The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com have proven to be quite successful at predicting MAC champions. Over the last three years, the computer's preseason picks have accurately selected Northern Illinois (2018), Toledo (2017) and Western Michigan (2016). The computer has also predicted at least one of the two conference title game participants every year since 2014. So, who does the computer pick in 2019?
The answer is..... Western Michigan in a close battle with Ohio.
The Broncos are projected to claim the West division with records of 9-3 overall and 7-1 in the West division, while the Bobcats will go 10-2 overall and 8-0 in the MAC. The game would offer a revenge opportunity for Western Michigan, which is a projected loser at Ohio in the next-to-last game of the regular season.
The closest threat to Ohio in the East is last-year's division-winner, Buffalo. However, it's not much of a threat with the Bulls picked to go just 6-6 overall and 5-3 in the conference. Last year, Buffalo set school record marks of 7-1 in the MAC and 10-4 overall. Still, the season ended on sour note with losses in 3 of the last 4 games, including blowing 4th quarter leads in the MAC Championship game and the Dollar General Bowl.
There are a trio of teams picked to finish two games behind Western Michigan in pursuit of the West division crown. Among them are last year's MAC champions - Northern Illinois - along with Toledo and Eastern Michigan.
Northern Illinois is one of three MAC teams, along with Bowling Green and Central Michigan, that will be led by a new head coach in 2019. Former school running back Thomas Hammock was introduced on January 18 as the school's new head coach after Rod Carey was plucked away by Temple. Hammock had been the NFL Baltimore Ravens' running backs coach since 2014 and had previously held the same post at the collegiate level with Wisconsin, Minnesota, and his alma mater. As a player with the Huskies, Hammock had stellar seasons of 1,083 yards in 2000 and 1,096 yards in 2001. But he had to retire from playing at the start of the following season due to a heart-related condition.
Carey leaves quite a legacy behind at NIU. His teams were 52-30 over 6 seasons with 4 MAC Championship game appearances and two conference titles. He was 38-10 vs. conference foes.
Bowling Green named journeyman offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler its new head coach. 2018 was a dismal year for the Falcons. A 1-6 start led to the firing of Mike Jinks on October 14. His interim successor, Carl Pelini, went 1-4 over the final 5 games. Loeffler is a former Michigan Wolverine QB (1993-1996) who has held offensive coordinator or QB coach assistant positions at several major schools, most recently at Boston College since 2016. Prior to that, he spent 3 years with Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech and 1-year each at Auburn and Temple. Many analysts have called this the worst of the 25 new college football head coaching hires.
Meanwhile, the new man in charge at Central Michigan is former Florida head coach Jim McElwain. He replaces John Bonamego who was dismissed after the worst season in Chippewas' history (1-11 overall, and 0-8 MAC). This is McElwain's first head coaching gig since being fired by Florida after a 3-4 start in 2016. Overall, he was 22-12 with the Gators (2015-2017) after going 22-16 in his first head coaching job at Colorado State (2012-2014). He spent last season as the wide receivers coach at Michigan.
*-Tie-breaker: Kent State beats Bowling Green.
*-Tie-breaker: Toledo beats Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan; Northern Illinois beats Eastern Michigan.
*-Championship: Western Michigan over Ohio
First-place votes in parenthesis
1. Ohio (24), 144 points
2. Miami, 107 points
3. Buffalo, 100 points
4. Kent State, 62 points
5. Akron, 54 points
6. Bowling Green, 37 points
1.Toledo (15), 127 points
2.Western Michigan (5), 112 points
3.Northern Illinois (3), 103 points
4.Eastern Michigan, 83 points
5.Ball State, 43 points
6.Central Michigan (1), 36 points
Predicted Champion: Toledo