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The Race to the 2022 MAC Championship Game: Week 9

With four games left in the season, what is the outlook for the teams in contention?

The race to Detroit is getting clearer
Kenneth Bailey

As we enter into the #MACtion portion of the season, we want to figure out what teams will be playing in Detroit when all is said and done.

At the present moment, it seems a lot clearer in the MAC East than the MAC West after Buffalo took a commanding two-game lead in-league with a win over the Toledo Rockets, but things aren’t always as they appear. A swing of bad games can muddy the waters right back up depending on when and where they are.

The current standings are as follows:

MAC East Conference Overall
Buffalo 4-0 5-3
Ohio 3-1 5-3
Bowling Green 3-1 4-4
Kent State 2-2 3-5
Miami 1-3 3-5
Akron 0-4 1-7

MAC West

MAC West Conference Overall
Toledo 3-1 5-3
Eastern Michigan 2-2 5-3
Western Michigan 2-2 3-5
Ball State 2-2 4-4
Central Michigan 1-3 2-6
Northern Illinois 1-3 2-6

We will start with the East.

The Buffalo Bulls look like the likely candidate to go to Detroit. They are standing atop of the conference at 4-0. Their defeat of the Rockets this past weekend certainly helps their case. With games remaining against Ohio, Central Michigan, Akron and Kent State remaining, and the combined MAC record of those teams being 5-11, Buffalo is likely to finish at the top if they take care of their business and don’t make mistakes.

At 3-1, Ohio could end up spoiling Buffalo’s party. With the impending match-up against Buffalo this November First, a win would put them atop of the East, holding the tiebreaker over Buffalo if both teams should win out the rest of the schedule. Their remaining schedule after Buffalo is Miami, Ball State and Bowling Green. With that, they would need to beat Bowling Green to get that tiebreaker as well. The cross-division game with Ball State might be their biggest challenge as they go down the stretch.

Bowling Green could also make some noise after unexpectedly getting off to a 3-1 start in conference play, but they would need to win out and for Buffalo to suffer a loss in-conference, as Buffalo holds the tiebreaker by winning early in the MAC campaign against Bowling Green. Bowling Green faces Western Michigan, Kent State, Toledo and Ohio.

Preseason favorites Kent State would need to get some help make it to Detroit after a sluggish 2-2 start. One of their keys would be beating Buffalo in the final game of the season. That would give them the tiebreaker against Buffalo. From there, they would need to win out their other games against two fairly good cross-division teams in Ball State and Eastern Michigan, while also downing a surprising Bowling Green team. I don’t see them heading to Detroit.

At 1-3, Miami has a slim chance of making it. They do hold the tiebreaker over Kent State but they would need to win outright and hope that Buffalo, Ohio and Bowling Green lose out. Miami’s remaining games are against Akron, Ohio, Northern Illinois and Ball State, so winning outright is doable but unlikely.

Akron is firmly out of the mix at 0-4, and won’t be seeing the postseason either, but they still have the chance to play spoiler over the remaining four games on the schedule.

The West looks a little more wide open.

Toledo stands atop at 3-1, with their loss coming against Buffalo. It wasn’t a bad loss, but it does leave them vulnerable. Their remaining games are against Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Bowling Green and Western Michigan. Their first step to Detroit is beating Eastern Michigan. They also have to beat Ball State and Western as both are also nipping at their heels. Clearing out all three of those teams should give the Rockets every advantage heading into their cross-division game with Bowling Green.

With the defeat of the Rockets at the hand of the Bulls yesterday, Eastern Michigan’s path to Detroit got a little clearer: beat Toledo and control your own destiny. After that, Eastern Michigan plays Akron, Kent State and Central Michigan, who combine for six wins this season. All three teams have losing records, so Eastern should be able to beat them— assuming they don’t play down to their competition.

There are a handful of 2-2 teams who still have a chance if Toledo and EMU stumble.

Western Michigan’s road to Detroit is a fairly tough, as they still face three of their division opponents. Their remaining opponents are Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Toledo. I think they would need to win out against the rest of those opponents to have any chance of going to Detroit.

Ball State’s road is similar to Western’s. Eastern Michigan holds the tiebreaker with their win this past weekend. Ball State already beat Northern Illinois and Central Michigan, which are starting to look like gimmie games in the division. They still have to face Kent State, Toledo, Ohio and Miami, a sneaky tough final four games. They have to beat Toledo to have any chance,. If they do that and beat the other three teams, they’ve certainly got a chance.

Without lots of help, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois are probably out of contention.

As it stands right now, Buffalo has the most control of their destiny in the MAC East, while Toledo has the most control of their destiny in the MAC West. Buffalo’s trip to Detroit could be spoiled if they lose to Ohio. Toledo’s trip could be spoiled with a loss to Eastern Michigan. So the game between Buffalo and Ohio is key to the East and the game between Eastern Michigan and Toledo is key to the West at this juncture.