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2016 MAC Bowl Projections: Championship Week

Eastern Michigan guaranteed themselves a bowl. Go crazy, Eagle fans!

Northern Illinois at Eastern Michigan Football - In Pictures

Myself (James) and Fitz, along with the rest of the staff, use the Slack app to communicate on blog-related items.

Fitz and I decided it would be fun to write an article each week through Slack DM’s and try and talk through our feelings on the bowl picture and the results are what you see here.

You can catch both of us on Facebook Live each week, as I usually handle #HustleBagLive on Wednesday evenings and Fitz usually handles the weekend preview/recap on Saturday evenings.

Enjoy this (lightly edited) look behind the curtain.

brownandgold (Brandon Fitzsimons, WMU writer and general editor at Hustle Belt): Hi buddy. Wake up. It's bowl projections time!

avkingjames (James H. Jimenez, assistant site manager at Hustle Belt): Howdy. My sleep cycle is still wrecked from Pokemon Sun.

brownandgold: Stop worshiping false idols, PAWWWWWWL.

avkingjames: Say that to my Sylveon/Snorlax dream team and get wrecked, yo.

brownandgold: Idk what that even means.

Wanna start with NIU? Weird right? But they should be first sitting with the highest APR of the 5-7 MAC teams

avkingjames: That's correct. But it makes little sense to place them before anyone else.

brownandgold: I'm not placing them. I'm going to say they're the first team out. I think South Alabama wins for sure to block them, and they need both 5-6 Sun Belt teams to lose this week (the other is a Louisiana team playing the other Louisiana team in a rivalry game.)

Which leaves us with 6 MAC teams and 5 bowl spots, plus the Cotton Bowl.

avkingjames: Hmmmm, I don't know about that. South Alabama has been particularly unpredictable in the conference season; a verifiable Schrodinger's team, indeed. So there's a chance for an opening there. The other game... not nearly as hopeful. Louisiana-Lafayette has owned the series against Louisiana-Monroe.

All of this talk also assumes that Texas declines a bowl bid, which I'm not sure they would do if a situation arose that would grant them additional bowl practices. I guess what I'm saying is I agree. The path looks really bad for NIU to make a bowl.

brownandgold: So if we eliminate NIU, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Let's move on to NIU's successor in the MAC West.....Western Michigan!

I have them in the Cotton Bowl against Colorado. I think the Buffs get an at-large bid over Penn State, who would be the FOURTH Big Ten team in the NY6 behind Ohio State, Wisconsin (both in the CFP) and Michigan (Rose Bowl vs Washington)

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Michigan State vs Alabama Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

avkingjames: Ah, you're using logic in your projections, how fatal!

I would think that Washington wins the PAC 12 over Colorado. This would put Washington in the Playoff and Colorado in the Rose Bowl. That leaves the champion of the Big Ten (Penn State/Wisconsin,) Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or West Virginia. Michigan isn't gonna qualify here because they're either in the Playoff or the Rose Bowl. They're not gonna lower themselves to the dadgum Cotton Bowl, where Michigan-based teams go to die.

I think Western, should they win the championship, will play either Penn State or Wisconsin, with my bet being placed on Penn State. ALTHOUGH, it should be noted I wish there was a scenario where Oklahoma State qualified for the Cotton Bowl.

brownandgold: Michigan could also end up in the Orange Bowl with the amount of trash coming out of the SEC this year that isn't named "Alabama.” (Florida is 8-3, the only non-Bama SEC team with fewer than four losses. They get Bama this weekend, so lol.) And I would be in favor of Oklahoma State vs Western Michigan in an ultimate "Let us hand you that L you didn't wanna take" game.

avkingjames: Yeah, Florida is a 21.5 point dog on a neutral field. That ain't good.

brownandgold: For transparency, here's how I have the NY6 breaking out:

Peach Bowl - Bama vs Ohio State

Fiesta Bowl - Clemson vs Wisconsin [Big Ten Champ]

Orange Bowl - Florida State vs Penn State

Rose Bowl - Michigan vs Washington

Sugar Bowl - Florida vs Oklahoma

Cotton Bowl - WMU vs Colorado

Another team WMU could see? USC. That would be interesting, since the two open their 2017 slates against each other in the Colosseum

avkingjames: Hmm, interesting. I've got Wisconsin instead of Penn State in the Orange Bowl. But I've also got Washington in the Playoff, so that throws everything into a blender. I'm not sure if the Committee wants to place WMU with USC considering they open the next season playing one another. It'd be kind of a downer for the start of that series, I'd imagine.

But okay, we eliminated NIU and put WMU in the Cotton Bowl. What next?

brownandgold: Agreed. It'll be interesting to see what they do with Ohio State should Wisconsin, Clemson, and Washington all win. I get the Buckeyes have an impressive resume and all, but those three would have conference titles and Wisconsin took OSU to overtime in their match-up. Any upset between those three, and we get really wild.

