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Belt Loops: Changing the MAC into a 3-division conference

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Because you always wanted to see college football with a side of baseball playoff structure, right?

James H. Jimenez

We always make jokes around Hustle Belt about how we never discuss politics or baseball in the #random thread (both rules of which are frequently broken, but I digress.)

Just the other day, one of our more outspoken contributors and supporter of MAC football Keith suggested (jokingly) that the MAC should cease to race for a title and race for pennants instead, like in baseball. I immediately started thinking about it, and the more thought I put into it, the more it made sense. BC Interruption suggested a similar idea for the ACC, and served as partial inspiration for the system that Fitz and I ultimately ended up coming up with.

With the MAC perfectly symmetrical at 12 after UMass leaves in 2015, this becomes extremely plausible.

The Three-Division System

There are three divisions in this scenario: The MAC North, the MAC Central, and the MAC South. They are realigned as geographically close as possible, while maintaining rivalries. With the MAC perfectly symmetrical at 12 after UMass leaves in 2015, this becomes extremely plausible. This also assumes no teams would join the MAC join on or after 2015.

Here are the divisions, starting in the North and listed alphabetically:

MAC North MAC Central MAC South
Central Michigan Ball State Akron
Eastern Michigan Bowling Green Kent State
University at Buffalo Northern Illinois Miami
Western Michigan Toledo Ohio

Each team would play their division foes twice, with two cross-division games to even out the schedule at eight games apiece. This allows each team to still go about their four non-con games to enhance their strength of schedule while solving the epidemic of the every-other-year essence of home/away games in the divisions we have now.

The interesting part is next: how do we determine a champion in the Mid-American Conference? Well that's easy: you simply make them play one another.

[This] combines the excitement of the Big XII's "every game counts" 10-team division with the excitement of pro football's season-long playoff chase.

The Mid-American Conference Playoff

A la Major League Baseball, the three pennant winners would be seeded 1-3 based on the current MAC tiebreaker system (conference record is the first tiebreaker.) Since you can't have a playoff with three teams, the Wild Card would have to come into play, using the remaining teams and the same tiebreakers. The "MAC semi-final" games would be played on the home field of the higher-seed. From here, you play 1-4 and 2-3, as per usual, with the winners of those games playing for the MAC Championship.

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So, why this system? For one, the Group of Five institutions are going to have to show the College Football Commission that they deserve a spot at the table. Such a revolutionary action could generate enough noise to catch eyes, at the very least. It combines the excitement of the Big XII's "every game counts" 10-team division with the excitement of pro football's season-long playoff chase.

Secondly, this system best manages scheduling problems that could exhibit themselves and are geographically sound, while keeping rivalries intact. It would also make determining bowl bids a lot easier on the bowl committees, since all MAC teams would be ranked within this system thanks to the Wild Card chase.

Third, the same system could be used to determine the seeding for basketball, though the idea of scheduling for a longer season could be a bit tricky to deal with (but that's a different article.)

Finally, at the very least, it would serve to fuel the #MACtion hype train and create a more exciting product for the fans that are already devoted to MAC football. Could you imagine a weeknight playoff game on national television, or watching multiple games at the same time in the final weeks while studying all the tiebreaker scenarios for your team to make the MAC playoff? And who wouldn't love two rivalry games a year?