It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, our conference-by-conference look at the postseason is back! This year, we have 82 bowl-eligible teams playing in 41 bowl games and one CFP National Championship. 15 bowls feature first-ever matchups! And, amazingly enough, only one bowl in the entire schedule pits two conference champions against one another. Without further ado, let’s look at the 2022 MAC Bowls!
2022 MAC Bowls Preview
Bahamas Bowl (December 16, 11:30 A.M., ESPN)
Miami (OH) vs UAB
Bowl Record: 6-5
The defending champion of the Frisco Football Classic is back again, this time heading up the 2022 MAC bowls and all of bowl season with a tilt in the Bahamas against UAB. Miami (OH) had a season that only Thanos could love: 2-2 out of conference, 4-4 in conference. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be. The Redhawks beat up exactly who they should have. Unfortunately, they went 0-4 against bowl-bound teams.
Coming into the season, it was Brett Gabbert leading the charge. He sustained an injury in the first game of the season, came back towards the end of October, and elected to enter the Transfer Portal, preserving his eligibility from this year. It’ll be Aveon Smith which is a fitting name for the quarterback of a ‘Hawks team (Aveon…avian…you get it). Anyway, Smith threw for 1,195 yards and nine touchdowns. Of the team’s 13 touchdowns through the air, eight went the way of All-MAC second-teamer, Mac Hippenhammer.
A pair of Redhawks finished the year with over 100 tackles. Second-teamer Ryan McWood led the way with 121, 6.0 TFL, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumbled recovery…in 11 games. Third-teamer Matthew Salopek was right behind him with 109 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, and 3.5 sacks. Despite the disappointing season, this defense was pretty good. As a unit, the Redhawks allowed just 22.5 points per game. In MAC play, that number drops to 20.88 per.
UAB loves to run the ball to the tune of 243 yards per game. Miami (OH) allows about 135 yards per game. Something will have to break in this one and it’s going to be the Redhawks.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (December 20th, 3:30 P.M., ESPN)
Eastern Michigan vs San Jose State
Head-to-head: Eastern Michigan 1-0 San Jose State
Bowl Record: 1-4
The Eastern Michigan Eagles finished its regular season 8-4, its best mark since the 10-win 1987 season. Out of conference, EMU went 3-1 which included a win over Pac-12 foe, Arizona State. In the MAC, two of the three losses came against MAC West foes, allowing Toledo to lock up the division early. This is a really underrated squad and San Jose State would do well to not overlook them.
There were two quarterbacks who played significant time for the Eagles in Taylor Powell and Austin Smith, but this offense runs through 1,084-yard rusher, Samson Evans. Last we saw Evans, he ran for his fourth 100+ yard game of the year. In that win over Arizona State, Evans ran the ball a whopping 36 times for 258 yards and a touchdown.
If you’re not familiar with Jose Ramirez (no, not the Cleveland Guardians star), you should be. He was voted as the first-ever MAC Defensive Player of the Year out of EMU and for good reason. Ramirez finished his regular season with a MAC-best 12 sacks (second-best in FBS) and 19.5 TFLs (third-most in FBS).
This is going to be an underrated matchup in the 2022 MAC bowls. San Jose State will give EMU a fight with their very solid defense but the Eagles pull this one out.
Boca Raton Bowl (December 20th, 7:30 P.M., ESPN)
Toledo vs Liberty
Head-to-head: Toledo 3-0 Liberty
Bowl Record: 10-9
The newly-crowned MAC champion Toledo Rockets earn the right to face off against the Liberty Flames in this year’s Boca Raton Bowl.
This is the Rockets’ second-ever appearance in the game: https://t.co/zeUGCJarWO
— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) December 4, 2022
For every Toledo Blade article in Toledo, Ohio that even remotely mentions the Rockets, there will be at least three individuals who yell “FIRE CANDLE.” The Rockets had high expectations heading into the season with many (myself included) projecting they would run through the MAC. Locking up the MAC West with weeks to spare notwithstanding, this was a disappointing Toledo team. Even then, they finished 8-5 with a MAC Championship. Unfortunately, fans are crossing their fingers that Candle goes the route of Matt Campbell.
Second-team All-MAC quarterback Dequan Finn leads this offense that, when humming, could score almost at will. He was battling an ankle injury for the final few weeks of the season, hence the two-game tailspin. The Toledo offense had three All-MAC first and second-teamers.
The strength of this team has been its defense. Take away the 77 points scored by Ohio State, Toledo allowed 22.5 points per game which would have been good for 35th in the nation (as compared to 27.1 PPG, 74th in FBS). This defense led the MAC with seven first and second-team All-MAC selections. Desjuan Johnson (EDGE, 15.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks), Ohio State transfer Dallas Gant (linebacker, team-leading 103 tackles, 5.5 TFL, two forced fumbles), Quinyon Mitchell (corner, five interceptions, four of which came against Northern Illinois where he returned two for touchdowns), and Maxen Hook (safety, 67 tackles, two interceptions) are a formidable force.
The champions of the MAC have drawn the 8-4 Liberty Flames who will be playing with a lame-duck coach. Liberty averages over 400 yards of offense per game but they haven’t had to face a defense like Toledo’s. Expect the Rockets to get the win here.
