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MAC Football Bowl Projections: Northern Illinois for GoDaddy Bowl, Toledo and Memphis would be exciting

If Buffalo can dispatch UMass this weekend, there will be eight bowl eligible teams from the MAC. Will all of them get to play in the postseason?

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

The Mid-American Conference has had a successful 2015 season, and the league has seven bowl-eligible teams. That number could (should) increase to eight on Friday when the Buffalo Bulls host the Massachusetts Minutemen in the final UMass game as a member of the MAC.

Current bowl eligible teams: Toledo (9-1), Bowling Green (8-3), Northern Illinois (8-3), Ohio (7-4), Akron (6-5), Western Michigan (6-5) and Central Michigan (6-5)

Possible bowl eligible teams: Buffalo (5-6)

Thanks to the ineptitude of Army West Point and their tie-in to the Poinsettia Bowl, the MAC now has six contracted spots in bowl games. But wait, you might say -- how do you fit eight teams in just six spots?

Fortunately for the MAC, there are now 40 bowl games and to fill those spots with eligible teams, 80 of the 128 FBS teams have to finish 6-6 or better. That's a very difficult feat to accomplish. Currently, there are 71 eligible teams with 18 teams still in limbo. When you look at remaining schedules (for instance, Texas still has to play Baylor), the cut line between 6-6 and 5-7 teams is going to be very close to the 80-team mark. For this reason, I believe that all eight MAC teams will play in a bowl game this season.

Let's look at those games...

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Game date, time, TV: Dec. 19, 5:30 pm, ESPN
Game location (debut): Montgomery, Ala. (2014)
MAC record: 1-0
Last MAC win: 2014
Recent history: (2014) Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28

The Camellia Bowl is one of three new bowls that have helped beef up the MAC's lineup. Of the three, this is the only one that a MAC team won in 2014. Montgomery isn't the sexiest location in the world, but there is some history at the stadium (it's where they used to play the Blue-Gray All-Star Game).

Hustle Belt Prediction: OHIO BOBCATS vs. Georgia Southern Eagles

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Game date, time, TV: Dec. 22, 3:30 pm, ESPN
Game location (debut): Boise, Idaho (1997)
MAC record: 2-4
Last MAC win: 2011
Recent history: (2012) Utah State 41, Toledo 15; (2013) San Diego State 49, Buffalo 24; (2014) Air Force 38, Western Michigan 24

It's crazy to think that the bowl game on Boise's smurf turf is almost 20 years old. The MAC's involvement in this game is relatively new, dating back to just 2009. After BGSU lost in 2009, NIU and Ohio won in consecutive years. The MAC, however, has lost three in a row here. It's about time to change that.

Hustle Belt Prediction: AKRON ZIPS vs. Boise State Broncos

Boca Raton Bowl

Game date, time, TV: Dec. 22, 7:00 pm, ESPN
Game location (debut): Boca Raton, Fla. (2014)
MAC record: 0-1
Last MAC win: Never
Recent history: (2014) Marshall 52, Northern Illinois 23

This is another of the new bowl games. Boca Raton is a better location than Montgomery, but does anyone really want to see a bowl game at Florida Atlantic's home stadium? In any event, the MAC's representative here is looking for a much better result than the beatdown NIU suffered last year at the hands of Marshall. We're looking for a marquee matchup here.

Hustle Belt Prediction: TOLEDO ROCKETS vs. Memphis Tigers

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Game date, time, TV: Dec. 23, 4:30 pm, ESPN
Game location (debut): San Diego, Calif. (2005)
MAC record: 0-2 (both NIU)
Last MAC win: Never
Recent history: (2012) Brigham Young 23, San Diego State 6; (2013) Utah State 21, Northern Illinois 14; (2014) Navy 17, San Diego State 16

Army West Point was originally slated to occupy this bowl slot, but the MAC benefits from the Black Knights' lousy season. The MAC has sent teams to this game twice in its 10 year existence, both times Northern Illinois. The last was in 2013, after BGSU denied NIU's hopes of crashing the BCS again. Could history repeat if the Huskies lose the MAC title game?

Hustle Belt Prediction: WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS vs. Utah State Aggies

GoDaddy Bowl

Game date, time, TV: Dec. 23, 8:00 pm, ESPN
Game location (debut): Mobile, Ala. (1999)
MAC record: 9-5
Last MAC win: 2014
Recent history: (2013) Arkansas State 17, Kent State 13; (2014) Arkansas State 23, Ball State 20; (2015) Toledo 63, Arkansas State 44

For 15 years, Mobile has been the primary destination for the best of the best in the MAC. Nine of the 14 teams to make the trip have won this game, which has seen opponents from Conference USA and now the Sun Belt. The Sun Belt has sent Arkansas State here for each of the last four seasons, so hopefully the MAC representative will see someone different.

Hustle Belt Prediction: NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

Game date, time, TV: Dec. 24, 12:00 pm, ESPN
Game location (debut): Nassau, Bahamas (2014)
MAC record: 0-1
Last MAC win: Never
Recent history: (2014) Western Kentucky 49, Central Michigan 48

The last of the MAC's three new bowl games was the best of the bunch in 2014. CMU nearly completed one of the most epic comebacks in college football history only to fall by one point after a failed two-point conversion on the final play. This should also be a marquee matchup with a Conference USA team.

Hustle Belt Prediction: BOWLING GREEN FALCONS vs. Marshall Thundering Herd

Camping World Independence Bowl

Game date, time, TV: Dec. 26, 5:45 pm, ESPN
Game location (debut): Shreveport, La. (1976)
MAC record: 1-2 (2004, 2008, 2012)
Last MAC win: 2012
Recent history: (2012) Ohio 45, Louisiana-Monroe 14; (2013) Arizona 42, Boston College 19; (2014) South Carolina 24, Miami-Florida 21

The ACC and SEC are contracted to send teams to this game, but it is unlikely that either will have enough eligible teams to meet their obligations. There is precedence for MAC teams to go to Shreveport, as Miami lost in 2004 and Northern Illinois lost in 2008. Then, in 2012, Ohio redeemed itself with a big victory over Louisiana-Monroe. This game should provide Buffalo with a post-season spot.

Hustle Belt Prediction: BUFFALO BULLS vs. Connecticut Huskies

Quick Lane Bowl

Game date, time, TV: Dec. 28, 5:00 pm, ESPN2
Game location (debut): Detroit, Mich. (2014)
MAC record: 0-0
Last MAC win: Never
Recent history: (2014) Rutgers 40, North Carolina 21

If you're a MAC fan and you don't hate the Quick Lane Bowl, you're doing it wrong. The Quick Lane Bowl is the replacement for the now-defunct Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which the MAC dutifully played in for nearly 20 years. Because you know, when there's a bowl game in Detroit, it just has to be between two Power Five teams. This year, the Big Ten appears unlikely to have enough teams, so expect the Quick Lane folks to jump back on the MAC bandwagon, even if just for one year.

Hustle Belt Prediction: CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS vs. Virginia Tech Hokies