The Mid-American Conference isn’t a powerful league in college football. The league doesn’t provide consistent, dominant teams at the national scale year in and year out like the American Athletic Conference has had with Houston and Central Florida. The MAC isn’t at that level, which is still a long shot at making it into the confused and overly-exclusive College Football Playoff.
It’s not so much about the four teams that are regarded as some of the best teams in the country, but it’s everybody else that deserves a shot. Open up the floor and let’s have some fun, which is why we’re watching sports in the first place.
By no means is Akron a football school. It took until Terry Bowden coaching there for four years before the Zips celebrated its first-ever, eight-win season in 2015. He’s tasted the SEC waters as an Auburn coach and he knows what it takes to build up a program like Akron, who had much less direction than, you know, an SEC powerhouse.
Getting Akron to two bowl games in his tenure is legendary by the program’s standards. It’s a celebration in their own rights, but in the grand scheme of things, Bowden, his coaching staff, his players, the athletic department, the fan base and undefeated season could all help the team’s resume out, but that would never be enough for just an honest shot the ultimate prize.
Teams in the MAC have typical schedules and typical goals. Get your money with non-conference road games, stay safe and go win a conference title. No matter how much teams thrive for more, in Bowden’s experience, that’s just a pipe dream.
“Nobody in the MAC is ever going to get in the final four,” Bowden told WJOX 94.5 in an interview on Monday, then confidently saying the College Football Playoff Committee would never pick a MAC team to be in the Playoff. “Right now, there’s not a mechanism for us to play for a National Championship. Now, if they would make it to eight teams … I think you might get mid-major level (teams) in there, but as long as it’s four teams, the Power Fives are going to control those four slots.”
Bowden unloosens his metaphorical tie a little bit more.
“I wish I could say it was different. I wish I could look my players in the eye and say, ‘Men, we’re playing for the National Championship.’ But in reality, we’re not.”
MAC teams are typically behind the pack in terms of strength of schedule. Even if teams schedule road trips to a Big Ten and an SEC school in one September and make a profit in the non-conference slate, the other two-thirds of any MAC team’s schedule is filled with other MAC teams — which is where teams struggle in the S.O.S. department.
Western Michigan went 13-0 just two seasons ago, but that didn’t stop two-loss Ohio State from making the Playoff as the No. 3 seed. Same thing with last year with undefeated UCF being slighted by the CFP with a two-loss Alabama team. (Alabama, of course, went on to win the National Championship, but UCF went on to be the champions of the people.)
It’s a small sample size, but it’s enough to know which side of the fence Bowden sits on with the Playoff entering its fifth year of existence.