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Examining the Over/Under 2016 Win Totals for the Mid-American Conference

Joel Bouagnon

Joel Bouagnon

The MAC has turned into quite the brand and a lot of it comes from the wild conference games that can be seen on almost any day of the week during the college football season. Last year the conference registered only three bowl wins in seven opportunities. There should be plenty of offense once again in 2016.

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Related: MAC Football 2016 Predictions

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 South Point Casino

MAC East

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Akron Zips

(Over 5 wins +105...Under 5 wins -125)

Record Last Year: 8-5, 5-3

Returning Starters: 6 (2 on offense, 4 on defense)

Offense:The Zips don't return much, but they dipped into the transfer market to help fix that. Warren Ball comes over from Ohio State. Quarterback Thomas Woodson will have former Utah State Aggie wide receiver/return specialist JoJo Natson to throw to. The real issue is up front where Akron has to replace all five starters.

Defense: Jamal Marcus and Se'Von Pittman are solid bookend defensive linemen to build around. DeAndre Scott had six interceptions last year. This group had the third-ranked rushing defense last year, allowing just 92.9 yards per game.

Schedule: Akron hosts VMI before playing at Wisconsin and Marshall. The Zips close out non-conference play at home against Appalachian State. They finish out with two of their final three at home, although Toledo and Bowling Green are the opponents.

Selection:I think five is about right although I tend to lean to the under. The offense will need time to gel while the defense will take a step back from it's successful stint last season.

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Bowling Green Falcons

(Over 7 wins -125...Under 7 wins +105)

Record Last Year: 10-4, 7-1

Returning Starters: 10 (4 on offense, 6 on defense)

Offense: This team was fun to watch last year. They were the sixth-ranked scoring offense because of a ton of returnees and talent. This year that's not the case as former head coach Dino Babers is now at Syracuse while expected starting quarterback James Knapke attempted just 20 passes all of last season. The only stud receiver that's back is Ronnie Moore while Fred Coppet will get the carries.

Defense: After allowing nearly 500 yards per game in 2014, this side of the ball improved slightly. Linebackers Austin Valdez and Trenton Greene each are back and they figure to be around the ball after making 271 tackles combined in 2015.

Schedule: The Falcons play at Memphis and Ohio State to go with home matchups against North Dakota and Middle Tennessee. They also have four road games over five weeks from Oct. 8 to Nov. 9.

Selection: Slight lean to the under. Bowling Green gets the better MAC teams on the road and I'm not ready to say this defense will get a stop when it needs to. Even with the coaching change and all of the personnel losses these Falcons should still be fun to watch though.

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Buffalo Bulls

(Over 5 wins -105...Under 5 wins -115)

Record Last Year: 5-7, 3-5

Returning Starters: 10 (2 on offense, 8 on defense)

Offense: There's a lot to rebuild here with the returnees coming on the offensive line. Tyree Jackson and Grant Rohach will battle for the QB job as Chris Merchant decided to transfer. This side of the ball will struggle with all the youth and inexperience.

Defense: The good thing is that coordinator Brian Borland's bunch will be improved. The front four is back along with Brandon Berry at linebacker. Cornerback Boise Ross was eighth in the country last year in passes defended.

Schedule: Albany opens things up again before contests at Nevada, home against Army and at Boston College. The toughest MAC games are on the road – at Northern Illinois, Ohio, Western Michigan and Bowling Green.

Selection: Five is a good number, but the lean is to the under. Buffalo should get two wins out of conference, but the Bulls could struggle with a lackluster offense in the high-powered MAC.

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Kent State Golden Flashes

(Over 4.5 wins -125...Under 4.5 wins +105)

Record Last Year: 3-9, 2-6

Returning Starters: 17 (9 on offense, 8 on defense)

Offense: The pieces are in place here for this team to take a step up from last year's 13.1 points per game. George Bollas and Colin Reardon are back along with Nick Holley and Johnny Woods. The offensive line is pretty much intact. 

Defense: This side of the ball was very good, allowing just over 350 yards per game. Nate Holley led the team with 141 tackles from his safety spot. End Terrence Waugh and cornerback Demetrius Monday also are back. There's a lot to like about Kent State's defense.

