Every few years, a team from the MAC emerges as a formidable opponent on the national stage, and fans of the conference are left wrestling with the notion of cheering on a team they've committed so much energy to hating. This year, that team is Toledo, and now the question must be asked. Should you cheer for them?
I remember Northern Illinois' trip to the Orange Bowl, me sitting in front of the TV cheering on Jordan Lynch and constantly wondering, "what the hell am I doing?" What the hell was I doing? I'd like to think I was just acting in the best interest of the conference, and fresh off of the AP Poll's total disrespect for Toledo this week, sliding them from 19 to 20 despite covering a two touchdown spread on he road, I think it's probably time we all start doing the same. Here's a few reasons why you may want to get on board with the Rockets.
Anything that's good for the MAC is worth cheering for
The national disrespect of Toledo in the polls this week should be alarming for MAC fans, because this wasn't an indictment of Toledo, it was an indictment of the conference as a whole. That's a decent sized problem considering where the college football landscape is headed. There's a non zero chance the college football playoff expands from its current format to one featuring six or even eight teams from across the country, meaning the Group of Five's hopes for inclusion in the post season tournament will be upgraded from doubtful to at least questionable.
Looking ahead, it's likely that if the MAC's perception remains in its current state, one of our favorite teams could be left out in the dark in college football's new world, wondering why it has to sit at the kids table while the adults play cards. The 2015 Rockets can hopefully alter that course of history by winning out and announcing its arrival by pulling up a chair to the big kids table and immediately going all in.
Of course, I'm not recommending you cheer against your own school. That is simply sacrilegious and shameful. But I am recommending that if or when your team loses to Toledo - and it will be when for most of you - that you give it the old 24 hour rule and commence to donating your time and energy to blind conference patriotism. I in no way wish for WMU to falter in the Glass Bowl on Black Friday, but if that likely outcome does occur, I will have no problem putting my faith in the Rockets to carry the flag for the conference I'm such a fan of.
Your team's season is probably over anyway
There's just a handful of MAC fan bases that can say with even the slightest confidence that their school still has a shot at a MAC title. You know who you are (no, not you, Buffalo. Settle down). Given this fact, you don't have much to play for besides pride and building for the future. If you want that future to be bright and full of post season opportunities in NFL stadiums instead of Boca Raton, then you're going to need some help from the 2015 Toledo Rockets. With more conference expansions on the horizon, this is a prime opportunity for the MAC to make a case for being at the top of the Group of Five instead of near the bottom. NIU created a window of opportunity that the conference never took advantage of, but hoping that this window doesn't reopen for anyone just because your team wasn't the one to do it is just plain selfish. Unless you're a Bowling Green fan, then that line of thinking is totally not off limits.
Some of you may not even be in the running for a bowl game. For those of you in this situation, I see no reason why Toledo can't be your new adopted football program for half the year. They win, they can't actually disappoint you, they have a national ranking, and easily the best parody account on the web hanging out on Twitter. What's not to like?
Just turned in my coaches poll ballot: 1. Toledo 2. Mount Union 3. Frosted Flakes 4. Ohio State 5. Arkansas 106. Bowling Green
— Ya Boy Matt Campbell (@NotMattCampbell) October 25, 2015
Again, unless you're from Bowling Green. Then I suppose there's plenty not to like.
Toledo is just really good
The Rockets have an extremely likable head coach in Matt Campbell. He may not be the sort of guy you want to grab a beer with, but then again most people I want to have a beer with I wouldn't let within 100 miles of my football team (unless they're on the other sideline), but Campbell gets the most out of his team at all times. He has Phillip Ely playing well enough to possibly make Alabama wish he was still playing in Tuscaloosa, and the rushing attack hasn't missed a beat despite graduating nearly every offensive lineman and a majority of carries going to backup running back Terry Swanson.
Toledo plays defense too. Arkansas just scored 50 points this weekend, albeit in four overtimes, but was held to just 12 against the Rockets early in the season. That's still a pretty impressive win for a team that at the time was given no shot. The Rockets have what you want in an adopted football team. Winning pedigree, high powered offense, tough defense and hard hitting special teams. It's safe to say the conference could be in some good hands in Toledo.
It's in our best interest to send the conference's best team to bowl games as MAC champion, and many years there is uncertainty as to just which team that is. But this season, in the opinion of this writer, there is only one team that has shown enough to earn that distinction, and that's Toledo.
Man, that was really difficult to say.
Now, Toledo. Talking directly to you for a moment. Please don't screw this up.