this bowl season, the other being Miami’s loss to UAB. With the other four bowl-eligible teams — Toledo, Ohio, EMU and Buffalo — winning their respective games, the league’s 4-2 bowl record led all conferences in winning percentage (.667).
Should we be surprised? I don’t think so.