Football season is approaching, and I started doing my homework. I have been looking at the schedules, and the same day kept popping out as a potentially huge day for a MAC school. That day is September 16th, 2017. It’s not unusual for several MAC schools to play a big opponent on the same day, but it is unusual that two power 5 schools are on the road in the MAC. Along with those two games, the MAC has a few other winnable games that could make a statement.
Iowa State Cyclones at Akron Zips
Terry Bowden was brought in to rebuild the Zips, and for the most part he has done his job. After taking a couple steps forward in 2015, they took a few steps back to 5-7 last year. This could be a pivotal year for Bowden’s legacy at Akron.
It was basically the Thomas Woodson show last year. The defense and running game weren’t good, and the record reflected it. However, there were a lot of solid parts to both, and Ohio State transfer Warren Ball returns from injury.
The Zips open with the Penn State Nittany Lions, which are coming of a huge year. While they could pull off the upset, even if they don’t, they should be sitting at 1-1 going into the Iowa State game. A win there might be the sort of thing that could bring a team together and help build momentum for a big season.
Kansas Jayhawks at Ohio Bobcats
Ohio was good enough to make it to the MAC championship game last season and give Western Michigan a scare. Kansas has been awful for almost a decade. It would still be a power 5 win.
Ohio opens with Hampton, and then heads to West Lafayette to take on the Purdue Boilermakers, who have also been awful for nearly a decade. It’s not unreasonable to think that Ohio could be 3-0 going into their game with Eastern Michigan the following week.
Central Michigan Chippewas at Syracuse Orange
Cooper Rush is gone and it’s difficult to predict how this team will do. I think a lot of the doom and gloom talk might be a bit of an overreaction.
They open with Rhode Island, and then head to Lawrence to take on the aforementioned Jayhawks. They don’t have to be that good to be sitting at 2-0 heading to Syracuse. The Orange were 4-8 last season, including losing 50-33 to Notre Dame.
Northern Illinois Huskies at Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Huskies play host to Boston College to open their season. After that, they take on Eastern Illinois. If they can manage a win right out of the gate, that could give the team confidence as they head to Lincoln.
Nebraska has a huge home field advantage, and was a solid team last year. They look to be good again this year, but there is a chink in the armor. The last 8 years, they had either Taylor Martinez or Tommy Armstrong at quarterback. They were similar in a lot of ways, and could punish a smaller school defense with their athleticism.
This year, they have a new guy from Tulane that isn’t going to crush you with his feet. He also has been known to throw a pick or 3. I am not going out on a limb and predicting a win, but it just might be a lot closer than people think.
Miami RedHawks at Cincinnati Bearcats
Miami opens with Marshall, and then takes on Austin Peay. With the finish Miami had last season, I expect them to be at least 1-1, possibly 2-0.
A lot of media attention will be on Cincinnati because they have a new coach named Luke Fickell. He has been around a long time, but is still fairly young for a coach. Just about any destination program fan base that isn’t happy with their current situation, or expects their coach to leave soon, will be watching to see how he does in his first real head coaching role. While Cincinnati isn’t quite a power 5 school, it’s close, and will be receiving extra attention because of Fickell.
That’s 5 big games on the same day that could be winnable. The schedule also sets up so that the MAC teams that win could be undefeated. It’s not the type of day that could change the reputation of the conference one way or the other, but it could start the conversation. I feel like the MAC was starting to gain ground with the national media, and then recently has taken a step or two back. A huge day on the 16th, and the ship could start moving in the right direction again.