Anything good goes by quickly: Your college years, The Sopranos, summertime. It’s a tried and true tradition that the more you enjoy something, it disappears before you know it. College football is no different. For 16 weeks or so, it’s been the driving force around here and most good old red-blooded American households. And that, in and of itself, is hard to really conceptualize.
Roughly 31% of the 52-week calendar is regular season college football. But goodness gracious does that beautiful, wonderful, sent-from-Heaven activity dominate way more than 31% of our hearts and (much to our employer’s chagrin) exceptionally more than 31% of our thoughts and energies during the season. I will make no apologies. College football is the one constant through life challenges, work stressors, or the chaos of the day-to-day that we all get different flavors of, but never avoid the heaping helping all together. It’s the steady. It’s the stable. Despite playoff arguments, pending lawsuits, crazy eligibility rulings, and all the other sidebars outside the lines that make it... challenging at times, there’s always the foundation to fall back on of a Saturday (or Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday in our conference) of awesomeness just down the pipeline. Like an old friend, football is always there. Just call me Terence Mann of the gridiron, without the cool hat.
All that to say, this college football season is coming to its twilight, but for our little corner of the football world, we won’t go gentle into that good night. Everyone will point to the “big ones” in the playoff or New Year's Day with their name-brand programs and ready-made talking points. But when you really look at Bowl Season, you realize that the MAC is the alpha and omega of the bowl season. No, it’s true. We’re the first one going and the last one before the biggies. You’re welcome, America. Here’s what you need to know for a bowl season chock full of MACtion, just the way you, me, and everyone likes it.
Your Bowl Season MACtion
Saturday, December 16
11AM: Ohio vs. Georgia Southern - Myrtle Beach Bowl
3:30PM: Miami vs. Appalachian State - Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl
Saturday, December 23
12PM: Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State - Camellia Bowl
7PM: Eastern Michigan vs. South Alabama - 68 Ventures Bowl
Tuesday, December 26
2PM: Bowling Green vs Minnesota - Quick Lane Bowl
Saturday, December 30
4:30PM: Toledo vs. Wyoming - Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl
Six games until all we’re left with is a spring practice countdown and preseason planning for the 2024 season. Hard to believe. But fret not, fearless friend of the Belt. There’s still much to play for and much to keep an eye on in the six games remaining. For example...
Catch the Future Today
In the modern college football world, it’s becoming a rarity to end your career where it started, even less likely when you are a star player on a non-P5 roster. In the Camellia Bowl, you’ll get your chance to see perhaps the next big thing that will surely be playing for someone else by the time his career is finished in Arkansas State’s Jaylen Raynor. The true freshman has put up eye-popping numbers to the tune of 2000+ through the air and five TDs on the ground. Oh, and he’s only been the starter since their 3rd game. Good luck, NIU.
For my money, nothing is better than when a central figure of MAC history touches the little conference that could after they’ve moved on. And that’s what will happen in the Quick Lane Bowl when Minnesota and former Western Michigan coach PJ Fleck take on Bowling Green. Fleck was a polarizing figure in the MAC, largely because of his success, and this year sees him take an FBS team with a losing record to bowl season. In many respects, this will be a larger message about whether or not a fair-to-middling FBS team can exert its will on a G5 team. And let’s be honest, most every MAC fan will be rooting against Fleck.
Bowl season is a tricky thing to gamble on if you don’t know what you’re doing. But, if you do, then opportunity abounds. Not just in our MAC schedule, but throughout the bowl season, you have things to consider like name-brand schools versus lower fanbases. That will drive dollars on the ledger and impact the spread. There’s also the human factor. Who’s excited to be there? Who’s sitting out? Which teams are fundamentally different than they have been all season. Look for those opportunities and smile all the way to the bank. As of this morning, every MAC participant is an underdog. But let’s be frank, we aren’t putting up an 0-fer for Bowl Season. Here’s how I’m betting the board...
Ohio/Georgia Southern: GA Southern -3
App State/Miami: Miami +7.5
NIU/Arkansas State: Ark St -1.5
Eastern Michigan/South Alabama: EMU +17.5, under 47.5
Minnesota/Bowling Green: BG +4.5
Toledo/Wyoming: Over 43.5, Toledo +3.5
Enjoy the next few weeks, friends. We don’t have much longer now. For all of our coverage including some phenomenal numbers work and breakdown, check out our bowl hub.