Every College Football fan is familiar with the MAC. Midweek ‘MAC-tion’ is always full of incredible gambling moments that has the nation roaring.
The MAC is a conference that seemingly always has a team that shocks the country with a run to the title game. Last year, Ball State was +1000 last season ahead of their MAC title.
Who could be this year’s MAC darling? What about a team that should be faded as the season gets underway?
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
I’m very high on the Broncos, I make them the second best team in the conference ahead of the year, behind only Toledo.
It starts with the quarterback play. Kaleb Eleby is one of the best QB’s nobody is talking about. Eleby was incredible in 2020, throwing 18 touchdowns and just a pair of interceptions. He was third in QB Rating, behind only Mac Jones and Zach Wilson.
Eleby is the real deal and brings back two of his top three receivers from last season in Jaylen Hall and Skyy Moore. Factor in that they have a stud running back, La’Darius Jefferson, who averaged nearly six yards per carry, the Broncos offense is going to be dynamite.
It was the defense that slowed the whole team and led to a 4-2 2020. They gave up a ton of big plays, but they did rank inside the top 25 in havoc generated. WMU was able to force turnovers and make plays in the backfield, but when they couldn’t get pressure, they got gashed.
With 10 of 11 starters back, the hope is they take a step forward while Eleby continues to produce at a high level.
WMU play two Power 5 teams (Michigan and Pittsburgh), but they get an advantageous matchup against San Jose State in non conference play. The Spartans play at Hawai’i a week before going to Kalamazoo to play the Broncos. FCS opponent Illinois State should get them another win.
In the MAC, they get projected Conference Champion Toledo and last year’s champ Ball State at home. If the season goes according to plan they will head into the regular season finale against basement dweller North Illinois at six wins, if not more. They’ll be favored in that game if they haven't already cleared the win total.
This isn’t your father’s Buffalo.
Head coach Lance Leipold took the Kansas job in the offseason, and brought with him a handful of transfers from Buffalo as well as key members of the coaching staff. He is replaced by Maurice Linguist, who hasn’t been a coordinator before, let alone a head coach. While he has received rave reviews, he’s 37 and needs to adjust to the new role.
All-American running back Jarrett Patterson is gone, and while Kevin Marks figures to be a fine replacement, this is a new offensive system that needs to replace three starting offensive linemen. As well, the Bulls lost their offensive line coach in the coaching exodus.
At quarterback Kyle Vantrease benefitted from having an incredible run game, and we’ll see how he does with more pressure on him. He completed 62% of his passes for over 1,300 yards in seven games last season.
Linguist comes from the defensive side of the ball, defensive back coach for the Cowboys last season, and that should be a strength again with three starters in the secondary back. In addition, the team has Jarrett’s brother, James, back at linebacker, the team’s leading tackler in 2020.
Still, I see the offensive taking a step back as more pressure comes on Vantrease and the coaching staff needs time to implement new schemes. There’s too much overhaul across the board to bet this over.
Keep an eye on the Bulls’ special teams unit, which has constantly underwhelmed, including kicker Alex McNulty, who missed three of four field goal attempts in 2020.
The team gets Coastal Carolina at home in a game where they figure to be home underdogs, as well as going to Nebraska. They don’t have to play Toledo but do go to both Ball State and Kent State, who has an explosive offense.
There are too many variables for Bulls in 2021. In the ever changing MAC, Buffalo may be on the wrong side of some vicious regression.