Whether you know Armando Christian Pérez by his primary stage name of “Pitbull,” his local alias of “Mr. 305,” or his global moniker of “Mr. Worldwide,” it’s undeniable that the Cuban-American rapper has made a significant cultural impact — not only in the music industry, but on the sports world.
Go to any sporting venue in the country and you’ll hear “Don’t Stop the Party” reverberating throughout stadium loudspeakers during a timeout. And who can forget that iconic 2014 NBA Playoffs anthem where he reworked the lyrics of “Timber” into a basketball-style jingle?
In fact, Pitbull and sports are so interconnected, he even made a party anthem where he name drops the NASCAR team he owns. Truly, the man is the poet laureate of the sports universe.
Most Pitbull songs center around the broad themes of partying, having a good time, and living the night to the fullest, but if you look below the surface of the iceberg, deeper lyrical meaning often exists. In preparation for the 2023 college football season, we brought out Mr. Worldwide’s discography and managed to tie each MAC football team to a segment of his iconic lyrics.
So here’s a 2023 team-by-team MAC season preview through the lens of Pitbull.
I’ve lost a lot and learned a lot, but I’m still undefeated like Shula
“Feel This Moment” — Pitbull (feat. Christina Aguilera), 2013
Akron has certainly become accustomed to losing over the past five years. The Zips haven’t registered more than two wins since 2018, posting an aggregate record of 5-37 in that four-year timespan — a sign of futility in the FBS which is only outdone by UMass (3-37 since 2019). But despite losing 10 of its final 11 contests last year, Akron certainly seemed pointed in the right direction under head coach Joe Moorhead.
The Zips posted a 1-7 record in MAC play, but five of those seven losses were within one score. And their lone win was a dominant 44-12 thrashing of Northern Illinois in late November. The following week, Akron held a 16-0 lead over a strong Buffalo squad but coughed up the lead with 75 seconds remaining.
Moorhead implemented a high-functioning aerial attack which ranked 18th in passing yards last season. The pieces are in place as gunslinger DJ Irons returns with a formidable receiver pairing of Alex Adams and Daniel George. Incremental improvements on the offensive line and on the defensive side of the ball can turn some of those one-score losses into wins.
Akron has lost a lot and learned a lot from losing, but heading into 2023, they’re undefeated (like Shula) at 0-0 with sights on shocking the rest of the MAC.
Ball State Cardinals
And in ‘93 it was all a dream
“JUMPIN” — Pitbull and Lil Jon, 2023
1993 was the last season Ball State went completely unscathed in MAC play en route to a conference title. The year before that dream season featured a middling 5-6 record. The Cardinals’ most recent MAC championship transpired in 2020, and similarly, it came on the heels of a 5-7 season. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Ball State, it’s that this program strings together unexpected title runs from time to time. So after piecing together a 5-7 record in 2022 — with four losses by one score — what’s in store for 2023?
Ball State retains head coach Mike Neu for the eighth consecutive year, and they’ll look to replicate the magic of 1993 and 2020 once more. While the Cardinals lost first-team all-MAC running back and fan favorite Carson Steele to UCLA in the transfer portal, they stocked up on established talent that could vault them into MAC contention.
Quarterback Layne Hatcher had previous stops at Alabama, Arkansas State, and Texas State, and he’ll look to revert to his level of play from 2020 where he fired 19 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. Running back Marquez Cooper transfers in from fellow conference peer Kent State, sharing first-team all-MAC honors with Steele after a 1,300-yard rushing outburst. And the veteran defense is fronted by a talented linebacker tandem of Clayton Coll (110 tackles, seven TFLs, two forced fumbles in 2022) and Cole Pearce (85 tackles, 14.0 TFLs, five sacks in 2022).
When aggregating it all together, replicating a dream season like ‘93 is more feasible than it seems for a team coming off a 5-7 campaign.
Bowling Green Falcons
Took my life from a negative to a positive and I just want y’all to know that
“Give Me Everything” — Pitbull (feat. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, and Nayer), 2011
Times were bleak in Bowling Green, Ohio for too long.
