The Mid-American Conference has a long and proud history of players participating (and contributing in significant ways) in the Super Bowl. In recent years, we've seen former MAC stars such as Ben Roethlisberger (Miami, Super Bowl XLIII and XLV), Lance Moore (Toledo, Super Bowl XLIV), Domenik Hixon (Akron, Super Bowl XLVI) and Joe Staley (Central Michigan, Super Bowl XLVII) shine on the National Football League's biggest stage.
Who will be the torch-bearer for the MAC in Super Bowl XLVIII? And, as a result, which team can we -- the fans of all things #MACtion -- root for in tonight's game? We're here to tell you.
Your Super Bowl XLVIII participants from the Mid-American Conference...
|Denver||2||Zac Dysert||QB||6-3||221||23||R||Miami (Ohio)|
|Denver||13||Nathan Palmer||WR||5-11||198||24||2||Northern Illinois|
Now, we know what many of you are thinking after looking at the table above...
"Temple? How can you include guys who played at Temple?"
Aside from our general feelings about Temple, they are no longer in the MAC, right? Well, you will have to forgive us for this one. Both Terrance Knighton and John Youbouty did, in fact, play games as members of the MAC. And frankly, if we want to root for anyone who is actually going to play tonight, we're going to have to compromise.
As you can see above, there are only two former MAC players on the active rosters of the two Super Bowl teams, and they both play for the Denver Broncos. Zac Dysert is Denver's third-string quarterback, which makes it extremely unlikely that he will see any action today; in fact, he may be one of Denver's eight inactives for tonight's game. This leaves Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton, former Temple Owl, as the MAC's shining star.
Knighton certainly fits the bill. He played right away as a true freshman at Temple, as he saw time in ten games before finally starting in the final game of the 2005 season against Navy. He became a full-time starter in 2006 and had 32 solo tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and four passes broken up. Temple joined the MAC for Knighton's junior season (2007), and he celebrated with 8.5 tackles for loss and a team-best three fumble recoveries. As a senior, Knighton had 35 more solo tackles, another three fumble recoveries, five pass break-ups, a blocked kick, and a sack. His performance was recognized after the season, as he was named Temple's first-ever first-team All-MAC selection.
Knighton was selected in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were coached at the time by current Broncos' defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. He started all 45 games in which he played during his first three seasons, including all 32 possible games in his first two years with the Jaguars. During the 2010 season, he made 24 solo tackles, including four sacks. He also had four passes defensed and an interception.
After starting only four games during the 2012 season, Knighton signed with the Broncos as an unrestricted free agent. He started all 16 games for the eventual AFC champions and registered 18 solo tackles. He earned three sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery.
In the AFC Championship Game, Knighton made one of the contest's most pivotal plays. Late in the third quarter, the New England Patriots trailed 20-3 and faced 4th-and-3 at the Denver 29. They chose to go for the first down, and Knighton sacked Tom Brady for a ten-yard loss. Denver took over on downs and marched to another field goal, as the Broncos ultimately won 26-16.
Broncos' quarterback Zac Dysert is the only other former MAC player on an active roster for today's game, but he was a game-day inactive for all 16 of Denver's regular season games in 2013. Dysert is from Ada, Ohio, which is home to the Wilson factory where all of the NFL's footballs are made. While at Ada, he racked up 11,174 passing yards, which ranks second in Ohio high school history. He was named all-division Ohio Player of the Year as a senior. He attended Miami University and was redshirted as a true freshman in 2008.
Once he became the RedHawks' starter in 2009, that's where he stayed for the remainder of his college career. He started nine games as a freshman, beginning with a 31-of-53 and 337 yard performance at Kent State on Sept. 26, 2009. Dysert was the starter for the first ten games of the 2010 season and threw for 2,406 yards while completing 64.7% of his passes. His play helped put Miami in position to eventually win the 2010 MAC championship, but he ruptured his spleen in November in a game at Bowling Green.
During his final two seasons, Dysert started all 24 of Miami's games. He threw for a combined 6,996 yards, 48 touchdowns and only 23 interceptions. He was 11th in the country in passing yards per game as a junior and ranked second in the MAC in total offense per game as a senior. On Sept. 29, 2012, he threw six touchdowns at Akron and became the first player in FBS history to pass for 500 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game. Dysert was selected in the seventh round (234th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Broncos.
Three other former MAC players occupy spots on the practice squads of the Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.
Nathan Palmer, a wide receiver, is a name that should be very familiar to MAC fans -- he was Most Valuable Player of the 2011 MAC Championship Game for the Northern Illinois Huskies. In that game, he caught four passes for 115 yards and scored twice. His play helped fuel NIU's 20-point comeback and eventual 23-20 win. He scored NIU's first touchdown of the game, as well as the game-tying touchdown with just 2:52 remaining in the game. Palmer caught 93 passes for 1,575 yards and 16 touchdowns during his career at NIU. He was signed in 2012 as an undrafted free agent by the San Francisco 49ers before eventually being signed by the Indianapolis Colts. He played in five games for the Colts and caught one pass for -4 yards. He moved to the Miami Dolphins early in the 2013 season before being signed by the Broncos.
Defensive end John Youboty is another former Temple Owl who needs to be included. He played two seasons at Temple, starting with the Owls' final season in the MAC (2011). During that year, he played in all 13 games and started seven times. He contributed 10 solo tackles, one sack, a fumble recovery, and two passes defensed. As a senior, Youboty was named second-team All-Big East and earned five sacks and 28 solo tackles. He was signed by Denver as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and was eventually placed on the Broncos' practice squad.
Seattle's lone MAC contributor is former Ohio wide receiver Phil Bates. Bates was another participant in that 2011 MAC Championship Game. He did not catch a pass during the game, but he did throw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Donte Foster in the first quarter. Bates played at Ohio for his final two collegiate seasons after transferring from Iowa State, and he acted as a receiver, runner and passer for the Bobcats. In his senior season (2011), he caught 15 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown, ran 16 times for 69 yards, and was 4-of-5 as a passer with 142 yards and two touchdowns. Bates was signed as an undrafted free agent by Seattle in 2012 and has been part of their practice squad for two years.
So, now you're ready for Super Bowl XLVIII. We won't tell you who to root for, but given the above information, is there really a choice? MAC players are 4-to-1 in favor of Denver, and the Broncos have the only guy who is going to see the field tonight.
With all that said, this author is going to close with his own personal Super Bowl prediction. Some of my mates here at Hustle Belt may feel differently, but...
Denver 27, Seattle 17
Enjoy your Sunday night #MACtion, everyone...