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Ye Olde Roundtable: Ideal Bowl Matchups

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Our MACtion panel discusses their preferred bowl destinations for eligible teams, Toledo’s MAC West title chances, and more!

James H, Jimenez

1. Do you believe in Toledo’s chances to win the MAC West. The scenario requires a win at Northern Illinois and an additional NIU loss versus Miami (OH) or Western Michigan?

James Jimenez (@AVKingJames): We’re in the midst of what I like to call NIU Devil Magic™ season, wherein the Huskies find ways to win games in late October and early November. The big concern going into the season was if they would survive the stretch where NIU had three games in 12 days. They’ve well taken care of that and should be able to be handle a Rocket squad which just hasn’t had the same dynamism this season as it did in 2017.

So, I guess my answer is no, I don’t.

Steve Helwick (@s_helwick): I do believe in Toledo’s chances for the MAC West. I think the Rockets continue their dominant offensive stretch and pull off the road upset in DeKalb Wednesday night. Then, Toledo wins out against outmatched Kent State and Central Michigan squads. If the Rockets win in DeKalb, NIU will have to proceed with caution in tough games against Miami (OH) and Western Michigan. NIU’s offense is going to have to play up to par with three respectable offenses in a row.

Toledo’s hopes are alive and well.

Dave Drury (@DDrury86): I think we all know my answer to this one. No, they don’t. Sure, mathematically they still have a shot, but I don’t think the Huskies are going to drop two of their last three games. In fact, I don’t think the Rockets will even beat the Huskies. NIU is in the driver’s seat to Detroit and will most likely get there.

2. Bowl eligible teams currently are: Buffalo, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, and Ohio. What are your ideal opponents for these teams in bowl season?

Jimenez: Optimistically, I’d like to see Buffalo in a NY6 bowl, but that’s unlikely. I’d like to see Buffalo play Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. NIU hasn’t been to the Bahamas, so they’re due. I’d love to see them vs. UAB, but I think the Blazers have played themselves out of that one. Ohio goes to Frisco to play USF, and Western Michigan to Camellia to face Georgia Southern.

Helwick: The matchup I’m most excited to think about is Houston and Ohio in the Frisco Bowl near Dallas. Two extremely mobile quarterbacks in D’Eriq King and Nathan Rourke leading two of the top scoring offenses in the country sounds like a recipe for perfection. I’d also like to see Buffalo travel to Boise (as it did in basketball) to face the always-consistent Boise State on the blue turf.

For NIU, it’s time the Huskies finally travel to the Bahamas, and I think an evenly matched opponent for them would be Louisiana Tech from the C-USA. Western Michigan’s slumping right now, so the Broncos would probably be best with the third or fourth best team in the Sun Belt, so I’ll pit them against Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl.

I left the Dollar General Bowl empty for Toledo, which should attain bowl eligibility. The Rockets deserve an opportunity at revenge on Appalachian State after the last two postseason shortcomings.

Drury:

Buffalo-Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

NIU-App State in the Dollar General Bowl

Ohio-Troy in the Camellia Bowl

Western Michigan-UAB or Middle Tennessee in the Bahamas Bowl

3. Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Akron, and Miami (OH) still have bowl eligibility available. Which of these teams attain six wins? And which MAC teams, if any, get snubbed from the postseason this year?

Jimenez: Miami and Eastern Michigan attain eligibility. Just a couple of dart throws. This season has been been a strange one. Miami has been on a hot streak of late and EMU has a good defense to get them where they need to be. Toledo might make it, but I worry about them.

Helwick: Toledo’s an absolute lock for bowl eligibility. At five wins with Kent State and Central Michigan upcoming on the schedule, you can for-sure chalk up this team for seven wins.

Akron needs two wins against Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green, Ohio, and South Carolina, but I think the Zips only pull it out over the Falcons.

Eastern Michigan should be staring down a 7-5 finish if the Eagles can topple Akron on the road. Then, they close the season with a surefire victory over Kent State.