The Falcons were a juggernaut in the mid-2010s, qualifying for three consecutive MAC Championship Games and winning a pair of conference titles in 2013 and 2015. But as soon as the confetti from the 2015 championship run dissipated, Bowling Green suddenly separated from its winning ways. The Mike Jinks era ended after two-and-a-half seasons and a 7-24 record, and Scot Loeffler took the head coaching reins in 2019. Loeffler’s Falcons accumulated an aggregate record of 7-22 through three years, and last year seemed to be a make-or-break year for his future with program. Bowling Green needed to qualify for bowl eligibility.
The year started off in negative fashion as Bowling Green fell to 0-2 after a catastrophic seven-overtime loss to Eastern Kentucky of the FCS. But the Falcons quickly took their life from a negative to a positive, stunning a Marshall squad fresh off a win at Notre Dame and tallying five victories in MAC play. The result was Bowling Green’s first bowling opportunity since 2015. While the Falcons didn’t emerge victorious in the Quick Lane Bowl, it was overall a successful season considering the brutal results Bowling Green saw from 2016-21.
While there’s still a journey to navigate back to the MAC’s mountaintop, Bowling Green did take its life from a negative to a positive, and I just want y’all to know that.
Scared money don’t make money, that’s how it goes in the street baby
“Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)” — Pitbull (feat. T-Pain), 2011
Buffalo’s 2022 campaign was a resurgent one under head coach Maurice Linguist. After a transition year which saw the program’s first losing record since 2016, Linguist’s squad quickly rebounded, led the MAC standings for the majority of the season, and wound up securing a third bowl win in four years. Much of Buffalo’s success was attributed to its successful gambling endeavors; only four FBS teams trotted out the offense on fourth down more often than Buffalo last year. The Bulls registered a MAC-high 37 fourth down attempts and successfully converted 59.5 percent of them — ranking 27th in the FBS.
After a dismal 0-3 start, fourth-down efficiency is which swung Buffalo’s confidence back in the right direction. The Bulls opened MAC play with a resounding 50-31 win over an eventual 9-4 Eastern Michigan team, thanks to faring 4-for-4 on fourth downs. Even with the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year in Alex McNulty at kicker, Buffalo opts to take risks almost every fourth and short — a strategy which dated back to the tail-end of the Lance Leipold era.
Scared money don’t make money, and nobody in the MAC embraces that philosophy better than Buffalo.
Central Michigan Chippewas
You can knock me down, but you won’t knock me out; I love it when they count me out
“Can’t Stop Us Now” — Pitbull (feat. Zac Brown), 2022
Heading into the 2022 season, so much was trending in Central Michigan’s favor. The Chippewas returned starting quarterback Daniel Richardson, the nation’s leading rusher in Lew Nichols, and fielded a loaded front seven built to compete against any rushing offense in the MAC. The Chippewas were fresh off posting the MAC’s best overall record at 9-4 — made even sweeter by a strong finish — but things quickly went sideways once September 2022 rolled around.
Central Michigan found itself near the basement of the conference at 4-8 and struggled to generate consistency on offense all year long. Even the wins weren’t reassuring.
Heading into 2023, the expectations have changed for the Chippewas, which ranked fourth in the MAC West in the preseason coaches poll. But Jim McElwain is typically at his best when his team is counted out. After the Chippewas went 1-11 in 2018, McElwain immediately resurrected the team to 8-6 and a MAC Championship Game appearance in 2019. When Central Michigan reverted to a pedestrian 3-3 record in 2020, McElwain’s squad roared back with a conference-leading 9-4 mark in 2021.
They were knocked down last year, but based on recent history, it seems Central Michigan loves it most when they’re counted out.
Eastern Michigan Eagles
I’m running through the world like a running back; Scarface, world’s mine, running back
“Don’t Stop the Party” — Pitbull (feat. TJR), 2012
The world is indeed Eastern Michigan’s. The Eagles enjoyed a slew of “first time since 1987” occurrences last season, including their first bowl victory and winningest campaign since that date. Eastern Michigan attained the nine-win mark for the first time under head coach Chris Creighton after toppling San Jose State 41-27 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Eagles also became the first-ever MAC squad to knock off a PAC-12 opponent in the regular season during a September trip to Tempe.
