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Ranking the Five MAC Bowl Games

MAC bowl games start this Saturday with the Idaho Potato Bowl. Where does that rank with the other four games that we've got our eye on?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With five of the seven bowl-eligible Mid-American Conference schools going bowling in these next few weeks, now would be a good time to rank them. But that's a really hard thing to do. How should I rank these? Do I go from least to most exciting/intriguing? Do I go by MAC teams' records? Or should I open a whole new can of worms by guesstimating how many MAC-specific fans will be in attendance at these games?

Yeah, I'll just go from least to most exciting. That's practical and subjective enough, right?

5. Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: Ohio (7-5) vs East Carolina (9-3)
Monday, Dec. 23, 2:00 p.m. (EST)- ESPN

This is a safe place to put the Bobcats, right? When five of your seven wins come against teams that finish the year with losing records, it's easy to say that Toledo was probably more deserving of a bowl bid, but life goes on. Going 1-3 in the month of November, it's hard to have high expectations from a team that went 9-4 last year. The Buccos are 10th in the nation in passing (331.5 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (40.4 ppg). A very skilled offense with junior quarterback Shane Carden leading the ship, it's hard to get excited about a defense that lets up, on average, 392.3 yards per game against that sort of offense.

However, it is a bowl game, and (insert the "anything can happen" clichés).

Prediction: ECU wins 37-14

4. Idaho Potato Bowl: Buffalo (8-4) vs San Diego State (7-5)
Saturday, Dec. 21, 5:30 p.m. (EST)- ESPN

The Bulls are still looking for their first bowl win in school history. They were one win away from going to Ford Field to play NIU in the MAC Championship game, which loses a little bit of hype for them. This will be Khalil Mack's last game as a Bull before being another first round pick in the NFL Draft, so there's so going to be a lot of attention surrounding him. The San Diego State offense has gotten progressively better over the season, scoring eight touchdowns in the first four games, then 15 in October and 22 in November. Early Aztec name to remember: Colin Lockett.

I wanted to put this game higher, but some people just take the fun out of everything:

2013 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Potato Hand (via FIPbowl)

Prediction: SDSU wins 26-20

3. Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Bowling Green (10-3) vs Pittsburgh (6-6)
Thursday, Dec. 26, 6:00 p.m. (EST)- ESPN

You shock the MAC with a huge win over NIU in the MAC Championship game, Dave Clawson immediately takes the head coaching job over at Wake Forest, and now Dino Babers is hired in to take Clawson's place. Pitt fans might not be as excited about this game, but the drama surrounding this game for the Falcons make everything just a little bit more intriguing (yay media!). We can also expect a pretty good turnout at Ford Field, since Bowling Green is just over an hour and a half away from Detroit.

Prediction: BGSU wins 32-20

2. Poinsettia Bowl: #23 Northern Illinois (12-1) vs Utah State (8-5)
Thursday, Dec. 26, 6:30 p.m. (EST)- ESPN

Jordan Lynch. Okay, now that I've got that out of my system, let's talk about the Utah State defense. Well, I'll just sum it up in two words: they're good. Actually, they're one of the best defenses in the nation. Ranking 10th in rushing defense, 6th in red zone defense, 8th in tackles for loss and 12 in total defense, this isn't exactly going to be cakewalk for the Huskies. Another thing to watch out for: Lynch is 119 rushing yards away from being the first player in FBS history to have at least 2,000 passing and 2,000 rushing yards in the same season.

Hat tip to Mountain West Connection for the stats.

Prediction: NIU wins 28-18

1. Bowl: Ball State (10-2) vs Arkansas State (7-5)
Sunday, Jan. 5, 9:00 p.m. (EST)- ESPN

Arkansas State has been a bit of a coaching carousel, but the Red Wolves were able to find their fifth head coach in five years. Just after Bryan Harsin left for Boise State, Blake Anderson was an easy and quick hire for them. In 2012, Anderson helped the North Carolina Tar Heels become one of the better offenses in the nation by scoring 40.6 points per game.  Only 77 yards short of having 4,000 passing yards for Keith Wenning, which would be a school record. Receiver Willie Snead already holds a new school record for receiving yards with 1,429 for the season.

Anderson has some time to make a few adjustments to the Red Wolf offense, which gives this game a lot of potential to turn into a shootout.

Prediction: Ball State wins 37- 29