Schedule: The Golden Flashes play at Penn State and Alabama. They also host North Carolina A&T and Monmouth so it balances out. Kent State's toughest stretch is three of four on the road in October.

Selection: Lean to the over here as this team is going to be better on offense and that'll with pair nicely with a pretty good defense. The Golden Flashes might even steal one at home against Northern Illinois, Western Michigan or Ohio.

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Miami RedHawks

(Over 4 wins -125...Under 4 wins +105)

Record Last Year: 3-9, 2-6

Returning Starters: 13 (7 on offense, 6 on defense)

Offense: Good news, bad news here as Miami returns a bunch of players, but it's from a group that scored just 17.9 points per game in 2015. Quarterback Billy Bahl needs to cut down on the turnovers after 13 interceptions last year. He has an experienced WR group as well as a veteran OL.

Defense: The RedHawks’ defense wasn't very good last year. J.T. Jones is back with his 10 sacks as well as Paul Moses at linebacker. The secondary is pretty experienced with mostly juniors and seniors.

Schedule: Miami finishes with three of its final five on the road. The RedHawks play at Iowa and Cincinnati while hosting Eastern Illinois and Western Kentucky.

Selection: Four is a good number although I lean under here. The MAC East is filled with a ton of bad teams so it's hard to sort out which is going to have a good season. Offense figures to be an issue for the RedHawks once again in 2016.

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Ohio Bobcats

(Over 7.5 wins +120...Under 7.5 wins -140)

Record Last Year: 8-5, 5-3

Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)

Offense: There’s some uncertainty at quarterback with J.D. Sprague coming off of offseason shoulder surgery. The team's top three receivers are back along with A.J. Ouellette at running back. Sprague has plenty of experience under center, but the shoulder is a concern.

Defense: I'm a fan of linebacker Quentin Poling, who could wind up the MAC’s defensive player of the year. Thankfully there's talent in the front seven because the secondary could be the weak point.

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Schedule: Road games at Kansas and Tennessee are sandwiched by home dates with Texas State and Gardner-Webb. Ohio plays three of its final five on the road. 

Selection: The money move is right as the under is the play here. Head coach Frank Solich has done great things for Ohio, but he's got holes in certain places that might be tough to overcome.

MAC West

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Ball State Cardinals

(Over 4.5 wins -110...Under 4.5 wins -110)

Record Last Year: 3-9, 2-6

Returning Starters: 14 (5 on offense, 9 on defense)

Offense: Quarterback Riley Neal is back under center and he figures to be busy as the team installs more offensive principles like the Saints use in the NFL with former New Orleans assistant and Ball State quarterback Mike Neu returning to take over at his alma mater. Wide receivers KeVonn Mabon and Corey Lacanaria will be asked to replace the production of the departed Jordan Williams. The offensive line could take time to come together with only one returning starter.

Defense: New coordinator Tim Daoust gets the task to try and improve one of the worst defenses in the FBS last year. Linebacker Sean Wiggins and end Joshua Posley were All-MAC players last season. The secondary returns largely intact so things should start to look up in Muncie.

Schedule: The Cardinals play three of their first four on the road, but they get three straight MAC games at home later on. The non-MAC opponents are at Georgia State, at Indiana followed by Eastern Kentucky at home then at Florida Atlantic.

Selection: I know it seems like a pattern here, but the under is the way to go. The Cardinals’ defense will hold this team back, plus the fact that they play in the stronger division.

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Central Michigan Chippewas

(Over 7 wins -135...Under 7 wins +115)

Record Last Year: 7-6, 6-2

Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)

Offense: Quarterback Cooper Rush is back for his senior season along with running back Devon Spalding and wide receivers Jesse Kroll and Mark Chapman. The offensive line will be the key especially if the Chippewas can figure out the left side.

Defense: There's a lot to like here even though the front line is relatively new. Linebacker Malik Fountain and safety Tony Anneese are two veteran presences. Special teams also should be solid.

Schedule: Central Michigan hosts Presbyterian and UNLV as well as playing at Oklahoma State and Virginia for its non-conference slate. In MACtion, the Chippewas will travel to Northern Illinois and Toledo in back-to-back weeks in the middle of October.

