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Mid-American Conference (MAC) East Preview

Mid-American Conference (MAC) East Preview

There are less than 80 days until college football returns and I am ready for some MACtion!

It’s a conference that typically goes unnoticed until weekday games hit in early November. I love college football but MACtion is a different kind of love you would only understand if you follow the MAC from start to finish. 

It’s a relationship like any other, with ups and downs. That’s the MAC: I love you but, damn, it’s hard to like you sometimes — especially when you have Buffalo as a 5.5-point favorite against Kent State, they’re up 27-6 … and lose.

Let’s get into it.

Miami (Ohio)

2019: 8-6, MAC champions
OVER 6.5 wins +110, UNDER 6.5 wins -130
To Win MAC East Division: +275
To Win MAC: +600

Nothing about this team made sense. The RedHawks earned the title of MAC champs and I say “earned” because this team ranked 120th in total offense, averaged just 22 points per game and in their title game against Central Michigan had just 56 yards of offense in the first half.

Key Players Returning

Miami returns 17 starters, including second-year quarterback Brett Gabbert and top running backs Jaylon Bester and Tyre Shelton (1,328 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns combined). Both top receivers also remain, though they teamed up for just 1,074 receiving yards and five TDs. Again, shocked at how they pulled this off.

Enter: RedHawks defense. Last season, they ranked 55th in total defense, held opponents to 389 yards and 29 points per game, and were 34th in passing defense. They return seven defensive starters. Since 2016, the RedHawks are 23-10 vs conference foes and 21-12 ATS. Last year, five of their eight wins came by seven points or less.

Ohio

2019: 7-6
OVER 5.5 Wins -140, UNDER 5.5 Wins +120
To Win MAC East Division: +400
To Win MAC: +800

Ohio was one of the best teams to fade at home last season. The Bobcats were favored in all six home games, went 2-4 straight up and were one of four teams to go 0-6 ATS at home. Impressive for all the wrong reasons.

Key Players Lost

Three-year starting quarterback Nathan Rourke is gone to the CFL. With nearly 7,000 career passing yards, 2,500 rushing yards, 103 total touchdowns (49 rushing) and just 19 interceptions, he will be known as the best quarterback in program history and probably one of the best ever in the MAC.

On defense, the Bobcats lose leading tackler Javon Hagan to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Key Players Returning

Pretty much everyone else. Running backs O’Shaan Allison and De’Montre Tuggle (1,513 total rushing yards, 17 TDs), three top receivers in Isiah Cox, Shane Hooks and tight end Ryan Luehrman, who had five of their 12 combined touchdowns.

The defense returns nearly 80 percent of its players and looks to be an improved unit after being a top-five defense in the MAC last year.

Kent State

2019: 7-6
OVER 5.5 Wins +140, UNDER 5.5 Wins -160
To Win MAC East Division: +600
To Win MAC: +1200

The Golden Flashes were a fun team to watch, going 7-6 SU and 9-4 ATS, including an upset win over Utah State as 7-point underdogs in the Frisco Bowl. What a great day that was and what a great season for a team that had not posted a winning record since 2012.

Key Players Returning/Lost

Quarterback Dustin Crum completed 69 percent of his passes, threw for 2,622 yards and 20 touchdowns to just two interceptions, and ran for another 700 yards and six scores. And he’s coming back for more! Kent State also returns top receiver Isaiah McKoy but loses lead running back Will Matthews. This was a dynamic team. The Golden Flashes ranked 54th in passing yards, 34th in rushing yards, averaged 29.5 ppg, and were 14th in the nation in converting third downs.

On tap: Kent State faces a tough non-conference slate including games at Penn State, Kentucky and Alabama, where they are projected to be at least three-touchdown underdogs in all three.

Buffalo

2019: 8-5
OVER 7.5 Wins +110, UNDER 7.5 Wins -130
To Win MAC East Division: -110
To Win MAC: +275

They were up 27-6 … and lost! Excluding this mishap, Buffalo had the MAC’s best defense and the country’s sixth-best, limiting opponents to just 22 ppg and 89 rushing yards per game (No. 4 in the nation). Their rushing attack was seventh in the country, averaging 247 yards per game and accounting for 36 of Buffalo’s 50 touchdowns. The Bulls also finished seventh in sacks with 48.

This team returns a good chunk, including quarterbacks Kyle Vantrease and Matt Myers and perhaps one of the best running back duos in the country. Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks combined for over 2,800 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns.

That pass rush should remain strong with Malcolm Koonce and Taylor Riggins returning (combined 17.5 sacks). The Bulls have non-conference games at Kansas State, Ohio State and Army.

Bowling Green

2019: 3-9
OVER 2.5 Wins -105, UNDER 2.5 Wins -115
To Win MAC East Division: +5000
To Win MAC: +10000

The Falcons are 12-36 since 2015, when they posted their last winning season at 10-4. One of the highlights in 2019 was a 20-7 win over Toledo in mid-October as 27-point underdogs when the Rockets rotated three QBs in part due to injury.

The squad loses both quarterbacks but gains transfer Matt McDonald from Boston College. Leading rusher Bryson Denley returns along with receiver Quintin Morris and two of the top three tacklers. The Falcons went 3-9 ATS last season and were bottom-10 in both total offense and total defense. 

Akron

2019: 0-12
OVER 2.5 Wins +180, UNDER 2.5 Wins -220
To Win MAC East Division: +8000
To Win MAC: +15000

The Zips were the only winless Division I program in 2019. They went 1-11 ATS and were dead last in total offense and scoring offense, averaging just 10.5 ppg. Could they notch one win this year? The Zips return 15 starters, including quarterback Kato Nelson and receiver Nate Stewart.