It is the most wonderful time of the year! It’s time for the College Football bowl season! There are 40 bowl games (plus the National Championship game) to look forward to. In this series, I will be looking at all 80 teams who qualified for the postseason and breaking down their matchups. Each installment will focus on teams from a respective conference. This year, two teams will be making their bowl debut, one bowl-eligible team was left home, and there are 14 instances where the teams are facing for the first time in history! Let’s take a look at the 2019 MAC Bowls.
2019 MAC Bowls Preview
The first bowl of the 2019 season pits Buffalo against Charlotte. The Bulls finished 2-5 against bowl-eligible teams. Technically they went 3-5, but Toledo wasn’t selected for a bowl game despite going 6-6. Buffalo fought their way through their MAC schedule and finished 5-3 after dropping two of their non-conference games.
It’s not often that you see two 1,000 yard rushers on the same team, but Buffalo has them. Sophomore Jaret Patterson leads the way with 1,162 yards and 17 touchdowns. Impressively enough, their number two running back is also a true sophomore. Kevin Marks has accounted for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. This offense averages 254 yards on the ground per game. Out of their 12 games, the Bulls rushed for more than 200 yards eight times. That mark is good for 9th in the nation (6th, technically, if you exclude the triple-option service academies), and Patterson’s total is 5th best individually.
Junior defensive end Taylor Riggins leads the way on the defensive side of the ball. His 8.5 sacks are best in the MAC and he garners respect not seen since Khalil Mack suited up for the Bulls. Now, he’s not on Mack’s level, but he is still a stud. This defense is a brilliant case of the idea that seeing something every day in practice makes you an expert. They run the ball well on offense, they stop the run effectively on defense. The Bulls sport the nation’s 4th best rush defense. It will be a combination of these that will be the undoing for the 49ers. Buffalo will ground and pound their way to their first-ever bowl win (0-3 previously). The 2019 MAC bowls will be off to a strong start.
Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl
Kent State vs Utah State
Up next, we have the Frisco bowl between Kent State and Utah State. After starting 3-6, the Flashes won their final three games to earn bowl eligibility at 6-6. While having six losses is not exactly something to be proud of, they certainly improved from 2018 and ended their season the best way that they could.
On offense, they are led by their first-year starting quarterback, junior Dustin Crum. Crum accounted for 2,333 yards and 18 touchdowns. His completion percentage (68.2%) and passer efficiency rating (156.1) were good for best in the MAC. Aside from two atrocious performances against stout defenses in Wisconsin and Arizona State (28 yards and minus 3 yards passing, respectively), Crum had a very solid season. Only two interceptions, none of which came during those atrocious performances, by the way, is still an impressive stat.
Unfortunately for Crum, the Golden Flashes’ defense gives up more than the offense could handle. In addition to the 31 points allowed per game, KSU held opponents to a meager 471 yards, on average. Yes, that was sarcasm. The Kent State defense is not good at all and an NFL-ready quarterback, like Jordan Love for the Aggies, will exploit them. I like Kent State and I think that they have a bright future at quarterback, but for this matchup I have to side with Utah State. Look for Love to take care of business in his final attempt to impress scouts. USU will break their 1-1 record with KSU in this one.
New Mexico Bowl
Central Michigan vs San Diego State
The New Mexico Bowl features the MAC West division champion Central Michigan and San Diego State. The Chippewas started the season 2-3 and finished on a 6-1 run to earn a place in the MAC championship game. Unfortunately, they fell to Miami (OH) in a close game.
On eight different occasions, the CMU offense put up at least 38 points. Those eight games resulted in Chippewa victories. During the losses, they could not score more than 21. With 14 touchdowns and 2,148, Quinten Dormandy leads the way. Perhaps he enjoyed this success thanks to the two-headed rushing attack of Jonathan Ward (1,082 yards, 15 touchdowns) and Kobe Lewis (977 yards, 11 touchdowns). Compared to the rest of the MAC, Central Michigan posts the 3rd best offensive attack. Thanks to Ward and Lewis keeping defenses honest, the Chippewas rank 2nd in passing yards.
In terms of defense, there is only one team that surrenders fewer yards than CMU. There is a 60 yard per game allowed difference, of course, so it’s not like they were close to overtaking Buffalo. Allowing 351 points and 27 points per game while having a high-powered offense is just what #MACtion is all about! In this matchup, however, I am confident to say that San Diego State will emerge victorious. Like Kent State, I like this CMU offense, but SDSU has the 4th best scoring defense in the nation. I’ll take the Aztecs to win their first-ever matchup with the Chippewas.
Quick Lane Bowl
Eastern Michigan vs Pitt
Eastern Michigan will be taking on Pitt in this year’s Quick Lane Bowl. EMU went 6-6 this year, but only two of those wins were against bowl-eligible teams. After going 3-1 in their non-conference games, the Eagles dropped five of their eight MAC contests. EMU did just enough to qualify for this game.
At 281 yards per game, Eastern Michigan owns the best passing attack in the MAC. This is thanks to a solid senior campaign put together by Mike Glass III. Glass overcame 10 interceptions to score 21 touchdowns and passed for 2,844 yards. His most explosive weapon, in terms of yards per touch, is Arthur Jackson III. The senior wide receiver went for 17.4 yards per catch to pave way for his six touchdowns receiving, which is good for the team-best. In addition to Glass’ arm, he was able to keep the defenses honest by rushing for seven scores and 345 yards. The senior will try to be the difference in this game.
The defense is a problem. They average more than 428 yards given up each game. They went so far as to allow more than their average on six occasions; 500 yards were allowed twice. The 30 points per game allowed have earned them the right to be considered the 85th best/worst defense in the nation. This is going to be a good old-fashioned pillow fight. I think that Pitt will overcome their tragically inept offense to win this matchup. It’ll be close, but I think that the Panthers will walk away with the win to move to 3-0 all-time against the Eagles.
