The MAC had a fun bowl season last year, going 2-3 with every single game featuring 60 points or more. This year we may see more fireworks with some of the old stalwarts in Toledo, Northern Illinois and Ohio as well as some fresh blood in UMass and Ball State. Tuesday nights in the MAC have made many a gambler some money and will do so again this year.
For the purposes of this exercise, projected win totals are broken down into three categories — definite wins, definite losses and toss-ups. Most of the conference games will in the toss-up category, especially ones on the road. This preview will offer thoughts on each team and if there’s any value either over or under.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook
(Over 7.5 wins -130...Under 7.5 wins -110)
Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5
Returning Starters: 10 (4 on offense, 6 on defense)
Offense: Outside of Kyle Pohl under center, there's a lot that needs to be rebuilt. Running back Jawon Chisholm is gone, but Donnell Alexander comes over from Colorado State to help out. The WRs need to sort themselves out while the offensive line returns three up front.
Defense: The Zips' defense was highly respectable last year, holding Penn State to 21 points while Pittsburgh could only manage 10 at home. A couple of players from Ohio State will be counted on in Se'Von Pittman and Jamal Marcus. The secondary is the area of worry.
Schedule: Things start out rough with a road game at Oklahoma on Sept. 5. The Zips follow it up with home games against Pittsburgh and Savannah State with a road game at UL Lafayette to close out the non-conference slate. They also have a pair of two game road trips in conference play.
Selection: The under is the play here. The non-conference slate is tough and Akron's road schedule in conference is as well. There are a lot of question marks and I think this group struggles with the adjustment.
(Over 5 wins -260...Under 5 wins +180)
Record Last Year: 8-6, 5-3
Returning Starters: 15 (10 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: This unit should roll this season. Travis Greene rushed for 12 touchdowns last year. The WR corps is pretty solid with Ronnie Moore, Ryan Burbrink and Roger Lewis returning. Lewis put up over 1,000 yards. Matt Johnson is back from a hip injury that sidelined him for most of 2014.
Defense: The defense allowed nearly 500 yards per game last year and returns just five starters. This unit struggled to get pressure on the quarterback then and will do so again this year.
Schedule: Big names litter the out-of-conference schedule. The Falcons take on Tennessee, Maryland, Memphis and Purdue before getting into their MAC slate. They have a stretch of three of four at home starting Oct. 10.
Selection: The over is the play, but not at this number. The best play in Bowling Green games this season may be the over although Vegas is going to post them real high.
(Over 5.5 wins +140...Under 5.5 wins -180)
Record Last Year: 5-6, 3-4
Returning Starters: 9 (6 on offense, 3 on defense)
Offense: The right pieces are back to make this a good offense again in 2015. Joe Licata is under center with Anthone Taylor back as well. The running back put up 1,403 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. The offensive line brings back both tackles, but the middle will be vulnerable.
Defense: The front line returns no one from last year with the secondary having to replace everyone but Boise Ross. Last year's unit allowed 31.5 points per game and that was a veteran bunch. This year's group could be just as rough.
Schedule: The team gets a virtual layup with Albany to start before road games at Penn State and Florida Atlantic. September closes out with a home game versus Nevada. The team alternates home and road matchups in conference.
Selection: The under is the play here. I don't think the offense is good enough to overcome the defense. I'll say this, if a few things break the right way, you could make a case for the over.
(Over 4.5 wins EVEN...Under 4.5 wins -140)
Record Last Year: 2-9, 1-6
Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: The offensive numbers last year were pretty ugly. The good thing is that this roster is a year older and should improve. Colin Reardon is under center with the running back duo of Trayion Durham and Nick Holley behind him. The WRs are solid with Kris White and Ernest Calhoun returning. If Reardon can cut down the turnovers, this group should be better.
Defense: It was hard to pass on the Golden Flashes last year, although teams didn't need to because of an awful rush defense. The team returns its top 11 tacklers from 2014 so there is some continuity. This group is led by Nick Holley's 137 tackles from his safety spot.
Schedule: Kent State has road games at Minnesota and Illinois to go with home contests against Delaware State and Marshall. If the Golden Flashes can somehow get two wins out of that group, they've got three of their next five at home.
Selection: Slight lean to the over although I don't love the pick. Kent State has some opportunities at home to pad its win total. The Golden Flashes will need to as they probably will lose every game on the road.
