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MAC Football 2019 Predictions

Nathan Rourke, Ohio Bobcats Football

Nathan Rourke, Ohio Bobcats Football

The MAC hasn’t produced a back-to-back conference champion since 2011-12 and four different programs have claimed the league title over the last four years. According to Athlon’s 2019 MAC predictions, both streaks will extend another season.

Ohio is a heavy favorite in the East Division. Coach Frank Solich’s team is led by the MAC’s top quarterback in senior Nathan Rourke, and his ability to hurt defenses through the air or on the ground will help ease the transition at the skill positions following the departure of running back A.J. Ouellette and receiver Papi White. The Bobcats allowed only 24.6 points a game last fall and should rank among the MAC’s top defenses with seven starters back.

Buffalo set a new program record with 10 victories last season, but coach Lance Leipold’s team brings back only seven starters. Quarterback Tyree Jackson, standout receiver Anthony Johnson and All-MAC linebacker Khalil Hodge are just a few of the names that must be replaced. The Bulls can lean heavily on a standout line and ground game to ease the transition on offense. Despite the massive turnover on defense, this unit may not slip too far on the stat sheet. Miami (Ohio) is Athlon’s pick to finish third in the MAC East, but coach Chuck Martin’s team returns virtually no experience at quarterback and must replace standout linebacker Brad Koenig. If the RedHawks struggle to find an answer under center, Kent State could surprise in the East. Coach Sean Lewis’ team showed improvement last fall and is poised for another step forward thanks to the return of eight starters on offense. Akron and Bowling Green are both breaking in new coaches this year, so a transition season is expected. The Falcons suffered a setback after quarterback Jarret Doege decided to transfer in May.

Toledo and Western Michigan lead the way in Athlon’s MAC predictions for the West Division. However, Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois aren’t far behind. The Rockets have to restock at receiver and continue to improve on defense, but coach Jason Candle’s team gets both Western Michigan and Northern Illinois at home this fall. The Broncos bring back 17 starters, including quarterback Jon Wassink, wide receiver/cornerback D’Wayne Eskridge and lineman Luke Juriga. Coach Tim Lester’s team got some unexpected news this offseason with the transfer of receiver Jayden Reed. However, the cupboard isn’t bare at receiver, and running back LeVante Bellamy is one of the MAC’s top playmakers. A defense that is under the direction of a new coordinator (Lou Esposito) has to improve after giving up 34.5 points a game last fall.

Northern Illinois is the defending MAC champion, but this program enters 2019 with question marks on both sides of the ball. In addition to a tough schedule and a new coach (Thomas Hammock), the Huskies need more production out of an offense that averaged only 20.1 points a game last season and must replace All-America defensive end Sutton Smith. Eastern Michigan also suffered some key losses on defense, especially up front with Maxx Crosby departing for the NFL. Senior quarterback Mike Glass is a breakout candidate, and coach Chris Creighton will patch the personnel concerns on both sides of the ball to keep this team in the hunt for a bowl.

Ball State is an intriguing sleeper candidate in the West Division. Coach Mike Neu is feeling pressure to win after recording 10 victories over the last three years, but the Cardinals bring back 18 starters and plenty of experience. Former Florida and Colorado State coach Jim McElwain inherited a rebuilding project at Central Michigan. The Chippewas struggled mightily on offense (15.0 ppg) last fall and are likely to turn to Houston (and former Tennessee) transfer Quinten Dormady under center. McElwain also has holes at every level to fill on defense.

MAC 2019 Unit Rankings

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MAC Football 2019 Predictions

MAC 2019 Superlatives and Season Predictions

Offensive POY

Pick by Steven Lassan: Nathan Rourke, QB, Ohio

Pick by Mitch Light: Nathan Rourke, QB, Ohio

Pick by Mark Ross: Nathan Rourke, QB, Ohio

Defensive POY

Pick by Steven Lassan: Antonio Jones-Davis, LB, Northern Illinois

Pick by Mitch Light: Alvin Davis, S, Akron

Pick by Mark Ross: Alvin Davis, S, Akron

Coach of the Year

Pick by Steven Lassan: Frank Solich, Ohio

Pick by Mitch Light: Frank Solich, Ohio

Pick by Mark Ross: Jason Candle, Toledo

Coach on the Hot Seat

Pick by Steven Lassan: Mike Neu, Ball State

Pick by Mitch Light: Mike Neu, Ball State

Pick by Mark Ross: Mike Neu, Ball State

Top Freshman

Pick by Steven Lassan: O'Shaan Allison, RB, Ohio

Pick by Mitch Light: Peter Hayes-Patrick, RB, Akron

Pick by Mark Ross: Peter Hayes-Patrick, RB, Akron

Top Newcomer

Pick by Steven Lassan: Quinten Dormady, QB, Central Michigan

Pick by Mitch Light: Quinten Dormady, QB, Central Michigan

Pick by Mark Ross: Quinten Dormady, QB, Central Michigan

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Sleeper Team

Pick by Steven Lassan: Eastern Michigan

Pick by Mitch Light: Eastern Michigan

Pick by Mark Ross: Northern Illinois

Key Position to Watch

Pick by Steven Lassan: Western Michigan DBs

Pick by Mitch Light: Buffalo QB

Pick by Mark Ross: ToledoWRs

Best Coordinator Hire

Pick by Steven Lassan: Eric Eidsness, OC, Northern Illinois

Pick by Mitch Light: Eric Eidsness, OC, Northern Illinois

Pick by Mark Ross: Terry Malone, OC, Bowling Green

Hardest Team to Evaluate

Pick by Steven Lassan: NorthernIllinois

Pick by Mitch Light: Buffalo

Pick by Mark Ross: CentralMichigan

Coach on the Rise

Pick by Steven Lassan: Jason Candle, HC, Toledo

Pick by Mitch Light: Sean Lewis, HC, Kent State

Pick by Mark Ross: Lance Leipold, HC, Buffalo

Must-See Game

Pick by Steven Lassan: Western Michigan at Toledo

Pick by Mitch Light: Western Michigan at Toledo

Pick by Mark Ross: Western Michigan at Toledo

Breakout Player

Pick by Steven Lassan: Mike Glass, QB, Eastern Michigan

Pick by Mitch Light: Mike Glass, QB, Eastern Michigan

Pick by Mark Ross: Jon Wassink, QB, Western Michigan

Comeback Player

Pick by Steven Lassan: Mitchell Guadagni, QB, Toledo

Pick by Mitch Light: David Konowalski, DE, Bowling Green

Pick by Mark Ross: Jon Wassink, QB, Western Michigan

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