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Ranking the best non-conference MAC matchups: #48 - #41

8 games, 8 different MAC teams

Ohio v Penn State
Does Frank Solich and the Bobcats build on a strong 2016?
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

For the Mid-American Conference, 2017 is shaping up to be another highly competitive year in the conference with at least four or five squads that have a realistic chance at a conference title. It’s the non-conference slate where we’ll be able separate the pretenders from the contenders and find out who is building on 2016’s results or backsliding back to the middle of the pack.

This year sees MAC squads take on nearly every type of non-conference opponent. From smaller FCS teams to defending national champions, the MAC has dozens of opportunities to prove that they belong in any and all conversations about college football. The conference is far more than mid-week games and high octane offenses, and these 48 tilts will demonstrate that on a national stage.

Here at Hustle Belt, we do the hard work so you don’t have to. Our crack leadership determined each and every non-conference game for the Mid-American Conference and ranked them 1-48. This is the next installment of that list.

Your rankings, #48-#41:

#48: Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Howard (9/9)
The Golden Flashes kick off our countdown with a tile with the Howard Bison. For Kent State, it’s the home opener, and a terrific chance to bounce back to a more friendly opponent after opening their season the week prior on the road against the defending national champion, the Clemson Tigers. Howard, a historically black college located in Washington DC finished 10th in the MEAC last year with a 2-9 record, just better than Kent State’s 3-9.

#47: Miami-Ohio Redhawks vs. Austin Peay (9/9)
For Miami, there’s hope that 2017 will start better than last season, which saw Miami rattle off six straight wins after starting 0-6. For Austin Peay, that winning streak never came and they finished 0-11. It’s the RedHawks home opener, and afterwards they should be no worse than 1-1.

#46: Akron Zips vs. Ark Pine Bluff (9/9)
For the Akron Zips, fans are hoping that 2017 can build and improve on a 5-7 2016 and see the Zips challenge for the MAC East. Their schedule starts off with a bang with a road date at Penn State, but this home opener against Arkansas Pine Bluff should be just what the doctor ordered. The Zips are 7-1 against FCS opponents over the last 8 seasons, a feat that not all Mid-American squads can boast. Arkansas Pine Bluff was 1-10 last year, with their lone win against Alcorn State.

#45: Toledo Rockets vs Elon (8/31)
The trendy pick for the Mid-American Conference this year is Toledo. For their 2017 to end up as many think it will, they’ll need to exert some dominance and show some pop in their season opener against Elon. Last season, the Phoenix finished 2-9 but there’s hope that the future is bright. New head coach Curt Cignetti comes to Elon with a 53-17 record from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but has a tremendous pedigree having won a national championship at Alabama on Nick Saban’s original staff and having coached Julio Jones.

#44: Western Michigan Broncos vs. Wagner (9/23)
Everyone has to wake up from their dreams, and for Western Michigan the alarm clock has been ringing for a bit. Gone are PJ Fleck, Zach Terrell, Corey Davis, and a host of others from last year’s Cinderella season, but the WMU cupboard for new coach Tim Lester is far from empty. Wagner comes into Waldo from their New York home after a 6-5 2016.

#43: Buffalo Bulls vs. Colgate (9/16)
On paper, the Buffalo Bulls are head and shoulders above the Colgate Raiders, but games aren’t played on paper. Off a 5-5 2016 that saw the Raiders finish 3rd in the Patriot League, they are hoping that they can spring the upset on their in-state counterparts. Separated by roughly three hours, Buffalo isn’t necessarily on upset alert, but in-state opponents create problems more often than not. This game, though low on our list because of the status of the participants, is worth keeping an eye on.

#42: Ball State Cardinals vs Tennessee Tech (9/16)
2017 saw the Cardinals finish up 4-8, a far under new head coach and program alum Mike Neu, which is a far cry from the glory years of 2008 Brady Hoke or 2013 Pete Lembo. Tennessee Tech, from the Ohio Valley Conference, is hoping that they can be the next FCS opponent to give the Cardinals trouble. 2016 saw the Golden Eagles finish 5-6, including a 55-point shutout at the hands of Tennessee.

#41: Ohio University Bobcats vs. Hampton (9/2)
Last year saw the Ohio Bobcats clock in at 8-6 and come one game away from a MAC title, caught in the wake of WMU’s epic season. Bobcats fans are hoping this season builds on that momentum and it starts with their season opener against Hampton. The Pirates finished 2016 at 5-6.