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MAC Football: Examining Over/Under Win Totals for the 2021 Season

Justin Hall, Ball State Cardinals Football

Justin Hall and Ball State enter this season with a target on their backs after winning the MAC title in 2020.

The MAC may not necessarily be a conference at the forefront of people's minds, but when there's college football on a Tuesday night in November, you can thank them. There's a clear separation here with a couple of absolutely horrible teams while others will be trying to win the East and West divisions. There will always be an upset or two of a Power 5 team from this group. With that, let's take a look at the conference win totals and see if there's some value.

Note: Win total numbers courtesy of DraftKings.

MAC East

Akron (Over 2.5 +132...Under 2.6 -167)

Non-Conference Games: at Auburn, Temple, Bryant, at Ohio State
Schedule Notes: The Zips get a couple of tough early road trips, but there are some potential opportunities for victories as well. Akron has three of its final five at home, but the stretch includes Buffalo, Ball State, and Toledo.
QB Battle: Zach Gibson vs. Kato Nelson vs. DJ Irons
Roster Notes: There are plenty of starters back on offense, but it doesn't matter if the coaching staff doesn't figure out the QB situation. The offense was completely inconsistent last year; it scored 66 points in two games and 37 in the other four combined. Teon Dollard was a revelation in 2020, running for 666 yards and six touchdowns but his status with the team remains unclear. The defense has a lot of starters back as well, but has got to improve. Four of the Zips' six opponents last year scored 35 points or more.

Prediction: I'm certainly not taking the under and can't take the over because I'm not going to lean with this team in toss-up games.

Related: MAC Football 2021 Predictions

Bowling Green (Over 1.5 EVEN...Under -125)

Non-Conference Games: at Tennessee, South Alabama, Murray State, at Minnesota
Schedule Notes: Much like fellow bottom-dweller Akron, the Falcons have a mix of rough trips and potential win opportunities early. The Falcons also get the Zips at home on Oct. 9. Road trips to Buffalo and Miami (Ohio) could be very tough.
QB: Matt McDonald
Roster Notes: McDonald was brutal last year with one touchdown to six interceptions, but he's the best option under center. He won't have Quintin Morris, Julian Ortega-Jones, or Noah Massey to throw to and RB Andrew Clair transferred to Northwestern. Terion Stewart is the best skill-position player back, and he could be primed to break out. The Falcons saw three of their top four tacklers transfer out, so it could be a long year on defense too.

Prediction: Much like Akron, I'm not getting involved here. I'll say this... whoever you think is going to win the Akron-Bowling Green game on Oct. 9, you probably want to take their team total over.

Buffalo (Over 7.5 +110...Under 7.5 -134)

Non-Conference Games: Wagner, at Nebraska, Coastal Carolina, at Old Dominion
Schedule Notes: The Bulls alternate home and road contests all season long. The visit from Coastal Carolina on Sept. 18 will be a good measuring stick to see if Buffalo can hang with the good teams. Three of the Bull's final five opponents are Akron, Bowling Green, and Northern Illinois.
QB: Kyle Vantrease
Roster Notes: The Bulls are in a state of transition following the late departure of former head coach Lance Leipold to Kansas and the exodus of players that followed. On offense, Jaret Patterson is a member of the Washington Football Team, so it's Kevin Marks Jr.' show in the backfield, and some argue he may be more talented. Antonio Nunn is gone at wide receiver, but Jovany Ruiz and Dominic Johnson aren't bad replacements. Vantrease may have to do more work this year after being a game manager in 2020. Buffalo's defense should be very good with the new coach (Maurice Linguist) being a defensive one. James Patterson and Kadofi Wright form a solid linebacker duo, while the secondary should be strong once again.

Prediction: I think the over is a solid bet here especially at this price.

Kent State (Over 5.5 -121...Under 5.5 -106)

Non-Conference Games: at Texas A&M, VMI, at Iowa, at Maryland
Schedule Notes: The key for the Golden Flashes is to not get too beat up with three road trips to Power 5 schools. Luckily, they start MAC play with two in a row at home before four of their next five on the road.
QB: Dustin Crum
Roster Notes: This offense should be fun once again, as #FlashFAST racked up the yardage last year in their short season. Crum was awesome last year and has everyone back, except one wide receiver who will be replaced by Syracuse transfer Nykeim Johnson. The three top running backs return, so this team should be rolling once again. The defense brings a lot back from the 2020 campaign, but also struggled mightily as a unit.

Prediction: I like the over here, as I think the Flashes get to at least .500 on the year.

Miami (Ohio) (Over 4.5 -159...Under 4.5 +125)

Non-Conference Games: at Cincinnati, at Minnesota, LIU, at Army West Point
Schedule Notes: Three early road trips will be tough for the RedHawks. Three of their final five are on the road, with two of those being Ball State and Kent State.
QB: Brett Gabbert
Roster Notes: The run game could be a bit of a question mark with the leading rusher gone and only two starters along the offensive line returning. Gabbert was pretty good last year and has almost everyone back out wide, including Jack Sorenson, who is as solid as they come. Plenty of starters return on defense from a group that struggled against Buffalo and Ball State but was good against Akron. The front seven is intact with the only losses coming in the secondary.

Prediction: The over is the play, but not at this price.

