Kent State will beat a Big Ten team
To me, the Kent State Golden is one of the most, if not the most, interesting teams in the MAC. A lot of that has to do with how hard they are to evaluate on the outside looking in. They return a lot of starters on offense, including quarterback Colin Reardon who has certainly been on the up-n-up thus far. He has a pair of reliable running backs. He has a decent corps of receivers and will now feature freshman Antwan Dixon (assuming he sees the field this year) and West Virginia Mountaineers transfer Connor Arlia, a senior. They also had the best passing defense last year in the conference but a really bad rushing D: the exact opposite of what Toledo had in 2014.
The Flashes will be heading to Illinois and Minnesota this September. Paul Haynes is entering his third season as Kent State's head coach. I think Minnesota is a better bet to have the Flashes go out and win on the road against, but neither the Fighting Illini nor Gophers are juggernauts or power houses or threats or anything like that in the neighbor conference, so this is a prime opportunity for the Golden Flashes to prove their worth in the East.
Northern Illinois won't be going to Detroit this December
To be honest, I'm not quite sure if this is #bold or not. Our preseason poll, released hours before the MAC media poll, have Toledo and Bowling Green meeting up in Detroit this December. The media poll echos the same thing: Bowling Green has very little margin for error in the East, but is the most complete team over there and we're just throwing darts to pick the West.
The Huskies barely beat the Rockets last year, and that's with Toledo having to lose the rest of their quarterbacks to the point where Dwight Macon (a dual-threat QB out of high school, but played receiver for the Rockets) went 8-for-11 with a TD pass in that game. They're at Toledo this year. They follow up on the road against Buffalo, with new head coach Lance Leipold who only lost six games ever as Wisconsin Whitewater's head coach, so who knows what they'll be like in December. The margin for error thing that I mentioned with Bowling Green, well, same could be said for NIU.
Ball State will finish last in the West
I went by my game-by-game predictions for this one. I don't have a great reason other than my gut told me to type this. Not the most favorable for home games on their schedule against Toledo, Central Michigan, UMass and Bowling Green. There's easily a game or two there where we could look back and say "yeah, that's a game the probably shouldn't have lost, but did." Then on the road, at Eastern Michigan, at NIU, at Western Michigan, at Ohio.
Have fun with that.
Akron will have a losing record in conference play
Let me tell you something about the Akron Zips: they have one of the most promising defenses in the MAC. Against them, opponents scored 23.1 points on average: a conference-best. Let me tell you about the offense: it stunk.
Kyle Pohl wasn't expected to be an All-MAC performer, but he was definitely supposed to help the Zips make progress and did not. They finished 3-5 last year with Jawon Chisholm at running back and Zach D'Orazio at receiver. And even though they seem to have improved on an already good defense with some transfers and linebacker Ulysees Gilbert to highlight a [seemingly really weak] signing class, it's just not going to be enough. The best part about their offense is Cody Grice, who is a defensive lineman that can play some fullback.
The team with the best defense won't go to Detroit
Maybe it's Akron.
Maybe it's Central Michigan.
Maybe it's Ohio.
Maybe it's NIU.
Maybe it's Kent State.
Damnit, maybe it's Eastern Michigan this year.
I'm not going to back down from my prediction of the Battle of I-75 coming to Detroit, but those two are mostly predicted to go to the MAC Championship for their offensive firepower. Ohio and Akron got a few media poll votes for first place, but I can't speak on the behalf of everybody else.
Would recent history provide evidence that stellar defenses in the MAC did the trick? Sure, just look at the Dave Clawson years. Are they absolutely necessary? Not completely: football is a team sport.