First off, I’d like to thank Hustle Belt for hosting a bowl picking competition. If you want to join in on the fun, here is a link to that article, which in turn has a link to where you can make your picks.
With that out of the way, I will now tell you lovely readers which teams I have hoisting trophies in MAC bowl match ups.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl- Buffalo (8-4, 6-2 MAC) vs. San Diego State (7-5, 6-2 MW)
SDSU: San Diego State has had an odd season to say the least. In week 1 the Aztecs lost to FCS foe Eastern Illinois. I would include something in that like "EIU only lost 1 regular season game and almost beat Northern Illinois, so the loss isn’t totally on the Aztecs.", but I won’t because they lost 40-19 in that game. When that happened, most people likely thought that SDSU would have a tough year. They didn’t. Three weeks later the Aztecs almost beat Oregon State (If you would like to know about a really strange season, see Oregon State) and then won 3 straight games versus New Mexico State, Nevada and Air Force by just a total of 24 points. Then SDSU came within a mistake or two from taking control of the MW’s West Division with a 35-28 overtime loss to #15 Fresno State. San Diego State then won 4 straight games versus New Mexico, San Jose State, Hawaii, and Boise State by just a combined total of 19 points. Then they managed to lose their season finale by 26 points to UNLV.
Buffalo: UB has Khalil Mack. The senior linebacker is one of the key reasons the Bulls had an chance to claim the MAC East in the final week of the regular season against Bowling Green. Buffalo also had a slow start. UB started out with Ohio State and Baylor losing by a combined 77 points. Then the Bulls returned to Buffalo to face a stubborn Stony Brook team who took Buffalo to 5 OTs before the Bulls won 26-23. Then Buffalo destroyed UConn and used a weak MAC schedule to begin 5-0 in MAC play before they fell 51-41 to Toledo. Buffalo then easily took care of Miami before laying an egg in the second half versus Bowling Green in 24-7 loss that cost Buffalo a trip to Detroit for the MACC.
Game Outlook: Which SDSU will we see? That is the question that will decide this game. If we see the poor Aztec team that showed up for the EIU, New Mexico State, Air Force, New Mexico, Hawaii, and UNLV games, then Buffalo will cruise. If we see the good Aztec team that showed up for the Oregon State, Fresno State, and Boise State games, then SDSU wins a close one. For Buffalo, you must slow down SDSU’s offense while being able to score regularly.
Prediction: Buffalo’s defense should be too much for SDSU and the Bulls’ offense should do just enough to win a close game. Buffalo 23 San Diego State 17.
Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg- East Carolina (9-3, 6-2 C-USA) vs. Ohio (7-5, 4-4 MAC)
East Carolina: The Pirates are good. This season ECU has handled two BCS schools easily and almost beat a third. ECU opened up their season with a 52-38 win over Old Dominion. Then they beat up on FAU in a 31-13 rout to begin C-USA play. Then the Pirates hosted Virginia Tech and barely lost 15-10. Then two weeks later, coming off a bye-week ECU destroyed North Carolina 55-31 in Chapel Hill. A week later they beat MTSU 24-17 on the road. Then East Carolina lost a thriller in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to Tulane, 36-33 in OT. ECU would go on to manhandle their next 5 opponents, not winning a single one of those games by less than 14 points. That set up a game with Marshall, where the winner would take the C-USA East Division crown. ECU fell to the Thundering Herd by 31 points, while Marshall secured a birth to C-USA title game where they would lose by 3 scores to Rice.
Ohio: Frank Solich’s team had high expectations this season and fell mightily short, barely making a bowl game. Ohio started their season traveling to Louisville and losing 49-7. Then Ohio racked up some impressive wins. The ‘Cats beat bowl-bound North Texas and C-USA East champion Marshall to begin a 4- game winning streak that also included wins over Austin Peay and Akron. Then the tides changed. Ohio lost to a mediocre Central Michigan team. Ohio then handled two awful teams in Eastern Michigan and Miami before the screws really began falling off. Down 7-3 and with the ball at Buffalo, Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton backed up to pass. He was flushed out of the pocket and running backwards, he let go of the ball at the Ohio 4 yard line. Tettleton was called for Intentional Grounding in the end zone. It resulted in a Buffalo safety, which led to UB scoring the final 23 points of the game. Ohio then lost any shot at a MAC East title with a 49-0 loss to Bowling Green. Ohio then lost miserably at the hands of Kent State 44-13 before making one final and successful effort at a bowl bid with a 51-23 win over UMass.
Game Outlook: Ohio will have lots of trouble stopping ECU. The Pirates need to put the Marshall game in the rear- view mirror and come out like they did versus North Carolina and NC State, which they should do.
