MAC football returns in 2021 after a promising season last year. Throughout 2020’s season, we witnessed numerous upsets and some surprising contenders emerge. Ball State rose up to win their first title since 1996 in a miraculous game against the heavily-favored Buffalo Bulls. With that, the stage was set for another thrilling season for MAC football fans.
MAC teams are quickly growing to become some of the best in college football and this means we should be expecting some bowl appearances in the future. Towards the end of the year, there’s normally a batch of 14 bowls after Christmas and we can only speculate from here which MAC teams will prove to be worthy of an appearance this season. However, college football fans are certainly excited and ready for the 2021 season to start regardless. In preparation, let’s take a look at who the analysts think the best teams of the year will be.
Toledo have become a stable and consistent team under head coach John Candle. In previous years, their offense has been ranked amongst the best in the MAC while their defense has been lackluster. This was the main area that Candle honed in on in the 2020 offseason.
Luckily, the University of Toledo is known for its excellent recruiting staff which focused their efforts on defensive players and now the Rockets have one of the better defensive fronts in the MAC. It has finally all come together at the same time for Toledo and they are most certainly one of the best teams to watch out for in 2021. Their game versus Ball State on September 25th will show just how ready this team really are.
Even with the shortened season, Ball State made a big statement in 2020 and are ready to carry over their momentum. Regardless of the naysayers, this team’s performance last season was no fluke. They are ready to prove themselves again after their surprise 38-12 victory over Buffalo in the MAC Championship, as well as their 34-13 victory over San Jose State in the Arizona Bowl.
The success of the Ball State Cardinals is likely going to rest on the shoulders of quarterback Drew Plitt who returns for his third season as a starter. He was impressive last season with 2,164 yards and 17 scores. Also returning to help him are senior receivers Justin Hall and Yo'Heinz Tyler. The true strength of Ball State is its offensive line with most key players coming back. Seniors like Curtis Blackwell and Kaleb Slaven will be returning to help anchor this line.
The football analysts may be somewhat mixed on their opinions of Buffalo this season but no one can deny how good they looked last year. It’s unfortunate that they dropped the MAC Championship game against Ball State but they can certainly redeem themselves if they can get past the offseason changes.
Of course, we are referring to the departure of head coach Lance Leipold and several other members of the coaching staff. Instead the Bulls have Maurice Linguist as their new head coach and new offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery. However, the Bulls are fortunately returning with quarterback Kyle Vantrease as well as crucial running back Kevin Marks. While the rest of the pack is writing off Buffalo due to their staff changes, this team could come back to be a big MAC threat.
Kent State is somewhat of a "sleeper pick" this season but should absolutely be on your radar. The pieces all seem to be coming together here and the Golden Flashes are ready to compete for the MAC East. Coach Sean Lewis has done wonders to turn this team into a powerhouse and their recent season records shows this.
Kent State’s strength lies in their offense. They currently have one of the best quarterbacks in college football with Dustin Crum. Last season, they averaged 49.8 points per game. Five other starters are coming back and the team is said to have an improved offensive line to defend Dustin Crum in the pocket.