MAC West Race November Outlook
With the turn of the calendar to November, MACtion returns with Tuesday and Wednesday night college football and the MAC suddenly in the spotlight. Here is a look at the current MAC West standings and what to expect in the division race in the final month of the regular season.
Toledo Rockets 4-1 – Remaining schedule: Ball State, Bowling Green, At Western Michigan
Toledo has routinely been among the MAC favorites in the Jason Candle era, with Candle the head coach since 2006 but with the program in some capacity since 2009. Toledo has just one MAC title win in 2017 however despite a 34-17 MAC record under Candle, and that is the only year he has won the division title as the head coach. At 4-1 in league play Toledo is a heavy favorite to take the division this season as every other team in the MAC West has at least two losses and three of those five teams have three losses.
Toledo played without star quarterback Dequan Finn last week but got just enough from backup Tucker Gleason for a win at Eastern Michigan. The only MAC loss for Toledo came at East leader Buffalo but the Rockets still must play the two 2-2 teams in MAC play as Toledo is one upset loss away from inviting another team back in the division race. Toledo has the #1 total defense in the MAC and is one of the top rushing teams, but a prolonged absence of Finn would change that equation.
Western Michigan 2-2 – Remaining schedule: At Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, At Central Michigan, Toledo
Western Michigan gets to host Toledo in the season finale as the Broncos have the best chance to catch the Rockets. Western Michigan won at Ball State early in the season for a key potential tiebreaker and snapped a two-game slide in the last game with a win at Miami, OH to reach 2-2.
Jack Salopek has been the wort rated quarterback in the MAC completing just 51 percent of his passes with 10 interceptions, but last week’s win was led by freshman Treyson Bourguet. His numbers did not impress with 123 yards on 16 completions, but he did avoid big mistakes and the Broncos have one of the better defenses in the MAC. Three toss-up games are ahead for Western Michigan before the finale with Toledo as this group can’t be ruled out yet and is the team with the best chance to catch Toledo.
Ball State 2-2 – Remaining schedule: At Kent State, At Toledo, Ohio, At Miami OH
The Cardinals blew a fourth quarter lead in the last game hosting Eastern Michigan, a devastating result that likely ends MAC West hopes for Ball State. The Cardinals have wins over Northern Illinois and Central Michigan but the head-to-head loss against Western Michigan bumps Ball State to third place. The remaining schedule is daunting as well, facing four of the better teams in the conference in November with three of four games on the road.
Ball State is the second worst rushing team in the conference but the second best passing team, but this is a below average defense even with a favorable conference schedule so far. Quarterback John Paddock has thrown nine interceptions and has the lowest yards per attempt rate of any qualified MAC quarterback. Close games have ben the norm with four one-score results in MAC play for the Cardinals but having the next four games all land in favor of Ball State seems rather unlikely.
Northern Illinois 1-3 – Remaining schedule: Central Michigan, At Western Michigan, Miami OH, Akron
Northern Illinois got Rocky Lombardi back for the win over Eastern Michigan, but he returned to the sidelines in a loss to Ohio that dropped the Huskies to 1-3 in MAC play. Northern Illinois is better than its record but with losses to Toledo and Ball State there will need to be a lot of help with those teams getting upset down the stretch. The Huskies play at Western Michigan and the rest of the schedule is at home as it is a favorable closing run and a run to 5-3 can’t be ruled out.
The Huskies are the #2 MAC rushing team and the #2 MAC run defense for appealing traits and after making a run to the MAC title last season this is the long shot in the West that should climb upward. Toledo would need to lose twice, and the Huskies would need to win out including beating Western Michigan to force a multi-team tie scenario as it is quite an unlikely scenario, but this is a team that may pick up a few wins down the stretch despite sitting in last place at the moment.
Eastern Michigan had a three-point loss to Toledo last week that takes the Eagles out of the race in almost all scenarios. This group has lost by blowout margins twice in conference play and has been outscored by 25 points in five MAC games.
Central Michigan has been one of the biggest disappointments in the MAC, scoring fewer than 20 points per game in a 1-3 start to league play. Central Michigan still has Buffalo on the schedule plus two road games and the only MAC win came vs. 0-5 Akron as this squad has not looked like a threat.