The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 14, 2021

Mid-American Conference Preview

There wasn’t much MACtion in the Mid-American Conference in 2020.  Covid limited MAC play to a minimum number of games with two teams playing just three games, one other playing four times, one team playing eight games, and the rest playing five to seven times.

In the end, two teams emerged as the clear cut best in the league–Buffalo in the East and Ball State in the West.  Ball St. defeated the 5-0 Bulls in the MAC Championship Game, and then both teams won their bowl games, Buffalo over Marshall in the Camellia Bowl, and Ball St. over San Jose St. in the Arizona Bowl.

Buffalo faced a minor rebuild on the offensive end with four new starters needed to replace the best receiving corps in the league, but the Bulls were hit with a very late blow in the Spring.  Coach Lance Leipold had been a candidate for multiple Power 5 coaching gigs in December, but he came up short on all of them.  Then, after Kansas fired Les Miles, Leipold was offered and accepted the job in Lawrence.  Former Dallas Cowboys secondary coach and Michigan co-defensive coordinator Maurice “Mo” Linguist has developed a reputation for being an incredible recruiter, and he should bring some fine talent to The Queen City.

There’s an additional irony to the MAC East, as co-favorite Ohio U had a late head coaching change.  Legendary coach Frank Solich stepped down due to health concerns, and offensive coordinator Tim Albin takes over.  Albin has not been a head coach since 1999, but that Northwestern Oklahoma State team finished 13-0 and won the NAIA football championship.

Kent State and Miami of Ohio have the same head coaches they had last year.  Fans of Kent State are excited about Coach Sean Lewis’s up-tempo offense.  In their abbreviated season, The Golden Flashes averaged almost 50 points per game and more than 600 total yards per game.  Miami’s season ended after playing just three games, but the Redhawks penned the lone loss on the conference champs, topping Ball State by a touchdown. 

Akron and Bowling Green bring up the rear in the East.  Akron won the head-to-head matchup last year, but the two teams combined to go 1-10, both giving up more than 40 points per game.

The race in the MAC West should be one of the most competitive races of any FBS division.  A case could be made for five of the six teams to earn a piece of the first place this year, and only Northern Illinois figures not to challenge for supremacy.

Defending champs Ball State returns the bulk of its starting 22 players from last year, but the Cardinals won four of their five regular season games by seven points or less.  Rarely does a team repeat that feat from year to year.  Usually, if the team isn’t vastly better, they lose a couple of the types of games they won the year before.

Central Michigan and Toledo figure to be much improved in 2021.  Both schools return almost their entire starting lineups on both sides of the ball.  Keep an eye out for these very experienced and talented squads in September games against Power 5 opponents.  CMU plays Missouri, while Toledo takes on Notre Dame.  

Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan return a majority of their 2020 starters but with every player getting a free extra year, having 16 returning starters is almost below average.

Northern Illinois, once the best Group of 5 program in America, has fallen on hard times.  The Huskies went 0-6 last year and figure to be underdogs in almost every game against FBS competition this year.

Here is how the MAC media voted in the preseason poll:

2021 MAC Football Preseason Poll

(First Place Votes in Parentheses)

East Division

1. Kent State (11) – 112 points

2. Ohio (2) – 96 points

3. Miami (5) – 94 points

4. Buffalo (4) – 93 points

5. Akron – 39 points

6. Bowling Green – 28 points

West Division

1. Ball State (11) – 114 points

2. Toledo (7) – 104 points

3. Western Michigan (4) – 103 points

4. Central Michigan – 68 points

5. Eastern Michigan – 44 points

6. Northern Illinois – 29 points

MAC Football Championship Game Winner: Ball State (7), Toledo (5), Kent State (4), Western Michigan (3), Buffalo (2), Miami (1)

The preseason PiRate Ratings differ somewhat.

Mid-American Conference
East Division

Miami (Ohio)101.999.298.199.7
Kent St.91.393.490.591.7
Bowling Green71.672.168.870.8

West Division

Central Michigan100.599.199.599.7
Ball St.98.498.395.597.4
Eastern Michigan93.191.289.891.4
Western Michigan91.291.690.191.0
Northern Illinois89.387.086.187.5

MAC Averages92.391.790.491.4

The PiRate Ratings are not designed to pick seasonal won-loss records, but we use them any way to make predictions just for fun.

MAC EastConf.Overall
Miami (Ohio)6-28-5*
Kent St.4-45-7
Bowling Green0-81-11

MAC WestConf.Overall
Central Michigan6-28-5
Ball St.6-28-4
Eastern Michigan5-38-4
Western Michigan2-63-9
Northern Illinois2-63-9
* Miami (Ohio) picked to win MAC Championship Game

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