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Big Ben, Miami Lead Top 5 MAC Bowl Games

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Ben Roethlisberger's Miami team beat up Louisville in 2003, making a strong case they got snubbed by the BCS. Danny Moloshok/Allsport.
Ben Roethlisberger's Miami team beat up Louisville in 2003, making a strong case they got snubbed by the BCS. Danny Moloshok/Allsport.

Despite the fact that the Mid-American Conference sent a league-record seven teams to bowl games last year, including a Bowl Championship Series game, the conference is not quite known for its bowl success. In fact, the MAC is 33-43 in bowl games all-time.

Yet, despite the tough road, the MAC has managed a handful of big games. Here is a list of the five most influential bowl games for the MAC in the last 10 years, games that helped raise the stature of the conference.

2003 GMAC Bowl: Miami 49, Louisville 28 – This was the probably the best performance by a Mid-American Conference team in a bowl game in the last 20 years. Miami came into the game ranked No. 15 and featuring gun-slinging Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Roethlisberger did not disappoint, completing 21 of 33 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns to earn bowl MVP honors. Roethlisberger, who was a junior, entered the NFL draft after that and was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The rest is history. Miami finished the season 13-1 and proved that the RedHawks probably should have been selected for a BCS game that season. It was Miami’s first trip to a bowl game since the 1986 California Bowl.

2003 Motor City Bowl: Bowling Green 28, Northwestern 24 – It’s tough not to pick this one as well, despite it being in the same year of one of Miami’s best teams. Bowling Green lost to the RedHawks in the MAC championship and faced a Big Ten team for the first time in the Motor City Bowl. Falcons quarterback Josh Harris rung up the Wildcats offense for 386 yards passing and three touchdowns and finished with 454 yards in total offense. He earned the bowl’s co-MVP honors with Iowa running back Jason Wright. The MAC victories in the GMAC and Motor City bowls game the conference one of its best football postseasons, judging from quality of opponents and performances.

2013 Discover Orange Bowl: Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 10 – How can the Huskies’ humbling loss to Florida State on New Year’s Day be ranked as a one of the MAC’s most influential? First of all, the Huskies kept the game competitive, despite its lack of offense in the second half. There have been power conference teams that have played much worse in BCS bowl games. Ohio State and Oklahoma come to mind. Of course, it’s important to have that breakthrough game so in the future, talented squads (like Miami’s 2003 team) don’t get left out of the mix. The Huskies made that step.

2010 GMAC Bowl: Central Michigan 44, Troy 41 (2 OT) – The Mid-American Conference was in a terrible bowl slump, going 0-14 in bowl games since 2006. The Chippewas' victory over Troy got the MAC a small measure of respect back with the win. Central Michigan finished the season 11-2 and ranked No. 25 in the final Associated Press poll. Chips QB Dan LeFevour was named the bowl’s MVP, throwing for one touchdown and a two-point conversion in regulation and rushing for another in overtime. CMU’s field goal kicker Andrew Aguila nailed a 37-yard field goal to win the game in the second overtime after Troy failed to score.

2011 Military Bowl: Toledo 42, Air Force 41 – Air Force entered the game with the nation’s second-best ground attack, averaging 320.2 yards of real estate a game. It was also the Falcons' fifth straight trip to a bowl game representing the Mountain West. Toledo, though, was a scoring machine, averaging 42.3 points a game. But it was the Rockets defense that prevented an Air Force two-point conversion after a touchdown with 52 seconds left in the game to preserve the Rockets' win. Toledo finished the season 8-4 in one of four MAC bowl wins that season.

Did I miss your favorite MAC bowl game? Drop me a comment on Football.com and let me know.