So how was Eastern Michigan able to assert such dominance throughout the season?
Simply put, they were running through defenses with their running back. Of players back with their roster for 2023, Samson Evans is the MAC’s returning leading rusher. The six-foot, 217 lb. Illinois native is a bruiser by nature, powering his way to 1,166 rushing yards and a MAC-high 15 rushing touchdowns in 2022. He earned Doak Walker Award National Running Back of the Week honors for a 258-yard explosion against Arizona State and eclipsed the 120-yard threshold three other times last season.
Losing NFL Draft pick Sidy Sow on the line may be an adjustment, but Eastern Michigan still sends out arguably the best lineman in the conference in Brian Dooley, which should allow the run game to remain one of the more potent in the MAC.
So as long as Samson Evans is on campus, Eastern Michigan is running through the world like a running back.
Kent State Golden Flashes
She on the rebound, broke up with her ex, and I’m like Rodman ready on deck
“Time of Our Lives” — Pitbull (feat. Ne-Yo), 2014
Kent State was unexpectedly thrust into a chaotic offseason on Dec. 5 when Sean Lewis shockingly stepped down from his head coaching position to pursue an offensive coordinator gig at Colorado. The move was unprecedented in recent college football history, especially for a young coach, and the Golden Flashes needed to conduct a quick coaching search to rebound from a massive departure. Eight days later, Kenni Burns was hired.
But Burns isn’t working with a recognizable roster, at least when compared to last year’s team. When Lewis separated from Kent State, so did the majority of the production. With the transfer portal being a common method of exit, all 11 offensive starters were lost and the majority of defensive starters departed as well.
But just like Dennis Rodman, Burns had to make sure Kent State was ready on deck to rebound. The Golden Flashes replaced their 22 outgoing transfers with a horde of newcomers, including experienced veterans such as former Missouri linebacker Devin Nicholson and former Kansas running back Ky Thomas.
The Sean Lewis era was a prosperous time for Kent State football, featuring the program’s first-ever bowl victory and a MAC East division championship, but the team must rebound with a new-look squad under Kenni Burns in 2023.
Look up in the sky, it’s a bird? It’s a plane? Nah, it’s just me, ain’t a damn thing changed
“Timber” — Pitbull (feat. Ke$ha), 2013
Miami is quietly as consistent as any team in the MAC. Head coach Chuck Martin returns for his 10th year on campus, and his offensive and defensive coordinators, Pat Welsh and Bill Brechin, are also in their 10th years with the program. Miami even returns quarterback Brett Gabbert, who is set to start his fifth consecutive Week 1 for the RedHawks — despite Gabbert briefly entering the transfer portal last November.
Head coach/quarterback continuity is always a plus, but the RedHawks also return three offensive line starters, a slew of veteran running backs, their entire defensive line, their safety tandem, and All-MAC linebacker Matthew Salopek in the heart of the defense. This is a team that hasn’t finished below .500 in MAC play since 2015, and that trend is more than sustainable through 2023 considering the talent and coaching personnel present in Oxford.
If health plays out favorably this year (Gabbert missed the majority of the 2022 season), Miami looks poised to compete in a third-straight bowl game for the first time since the 1970s.
So if you look up in the sky, it’s not a plane; while the RedHawk is a bird, ain’t a damn thing changed.
Northern Illinois Huskies
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I don’t care what y’all say
“Fireball” — Pitbull (feat. John Ryan), 2014
Northern Illinois shocked the MAC in 2021 by winning the conference just one season after failing to record a single victory. The Huskies’ path to that conference championship was primarily paved by an offense which produced 429 yards per game and ranked 37th nationally in scoring at 32.2 points per game. But NIU never really earned a fair shot at defending its title due to sticks and stones breaking bones, figuratively speaking.
All-MAC wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph, who set a single-game school record in 2021 with a 309-yard outburst vs. Kent State, tore his ACL in practice prior to Week 1. Then starting quarterback Rocky Lombardi — the architect of that 2021 MAC title — suffered a Week 3 injury which kept him sidelined for eight of the Huskies’ 12 contests. Predictably, NIU’s points per game declined to 73rd in the FBS at 27.2 and its average yardage dwindled to 373.