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Ohio (Over 6.5 -139...Under 6.5 +110)

Non-Conference Games: Syracuse, Duquesne, at Louisiana, at Northwestern
Schedule Notes: The Bobcats are only a 1.5-point underdog in Week 1 against the Orange, so Ohio has a chance for a fast start. In MAC play, the Bobcats host Kent State and Toledo while also traveling to Buffalo.
QB: Kurtis Rourke
Roster Notes: Frank Solich, the winningest head coach in MAC history, stepped down in July to focus on his health with associate head coach/offensive coordinator Tim Albin getting promoted. Rouke may start at quarterback, but former UNLV transfer Armani Rogers also will get his chance to play. The two formed a solid duo last season and both will be throwing to Isiah Cox at WR. The running back tandem of De'Montre Tuggle and O'Shaan Allison also is back so the offense is in good shape. The defense returns seven starters but defensive end Austin Conrad and linebacker Jared Dorsa will be tough to replace. The Bobcats registered just four sacks in three games last season.

Prediction: Six or seven wins are what I came up with.

MAC West

Ball State (Over 8 EVEN...Under 8 -125)

Non-Conference Games: Western Illinois, at Penn State, at Wyoming, Army West Point
Schedule Notes: The Cardinals have a stretch of four of five on the road, but the trips aren't that daunting as a group. They host Buffalo, Miami (Ohio) and Toledo in MAC play as well.
QB: Drew Plitt
Roster Notes: The offense should be really good once again with Plitt under center. He threw for 17 touchdowns to just six interceptions in 2020. Top targets Justin Hall and Yo'Heinz Tyler were tough to cover and return to this side of the ball. If there was a weakness, it was the ground game and Caleb Huntley is now trying to make an NFL roster. Last year the defense was good enough to make stops when it needed to. The linebackers are strong while Bryce Crosby is back in the secondary. We'll see how big of a loss Antonio Phillips is at cornerback.

Prediction: Eight is a solid number.

Central Michigan (Over 6.5 EVEN...Under 6.5 -125)

Non-Conference Games: at Missouri, Robert Morris, at LSU, FIU
Schedule Notes: The Chippewas host Toledo and Kent State while traveling to Ball State and Ohio. The non-conference slate presents an opportunity for a 2-2 start to the year.
QB Battle: Daniel Richardson vs. Washington transfer Jacob Sirmon
Roster Notes: If CMU figures out the QB situation, this offense will be good once again. Kalil Pimpleton, JaCorey Sullivan, and Dallas Dixon are all back along with the top three running backs, including Kobe Lewis and Lew Nichols III. The defense brings back 10 starters, but couldn't stop anyone outside of Northern Illinois. The linebackers are the team's strongest group.

Prediction: Slight lean to the under, as I come up with 5-6 wins.

Eastern Michigan (Over 6.5 -113...Under 6.5 -113)

Non-Conference Games: St. Francis (Pa.), at Wisconsin, at UMass, Texas State
Schedule Notes: A very weak group of non-conference opponents for the most part. The Eagles get Miami (Ohio), Ball State, and Ohio at home while traveling to Toledo as well.
QB Battle: Preston Hutchinson vs. Cincinnati transfer Ben Bryant
Roster Notes: The passing game should be very good with four of the top receivers back. Hutchinson should win this job, but we'll see what the former Bearcat can do when given the opportunity in practice. Defensively, there's plenty returning, but this unit allowed almost 500 yards per game in 2020. There are a lot of juniors and seniors, so the hope is that experience will win out.

Prediction: I come up with 6-7 wins.

Northern Illinois (Over 3.5 wins -134...Under 3.5 +107)

Non-Conference Games: at Georgia Tech, Wyoming, at Michigan, Maine
Schedule Notes: There aren't a ton of opportunities for wins on this slate with road trips to Toledo, Kent State, and Buffalo to go along with a home tilt against Ball State.
QB: Michigan State transfer Rocky Lombardi
Roster Notes: NIU had one of the youngest rosters in college football last year. Lombardi comes over from the Big Ten and has his top three wide receivers back. Harrison Waylee was impressive despite only scoring one touchdown. The defense has 10 starters back but few upperclassmen. The secondary should be very good with leading tackler Jordan Gandy returning.

Prediction: Three wins seem about right with a chance for a fourth.

Toledo (Over 8.5 -106...Under 8.5 -121)

Non-Conference Games: Norfolk State, at Notre Dame, Colorado State, at UMass
Schedule Notes: The Rockets' schedule is very manageable with an easy set of MAC home games and really only two tough road trips to Ball State and Ohio.
QB: Carter Bradley
Roster Notes: Eli Peters retiring from football means Bradley takes over at QB. After scoring a ton of points, the offense brings pretty much everyone back. Bryant Koback is a good running back with Bryce Mitchell, Isaiah Winstead, and Danzel McKinley-Lewis leading the way at WR. The defense is loaded with plenty of all-conference-caliber talent on all three levels. Toledo had only four interceptions in six games last season, so that needs to improve.

Prediction: I think the over is in play here, as the schedule sets up really nicely.

Western Michigan (Over 6 -106...Under 6 -118)

Non-Conference Games: at Michigan, Illinois State, at Pittsburgh, San Jose State
Schedule Notes: The Broncos have four MAC home games over the span of five weeks with Ball State and Kent State coming to Kalamazoo. They close out with two on the road, but it's trips to Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois.
QB: Kaleb Eleby
Roster Notes: Eleby was very good last year and has a lot of his weapons back outside of D'Wayne Eskridge, who is in the NFL. Jaylen Hall and Skyy Moore will try to replace Eskridge's production. The team's top three running backs are back, so there will be balance on offense. The Broncos' defense was fifth in the nation last season in tackles for a loss and 10 starters are back, including Ralph Holley and Ali Fayad. Linebacker Treshaun Hayward is not though, as the 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year transferred to Arizona this offseason.

Prediction: Six wins are a solid number.