Quick Lane Bowl (December 26th, 2:30 P.M., ESPN)
Bowling Green vs New Mexico State
Bowl Record: 5-7
What a roller coaster 2022 was for the Bowling Green Falcons. After starting 0-2 – which included a 7OT loss to Eastern Kentucky at home – BG upset Marshall. The Herd rolled into the game after a huge upset in their own right by beating Notre Dame. The Falcons dropped its game at Mississippi State and was limping into MAC play. That’s where they turned it on. BG finished with a 5-3 mark in conference and even upset rival Toledo for the first time since 2018 and the second since they won in 2009. At 6-6, Bowling overperformed its expectations and is looking to build into 2023.
On offense, it’s all about Matt McDonald. In his third season at the helm, McDonald set a new career mark in passing yards with 2,639 and shattered his passing record with 22. Former Alabama A&M receiver Odieu Hilaire came into Bowling Green and took over. Last year at the FCS level, Hilaire put up 918 yards and nine touchdowns after leading the team with 79 receptions. He did that while playing opposite a 1,000+ receiver. When this offense is clicking, New Mexico State will have a hard time stopping them.
On the defense, it all runs through first-team all-MAC defensive end Karl Brooks. The senior finished the regular season with career bests in sacks (10.0; third-best in the MAC, eighth-best in the nation) and tackles for loss (18.0; third-best in the MAC, ninth-best in the nation).
New Mexico State, statistically, has a good defense. The issue is that all year, they played just four bowl-bound teams and got blown out by three. Bowling Green’s offense can sputter at times but they should be able to get it done in Detroit.
Camellia Bowl (December 27th, 12:00 P.M., ESPN)
Buffalo vs Georgia Southern
Bowl Record: 2-3
By the skin of their teeth, the University at Buffalo Bulls are going bowling! They started off 0-3 (even losing to Holy Cross (FCS)), then won their first five MAC contests in convincing fashion…then dropped each of its next three. At the buzzer, the Bulls had to come back from a 16-3 deficit against Akron in a rescheduled game thanks to the monster snowstorm that ran through the area.
Buffalo has a two-headed attack at running back with Ron Cook, Jr. and Mike Washington. Washington led the way with 606 yards and seven touchdowns with Cook just behind with 600 yards and four touchdowns. Given, Cook only played 10 games compared to Washington’s 12. Cook was dealing with an injury at the end of the season. Out wide, Georgia Southern will have to contain Justin Marshall and his team-leading 710 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Buffalo defense is home to three first and second-team All-MAC selections, none greater than Shaun Dolac. His MAC-leading (and second-most in FBS) 134 tackles are good for the seventh-most in Buffalo history. Dolac’s 90 solo tackles are the best mark in all of FBS football. He also added 12.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. Oh, and he broke up seven passes and forced two fumbles. His counterpart, James Patterson, also racked up tackles. He finished with 112 to go with 11.0 TFLs and 1.5 sacks.
Buffalo was home to Kyle Vantrease for five years. In just one at GSU, he’s shattered any personal mark he set with the Bulls. This may not be the most intriguing matchup on the 2022 MAC bowls slate, but Vantrease is going to get his revenge of sorts.
Arizona Bowl (December 30th, 4:30 P.M., Barstool Sports)
Ohio vs Wyoming
Head-to-head: Ohio 0-2 Wyoming
Bowl Record: 5-8
The Ohio Bobcats will get an opportunity to end their season with double-digit victories in the 2022 Arizona Bowl, as they’re set to take on the Wyoming Cowboys of the Mountain West Conference: https://t.co/CbxRytCPTV
— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) December 4, 2022
After an atrocious 2021, the Ohio Bobcats had a shot to win their first MAC Title since 1968. Unfortunately, MAC offensive player of the year Kurtis Rourke tore his ACL in the win over Ball State, so CJ Harris has been the man. The Bobcats split their non-conference slate, losing to the two Power 5 teams, but burnt barns within the MAC. They lost the first tilt but rattled off seven in a row before dropping to Toledo in Detroit. If only we could have seen this Ohio team at full strength with Rourke…
Rourke, not unlike his older brother, Nathan Rourke, was able to move the ball. His 3,257 yards in just 10.5 games was good for 13th in the nation up against guys with a full 90 minutes of ball on him. While Harris is not quite the monster that Rourke is, he doesn’t have to be. MAC Freshman of the Year Sieh Bangura can help carry the load. He burst onto the scene with a 114-yard game off of 23 carries and finished the year with 884 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The defense leaves a bit to be desired, however. In terms of scoring defense, passing defense, Red Zone defense, and first downs allowed, they’re in the bottom 25% in the nation. Their passing defense is legitimately the worst! Senior defensive end Juan Watkins failed to earn any MAC recognition but he led the Bobcats with 11.5 TFL and added 3.5 sacks. Wyoming may have an easy time moving the ball in this one but they’ll have to keep up with the offense.
Ohio’s defense vs Wyoming’s offense will be a great matchup of moveable object vs stoppable force. The real battle will be on the other sides of the ball and I think Bangura and Harris will be a bit too much for the Cowboys.
Nothing Better Than #MACtion
The MAC is often considered the lowest of all of the conferences. Even then, Power 5 teams often overlook these teams and are upset. Every year features at least one MAC-over-P5 upset, most often with the Big Ten. The MAC has plenty of fun football and skilled athletes. During the NFL season, you’ll see MAC alumni playing and showing out left and right. Don’t get left behind and tune in!