Selection: I like the over. Rush is one of the best QBs in the conference and the right players are back on defense to make bowl eligibility an almost certainty.

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Eastern Michigan Eagles

(Over 3.5 wins EVEN...Under 3.5 wins -120)

Record Last Year: 1-11, 0-8

Returning Starters: 15 (7 on offense, 8 on defense)

Offense: Brogan Roback was the best QB the Eagles had last year and he's back. The offensive line should be strong with everyone back, but the WR group is relatively new. Eastern Michigan needs running back Shaq Vann to be solid in the backfield.

Defense: This side of the ball allowed more than 300 yards rushing per game in 2015. Sure the Eagles have plenty of returnees, but will any of them get better? Coordinator Neal Neathery comes over from UTSA and plans to try a 4-2-5 alignment.

Schedule: The Eagles host Mississippi Valley State before road tilts against Missouri and Charlotte. Eastern Michigan then gets Wyoming at home before three straight against the better MAC teams.

Selection: There are enough winnable games to go over this total, but I just don't know if this defense can make stops when it matters. Head coach Chris Creighton continues to have his work cut out for him at arguably the toughest job in FBS.

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Northern Illinois Huskies

(Over 8.5 wins -105...Under 8.5 wins -115)

Record Last Year: 8-6, 6-2

Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)

Offense: Quarterback Drew Hare, RB Joel Bouagnon and WR Kenny Golladay are the senior leaders here. The Huskies scored more than 30 points per game last season and could approach that again in 2016.

Defense: The defense was mediocre last year although the Huskies did hold Ohio State to 20 points in September. The front seven has some experience back and with some health, this unit should be fine.

Schedule: Northern Illinois gets its away games in groups with a pair of back-to-backs and a finishing stretch of three outside of DeKalb. The good thing for the Huskies is three straight home games over a span that stretches from Oct. 15 to Nov. 1.

Selection: Only a lean to the over. There are some toss-up games that could go either way. There's a winning pedigree here which makes me think they can pull out close games.

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Toledo Rockets

(Over 7 wins -125...Under 7 wins +105)

Record Last Year: 10-2, 6-2

Returning Starters: 11 (7 on offense, 4 on defense)

Offense: New head coach Jason Candle takes over for Matt Campbell (Iowa State) in Toledo and he's got running back Kareem Hunt to rely on. Hunt had 12 rushing touchdowns last year. Logan Woodside is back under center with Corey Jones and Cody Thompson out wide.

Defense: Getting pressure will be an issue for Toledo with just defensive tackle Treyvon Hester returning up front. The Rockets were porous against the pass and could repeat that in 2016 with safety DeJuan Rogers being the only returnee in the secondary.

Schedule: The Rockets play three of their first five on the road before three straight at home. In non-conference action, they get Maine and Fresno State in the Glass Bowl while travelling to Arkansas State and BYU. Overall, they play just five true road games.

Selection: I like the over. The offense will be near the top of the conference in a bunch of categories. If the defense can play just a bit better Toledo could end up taking the MAC West.

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Western Michigan Broncos

(Over 8.5 wins -130...Under 8.5 wins +110)

Record Last Year: 8-5, 6-2

Returning Starters: 13 (8 on offense, 5 on defense)

Offense: The run game figures to be the strength with both Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin back. It takes the pressure off quarterback Zach Terrell, who has his security blanket Corey Davis back. This offense will be fun to watch.

Defense: The Broncos’ defense may struggle at times. Safety Asantay Brown and linebacker Robert Spillane are the leaders. The secondary could feature a couple of freshmen.

Schedule: Western Michigan alternates road and home games until Nov. 8. The Broncos get Northern Illinois and Toledo at home, which could be big in deciding the eventual division champion in the West.

Selection: I like the over as I think Western Michigan will win this division. The offense will be tough to slow down in a conference that has a lot of shoddy defenses. It would be nice if head coach P.J. Fleck finally beat Northern Illinois though.

— 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.

(Joel Bouagnon photo courtesy of Scott Walstrom-NIU Photography)