Prediction: Easiest pick all bowl season. 35 confidence points ECU wins. East Carolina 48 Ohio 17
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl- Pittsburgh (6-6, 3-5 ACC) vs. Bowling Green (10-3, 7-1 MAC)
Pittsburgh: Pitt has had an up and down season. The Panthers started the regular season and ACC play with a 41-13 loss to Florida State. Pittsburgh then rolled off a 3-game winning streak with wins over New Mexico, Duke, and Virginia. Pitt then traveled to Virginia Tech and lost 19-9. Then the Panthers improved to 4-2 with a 35-24 win over Old Dominion. Pitt then would go on 2-game losing streak with tight losses against Navy and Georgia Tech. A 4-4 Pitt team then hosted Notre Dame at Heinz Field and beat them 28-21. Pitt would lose at home to UNC, beat Syracuse, and then lose to the non-MAC Miami to finish the season.
Bowling Green: The Falcons have more than met expectations this season. The Falcons started hot at 2-0 before losing to IU in Bloomington 42-10. Then the Falcons would go on a 3-game winning streak, beating the likes of Murray State, Akron, and UMass. Then BGSU lost two games in a row by a combined 4 points. Bowling Green responded by winning their final 5 games, including one that clinched the MAC East and an upset over Northern Illinois that won a MAC championship.
Game Outlook: Bowling Green’s defense needs to shut down Pitt and BGSU’s offense needs to keeping doing what it’s doing; scoring in bunches. Pitt needs to find ways to break a tough BG defense.
Prediction: Bowling Green’s defense will be far too much for Pitt, who will struggle containing BGSU’s underrated offense. Bowling Green 31 Pittsburgh 20
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl- Utah State (8-5, 7-1 MW) vs. #23 Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0 MAC)
Utah State: The Aggies started the 2013 season with a 30-26 loss to bitter in-state rival Utah. Then Utah State rolled through their next two games, scoring a combined 122 points to beat Air Force and Weber State. USU then lost a tough game with USC 17-14. Utah State then slaughtered San Jose State 40-12 before losing star QB Chuckie Keeton for the season in a 31-14 home loss to BYU. The Aggies lost control of a division title with a 34-23 loss to Boise State coming off of Keeton’s injury. Utah State would go on to win 5 straight games versus New Mexico, Hawaii, UNLV, Colorado State, and Wyoming, which would propel them into the MW Championship Game, where they lost 24-17 to Fresno State.
Northern Illinois: Early on, NIU grabbed an impressive win in Iowa City, came back to win at the Kibbie Dome, barely survived a scare versus an FCS school, and tore apart a hapless Purdue team. NIU beat Kent State 38-24, made it through a tough one with Akron, and easily handled CMU to begin MAC play. After blowout wins over EMU and UMass, NIU beat Ball State in one of the most crazy and probably the best football game I had ever seen in person. NIU outscored Toledo 28-7 in the second half to put Toledo’s MAC Championship dreams away. Then the Huskies beat Western Michigan, before a loss to Bowling Green in the MACC likely cost the Huskies a trip to their second straight BCS bowl.
Game Outlook: I believe that NIU will be prepared for this game, weeks after a tough, tough loss. Utah State needs to slow down NIU early and continue to do that the whole game.
Prediction: NIU is too much for Utah State. Jordan Lynch should dominate as USU keeps it close. Northern Illinois 38 Utah State 27
GoDaddy Bowl- Arkansas State (7-5, 5-2 SunBelt) vs. Ball State (10-2, 7-1 MAC)
Arkansas State: ASU started out with a 62-11 win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff, then they struggled at Auburn, losing 38-9. The Red Wolves opened SunBelt play with a win over Troy. ASU also beat South Alabama, ULM, Texas State, and Georgia State in SunBelt play. They would lose to ULL and WKU in SunBelt play. Scattered in there are blowout losses to Mizzou and Memphis and a home win over Idaho.
Ball State: BSU opened the season facing Illinois State. After a slow start the Cards took control on chirped their way to a 51-28 victory. Then Ball State handily took care of Army 40-14 before blowing a 20-3 lead in Denton that cost Ball State the game 34-27. The Cardinals then opened up a 7-game winning streak with victories over EMU, Toledo, Virginia, Kent State, WMU, Akron, and CMU before giving up 21 unanswered points to NIU in DeKalb to lose 48-27. Ball State would respond after the loss with a 55-14 loss over Miami.
Game Outlook: It will be hard for ASU to win this game. Ball State should be too much for ASU.
Prediction: Keith Wenning and the Cards are too good for Arkansas State. BSU rolls. Ball State 41 Arkansas State 21
Here is to wishing the MAC has a successful bowl season to close out the 2013 season.
Follow Sam Barloga on Twitter: @BoilerUpSam