Kent State, NIU, Toledo in running for MAC championship

By Matt Hopkinson

Kent State: Sitting atop the MAC East, the Golden Flashes have won six games in a row and are undefeated in conference play. On top of their dominance in conference play, they have most recently defeated former nationally No. 18-ranked Rutgers squad by the score of 35-23. Kent State has a tough road left ahead of them. They still have to face the three teams directly below them in the standings after this week’s matchup against Akron. Kent State has found success due in part to its defense, especially within conference games, as it has only allowed 88 points in four games played, the second lowest of all MAC teams.

Bowling Green: With losses to bigger programs like Florida and Virginia Tech marring their record, the Falcons have won behind the strength of their defense. Their defense is No. 1 in MAC action, allowing just 52 points in five conference games. The Falcons have two tough games ahead of them: one in this week’s matchup with Ohio and the other in a game against Kent State the following week. With a win over both of those teams, they would put themselves into the MAC championship game.

Ohio: Undefeated on the season until last week, the Bobcats have been involved in many close games. With a point differential of just 13 in favor of their squad, their offense has done just enough to win three out of four games in MAC action. Being undefeated does not do a lot of good when you lose games within your conference and Ohio just dropped its first to Miami (Ohio). Led by a combination of junior running back Beau Blankenship and junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton, this year’s squad is three wins away from tying their win total from last season, when they made it to the MAC championship.

Northern Illinois: Sitting atop the MAC West, the Huskies have not lost since Sept. 1. With eight straight wins and five straight MAC wins, NIU has virtually run over every opponent since its loss to Iowa. NIU leads the MAC in points scored in the conference with 220 points in five conference games. In those five game, they have also only allowed 91 points, the third least in the MAC. With those totals, they are No. 1 in positive point differential. The Huskies have had a mentality of championship or bust since they claimed the trophy last year. Led by the nation’s leader in total offense, quarterback Jordan Lynch, they are in prime position to get back to their goal.

Toledo: Equalling NIU’s current winning streak, the Rockets have not lost since they fell to Arizona State on opening day. While the record is equally impressive, the fashion in which Toledo has picked up their wins is not nearly as dominant as NIU. Toledo is coming off a victory over Buffalo in which it beat the team by five points, whereas NIU beat the Bulls by 42. The Rockets have won with high offensive output, the second-most points scored in MAC games with 191. They have allowed 134 defensively, however, so they can be scored on.

Ball State: Sitting in sole possession of third place in the MAC West, the Cardinals have not been getting it done defensively. With only a three-point differential in the positive direction overall on the season, 303-300, they have somehow found ways to win. Winners of their last three games after a loss to NIU, the Cardinals have picked up the pace with victories over Western and Central Michigan and Army in those three games. Their last three matchups with Toledo, Ohio and Miami (Ohio) will truly test the Cardinals and their defense.