It appears that every team in the Mid-American Conference this season knows just what they are and where they belong. There are the cellar dweller teams that sometimes seem confused by the concept of gaining yards. There are the teams that may not play great defense, but they’ll put up more points than any other team and that’ll save every game for them. Then there are the ones in the middle of it all, not quite struggling, but not finding it easy to gain yards on offense or stop other teams from scoring. By this point of the season, all eyes are on the top of the conference. All eyes in the MAC belong on Northern Illinois.
The Huskies are now ranked 17 in the newest BCS rankings, and once again could become the BCS Busters. It would only be fitting that in the final year of the BCS, a mid-major team makes it to one of the major bowl games clearly overmatched but still deserving. This past weekend, the Huskies continued their undefeated season with a 59-20 victory over Eastern Michigan, and seem primed to steal the spotlight once again in BCS talk.
They weren’t the only MACtion this weekend, though. The Ohio Bobcats defeated ‘rival’ (do we still have to call them that?) Miami (OH) 41-16. Ball State defeated Akron 42-24 while Buffalo took a similar 41-21 victory over Kent State to allow both teams to continue their league dominance. There were a couple exciting matches too, for those who need something that comes down to the wire. Toledo managed a 28-25 victory over Bowling Green, and Western Michigan stole a 31-30 win over Massachusetts, but more on that later.
Offensive Player of the Week: Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois. It’s been a while since Lynch has earned this spot on the MAC Blog. He decided that this week would be his return, though. Completing 16 of 20 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns is a good start to that. It wasn’t just his great passing, though. If you remember, he was also a great runner back in the day, which was about three weeks ago. He still is apparently, taking 18 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown. Possibly the biggest play to get him here, though, was a trick-play he’s been asking for since he took over the Huskies offense. On a receiver-pass, Lynch pulled in a 17-yard reception for the touchdown, giving him six on the day and one scored in every possible way on the field.
Defensive Player of the Week: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo. It’s not often that you can say a linebacker has great hands, but Mack has been trying to prove it is possible. This weekend against Kent State, Mack pulled in his third interception of the season and returned it for 45 yards. Sadly, it was the first time he didn’t take it all the way to the house, but he’s still proven to have every necessary tool to be a great linebacker. He now has four pass deflections on the season, and after a sack in the contest also has seven sacks this season. He also tied his season-high with 10 tackles this weekend.
Goat of the Week: A.J. Doyle, QB, UMass. This isn’t to say that Doyle had a bad game. In fact, with a 72.1 QBR, it was actually a pretty great game. He managed to throw for one touchdown and produce nearly 200 yards of offense. However, when it came down to it, he couldn’t finish for the Minutemen. On a two-point conversion to go for the win rather than tie, Doyle sailed the pass over his receivers head, and his team was then unable to recover the onside kick to give him a chance to redeem himself.
Game of the Week: Western Michigan at UMass. It was only 22 seconds remaining when Doyle missed his receiver on the two-point conversion. All the way down to the final half minute, that sounds like an incredible game. It was highlight driven between two teams that at times seem lost. Western Michigan earned their first win of the season, and the first for their eccentric head coach P.J. Fleck. UMass was officially eliminated from bowl contention. Look, this had to happen eventually. At least it was exciting and entertaining, right Minutemen fans?
Game to Watch: Eastern Michigan at Toledo. This is a rough week for the MAC. There’s only three games of MACtion coming up this weekend. Northern Illinois will travel to Massachusetts and look to continue their dominant streak, and I don’t foresee an upset in that contest. Kent State takes on Akron, but both teams are 2-7, officially out of bowl contention, and are probably just looking forward to next season. That leaves this game, which could be interesting. Toledo barely pulled out the win over Bowling Green this weekend and could be on an emotional high. They’re 5-3, and a victory will clinch them bowl eligibility. On the flip side, Eastern Michigan is 1-7, but they’re playing with everything they’ve got and could manage an upset this weekend. It might be a fun game, or a blowout. Either way, you should get your money’s worth.