Hmmmm. MAC East Champion Ohio?

OHIO V. KENT STATE IN PICTURES Scott Warren / Bald Monkey Photo

avkingjames: Well, if we look at traditional bowl tie-ins, the MAC East Champion Ohio Bobcats (if they lose) should be favored to participate in the Dollar General Bowl, which usually goes to the MAC champion. Alas, this has been an unusual season.

It's not a bad slot to draw for the Bobcats, as they would probably be favored against the Sun Belt number two. As it stands, that means either Arkansas State or Appalachian State.


I think the Bobcats end up there as well, which is a nice consolation prize for all parties involved. And they'd get the Sun Belt Champ, Jimmy. As for who they'll play, the Sun Belt is a mess. App State is already in the clubhouse with a 7-1 record, but don't hold the H2H vs Troy. Troy has a game left, but is 1-1 vs Troy and........Arkansas State. That's right, the Red Wolves, despite losing to UL-Lafayette, are looking to head back to yet another bowl game in Mobile with a win this weekend over lowly Texas State, the same Texas State team that has gone 1-9 (FCS win) since that crazy OT win against Ohio to start the season.

avkingjames: Ah, I always confuse the two Sun Belt slots. And yeah, Ohio had no business losing that game at home. It's gonna be a wild and weird matchup with whoever they do end up playing. Ohio has already played App State in the Camellia Bowl, so I'm gonna go ahead and say they play Arkansas State or Troy depending on how all that mess plays out.

I'm not real sure if the Bowl Formerly Known as GoDaddy wants to have Arkansas State for the 8,479th straight year, though. So my pick will be Troy for this game.

brownandgold: See, I have Troy in the Camellia Bowl. Their opponent? The Miami RedHawks!

I think Miami, being closest to that bowl game, is perfect. Troy might provide some problems, but the way Miami has played down the stretch gives me hope that it'll be a good game

avkingjames: Now that would be a game I tuned in to see, for sure. Both teams had a knack for playing teams close and they're sort of mirror image programs. Troy was really sorry last year and have turned that around in just a year, being ranked 25 in the AP Poll before an unfortunate loss to Arkansas State.

So those are the championship teams. Toledo would be next to go to a bowl, if we follow traditional tie-ins.

NCAA Football: Toledo at Western Michigan Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

brownandgold: Right. And this is where I feel we'll start to split.

I have them still in the Miami Beach Bowl. Here's where we start to get fun with it. Their opponent? Houston. The over/under has to be 100, right?

avkingjames: I would say about 150, my good sir. That's a game that would feature two ridiculously really good offenses going against one another on a truly neutral field. It's rife with possibility.

But let's look at who's more likely to end up there.

Navy is guaranteed a bowl berth in a different bowl unless they feel like Miami a game they would rather participate in, so you have to consider them, especially being ranked 20th. Temple plays them in the AAC Championship, so you cannot count out the Owls either. Oh and there's "local" team USF too, who is ranked 24th in the AP Poll at the moment. Would Houston really jump all those teams for the primary AAC matchup?

brownandgold: It's tough to say. There is no "seed" assigned, so the bowl can pick from any AAC team it feels like. If you can put Herman-less Houston and Toledo on the field, you have to, right?

USF might be good, UCF would be too weak to match-up against the Rockets. I think Navy is locked into the Armed Forces Bowl, so I'm going to stick with Houston and pray the Football Gods give us that match-up.

avkingjames: Navy's guaranteed at least the Armed Forces Bowl against a Big 12 team, according to what I can tell. BYU is the Poinsettia Bowl tie-in; that was a change that was made after Navy joined the American. USF would be a pretty good matchup too, and I would favor them over Houston, if only because at the very least, they're in the state of Florida. Although it would be a lot more fun to see Houston.

brownandgold: So we have 4 MAC teams down. 2 left, both from the great state of Michigan. Which one do you want to start with?

avkingjames: Oh man. Let's go with.... uh... hmm. Eastern Michigan.

brownandgold: Alright, so next question: Boise or Bahamas?


I know we talked about this last week, but I'm gonna bring it up again: how much money does Eastern want to spend and what is their priority? Fan experience or national exposure?

This is why I think the Quick Lane Bowl is in the cards for the Eagles.

NCAA Football: Quick Lane Bowl-Central Michigan vs Minnesota Sage Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

brownandgold: Still on that prayer, eh? OK, I'll indulge. Go on

avkingjames: I realize it's a prayer, but we have to consider the possibility at the very least. The Quick Lane Bowl is the eight slot for the Big Ten. (Out of nine.)

brownandgold: They have 10 bowl eligible teams, but the NY6 mess could open up a slot.

avkingjames: Yep. Here's what that looks like. Say Ohio State ends up in the Playoff and one of Penn State/Wisconsin ends up in the Cotton Bowl. Here's what happens next:

Rose Bowl for the next eligible team, obviously. The Orange/Citrus Bowl for the next eligible team, which has a "five teams in six years agreement," so Michigan and Minnesota aren't considered here.

