I believe it was George Washington Carver who said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last”. Alexander Hamilton, perhaps? Maybe that was someone else, I don’t know. I slept through most of history class. Regardless, it is the dream of every Mid-American Conference fan, team, player, and observer to get the consummate award for a season well played: A trip to Detroit in December.
Some may see that reward as a punishment, and geographically and realistically speaking they are without doubt correct. I don’t know if you’ve been to Detroit recently, but don’t think what you see outside of Comerica Park and Ford Field to be the city. Those giant stone tigers are the outliers, I assure you.
But no matter how much of a soiled metropolitan urinal cake Detroit is as a city, it’s still the goal of every MAC football program. The Marathon MAC Championship Game (as it’s currently called) has been in existence since 1997 when the conference launched the divisional separation. 2004 was the first year it was held at Ford Field, and it’s been there ever since. Locale aside, Ford Field is a great spot for our conference to have its championship event. It’s an NFL stadium, very nice, and at a 70,000 capacity, there should be plenty of good seats available. So there’s that.
It would be easy for us to put out the “Title Game Scenarios” as a simple “Western Michigan wins it all, the rest of you suck. LOLzers!!! PWNED!” because social media has informed us that we, in fact, hate your team. It doesn’t matter which team it is. We hate them. Ask anyone on Twitter.
But there’s more possibilities than WMU heading to Detroit and laying waste to the rest of the conference. Sure, the Broncos are in an elite catbird seat, but even they have work to do. No matter your team, they can still make it. Some need more help than others, but all are still alive. Imagine that. Welcome to MAC football.
I think there is a thought in MAC-land that Akron is in the driver’s seat for the MAC East. In some respects, they are, but there’s a school in Athens that has just as big a claim to that fact. Both sit at one conference loss, and the season finale is the two of them in Athens. That MAC office is pretty good at that kind of thing, I’m finding. It’s really simple for Akron: Win. Ideally, win out, but especially the finale against Ohio. They’ve already got the head to head against Kent State and Miami, and with a win on the road against Buffalo they’ll have a cushion against everyone within shouting distance. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 35%
Ball State has a tough road to get to Detroit, but they have an intriguing schedule to get them there, playing both Toledo and WMU. They’d need each to lose an additional game to get them to 2-losses and tied with the Cardinals. Central Michigan would also need to lose two games, as the Chips have the head to head tiebreaker over Ball State. They also would need NIU to lose one as well. All the other teams’ losses don’t matter much if the Cards can’t pull off a massive upset against both Toledo and WMU. One is possible, two is incredibly unlikely, but there is at least a chance. A chance that requires a lot of dominos to break correctly. For Cards fans, just focus on BSU winning this weekend against Akron. A third conference loss puts the Detroit trip on even further life support than it is currently. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 3%
Currently at 0-3 in the conference, BG needs a ton of help and a ton of better results than they’ve gotten so far this season. For the things they can control, the primary thing that they have to do is beat Akron on the road on 11/9 (not likely) and have the Zips lose two additional games. They also need to pray to the God of MACtion (Jordan Lynch? Dan Lefevour?) that the MAC East goes haywire. They’ve already lost to Ohio so will need the Bobcats to drop 3 more games (more not likely), and they’ll need to beat Kent State and Miami. They close the season with Buffalo, which means that if everything breaks exactly as described, they could be playing for Detroit! In short: Beat Akron, beat Kent State, beat Miami, beat Buffalo, oh, and beat NIU as well. Root against the Bobcats in games that won’t benefit a MAC East team (or one within reach), like the Buffalo, CMU, and Toledo games. But let’s be honest, at this point BG fans need to be less concerned about Detroit and how to win their first MAC game. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 1%
There isn’t a single team in the MAC East more intriguing than Buffalo. Remember when the season started and they lost to Albany? Good times. They’re now 0-2 in the MAC, but remarkably, they are only one game out of first place. Currently Akron and Ohio each have one loss and Buffalo has yet to play either. Win both those games and that’s a tie, with the Bulls on the tiebreaker. Their two losses are to Kent and Ball State, so Bulls fans need to root for a Kent loss as well. As crazy it sounds, there is work to be done for sure (like winning their first MAC game), but Buffalo is still very much alive and in control for the most part. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 14%