(Over 4 wins -110...Under 4 wins -130)
Record Last Year: 2-10, 2-6
Returning Starters: 11 (3 on offense, 8 on defense)
Offense: There was a light at the end of the tunnel last year, as Miami (Ohio) finished the season with 48 points in its last two games. Drew Kummer is a contender for the starting QB job, but he threw just 10 passes last year. There's not a lot around him with just 261 rushing yards returning from last season.
Defense: This side of the ball has a lot back despite losing standout CB Quinten Rollins. The whole front line returns as well as two linebackers and two other corners. Bryson Albright led the team with six sacks.
Schedule: The Redhawks host Presbyterian and Cincinnati while playing road games at Wisconsin and Western Kentucky. They finish out the year with three of four at home.
Selection: Small lean to the under. It doesn't look that great for Miami (Ohio) schedule-wise, but it does get three straight at home in October and November. However, this team will not score enough leaving their defense out to dry.
(Over 5 wins -140...Under 5 wins EVEN)
Record Last Year: 6-6, 4-4
Returning Starters: 16 (9 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Almost all of the important pieces are back for the Bobcats. They need to figure out the QB position with JD Sprague and Derrius Vick. Whomever is under center gets the whole offensive line back as well as WRs Sebastian Smith and Brendan Cope.
Defense: Ohio was 40th in the country in scoring defense, allowing 24.8 points per game. This defense is led by Quentin Poling, who had 89 tackles and five sacks last season. The Bobcats return all of their LBs and a few defensive ends. This veteran group has potential.
Schedule: The Bobcats have an interesting array of non-conference opponents, taking on Marshall and SE Louisiana at home while playing at Idaho and Minnesota. They have two groups of two home games in a row and one two-game road trip as well.
Selection: Love the over for Ohio. Tons of returnees plus great coaching in Frank Solich. The schedule breaks nicely and I think the over hits comfortably.
(Over 4.5 wins -185...Under 4.5 wins +145)
Record Last Year: 3-9, 3-5
Returning Starters: 18 (9 on offense, 9 on defense)
Offense: Blake Frohnapfel threw for 23 touchdowns last year and figures to put up similar numbers this year. Tajae Sharpe is an underrated WR who had 85 receptions. The Minutemen return their whole offensive line. Head coach Mark Whipple has done wonders for this side of the ball.
Defense: UMass' defense left a lot to be desired last year, but it returns the majority of that group this season. Jovan Santos-Knox had 143 tackles. He's joined potentially by seven other seniors on this side of the ball.
Schedule: Temple and FIU are the team's non-conference home games with road challenges at Colorado and Notre Dame. UMass has three home contests out of five in October.
Selection: The over is the play for UMass. The Minutemen will be a factor in the MAC East race and if you are feeling daring, you could throw a little something on them to win this division and make the MAC title game.
Ball State Cardinals
(Over 7 wins +120...Under 7 wins -160)
Record Last Year: 5-7, 4-4
Returning Starters: 17 (10 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Jack Milas is back at QB where he figures to start after Ozzie Mann left the program. The good thing is that Ball State will be able to throw to Jordan Williams and KeVonn Mabon out wide. Filling departed running back Jahwan Edwards' shoes will be tough though. Whomever breaks away at RB will have the entire offensive line back.
Defense: This group held Iowa to 17 points last year. The front seven figures to be good with all but one player back. That means the Cardinals will need to get pressure on the QB and make things easier for a younger secondary. Hopefully Dae'Shaun Hurley is 100 percent healthy after tearing his ACL last year.
Schedule: Thank goodness for a home opener against VMI because there are three straight road games after that - Texas A&M, Eastern Michigan and Northwestern. The final non-MAC game comes Oct. 17 when Ball State hosts Georgia State. That contest is part of a stretch that has the Cardinals playing four out of five at home.
Selection: I think this is a good number. Several scenarios give me seven wins for this team. The offense will be fun to watch if Milas figures things out.
(Over 4 wins -150...Under 4 wins +110)
Record Last Year: 7-6, 5-3
Returning Starters: 10 (5 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: Cooper Rush is back under center, but he will be without Titus Davis, who was a big time target for him. The good thing is that the running back position is stacked with Devon Spalding and Martez Walker. It will be interesting to see what new offensive coordinator Morris Watts has planned for the Chippewas' attack.
