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All MAC Eyes Now on the Cotton Bowl

WMU is our last best hope on the biggest stage

Western Michigan v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

So let’s just call it like it is: the 2016 Bowl Season has been suboptimal for the Mid-American Conference. 5 games, 5 losses, and though four of them were one possession games, that 45-point blowout of Central Michigan at the hands of Tulsa isn’t doing the conference or its members any favors in terms of raising the profile of the football programs. But one remains, a big one, one that we argued for for weeks and campaigned for even longer: Save us Western Michigan, you’re our only hope.

It’s funny, really. Fans of the MAC have pointed up to Kalamazoo for the duration of PJ Fleck’s tenure as some sort of circus sideshow long on boats and catchphrases but short on actual tangible results. But now, it’s Fleck and his ELITE-ness that holds the last hope of the Mid-American conference to not put up an O-fer for the 2016 bowls. The fact that now the entirety of the MAC needs to start rowing is a nice bit of karmic comeuppance, I’m sure, for Fleck and WMU loyalists.

It’s the chance for Fleck and the Broncos to put a signature win on the 2016 season and in many respects validate their undefeated campaign with a win over a semi-Blue Blood in Wisconsin. The fact that it’s against a member of a conference that collectively looks down their noses at the MAC is just a cherry on a pretty amazing sundae that is WMU’s season.

There will of course be vocal critics and smarmy trolls on the web that hope for nothing other than Western Michigan to get humiliated on national television on a New Years 6 Bowl stage. Some of the hate will even come from other MAC fans. It’s natural, I suppose, to hate what you ain’t. But I’m begging you, don’t do that.

A Western Michigan win over Wisconsin will be THE STORY short of the playoff 4 and Alabama’s eventual coronation as national champions. A Bronco win over the Badgers at JerryWorld blows the stench of an 0-5 conference bowl schedule swiftly out the door. But perhaps more importantly, it’s what comes after that allows a rising tide to raise all boats in the MAC.

With a win over Wisconsin, it can establish WMU as a legitimate contender on a national stage, similar to Boise State a few years back. Throw in a PJ Fleck extension that keeps him in Kalamazoo with a market competitive salary and all of a sudden, the entire framework of MAC football gets reimagined. It could be the start of coach loyalty, high-caliber player recruitment, and more importantly, a narrowing of the gap between the haves and have nots in major college football, something that benefits the eleven other MAC football programs.

Simply put, January 2nd is a watershed moment for the Mid-American Conference. One that either cements or reestablishes a football perception. For one day, we should all be Broncos and get our oars ready to row.