For the first time since 1992, Bowling Green hoisted the MAC Championship Trophy; Photo: USA Today Sports
The MAC is known for it's early week wild shootouts. After putting a team in a BCS game in 2012, the conference hoped to build it's reputation into more than just an early week highlight show for hardcore football fans. With Ball State, Bowling Green, NIU, Ohio and Toledo on the uptick in 2012, how would they fare in 2013?
MAC at a Glance
Jordan Lynch and NIU tore through the MAC going 12-0 in the regular season and 8-0 in Conference play. Ranked at #14 and on the verge of another BCS bowl bid, the Huskies fell to Dave Clawson's Bowling Green Falcons in the MAC Championship Game. The Falcons capped a great season by peaking at the right time and Lynch had to settle for a consolation prize of finishing third in the Heisman race.
Keith Wenning and Ball State finished 10-3 on the season and had a great road victory over Virginia in early October. After starting out slow, Buffalo lived up to some pre-season hype by going 6-2 in the MAC and also pulling off an early season win over UConn. Kent State took a nose dive but Terry Bowden's Akron had a great turnaround. All in all, the MAC Conference didn't have many surprises but Jordan Lynch and NIU getting dominated in the Championship Game is something that won't be forgotten around these parts anytime soon.
Biggest Surprise: Akron Zips
Fear the Dadgum Roo!; Photo: USA Today Sports
After a 1-11 debut season in 2012, Terry Bowden and the Zips came to play in 2013. The Zips didn't exactly light up the scoreboard but they did take advantage of their weaker opponents as they beat James Madison early and then got wins over lowly Miami (OH) and UMass late. Their best two wins of the season came in early November against Kent State and in their last game against Toledo. We also can't forget about the scare they put into Michigan on September 14th. The Zips won four out of their last five and with their closing moment of 2013 being a win over a good Toledo team, things are looking up as Akron heads into 2014.
Biggest Disappointment: Kent State
I was a bit surprised when Kent State hired Arkansas DC Paul Haynes after his 2012 team, the Arkansas Razorbacks, won just four games in 2012. Coming off of an 11-3 season, I thought the Golden Flashes would hit somewhere in the seven to nine win window. They would have probably liked that as they won just four games.
Best Game: Toledo dominates Buffalo early, holds on late
There weren't a lot of "#MACtion" type games in the MAC this past season but this one was the type of game we are used to when it comes to the MAC. Buffalo came into the game at 5-0 in the conference and Toledo came in at 4-1 so this was a big-time match-up. Toledo jumped all over Buffalo and led 38-0. Instead of laying down, the Bulls roared back scoring 27 fourth quarter points to pull to within ten points but their comeback was too little too late. Buffalo finished with 601 total yards including 497 through the air and the Rockets finished with 551 total yards including 323 on the ground.
The MAC put five teams into bowl games but those were games that the Conference would rather forget. Buffalo and Ohio got ran by San Diego State and East Carolina in the early games. On the worst day for the Conference in 2013, December 26th, Bowling Green lost a close one to Pitt and NIU just couldn't get anything going against a stingy Utah State defense. In the Conference bowl finale, Arkansas State upended Ball State by three points. For the MAC, the 2013 Bowl season didn't bring happy memories.
MAC Offensive Player of the Year: Jordan Lynch, NIU
Lynch didn't finish his career like he wanted to but he was still one of college football's best in 2013; Photo: USA Today Sports
Lynch became a household name in 2013 as he finished third in the Heisman balloting behind Jameis Winston and AJ McCarron. He threw for almost 2,900 yards and had 24 passing TDs. More impressively, Lynch finished first in the league in rushing with 1,920 yards and 23 rushing TDs.
MAC Defensive Player of the Year: Khalil Mack, Buffalo
When you think of MAC defenders, Mack is the first that comes to mind. He finished with 56 solo tackles, 10.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions.
MAC Freshman of the Year: Corey Davis, Western Michigan
WMU had an awful season but Davis was a bright spot. He finished third in the league with 6.1 receptions per game, hauling in a total of 67 passes with 6 TDs.
Coach of the Year: Dave Clawson, Bowling Green
You could make an argument for a number of coaches for this award. I went with Clawson because of the way he got the Falcons to play down the stretch. After starting off 5-3 and coming off a loss to Toledo, the Falcons played their best football of the year outscoring MAC opponents 176 to 17 and held all four of their final regular season opponents to single digit points. And let's not forget about how they controlled NIU in the MAC Championship Game.
Over the last six years, there have been five different MAC Champions. Despite the appearance of NIU as the big dog in the Conference of late, parity has been the name of the game in the league. With Jordan Lynch finishing up his college career, will NIU be able to head to their fourth straight Conference Championship Game in 2014? Will Bowling Green be able to bounce back after losing their head coach to Wake Forest? Is it Ball State, Toledo or Ohio's time to rise in 2014? The MAC should be interesting in 2014.