The best way to measure one conference up against another is to look at non-conference. The 2022 MAC non-conference schedules are fairly eclectic but every single team has at least one Power 5 team on the schedule.
In this series, we will look at each team’s out-of-conference slate and rank them based on difficulty. There are some teams who have serious gauntlets. Other teams have a cakewalk. Everyone loves a little #MACtion, so let’s continue with the Mid-American Conference.
The Hardest MAC Non-Conference Schedules
Kent State: @ Washington, @ Oklahoma, vs Long Island (FCS), @ Georgia
The reigning MAC East Division champions are going to have a more difficult time repeating in 2022. With a slate featuring the defending CFP National Champion as well as a perennial blueblood, the Flashes will have to earn it.
Last year, Kent State went just 1-3 in their non-conference bouts and that one win came against FCS Virginia Military Institute. The likelihood that 2022 will be about the same is almost easy money.
Washington was not very strong in 2021, finishing just (4-8). If Kent State is going to beat a Power 5 opponent, it will have to be right off the bat. Oklahoma is going to be an interesting program this fall. They lost their coach, quarterbacks, recruits, and hype over the off-season. Georgia, on the other hand, is riding high. Their incredible defense lost a lot of talent but Georgia has recruited at a high level. They will manage to lock up the SEC East by Halloween…again.
Toledo: vs Long Island (FCS), vs UMASS, @ Ohio State, @ San Diego State
As it stands, the Rockets are the odds-on favorite to take home the MAC this fall. And, of course, for good reason. This is a talented team.
Led by DeQuan Finn, Toledo finished the year (7-6) after dropping the Bahamas Bowl. They split their non-conference slate in 2021, beating Norfolk State (FCS) and UMASS. It could have been a very, very different year if they had pulled it out against Notre Dame. Instead, they narrowly fell, 32-29.
On paper, it looks like the Rockets will again split their non-MAC slate. Ohio State is bound to have one of the top teams in the country again. Meanwhile, San Diego State went 12-2 (including a pair of stellar wins over Pac-12 teams) and is a favorite to win the Mountain West.
Akron: vs St. Francis (PA) (FCS), @ Michigan State, @ Tennessee, @ Liberty
Insult to injury. Akron was the worst team in the MAC in 2021, winning just two games. One of those wins was against Bryant (FCS), so it wasn’t great. Unfortunately, they stand with the third-toughest of the 2022 MAC non-conference schedules.
Of the four games, three of Akron’s non-conference matches are on the road, all against teams with winning records last year. Michigan State is a program seemingly on the upswing. They have to replace the second-leading rusher in the nation and will do so with a pair of really good transfers.
Akron is the second MAC foe Tennessee will have to go through in their usually vaunted non-conference schedule (/s). Lastly, Liberty has to replace dynamic quarterback, Malik Willis, with the two-time transfer, Charlie Brewer.
Miami (OH): @ Kentucky, vs Robert Morris (FCS), vs Cincinnati, @ Northwestern
● QB Spotlight ●
Brett Gabbert – Miami (OH)
• Gabbert is one of the most underrated QBs in #CFB. In his career he’s thrown for 5,443 yards 41 TDs and rushed for 277 yards 4 TDs. If he can improve his 57.8 completion % I expect a big 2022 season. pic.twitter.com/296MOp6GRb
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) June 7, 2022
After winning its first MAC Championship since 2010 in 2019, Miami (OH) has been slightly above average (9-7). Last year, Brett Gabbert led the MAC with 26 passing touchdowns. If it weren’t for the three-game 2020 (and getting dinged in 2021), Gabbert could’ve finished 2022 rivaling the top three Redhawks quarterbacks of all time. If he wants to catch Zac Dysert, he’d need 6,570 yards and 43 touchdowns. Not sure that’s happening any time soon.
The Redhawks dropped all three non-conference games against FBS programs. Considering one of their yearly non-conference games is against the only Group of 5 team to make the College Football Playoff, it’s tough. 2022 is Cincinnati’s final year in the AAC so Miami (OH) will look to chase them off to the Big 12.
As we said in the previous iteration, Kentucky was the only SEC East team to make Georgia sweat last year, so they’ll be a tough out for the Redhawks. The only thing on the line with Northwestern is which school is the king of the midwestern nerds.
Western Michigan: @ Michigan State, vs Pitt, @ San Jose State, vs New Hampshire (FCS)
The last time the Broncos took home the MAC Championship, they crashed the NY6 party and very nearly Rowed the Boat to a victory over Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. In 2021, they finished dead last in the MAC West…with an (8-5) overall record!
Pitt had 3 turnovers in this game. Western Michigan deserves a lot of credit though. They have a ton of offensive weapons & firepower with Kaleb Eleby & Skyy Moore. Great win for the Broncos. pic.twitter.com/SLaPXDTZRX
— Brendan Moore (@bmoorecfb) September 19, 2021
Western Michigan took three of their four non-conference matchups last year. Naturally, they lost to the CFP-bound Michigan team, but they took down both Pitt and San Jose State.
Both the Panthers and Spartans will be looking for revenge in 2021. Pitt will have to replace Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison. San Jose State has to replace Nick Starkel with Hawai’i transfer and gunslinger, Chevan Cordeiro.
Ohio: vs Florida Atlantic, @ Penn State, @ Iowa State, vs Fordham (FCS)
2021 was not kind to the Ohio Bobcats. OU (oh no) won just three games, all against MAC East foes. They even lost to FCS Duquesne! Hopefully for the boys in Athens, Kurtis Rourke can shake it off and play a bit more like his brother, Nathan.
Florida Atlantic will give the Bobcats a game. They may not be the cream of the crop in Conference-USA after Lane Kiffin bolted, but they will match up nicely. Ohio and Penn State have played just six times in history. The last time the two played? 2012, where Ohio took the Nittany Lions down, 24-14. Iowa State will be a challenge. The Cyclones are a dark horse to take the Big 12 next year. With Matt Campbell, you can’t really count them out, even if Brock Purdy has graduated.
Get You Some MACtion
It is highly recommended that you add a healthy dose of #MACtion with your weekly intake of college football. The 12-team conference is home to some serious playmakers and they surprise on a yearly basis. MAC teams upset P5 teams often, so which team will do it in 2022? Toledo over Ohio State? Kent State over Oklahoma? Or will it be one of the lower-end P5 teams like Eastern Michigan over Arizona State?
Regardless, where the MAC may lack in “quality” football, they make it up in entertainment value. It’s always great when November rolls around and there is mid-week MACtion. Tune in! Perhaps you’ll see the next NFL star who comes out of nowhere (Antonio Brown, Kareem Hunt, etc.).
Mid-American Conference: Easiest; Hardest
Conference-USA: Easiest; Hardest
Mountain West: Easiest; Hardest
Sun Belt: Easiest; Hardest
American Athletic: Easiest; Hardest
Pac-12: Easiest; Hardest
Big 12: Easiest; Hardest
ACC: Easiest; Hardest
SEC: Easiest; Hardest
Big Ten: Easiest; Hardest
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