2012's 10 best games to watch in the MAC
DETROIT – Being ready for Mid-American Conference football often means being ready for four-hour games and plenty of scoring.
Oh, you’re fine with that?
We don’t know if last year’s 63-60 Northern Illinois win over Toledo or Toledo’s 66-63 win over Western Michigan (just a week later) can be topped. But we’re just a few weeks away from finding out. Below is the very-early list of the 10 most interesting games on the MAC schedule this season.
These won’t necessarily end up being the best or the biggest games involving MAC teams this season, but they’re simply the most interesting based on preseason storylines and expectations and potential ramifications. Bonus points for mega-points potential, of course.
10. Toledo at Arizona, Sept. 1 – Toledo beat a Rich Rodriguez-coached team before, and now Rich Rod’s first game at Arizona comes against a talented Rockets team that’s used to the big stage. Rodriguez knows from that miserable experience in 2008 that he’d better have his team ready, and first-year coach Matt Campbell has two game-proven quarterbacks and what should be an improved defense as the Rockets aim for the upset.
9. South Florida at Ball State, Sept. 22 – What in the world is South Florida doing playing a game in Muncie, Indiana? After going 6-6 with a relatively young team a year ago, Ball State comes into the season with some expectations for the first time since Nate Davis was running the show. The Cardinals will treat this one like the Super Bowl and if senior quarterback Keith Wenning can get hot, an upset is possible.
8. Ohio at Kent State, Nov. 23 - Most recent Thanksgiving Weekend games at Kent State have had little consequence and little – like, a few hundred brave souls – attendance. But the Flashes are expecting to be much improved in Darrell Hazell’s second year as coach, and they’re expecting this game to mean something. Maybe Kent State will be playing for bowl eligibility, or maybe the MAC East title will be on the line. Stay tuned.
7. Cincinnati at Toledo, Oct. 20 – A nice little intra-state rivalry game between teams coming off of nice seasons. The Bearcats seem to be the team with more to lose, especially going on the road in the midst of their conference schedule, and Toledo will see this as an opportunity to gain further regional and national respect. Both programs deserve credit for making signing a home-and-home deal, and it should make for a very entertaining football game.
6. Bowling Green at Ohio, Nov. 7 – The kind of midweek showcase game the MAC has used to gain national recognition pits the two East favorites. Expect some scoring, a nice crowd at Peden Stadium and plenty on the line as highly-touted quarterbacks Tyler Tettleton and Matt Schilz (over 6,200 combined passing yards last year) trade throws. Bowling Green running back Anthon Samuel could have a big year in store as well.
5. Miami at Ohio State, Sept. 1 – It won’t be even a little quiet in Ohio Stadium for Urban Meyer’s debut. And absolutely no one outside of the Miami locker room is giving the Redhawks a chance to keep it close. But playing at Ohio State is always a big deal for Ohio natives, and this is a showcase game for Miami’s pitch-and-catch, NFL-prospect duo of quarterback Zac Dysert and receiver Nick Harwell.
4. Toledo at Western Michigan, Sept. 29 – Western Michigan QB Alex Carder is primed for a big season and is maybe the single biggest reason Western is regarded as having a solid chance to win the balanced West division. Toledo has posted back-to-back second-place finishes in the West Division and knows it probably can’t give up a game to the Broncos here and expect to eventually finish first. Another fun one is probably in store.
3. Bowling Green at Florida, Sept. 1 – There’s no way Bowling Green could pull this upset, right? Probably not, but the Falcons should be able to score some points, and Florida is still seeking an identity and trying to find its next star quarterback. It seems like one that will be close for a while before the home team pulls away, but don’t be shocked if the Falcons hang around and make the Swamp natives a little restless.
2. Toledo at Northern Illinois, Nov. 14 – Even if it’s 49-45, it will be a stinker based on last year’s standards. But don’t expect a stinker. Northern Illinois has to replace do-it-all QB Chandler Harnish and its offensive line, but should be better defensively and still explosive at the skill spots. Toledo is still going to score, and this game is again set for mid-week national TV. Buckle up.
1. Ohio University at Penn State, Sept. 1 – It’s the easy pick as the most interesting game involving a MAC team, but not just because it’s Penn State’s first game of the new era. The Bobcats are experienced and loaded for a strong season, and with so much uncertainty surrounding Penn State an OU win wouldn’t be a tremendous upset. If the Bobcats can win here and at Marshall two weeks later, when might they lose?