Last year there were many memorable football games involving the Mid-American Conference. The most heartbreaking of them all had to be Akron losing at the last second to Michigan at the Big House. Another memorable game for the MAC last year was NIU's road victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes that immediately made them contenders to go to back-to-back BCS bowl games.
This year brings the same level of excitement and intrigue to the MAC as there are many games that can shape up to be memorable ones. Without further ado here are some of the most anticipated games involving a member of the Mid-American Conference for the 2014 season (in no specific order):
Northern Illinois @ Northwestern, Week 2
This game gives NIU the opportunity to prove themselves as the best team in the state of Illinois once and for all. Northwestern lost their top offensive weapon from a season ago, Kain Colter, however quarterback Trevor Siemian and running back Venric Mark are back. Mark is an explosive back and will cause problems for NIU's defense all day. The Huskies bring in an offense with high potential as long as they find a capable quarterback to replace Jordan Lynch. This game could turn into a shootout down the stretch as the Huskies look to go 3-0 against Big Ten opponents in the past two seasons.
Bowling Green @ Akron, Week 11
This game will be huge for the winner as they will look to take the momentum from this win and take the East division as well. Bowling Green has two weeks to prepare for Akron, although they will be in Zips territory for this one. The Zips will be the underdog, but don't be surprised if this one is close. Look for quarterback Kyle Pohl and running back Jawon Chisholm to have big games for the Zips if they hope to have a shot at the defending MAC Champions. With potential MAC Championship ramifications on the line, drama should be high in this one.
Toledo @ Cincinnati, Week 3
This game is an intriguing one to me. Both teams have some uncertainty regarding the quarterback position and in Week 1 this could play a huge factor in the outcome. They both have talented quarterbacks, but neither has announced their starter yet. Toledo has quarterback Philip Ely, a transfer from Alabama, in the mix to start, while Cincinnati has former 5-star quarterback Gunner Kiel who is battling last year's starter Munchie Legaux, who is recovering from a brutal injury he suffered last year. Overall, Cincinnati has more top-level talent than Toledo, but if Cincinnati comes out flat the Rockets could very easily make this a rough start to the new season for the Bearcats. And Toledo seems poised for a big season and should be fired up against a big name in-state school.
Bowling Green @ Toledo, Week 13
What would a Top 10 list of games involving MAC teams be without the Battle of I-75? This intense rivalry alone is enough to put this game in the top 10, however on top of that both teams are expected to be one of the best in their respective divisions. In fact, they've each been predicted by the media to win their divisions, meaning this game could be a precursor to a rematch in Detroit. One thing's for sure though, this intense rivalry, with so much on the line, is certain to be a must watch game on a Wednesday night.
Bowling Green vs. Indiana, Week 3
Last year Indiana stomped Bowling Green 42-10 in Bloomington, Indiana. This year the Hoosiers must travel to Doyt Perry Stadium, which could lead to a much more competitive game. Look for the defending MAC Champs to be hungry for revenge in this match up. This game will also be a good measuring stick for the Falcons defense, and will let people know if Bowling Green is ready to compete on the road with the Wisconsin Badgers the following week. A win here would also be a great feather in their cap as they look to make a run at a repeat MAC Championship.
Toledo @ Northern Illinois, Week 12
NIU is looking for its fifth straight win over hated rival, Toledo. This rivalry has produced many memorable games over the past few years alone. For example, who could forget the 63-60 shootout in the Glass Bowl in 2011? It is very likely that this game could decide who represents the West in the MAC Championship Game at Ford Field. Combine that with the disdain these two squads and their fanbases carry for one another, and you have a must watch Tuesday night game.
Akron vs. Marshall, Week 4
If you're a fan of good quarterback play this is the game for you. Marshall boasts one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country, Rakeem Cato. Akron has Kyle Pohl under center, an up and comer who almost pulled off an upset against Michigan last year. This game could be a tough one for Akron's defense as it will be very difficult for them to contain Cato, however if they find a way to limit his effectiveness this could be a huge win for the Zips. Considering the Thundering Herd have the potential to go 12-0 in the regular season, Akron's performance here could tell us a lot about whether or not the Zips are ready to take that next step.
Central Michigan @ Purdue, Week 2
Purdue was abysmal last year and it doesn't look like they will be contending for a B1G Championship anytime soon, however this is a great opportunity for Central Michigan to get a road victory over a B1G program. A win for the Chippewas would be a feather in the cap for the program, and would allow the Chippewas to gain momentum early in the season.
Buffalo @ Bowling Green, Week 6
Although Buffalo is losing Khalil Mack, it will still be relevant in the MAC East this fall. Quarterback Joe Licata is a darkhorse candidate for MAC Player of the Year, and winning this game would help boost his status significantly. If Buffalo can pull out the upset win on the road it is very possible that we see them battling it out at Ford Field for the MAC Championship.
Northern Illinois @ Ball State, Week 11
Last year this game was one of the best during the conference season, and it won't disappoint again this year. This is a huge momentum game for NIU as they play Toledo the following week and if they can get a win against Ball State they will have the confidence to beat Toledo and most likely lock up the MAC West title. Ball State will not go quietly however and Jahwan Edwards will be a headache all night for the Huskies' defense.
Other Games to Watch:
There were just too many good games to fit into a list of 10, so we've included five more bonus games that you should pay attention to this fall.
Ohio vs. Eastern Illinois, Week 5
If you watched the Eastern Illinois-Northern Illinois game last year then you know that Eastern Illinois had one of the most explosive offenses last year. Well, they don't look to be slowing down this year despite an entirely new coaching staff and losing the 2013 Walter Payton Award winner. This is probably one of the few FBS-FCS matchups I will be watching this season. As a matter of fact, this preview gets me more excited by the minute.
Northern Illinois at Arkansas, Week 4
Arkansas has plenty of potential and as an SEC program has more talent than the Huskies, however don't be surprised if the pesky Huskies find a way to make this a close game on the road. If NIU can manage a win here, oh boy, NIU Twitter will throw a party of epic proportions.
Ball State @ Toledo, Week 4
Depending how things shake out this game could play a major factor in deciding the West. Both teams have lost their stars on offense so it will be interesting to see how they rebuild.
Ball State at Iowa, Week 2
Iowa has lost to MAC teams before (see: NIU last year) and Ball State could be the next to beat the Hawkeyes.
Toledo vs Missouri, Week 2
This game is huge win for Toledo fans already, let me explain why. The Rockets are getting an SEC school who was ranked in the Top 5 last year to come play in the Glass Bowl. On the gridiron, it will be a tough game for the Rockets to win but being able to get such a high profile name to play Toledo at the Glass Bowl is a huge win for the fanbase. Another game similar to this one is #10 ranked Baylor going on the road to face Buffalo.
Which game are you most looking forward to seeing this fall?