Defense: The lasting memory of this unit is the shootout in the Bahamas Bowl with Western Kentucky. The front line is almost intact, as the defense will be changing from a 4-2-5 alignment to a 4-3. None of last year's starters at linebacker are back.
Schedule: Things start out fast with home games against Oklahoma State and Monmouth before road tilts at Syracuse and Michigan State. Three of Central Michigan's five games in October are on the road.
Selection: Four wins seems about right for CMU. There will be some growing pains with this new coaching staff.
(Over 1.5 wins -185...Under 1.5 wins +145)
Record Last Year: 2-10, 1-7
Returning Starters: 12 (5 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Yikes, it was a revolving door at quarterback last year. Three different players were under center and none were that great. Reginald Ball figures to get the start for the Eagles. He'll have Dustin Creel and Kris Strange back at WR. The offensive line has just two starters returning.
Defense: This group finished out 2014 allowing 38 points or more in four straight. Eastern Michigan returns seven defensive starters, led by Pat O'Connor and his 7.5 sacks. This side will need drastic improvement for any success.
Schedule: The season opens up at home against Old Dominion, which is a possibly winnable game. Eastern Michigan also gets Army at home with road games at LSU and Wyoming to round out the non-conference slate. Four of the last six are on the road, when this team will probably be ready for the season to end.
Selection: Lowest total on the board and I think the over is the right side. If Eastern Michigan doesn't beat Old Dominion or Army in September than the Eagles may not beat anyone.
(Over 8.5 wins +120...Under 8.5 wins -160)
Record Last Year: 11-3, 7-1
Returning Starters: 14 (6 on offense, 8 on defense)
Offense: This team changes personnel and keeps on rolling. Drew Hare had 18 passing touchdowns to go with eight rushing scores. Running back Cameron Stingily is gone, but Joel Bouagnon returns in the backfield. The WR corps is a mixed bag of size and speed.
Defense: The secondary should lead the way for the Huskies. Paris Logan had three interceptions and he's joined by Anthony Brooks at the other corner spot. Safety Marlon Moore had 99 tackles last year.
Schedule: The Huskies host UNLV and Murray State before the fun begins with road games at Ohio State and Boston College. The big rivalry matchup with Toledo is on the road on Nov. 3, in between contests with Eastern Michigan and Buffalo.
Selection: I'm going under on Northern Illinois, but if you are looking for value, you can take the over. This is a team certainly capable of winning in Chestnut Hill against Boston College. That's going to be a deciding game for a lot of folks when they look at the Huskies.
(Over 7 wins -140...Under 7 wins EVEN)
Record Last Year: 9-4, 7-1
Returning Starters: 12 (4 on offense, 8 on defense)
Offense: The Rockets figure to take a step back on this side of the ball. Phillip Ely and Logan Woodside are back at QB, but outside of running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Alonzo Russell, there isn't much else. The whole offensive line needs to be replaced.
Defense: Orion Jones is back for a defense that will have its front line intact. Not a single starting linebacker returns while the secondary is almost intact. Toledo benefited from UAB's temporary demise with the addition of Rolan Milligan.
Schedule: It's a home-friendly start to the year with games against Stony Brook, Iowa State and Arkansas State. The Rockets do play at Arkansas on Sept. 12. The MAC slate is very manageable.
Selection: I like the under for the Rockets. They have several tough road games and we predict Northern Illinois gets them at home in November.
Western Michigan Broncos
(Over 8 wins -120...Under 8 wins -120)
Record Last Year: 8-5, 6-2
Returning Starters: 16 (9 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: The best offense in the MAC West could be in Kalamazoo. Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis are a tough WR pairing while Jarvion Franklin is back at RB. Franklin had 24 rushing touchdowns and that was even with teams preparing for him. Quarterback Zach Terrell did just enough to let his weapons roll.
Defense: The Broncs are led by Grant DePalma and his 102 tackles. The secondary has some holes to fill, but Ronald Zamort is a good place to start.
Schedule: Western Michigan gets home games with Michigan State and Murray State to go with tilts at Georgia Southern and Ohio State. It's a rough close to the year with road matchups at fellow MAC West contenders Northern Illinois and Toledo.
Selection: I lean to the under in this one. The talent is there, but this is a tough schedule, especially since P.J. Fleck has yet to beat Norther Illinois or Toledo in his short coaching career.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.