The MAC gets quirky with its schedule in 2017 with not a single Saturday game in the entire month of November. The conference membership will play all of its games Tuesday through Friday in the final month of the season. Akron and Buffalo meet in Akron on Saturday, October 28. The rest of the MAC plays their final Saturday game on October 21.
Our 2016 Season Preview successfully picked Western Michigan to win the MAC championship. The Broncos had a remarkable year that ultimately landed them in the Cotton Bowl where their undefeated campaign came to an end with a 24-16 loss to Wisconsin. Just 4 days after that game, Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck left the school to accept the same position at Minnesota.
The Broncos are the only MAC school that will open the 2017 season with a new man in charge. WMU turned to former star QB Tim Lester as Fleck's replacement. From 1996-99, the school sports hall-of-fame member (inducted 2011) passed for 11,299 yards and 89 touchdowns while setting 17 school records.
Even with the change at the top, WMU will still be one of the top contenders for another West division title. According to the Congrove Computer Rankings at collegefootballpoll.com, the Broncos will be in a tight race with Toledo and Eastern Michigan, but the Rockets have the most favorable path as they get EMU and WMU at home.
It is truly astonishing that Eastern Michigan is even in the hunt for the conference title. Until last season, the Eagles had made just one bowl appearance and that came in 1987, the same year they won their only MAC Championship. Also consider that 2016 was Eastern Michigan's first winning campaign since 1995.
The East division forecast finds Miami (O) as a top contender. Last year, the RedHawks went bowling for the first time since 2010 after reversing an 0-6 start with a 6-0 finish. This year, they are part of a projected 3-way tie for the division title with Ohio and Akron. The battle is so close that all 3 schools are picked to go 5-3 in MAC play, 1-1 vs. each other and 4-1 in division play. The Bobcats emerge as the division representative after going deep into the tie-breaking procedures, eventually claiming a championship game berth because of their projected performance against the better teams in the other division.
In the end, Toledo is favored by 8.57 points to beat Ohio in the MAC Championship game on December 2 in Detroit.
Bowling Green and Northern Illinois experienced unusual down years in 2016. The Falcons were picked to win the East but finished 4-8 overall and tied for 3rd. In the West, Northern Illinois stumbled to 5-7 and saw its 6-year division champion streak come to an end. Their 2017 expectations aren't any better.
*-Tie-breakers: Ohio, Miami, Akron go 1-1 vs. each other, thus Ohio advances after deep dive into tie-breaking procedures. Miami beats Akron.
*-Tie-breakers: Central Michigan beats Northern Illinois