It was a fun stat while it lasted: the MAC was the only conference that boasted four one-loss teams (Toledo, NIU, Kent State, Ohio). Two weeknight games later, that number was sliced in half. Toledo couldn't get it done at home to Ball State, while Ohio was dropped by Bowling Green. Two 8-1 teams were disposed by lesser-discussed teams that were 6-3.
In any other year, I'd say that the other shoe has dropped and the conference is starting to eat itself. Parity University remains the undisputed MAC overlord and high priest for a reason, and because of these self-inflicted beatings, the conference always, always takes a hit nationally. These losses by Toledo and Ohio — preseason picks to win their divisions — will probably drop them in CBS Sports' silly conference power rankings, which had the MAC fourth (FOURTH!) ahead of the Big Ten, ACC and Big East. On a level playing field, no, this is stupid. The MAC isn't better than the Big Ten. But if CBS is factoring in expectations and budgetary limitations/excess, then sure, the MAC's doing a better job at football than the B1G, by far. But they seem to be going on the number of bowl eligible teams, the number of ranked teams and the job they did against out-of-conference opponents. Essentially they're focusing on the teams at the top.
What I think serves to be said is that the top six MAC teams — a clean top half if we may remove UMass's transitional year, although we probably cannot — are all really damn good. Ball State is the team that knocked off back-to-back power conference teams and wins games in close, exciting style. BGSU has the crushing defense. Kent State has exciting skill players and ballhawking defenders. Ohio is still incredible, if not injury marred, with powerful running backs and a polished quarterback. Toledo plays smart on all fronts and is efficient on offense. And NIU, out of all them, deserves to be a top 25 team and boast the league's only fringe Heisman candidate.
Even Miami has their strengths, notably a four-year starter at quarterback who can take over a game. Western Michigan will keep up with you on the scoreboard ... even Buffalo's a tough win. Buffalo! We're talking about the 2-7 team as one that's difficult to beat and WE'RE USING OUR SERIOUS FACES OVER HERE.
Enjoy this while it lasts, I'd reckon, because the inexorable conclusion is that senior quarterbacks graduate, or coaches take Big Ten jobs, and the process repeats itself. I can't tell you if it's here to stay or not, and if you're looking or that answer, keep reading the tea leaves. All we know is that the conference is not only competitive — it ALWAYS is — but it's a good type of competitive, one that even those who aren't MAC zealots can enjoy the conclusion of the season, even if nobody's winning 41-40.