Road To Detroit: Easiest Path In The MAC East?
By Thomas Delves
The MAC Football Championship game is held every year at Ford Field in Detroit where Bowling Green took home the title last season after overpowering Northern Illinois.
As always, the Road to Detroit starts with the schedule, so let's take a look at which teams will benefit or struggle.
The defending champs have to take to the road for just one of their toughest games as the Falcons travel to Ohio, but host Buffalo and Ball State. The beginning of October will be a test when Bowling Green will play Buffalo and Ohio in back-to-back weeks. In its final game of the regular season, Ball State will visit Doyt Perry Stadium to tackle Bowling Green in what could be a preview of the championship game. Overall, Bowling Green has a favorable road to defend its title.
The Bulls will take to the road against Bowling Green and will also visit Athens, Ohio, to face the Bobcats. Their toughest home game against the Akron Zips will come late in the season. Buffalo will have an uphill battle against the MAC's best, but will get to start the conference schedule at home against a rebuilding Miami of Ohio. The Bulls will need to win on the road in order to be able to take a trip to Detroit.
The Bobcats had an off season in 2013, going 4-4 in the conference. The route for them this year will not get any better against Bowling Green, Buffalo, Northern Illinois and Akron, although all of those will be at home. Ohio will start its season on the road against Kent State, then has four non-conference games to prepare for the rest of its MAC schedule. Ohio also has a bye week before facing Buffalo and NIU. If the Bobcats can take care of business against lesser teams, they have a favorable schedule to make a run at a title.
Unlike Ohio's schedule, if the Zips want any hope at having a good season they will have to be road warriors. After playing Ohio at home, they face Ball State, Bowling Green and Buffalo on the road. The Zips have a bye week in between their contests against Ball State and Bowling Green, but they definitely have the hardest schedule in the MAC East. Their home games are must wins against three of the MAC's four worst teams last season in Miami, UMass and Eastern Michigan. The road to Detroit promises to be filled with twists and turn for Akron.
Like Akron, Kent State has a grueling road schedule. Games against Northern Illinois, Bowling Green and Buffalo are all away from home and don't look promising after the Golden Flashes lost to all three of those teams last season. Kent State has the second-hardest schedule in the MAC East, so it will need superb play to make a title run.
Luckily for the Minutemen, they play their toughest games at home. The downside to that is that they are 2-22 overall as a Division I program. New head coach Mark Whipple has a big challenge ahead of him. If UMass was a more established program, this would be a decent schedule, but considering that the Minutemen's program isn't on its feet yet, this schedule is bad news.
On paper, the Bobcats of Ohio look to have an edge in the MAC East. However, that being said, Ohio still has to play the games. With spring practices fast approaching, those sessions will provide a first look at what teams in the MAC are working with in 2014.