For Miami (OH), 2016 isn’t walking through that door. Ohio and NIU are tough opponents, and the RedHawks will drop at least one for their seventh loss of the year.

Six teams will be eligible, and I think there should be six spots open for the MAC this year, especially since all six programs probably have at least seven wins on their résumés.

Drury: Toledo and Eastern Michigan get to six wins. EMU gets snubbed even though I would love to see them go bowling.

4. Bowling Green tests its 1-8 record vs. 1-9 Central Michigan in the 2018 MAC GAME OF THE CENTURY™. Which downhill program would hurt more from a loss Saturday?

Jimenez: Bowling Green has been so used to losing and they’re in the midst of a regime change. It’d be far more hurtful for Central Michigan, who has a proud football heritage. They’re one of the top FBS programs in the way of winning percentage in the country and have been a perennial bowl competitor over the last 10 years.

Helwick: When you fire a coach midseason, that season is essentially punted away. There are no expectations for Bowling Green at the moment with an interim coach in Carl Pelini. This is a home game for Central Michigan, and the Chippewas were the model of consistency in the MAC until this season. The Chippewas attained bowl eligibility every season from 2012-17, and the team suddenly plummeted into the ground. Central Michigan’s been close against quality opponents several times this year, but the Chippewas can’t afford to squander this low-hanging fruit against a 1-8 foe.

Drury: I would say Central Michigan. They’ve had a really solid team the last few years so to see the Chips fall to 1-10 would be very shocking. BGSU has had their ups and downs since Matt Johnson left, whereas CMU has been consistently solid (.500 or better at the end of the regular season since 2011).

5. After three-straight dominant weeks from the Ohio offense, has Nathan Rourke surpassed Tyree Jackson as the MAC’s best QB this year? Or, is it somebody else?

Jimenez: I think Jackson is the better pro prospect, but damn it, if it isn’t fun to watch Rourke go to work. That said, I think Jackson is more directly attributable to that offenses success, whereas Rourke might be a bit more replaceable om the offense.

Helwick: Tyree Jackson is a heralded pro prospect due to his size and execution on his down-field throws. He’s a phenomenal quarterback, and it’s close, but I think I’d rather have Nathan Rourke at the moment. Rourke adds mobility to an offense, which is vital at the collegiate level. One year after leading all QBs in rushing touchdowns, Rourke has posted 637 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground. Through the air, he’s completing passes at an accurate 63% rate, finishing 12/14 last week.

In one half, on the road, and against a talented Western Michigan team, Rourke produced five touchdowns... AND ONLY PLAYED ONE HALF. Now that Nathan Rourke has caught fire, don’t underestimate Ohio’s chances in the MAC East race.

Drury: I would still say Tyree Jackson is the best overall QB in the MAC this season. Rourke is a close second and, if he continues this huge surge, my vote could change in the next few weeks but, for now, the Bulls have clearly been the top squad in the MAC and he’s a huge reason why.

6. The Group of Five was ripped off by the committee again this week. Undefeated UCF, winners of 21-straight, is at #12. Fresno State, 8-1 with eight victories of margins greater than 17 points, is #23. Utah State and Cincinnati, both 8-1 and situated in the AP Poll, are perplexingly unranked. But, is 8-1 Buffalo worthy of a ranking?

Jimenez: Duh. Army is receiving votes. And there’s not a lot of impressive P5 programs out there right now. Hell, even the win vs. Temple looks a lot better now.

Helwick: It’s not time to rank Buffalo just yet, and 2-loss Army must be ranked first. Army is clearly the better team after the 42-13 road win at UB Stadium, and the Black Knights have two respectable losses — Oklahoma (in overtime) and a 6-3 Duke team. For Buffalo to launch into the rankings, I have to see this team knock off Ohio, while the 3-loss teams at the tail end of the poll simultaneously lose.

Drury: Of course!!! Their only loss was to another team receiving votes – Army – and they’ve really handled every other team on their schedule easily. Their only downfall is their below-average non-conference schedule but, if they win again this week and again next week against a good Ohio squad, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be ranked.