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Why The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Matters For The MAC

Follow along in our Little Caesars Pizza Bowl gamethread.

With 35 bowls, how can any specific bowl, sponsored and perpetrated by a greedy money machine, possibly be a good thing for any conference? What, with the travel costs and garish advertorial names of the bowls, it doesn't really seem like a bowl sponsored by warm cheese bread can possibly be something the MAC thirsts to play in.

And for a few years that wasn't the case. But it might be the best facet of MAC football to some. At its best, it's a proven MAC team playing a decent Big Ten team on a neutral field. This isn't Akron-Ohio State, or Kent State-Alabama. It's a team with a chance, but more importantly, it's a team that has been together for a dozen games, rather than slumming through the first month trying to figure out everybody's strengths.

This is a final exam for Western Michigan. They played through a full season, did a lot of great things offensively, somehow flaunted the MAC Defensive POY, and get to play a Big Ten team who I respect above others because they'll actually — gasp — travel to MAC schools.

What's oddball about this particular matchup is I believe WMU, of the five MAC bowlin' schools, is the weakest of the five. It's not a stretch to say this. They didn't beat Toledo (although scored 63). They weren't close to beating NIU, and it seems like on a neutral field, they'd lose to Temple and probably OHIO. Yet with the "second pick," The LCPB grabbed the Broncos, and it could've been a territorial selection, or the fact that even the fifth-best MAC team is capable of winning this bowl game. So that says a lot about the conference depth this year, something I didn't expect to manifest itself yet.

The MAC-Big Ten dynamic can often grate on me but this particular bowl game, on most years, is a great harmony between evenly-matched teams. Unfortunately in the last few years the Big Ten hasn't shipped one of their own to the shenanigans since they send their eighth-best team — ninth if they get two BCS teams, which they usually do. The Sun Belt alternate team is usually a nice change of pace if the B1G can't fill their slot (just look at last year's game) but every MAC-Big Ten game has been exciting. In 2003 BGSU beat Northwestern 28-24 in Josh Harris' final game. The 2007 variety had a 51-48 shootout with Purdue getting the best of Dan LeFevour and CMU on a last-second field goal. Hey, the little guys can't always win, and they always won't.

I can't tell you who'll win, but it's perceived as another close. Western Michigan, like OHIO, has never won a postseason game. And with a 2-0 start for the MAC in bowl games, you know which way to lean.