A word that brings a warmth to my heart and tears of joy to my eyes.
A word that gives us something to do with our boring Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
For you poor, unfortunate souls who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain.
The Mid-American Conference or MAC, rich with history dating all the way back to 1946, has graced college athletics with its presence for generations. There have been 20 different member schools in the MAC throughout the years but only the twelve best remain (Sorry UMass). The current members of the MAC include: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio University, Toledo, and Western Michigan.
“Who cares about the MAC?”
I hear this question all the time when I start to talk about the explosive offenses and exciting plays from the night before. No one seems to notice the great football, in my opinion, that comes on TV on a Tuesday night in the middle of October.
For those of us lucky enough to experience that greatness that is MACtion, we have seen some great players come through mid-week ESPN coverage. Some of these athletes have gone onto the next level and done great things as well.
Prior to 2010, remarkable football players have emerged from the most underrated conference in the land.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have been tearing up NFL defenses over the past few seasons. Both players played their college ball in the MAC, Roethlisberger attended Miami University and Brown went to Central Michigan.
During Marshall’s second short stint in the Mid-American Conference, they sent Randy Moss, Chad Pennington, and Byron Leftwich to the NFL.
Kent State also has an impressive resume of former players at the next level. For starters, Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert came through Kent State to play his college football. James Harrison and Julian Edelman both played for the Golden Flashes and while Antonio Gates never played college football, but he spent two years playing basketball at Kent.
Other notable players to come through this professional factory are offensive lineman Eric Fisher, wide-receiver Greg Jennings, linebacker Khalil Mack, and don’t forget Super Bowl Champion Kicker, Brandon McManus.
Some of football’s greatest names are as proud to call the Mid-American Conference home as I am to watch their schools’ games on Tuesday nights instead of studying (sorry dad).
MAC football today is a much undervalued part of the college football landscape. Year after year, teams from the Mid-American Conference knock off Power 5 opponents. Bowling Green took out two Big Ten teams this past season (Maryland and Purdue), and got some help from Toledo, sending Arkansas and Iowa State to losers row as well.
Some other schools in the conference gave non-conference opponents a challenge that they never expected. Northern Illinois and Ball State both lost by one possession to Ohio State and Northwestern respectively.
The Falcons of Bowling Green had a statistically incredible year, lighting up televisions across America on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. As a team, they ranked sixth in the country in terms of scoring (42.2 PPG) and had players atop some national categories as well. Matt Johnson (QB) finished second among all quarterbacks for passing yards and passing touchdowns. Roger Lewis (WR) also finished second in the country for receiving yards and he crossed the goal line the third most times among receivers.
In 2013, Northern Illinois quarterback, Jordan Lynch, finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. He also brought home a seventh place finish the year before. Even Ball State got in on the action in 2008 when quarterback Nate Davis finished eighth in the voting. Ben Roethlisberger in 2003 was the last quarterback prior to Davis to place in the Heisman voting. Slowly but surely, MACtion is beginning to garner the nation’s respect.
It’s the year 2033, Tim Tebow is enjoying his first year in the Oval Office after winning the presidency, beating out Chelsea Clinton in the race for The White House. The MAC has been dominating the college football world for a decade after the largest power shift in sports history.
It all began when the former Ohio State Head Coach, Urban Meyer, decided that he wanted to finish out his head coaching career where it began, at Bowling Green State University. His move inspired many others to do the same and return to the Mid-American Conference where their hearts had always truly been. Nick Saban took the helm at Kent State where he got his coaching start. Mark Dantonio went back to Ohio University, Jim Harbaugh returned to his hometown to coach the Toledo Rockets, and Tommy Bowden finally became a snippet of his father and brought the Akron Zips to the national spotlight. Brian Kelly came back to Central Michigan and sparked a rivalry with the unrelated Chip Kelly, who decided to try and “Row-The-Boat” faster than ever at Western Michigan.
With some of the greatest football coaches in the world in the MAC, some of the nation’s best recruits shifted their interests from the SEC, PAC-12, and the BIG TEN. The dynasties that were built in Tuscaloosa, Columbus, Ann Arbor, Baton Rouge, and Los Angeles still stood tall, but not as tall as they once did. Six of the last Seven College Football Playoff Champions belong to the Mid-American Conference. Even the new format including 16 teams couldn’t slow these new found dynasties down. In an average year, 3 out of the 16 playoff teams hail from the MAC with a surprising 5 member schools making the cut just two years ago in 2031.
In addition to the team success if the MAC, individual national awards started to flow in to some of the top players in the conference. In 2025, the conference got their first Heisman Trophy winner, LeBron James Jr., who picked up football in high school during his rebellious teenage years. LeBron Jr set NCAA records for receptions and receiving yards in a season as he helped the Akron Zips win their first national championship.
In 2029, the rest of the country finally accepted that the MAC was here to stay. That year, the nation’s number 1 recruit committed and signed with a MAC school for the first time in conference history. Marshall Manning delivered his letter of intent by drone to Ball State University, to play quarterback for his father’s team.
Join the movement now. Nothing that I say or write will ever do the sight justice. This fall, spend a random evening or two watching two teams from the Midwest (including Buffalo), that you probably have no stake in at all, play a football game. After this unforgettable experience, you will finally understand why, “MACtion speaks louder than words”.
I hope you enjoyed this completely unrealistic look into the future of college football. But in all seriousness, please give the MAC a chance this year, you will not regret getting emotionally invested.
For all of your college football coverage, follow @ACAllAmericans on Twitter.