The Huskies may have lost its status as the MAC favorite, but they don’t care what y’all say, because Lombardi and Rudolph are running it back in 2023 with a full slate of health. The team may have not earned its opportunity to defend its 2021 title due to the injury bug, but Northern Illinois’ offense should revert to 2021 levels of output this year thanks to the dynamic QB-WR tandem returning to action.
Reach for the stars, and if you don’t grab them, at least you’ll fall on top of the world
“Give Me Everything” — Pitbull (feat. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, and Nayer), 2011
It’s one of the wildest stats in college football, and anyone who has followed this conference intently knows exactly what’s coming in the next sentence: Ohio has not won a MAC title since 1968.
It’s a weird anomaly, because the Bobcats are consistently competitive and have qualified for the MAC Championship Game on five occasions (2006, 2009, 2011, 2016, 2022). Ohio has only registered one losing season in the past 14 years, and that transpired in 2021 when longtime head coach Frank Solich unexpectedly stepped down, suddenly thrusting Tim Albin into the role in mid-July.
But in year two on the job, Albin suddenly brought Ohio back to prominence, coaching the Bobcats to a 10-4 record and MAC East division title. Albin won MAC Coach of the Year, quarterback Nathan Rourke won MAC Offensive Player of the Year, and running back Sieh Bangura won MAC Freshman of the Year. That entire triumvirate returns for 2023, giving a semblance of hope that Ohio can party like it’s 1968 once again.
With all of that going in its favor, the Bobcats will continue to reach for the stars, and even if they don’t grab that elusive MAC title, they’re still on top of the world with bowl trophies, 10-win seasons, and other team accolades.
I see the future, but live for the moment; makes sense, don’t it?
“Feel This Moment” — Pitbull (feat. Christina Aguilera), 2013
Toledo consistently ranks atop the MAC in recruiting, raking in the conference’s No. 1 recruit class six times since 2017, according to 247Sports. The Rockets are excellent at finding talent and developing it internally. All nine Toledo draft picks in the Jason Candle era were originally Toledo recruits. They consistently see future talent before it unfolds. Current examples of homegrown talent on campus include All-MAC quarterback Dequan Finn and All-American cornerback Quinyon Mitchell.
But this program also lives for the moment by piling on the wins while recruiting these highly-touted classes. Toledo hasn’t registered a losing season since 2009 and consistently contends for bowl games. Last year, the program brought home its second MAC championship of Jason Candle’s tenure — making him the only active MAC coach with multiple conference titles. And even more postseason hardware was added to the trophy case after edging Liberty in the Boca Raton Bowl. With an impressive collection of returning production, Toledo is once-again pegged as the favorite to win the league — looking to become the first MAC team to repeat since 2011 and 2012 Northern Illinois.
Toledo sees for the future, but lives for the moment. Makes sense, don’t it?
Western Michigan Broncos
This is for everybody going through tough times. Believe me, been there, done that. But every day above ground is a great day, remember that
“Time of Our Lives” — Pitbull (feat. Ne-Yo), 2014
No MAC team in the College Football Playoff era recorded a greater season than Western Michigan did in 2016. The Broncos rattled off 13 consecutive wins, including a MAC Championship Game triumph, and punched an exclusive ticket to the New Year’s Six. While Western Michigan fell eight points short to Wisconsin, the magic of 2016 still resonates through the city of Kalamazoo.
Yet, Western Michigan hasn’t returned to the MAC Championship Game or tallied nine wins in a season since that fateful year. After a disappointing 5-7 record last fall, the program finally parted ways with six-year head coach Tim Lester. Louisville offensive coordinator Lance Taylor was hired into the role, and Taylor has quite a rebuilding project on his hands as five of the Broncos’ six 2022 All-MAC players departed from the program. It’s a younger, more inexperienced group, and Western Michigan fans have experienced a season like this before in 2013 when first-time head coach P.J. Fleck was hired to replace Bill Cubit.
Taylor’s rebuilding project may not come to fruition overnight. There may be tough times this season, but if the program’s last major rebuild taught us anything, every day above ground is a great day. Remember that.