The MAC opens the bowl season with the Ohio Bobcats vs. the Marshall Thundering Herd on December 26th in a match-up of former MAC rivals. Ohio returns to Detroit, the site of their loss to CMU in the MAC Championship, for the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, formerly the Motor City Bowl. Interestingly enough, the two will begin a 6-game series next season as the 9-4 Bobcats will look for the program’s first ever bowl victory. Temple will face UCLA on December 29th in what should be a very entertaining game in the Eagle Bank Bowl in Washington DC. The Bowling Green Falcons will battle surprising Idaho on December 29th in Idaho’s backyard at the Humanitarian Bowl. Northern Illinois will face a very tough South Florida team on January 2nd. The conference finishes its bowl schedule with their best team as Central Michigan will battle Troy on January 6th at the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
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With mid-week games the norm the remainder of the year, we take a quick look at the bowl picture for MAC teams in 2009. 2008 saw the MAC send a record-tying 5 teams to bowl games, only to see all 5 teams lose. Thanks to the bowl tie-ins and mediocrity across the college football world, even a 6-6 Northern Illinois went bowling a season ago.
In 2009, four MAC teams have been eliminated from the bowl conversation. A 6-6 record is needed to be considered, and with just three guaranteed bowl berths, MAC teams need teams like Louisville, Purdue, Illinois and Washington to lose again to better the chances of sending more than three teams to bowl games. Now that we have 34 bowl games each year, a 7-5 record will almost assure a team of a bowl game, but we have learned in the MAC that if a team is going to get screwed that team will likely come from the Mid-American Conference.
At 7-2, Central Michigan and Temple look to be in very good shape for bowl berths. Given both team’s schedules, 8-9 wins is likely and CMU could very well go 10-2 and head to another bowl game in Detroit, this time in the newly-named Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. 6-3 Ohio and Northern Illinois face off later this month and both have hopes for not only postseason play but also division titles. 5-5 Kent State has a tough road ahead and their loss to Akron hurts their chances greatly, while at 4-5 Bowling Green has a schedule that could line up a 3-0 end of the season.
Prediction: Four or five MAC teams will make bowl games in 2009 including Western Division Champion Central Michigan and Eastern Division Champion Temple. Ohio, NIU and Bowling Green all end 7-5 as the bowls have to decide between MAC teams with similar resumes.
While the national attention has been on the Big Ten’s bowl struggles in the 2008-2009 season, back home the MAC has been a huge disappointment. We were pleased when it was announced that the MAC had a record-typing 5 bowl teams this holiday season, but MAC football teams unfortunately got off to a rough start in bowl games. It started with heavily-favored Central Michigan fell to Florida Atlantic in the Motor City Bowl, then continued with Northern Illinois’ loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl and when Western Michigan was crushed by Rice in the Texas Bowl it proved that the MAC would have a losing bowl season.
Today, the Buffalo Bulls are playing in the first bowl game in school history led by head coach Turner Gill and QB Drew Willy. Gill, a candidate for the Nebraska job last season and the Auburn job this year, is considered a “rising star” in college football after turning Buffalo from one of the worst programs in college football into the 2008 MAC Champions. After the 0-3 start by MAC teams this season Buffalo has a chance to get the MAC a notch in the win column as they face the Connecticut Huskies in the International Bowl in Toronto, Ontario.
Consistently one of the last conference looked to when bowl bids are handed out, anytime the MAC has more than their expected 3 teams in bowl games it is a big deal. In 2004 when 5 MAC teams were selected to play in bowl games it marked the first time that the Mid-American Conference had this many teams participating in bowl games and the 2008 bowl season will once again feature 5 MAC football teams after 6 teams were bowl eligible. Only Bowling Green, who recently dismissed head coach Gregg Brandon, was bowl eligible in the MAC and not selected to participate in the postseason.
Of the 5 MAC teams in bowl games, the list is headlined by the 2008 MAC Football Champion Buffalo Bulls. Despite Turner Gill’s name being floated around for the Auburn & Syracuse openings, Gill lead his Bulls to a 8-5 season and a upset of previously-unbeaten Ball State in the MAC Championship Game. UB will face the Connecticut Huskies in the International Bowl on January 3rd in Toronto. The GMAC Bowl, played in Mobile, Alabama on January 6th, will feature 12-1 Ball State vs 10-3 Tulsa as once of the few bowl games featuring multiple 10+ win teams. Northern Illinois was just 6-6 this season but landed in the Independence Bowl to face Louisiana Tech of the WAC on December 30th. On that same day Western Michigan travels to Houston for the Texas Bowl to face the hometown Rice Owls. Kicking off the 2008 bowl season for the MAC will be Central Michigan, a participant in both the 2006 & 2007 Motor City Bowl games, as they once again play in Detroit on the day after Christmas as they play Sun Belt member Florida Atlantic.
The prognosticators didn’t give the Ball State Cardinals a chance, and the Cardinals defense did nothing to disprove them. In the second annual International Bowl which pits a MAC team vs. a Big East opponent, the MAC has fallen to 0-2 as Ball State’s defense could not stop Ray Rice and Rutgers today. Rutgers 52-30 win was led by Ray Rice’s 280 rushing yards and Mike Teel’s 303 passing yards.
Fans can find Ball State apparel & merchandise online at MAC fan site VanDelay Sports.
On January 5th the Ball State Cardinals will play in their first bowl game in years as the 7-5 Cardinals will face off with 7-5 Rutgers from the Big East. The 2008 International Bowl preview is now live featuring all you need to know about the game that will kickoff at 12 noon ET on the 5th in Toronto, Ontario. The Intenational Bowl was first played in January 2007 and featured the Western Michigan Broncos losing a thriller to the Cincinnati Bearcats 27-24.
As expected, 3 MAC football teams have accepted bowl bids at the conclusion of the MAC Football Championship today. MAC Champion Central Michigan (8-5) will be headed to the Motor City Bowl on December 26th against a likely Big Ten opponent, Ball State (7-5) will face Rutgers (7-5) in the International Bowl on January 6th and Bowling Green (8-4) will face Tulsa (9-4) also on January 6th.