The day was large. It had big teams crying, medium-sized teams moping and the little guys pumping their fists in the air all day. It also had this:
I am seriously thinking about putting the Big 10 team preview pages behind the Sun Belt and MAC in next year's mag? What do you think?— phil steele (@philsteele042) September 23, 2012
I think, uh, BURN.
Four "Automatic Qualifier" conference teams — a term that in its last year of operation — fell to MAC schools: Iowa, Kansas, South Florida and UConn. That's two from the Big East and one each from the Big Ten and Big XII. No, none of those four teams are considered top-25 material this year. People have been comparing this to that fateful day in 2003 when three top 25 teams were knocked off. Let's compare.
|GREAT MAC DAYS||09/20/03||09/22/12|
|AQ CONFERENCE WINS||Marshall 27, #6 Kansas State** 20
Toledo 35, #9 Pittsburgh* 31
Northern Illinois 19, #21 Alabama 16
|Central Michigan 32, Iowa 31
Northern Illinois 30, Kansas 23
Western Michigan 30, Connecticut 24
Ball State 31, South Florida 27
|NONCONFERENCE WINS||Miami 41, Colorado State* 21
Akron 65, Howard 7
|Toledo 38, Coastal Carolina 28
OHIO 44, Norfolk State 10
|RESPECTABLE LOSSES||#5 Ohio State** 24, Bowling Green 17||#23 Michigan State 23, Eastern Michigan 7|
|BLOWN OUT EVENTUALLY||Syracuse 38, UCF 14||Tennessee 47, Akron 26|
|YUCK||Penn State 32, Kent State 10
UConn 38, Buffalo 7
Navy* 39, Eastern Michigan 7
|Virginia Tech 37, Bowling Green 0|
* - Played in a bowl
** - Played in a BCS bowl
Here's how I see it. The quality of victories strongly favors the 2003 day. To boot, three of yesterday's four AQ conference wins were at MAC stadiums. This says more about the respect levels for Kansas, USF and UConn for playing at these stadiums, but it also downgrades the impressiveness of the win, compared to being a top-25-ranked.
But the entire breadth of performances in yesterday's nine non-conference games were arguably stronger. If it weren't for that BGSU goose-egg at Virginia Tech, everybody who played an OOC game could say they did rather well.
A few days ago I posited that the league is not where it was in 2003. I might be wrong, based on this particular day. But this was just one day, where Ball State played the game of its life, WMU and NIU took care of business, and Central Michigan ... well I'm still scratching my head on that one, but they got it done. What makes yesterday so great is to demonstrate the ceiling of these teams, especially those picked near last in their respective divisions. When Akron, as in Consecutive 1-11 Seasons Akron, is leading Tennessee at halftime, you know that just about everybody was in rare form.
It might be fair to say the talent gap has narrowed between Big Conferences and the MAC, but here's what'll happen: these struggling Big East/Big Ten/Big XII conferences have bigger budgets, and if they need to replace their coach with an up-and-comer, they know which schools to poach.