Toledo pounded Akron 45-28 in last year's championship game to earn its first MAC title since 2004. It was also Toledo's first appearance in the championship game since 2004, and Akron's first since 2005. The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com predicted Toledo's title run, but had Ohio edging out Akron and Miami.
This season, the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com has two completely different combatants facing off in Detroit at the end of the season - Miami (O) and Northern Illinois - with NIU claiming the crown for the first time since 2014.
Last year, the RedHawks were 4th in the East and the Huskies tied for 2nd in the West. Miami finished strong with 3 straight wins to get to 6-6, only to be left out of the bowl season. The Huskies were 8-5, including a 36-14 loss to Duke in the Quick Lane Bowl.
Both division races will be tightly contested, and neither of last year's participants is out of the hunt. In the East, Akron joins Buffalo and Ohio in a trio of teams that are no more than 5 power points behind Miami. In the West, Toledo only finishes behind NIU because their head-to-head matchup is at DeKalb on November 7.
Kent State is the only MAC team that will begin the season with a new head coach as Sean Lewis takes over for Paul Haynes. Lewis served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of Syracuse for the last 2 seasons under Dino Babers. He also worked under Babers at Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois. Haynes was fired the day before Thanksgiving (November 23) following a 2-10 season and a 14-45 mark over 5 years at the school. He missed the first two games of 2017 while undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell was acting head coach during that period.
*-Tie-breaker: Ohio beats Buffalo.