Which MAC Squads Will Go Bowling in 2014?
Obviously the Mid-American Conference is losing a lot of talent with Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, Kent State all-purpose running back Dri Archer, Buffalo top linebacker prospect Khalil Mack, Ball State gunslinger Keith Wenning, and many others either heading for graduation or entering the 2014 NFL Draft.
The MAC can't be happy with that amount of talent that is leaving, but can look forward to another member to make some national noise like NIU did last year. That team being the Bowling Green Falcons with new coach Dino Babers, and they are easily the favorites to win a second consecutive conference title game and make a run at another postseason bid.
Below is a list of MAC-represented teams that are most likely to receive a bowl invitation, in order:
Locks for a Bowl Bid
1. Bowling Green Falcons
This team is full of returning talent including quarterback Matt Johnson, running back Travis Greene and receiver Chris Gallon. Their one question will be if their secondary can be rebuilt from losing so many quality players to graduation. It is too bad this team couldn't have come about one year ago because the 2014 version has the chance to run the table and could have been fought for a BCS bowl. If BGSU can defeat Wisconsin in Madison on Sept. 20, then I do not see another team on its schedule stopping it from running the table.
2. Northern Illinois Huskies
The Huskies just lost the best thing to happen to them since Michael Turner in 2003. Jordan Lynch will be missed in Illinois, but they have plenty of weapons in Da'Ron Brown and Tommylee Lewis returning to help fuel another big offensive year. NIU won't go undefeated, but can definitely win eight or nine games. Its hardest battle will be against Toledo as of right now.
3. Toledo Rockets
Toledo is a questionable team for me as it always seems to find ways to put a good season together but in the West Division, it's difficult to find a serious rhythm. Losing David Fluellen and Terrance Owens will hurt the Rockets on offense, but they have the depth on defense to make up for that. If they can get past Bowling Green, they could win eight games and play for the MAC Championship.
4. Akron Zips
This Akron team was one of the most surprising teams I saw last year in the MAC. Not only did it come one play from beating Michigan at the Big House, it also hung with Bowling Green for almost three quarters, lost to NIU by one touchdown and defeated Toledo at home. The Zips were lead by sophomore quarterback Kyle Pohl and without an abundance of weapons, he led them to a 5-7 record -- one win from being bowl eligible. I'm thinking they could get six or seven wins and make a bowl in 2014.
5. Ohio Bobcats
Ohio started the season off very strong but suffered losses to Buffalo, Bowling Green and Kent State in back-to-back-to-back fashion. It salvaged its season with a win at Massachusetts that notched a seventh win. This Bobcat team is a huge question mark but has the potential to make some big noise in the MAC.
1. Kent State Golden Flashes
The Flashes have forever rode Dri Archer to the promised land and without him they will struggle. I expect things in Kent to get even worse this season -- maybe four or five wins if they are lucky.
2. Ball State Cardinals
No Keith Wenning means no bowl game for the Cardinals -- it's that simple. They have enough talent to scare a few teams, but I don't think there's enough to put a bowl-worthy season together.