Servpro First Responder Bowl
Western Michigan vs Western Kentucky
The 7-5 Western Michigan Broncos take on the 8-4 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the First Responder Bowl. The Broncos alternated wins and losses for the first eight games before winning three of their last four games. Their 5-3 record within MAC play was actually good enough to be a game away from the MAC Championship game. If they hadn’t fallen to Northern Illinois in the finale, perhaps they would have some hardware to show off.
If there is one thing that the Broncos do well, it is moving the ball. They average 457 yards per game thanks to their stud MAC offensive player of the year, LeVante Bellamy, and their senior quarterback Jon Wassink. Bellamy’s 1,412 rushing yards is good for 2nd in the MAC, but he leads the nation with 23 rushing touchdowns. The redshirt senior’s status is currently up in the air for this game due to a knee injury, unfortunately. CMU passes the ball more than any other within the MAC. This is evident by the fact that Wassink leads the conference with 371 passing attempts which has converted to nearly 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Despite giving up almost 415 yards a game, the Broncos’ scoring defense is 2nd in the MAC at 26 points per game. WKU will have to go through the MAC leader in solo tackles, linebacker Treshaun Hayward. Hayward’s 70 solo tackles, 132 total tackles, and 4.5 sacks earned him MAC defensive player of the year honors. The junior is the leader on this Bronco defense, but I’m not convinced that it will be enough. As stated in my previous article, the Hilltoppers should come out on top. Again, I am very intrigued by this matchup. WMU owns the all-time series with WKU 11-3-1. It’s not going to help them here, unfortunately.
For the first time in their respective histories, the Ohio Bobcats will take on the Nevada Wolfpack in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on the legendary blue turf. This Bobcat team could very well be one of the better 6-6 teams to take the field. Of their six losses, four were by three points or less. What makes it worse, all of those losses came in MAC play. This season could have been very different if Ohio had converted on those contests.
The unquestioned leader on this team is the three-year starter, captain Nathan Rourke. The Trace McSorley-comparable quarterback went for 2,676 yards through the air and scored 20 touchdowns. Why is he similar to McSorley? He added 780 yards and a team-best 12 touchdowns on the ground. Rourke has the ability to play on Sundays, so an NFL team will look to add him come April. Both redshirt freshman O’Shaan Allison and junior De’Montre Tuggle are formidable running backs. Allison turned in a 175-yard, three-touchdown day against MAC foe Bowling Green en route to an 826 yard and six touchdown season. The man averaged 17.5 yards a touch. Keep an eye out for this guy next year to build upon the nation’s 20th ranked offense.
The good thing for Ohio is that their sub-par defense will be facing a much worse offense in Nevada. The Bobcats give up 27 points per game, which is generous. Every opponent faced (outside of winless Akron) scored at least 20 points. Opponents average 400 yards against Ohio, but I think that the difference will be the matchup of the OU offense and the Nevada defense. Ohio should win this game in a relatively convincing fashion. These 2019 MAC bowls matchups could afford to be as favorable as this one. The Bobcats are ranked 4th in the MAC in both scoring offense and defense. The major question for 2020 will be will Rourke’s brother, Kurtis Rourke, be able to take the reins and lead this team to greatness?
Lending Tree Bowl
Miami (OH) vs UL-Lafayette
The final game on the 2019 MAC bowls slate will be the Lending Tree Bowl where Miami (OH) takes on UL-Lafeyette. There were only two teams that were leading Ohio State at any point this year: Wisconsin in the B1G title game and these MAC Champions. Given, the Redhawks led 5-0 and eventually lost 76-5. This team is a perfect example of “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” Miami went 0-3 against all three FBS non-conference opponents but went on to win the MAC.
Usually, MAC champions have ridiculous, high-powered offenses. That is not the case for this team. During their MAC slate, they scored more than 30 twice. The 95th ranked offense is led by the little brother of the mighty Blaine Gabbert, Brett Gabbert. The true freshman accounted for 2,160 passing yards and 14 total touchdowns. He did have some growing pains, however, and threw eight interceptions. Three of those picks came in the loss to Western Michigan, so was certainly subject to getting rattled. Every young quarterback needs a veteran running back to lean on. Thankfully, Gabbert has Jaylon Bester. In his first year as the full-time running back, Bester ran for 689 yards and 12 touchdowns. They will rely on him to set the tone in this game to take pressure off the young quarterback.
If you take out the 601 yards OSU put up on the Redhawks, Miami opponents averaged 362 yards per game. Considering they operate in the MAC, this is probably why they won it all. The 24 points per game allowed to opponents not named Ohio State would have been good for 2nd best in the conference. However, this defense is tied with Buffalo for the most sacks forced with 38, so they do have some things going for them. Ultimately, I do have to roll with the Ragin’ Cajuns in this matchup. This will be a fun game to watch, but Louisiana should win this one.
2019 MAC Bowls Results
The MAC is probably my favorite conference to watch. On any given Saturday (or Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday), any team could beat another. Unfortunately, the 2019 MAC bowls record will sit at 2-5 due to some lopsided matchups. Buffalo should be able to get their first bowl win but I think that Kent State will continue to be winless in postseason play. Both Central and Western Michigan will tally their 9th bowl loss in their respective histories. Eastern could pull even at 2-2 if they can upend Pitt. Ohio still has work to do. Even if they win, they’d sit at 5-8 all-time. Finally, Miami (OH) is the only MAC team that qualified with a winning record in their bowl history.
Go west, young man! We will cover the Mountain West next.
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