It’s the most wonderful time of the year! As I did in 2019, I will preview each of the 2020 MAC bowls as well as every other conference (plus the FBS Independents). Bowl games will likely look different this year. Many states have their own restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we will likely see even fewer fans than normal. Additionally, a number of bowl-eligible teams elected to opt-out of the post-season, so there will be fewer matchups this year.
Seven teams with losing records made bowls this year (four from the SEC; imagine that). This year, one team will be making its bowl debut. Plus, this season will feature ten first-time matchups. Strap in, it’s time for 29 bowl games!
2020 MAC Bowls Preview
Head-to-head: Buffalo 0-8 Marshall
Buffalo bowl record: 1-3
There are only two 2020 MAC bowls this year, but they sent their best. While it could be argued that a few more MAC teams should have been sent, it’s just screaming into the void at this point, so let’s enjoy what we have. The Camellia Bowl is a throwback! Buffalo vs Marshall. Just like from 1997-2004 when they shared the conference. But that was when Marshall dominated. Things have changed.
At 5-1, the Bulls leaned heavily on its rushing attack throughout the year. Jaret Patterson is among the best in all of college football. He’s rushed for 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns in only six games! He’s scored in every game and ran for 301 yards and 409 yards in single games. He is dealing with a lower leg injury, but he will likely suit up. His back up is Kevin Marks and is good enough to start just about anywhere else. If Patterson can’t go, they’ll lean on his 603 yards and six touchdowns. 100+ yards and a score per game? Not too bad.
The beneficiary of these studs is quarterback Kyle Vantrease. He’s thrown for 1,186 yards and seven touchdowns and is one of the best quarterbacks in the MAC. Watch out for #1 Antonio Nunn. The senior has been a massive playmaker all year and can beat man coverage when you sell out to stop the two-headed monster in the backfield.
Senior defensive end Malcolm Koonce is a monster. He leads the team in tackles for loss with 6.5 and sacks with 5.0. He’s a disrupter and Marshall will need to gameplan around his presence. Look for runs and rollouts to go away from big number 50.
A scoop-and-score was the difference in the MAC Championship game. Even at 5-1, Buffalo has shown that it is a good team and will look to establish some more respect. I’ve got the boys in blue beating Marshall in this one. Even if Patterson can’t go, they won’t miss a step with Marks and Vantrease.
A quick note: Buffalo has a tradition that any player who epitomizes what Buffalo is about gets to wear jersey #41. This is in honor of former Bull, Solomon Jackson. Jackson passed away in 2016.
Arizona Bowl (December 31, 2:00 p.m., CBS)
Ball State vs San Jose State
Ball State bowl record: 0-7
There are two bowl games pitting two Conference Champions against one another. The Sugar Bowl/CFP Semifinal and this Arizona Bowl. The MAC Champions get to face off against the undefeated MWC Champion San Jose State. Ball State started off the year with a loss to defending MAC Champion Miami (OH) off a rushing touchdown with only 0:02 to play. This is a very, very good Cardinals team.
Senior quarterback Drew Plitt had another great year, passing for 1,936 yards and 16 touchdowns. While those numbers may not jump off the page, he’s a great game manager and distributor of the ball. His favorite target has one of the best names in all of College Football: Yo’Heinz Tyler. He averages 13.3 yards a reception and came up huge in the MAC Championship game.
In a normal year, senior running back Caleb Huntley would lead the way. Only playing three games because he opted out to focus on the NFL draft, Huntley ran for 437 yards and six touchdowns. Those marks still lead the team. Enter Tye Evans. He may not be the explosive weapon that Huntley is, but he is still a good back. Look for the redshirt sophomore to finish the season strong and get some momentum heading into 2021.
In the MAC, teams either have really good defense or really bad defenses. Unfortunately, the Cardinals are the latter. There was only one game where they held the opposition under 400 yards. They gave up 536 yards to 2-4 Eastern Michigan.
Ball State is a very good team, there is no denying. The MAC often crowns great Champions. I think that San Jose State will win this first-ever matchup with the Cardinals. Buckle up because this could have plenty of fireworks.
A Little Less Talk, A Lot More #MACtion
It’s no secret: the MAC is my favorite Group of Five conference. These 2020 MAC bowls will further solidify that. It’s unfortunate that there are only two games, but at least they sent their two best. Do me a favor and tune into these matchups. Everyone needs a little #MACtion in their life!