The Outback Bowl has the same agreement, so Wisconsin and Northwestern can't participate in that bowl. Holiday Bowl can't take Nebraska or Wisconsin.

The Big Ten has a rotation agreement with the ACC for "three appearances in six years" for the TaxSlayer and Music City Bowls, so a Big Ten team that isn't Penn State or Iowa will play in one of those bowls.

The Pinstripe Bowl wants different matchups in every year, so no teams that have previously played, meaning Penn State and Indiana can't play in that bowl.

That leaves a cluster, for sure. Short story is: the Big Ten might not qualify all their teams, especially if two (or three!) teams qualify for the Playoff.

That would leave the Quick Lane Bowl open.

brownandgold: I think the Big Ten wants to secure that bowl since it's in their backyard. You might have an easier time figuring out which ACC team will avoid it lol.

That said, who would you have EMU playing in the Quick Lane Bowl?

avkingjames: Okay, if everthing goes to form, that would be an EMU vs. ACC matchup, it'd have to be one of the lower ACC teams as the Quick Lane is "secondary." That'd probably mean Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and... GEORGIA TECH, BABY.

brownandgold: Eagles vs Ramblin' Wreck? I'm there. I'm also there for Wake vs EMU in a battle of historically bad football programs.

That said, I have the Eagles still going to the Bahamas. I think the EMU administration wants the Quick Lane Bowl, but that's a tough bet to bank on. The alternative is to accept the Bahamas Bowl, and the fans that can make it, will. It's a tough bowl to sell fans on because of the timing/location, but it's still a great location for the team. Also, I still want to see the Michigan MAC complete their rotation in Nassau. EMU vs Old Dominion in a rematch from last year.

Shifting gears: I still have CMU in the Potato Bowl. Their opponent is a huge question mark. Wyoming? New Mexico? San Diego State? None of them. BOISE. STATE. BABY!

NCAA Football: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl-Akron vs Utah State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

avkingjames: Oh god. That's a Jimenez family special, right there.

brownandgold: Story time!

avkingjames: Okay, so obviously, I graduated from CMU last year.

brownandgold: [James puts me on hold for 15 minutes after that opener]

avkingjames: [I had an important phone call come in.] My sisters Erica and Belinda both attended Boise State and my sister Erica's husband, Del Graven, was a stud lineman for the Broncos back when they were FCS level, shortly before they went FBS. Owned several records. Del was an NFL draft pick for Denver and played three seasons before a motorcycle wreck that broke his back.

John Elway hired him for one of his dealerships back in the day.

But yeah, if that bowl matchup happens, there's definitely gonna be a fun element to that matchup that makes it worthwhile for me.

brownandgold: Please let this happen.

avkingjames: I hope it does. But alas, I don't think Boise particularly wants that matchup.

brownandgold: Same, but that's what happens when you lose to Wyoming and Air Force in November.

avkingjames: Facts only.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Miami (Ohio) Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

brownandgold: So I'm done, what say you, CMU alum? Where do your Chips fall? (see what I did there?)

avkingjames: Yes, I did. Haha. Hmm. It's difficult. EMU is the one team that holds up "for sure" predictions for me.

Where they go determines where CMU goes, in my opinion. All we know is that CMU will definitely get a bowl unless something terrible happens to WMU. I'll throw them in the Potato Bowl for now, I suppose and put EMU in the Bahamas, because as much as I hope the Quick Lane opens up, that requires a lot of things to happen up at the top of the bowl selection process.

brownandgold: I'll add this to your Quick Lane conundrum: Remember that the Bahamas Bowl has ties to the AAC and CUSA. Those two could easily fill the slots (CUSA sent ODU), and the MAC can avoid that travel nightmare.

So my recap:

WMU - Cotton Bowl vs Colorado (Fitz), Cotton Bowl vs. Penn State (James)

Ohio - Dollar General Bowl vs Arkansas State (Fitz), Dollar General Bowl vs. Troy (James)

Miami - Camelia Bowl vs Troy (Fitz), Camellia Bowl vs. Arkansas State (James)

Toledo - Miami Beach Bowl vs Houston (Fitz), Miami Beach Bowl vs. USF (James)

EMU - Bahamas Bowl vs Old Dominion (both)

CMU - Potato Bowl vs Boise State (both)

And none for NIU.

NCAA Football: Western Illinois at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

[UPDATE at 9:42 a.m. CST: EMU Athletics announced on Twitter that the team has officially accepted a bid to the Bahamas Bowl to face Old Dominion.]