It looked like Central was going to be the surprise sleeper out of the MAC this season after their miracle in Stillwater to upset Oklahoma State. Then came the Western game and the air got let out of the sails (boat reference!) a bit as the attention shifted away from the Chips to the Broncos and Rockets in the West. Admittedly, CMU has a tougher road, but a very possible one. The Western loss means that they need the Broncos to lose two games. One of which would need to be Toledo, and the Chips need the Rockets to drop a game as well. If WMU can get upset a second time and the Chips win out, then it would be a one-loss tie for the MAC West with CMU getting the nod over UT. CMU fan rooting interests: CMU beats Toledo this weekend, WMU loses to Toledo and one other MAC team, and the Chips control their own fate. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 15%
The Eagles are in a similar situation as CMU, just with different teams in their equation. Also with one loss in the MAC, to a team directly ahead of them in the standings (Toledo), the Eagles don’t control their own fate, but they will if a couple games go the right way. They need WMU to lose one game (like, say, this weekend against EMU), and Toledo to lose two. Let’s say EMU knocks off Western. At that point EMU fans need to pull for the Broncos against Toledo in the season finale and one of Toledo’s other MAC opponents that isn’t a threat for the MAC West crown, like Akron or Ohio. Those things come to pass and it’s EMU’s trip to Detroit to lose. EMU, y’all. What a time to be alive. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 10%
The good news for Kent State fans is they’ll know how difficult their road to Detroit will be after this weekend. The Golden Flashes are currently 1-2 in the conference, with a loss to one-loss Akron already on their record. This weekend they take on Ohio, the other one-loss MAC East team. A loss and their hopes for Detroit go on major life support. A win, though, and it becomes all hands on deck to hope for two Akron losses to pull Kent State into first place. It’s improbable, but not impossible, and the quest starts this weekend against the Bobcats. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 15%
The RedHawks got their first win in the MAC this weekend, but their chances of making Detroit are basically slim and none, and slim is packing its bags. At 1-2, that’s still only one game back from the two leaders. The problem? The two leaders are both of Miami’s losses, meaning Akron and Ohio need to both lose two games. Miami would basically need to win out to give themselves head to head tiebreaks over their MAC East brethren. Three of their final five are on the road, and of course two of them are divisional opponents. So there’s a chance, but I’d hold off on cashing in those hotel reward points just yet. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 5%
I was looking forward to cracking wise about how NIU has no chance and is mathematically eliminated, but that just isn’t the case. Admittedly, it’s going to take one hell of an effort from NIU to basically win out (not likely) and a whole lot of things falling correctly in WMU/Toledo/EMU/CMU games to come to pass, but there is a shot, albeit infinitesimally small. How fitting would it be if those exact things happen and NIU wins the West? That would be so MACtion I would just laugh. I hope if that’s the case Rod Carey goes double birds up at the home finale or goes on a Twitter rant a la Donald Trump about how they should drug test PJ Fleck, Toledo cheerleaders are fat pigs, and how Mike Neu shouldn’t even be here. That would be so great. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 2%
Ohio is in the same boat as Akron. They control their fate and go head to head with their current one-loss counterparts in the season finale. Win out and win that game, and it’s off to Detroit for the Bobcats. I bet Frank Solich will hit up Windsor. Seems like his kind of scene. Anyway, the Bobcats have a bit of a tougher road as their two hardest games outside of Akron are both on the road (CMU, Toledo) and both are definitely potential losses. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 30%
In terms of ease of path, Toledo controls their own fate, making it the most ideal situation. Currently undefeated in MAC play, the Rockets have a favorable schedule closing out the season, with only two road games compared to four at home. They close the season in the conference’s premier matchup, on the road against the Western Michigan Broncos (11/25). Their other road game, at Akron (11/2), will be challenging, but is winnable. Their toughest home game may be this weekend against Central Michigan, but in the future holds Ball State, NIU, and Ohio. Tough sledding. For the sake of interest and eyeballs, let’s hope and pray that the MAC gets the 10-1 vs 11-0 finale that we all deserve. In simple terms for Rocket fans: beat CMU this weekend, win the games you should, then duke it out with Western. That gets you to Detroit. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 30%
Not surprisingly, WMU has the easiest path (along with Toldeo) to the MAC Championship game. They control their destiny in that if they win out, they are in Detroit. The most important game for them to get them to Detroit? The season closer (11/25) at home against Toledo. This weekend’s game against Eastern Michigan is the Broncos’ last significant hurdle until then. Between them stands road games against Ball State, Kent State, and a home game against Buffalo. All very winnable. It’s simple for the Broncos, just like the Rockets: Beat the teams you should then play for the MAC Championship against the Rockets. Game on. Odds to Make the MAC Championship: 40%
Take it to the bank. Very scientific. You’re welcome, America.