(Screenshot via ESPN)
Before the season, the possibility of Toledo and Miami meeting up in the MAC Championship seemed unlikely. Toledo vs. Miami in Detroit still feels very unlikely to happen, but it’s not for the reasons I previously expected.
Toledo’s 2-2 in MAC play with losses to Bowling Green, which hasn’t happened since 2010, and Ball State, first time since 2013, and the Cardinals have won all of its MAC West games to be 3-1 to lead the division. Toledo did start MAC play out with a 31-24 home win over Western Michigan (3-2 MAC) and picked up another home win over EMU (1-4).
Miami’s 3-1 over in the East with a big rivalry coming up on Wednesday night — the only college football game going on during college football’s 150th birthday (ESPN2) — and is in a much better position to try to win its division than Toledo is for the West.
|Miami (4-4, 3-1 MAC)||Toledo (5-3, 2-2 MAC)|
|Week 11||at Ohio (4-4, 3-1 MAC)||vs. Kent State (3-5, 2-2 MAC)|
|Week 12||vs. BGSU (3-6, 2-3 MAC)||vs. NIU (3-6, 2-3 MAC)|
|Week 13||vs. Akron (0-9, 0-5 MAC)||at Buffalo (5-4, 3-2 MAC)|
|Week 14||at Ball State (4-4, 3-1 MAC)||at CMU (6-4, 4-2 MAC)|
For Miami to make it to Detroit, the RedHawks really need to beat Ohio for the second year in a row on Wednesday (would be Miami’s first winning streak in the series since 2000-2005), and could still survive if they lose one of the final three games on the schedule. Thankfully for Miami, two of the three are home games against two of the worst teams in the country. But if Miami doesn’t beat Ohio on Wednesday, then Miami will be 3-2 aiming for 6-2, and will be looking to see if the Bobcats (4-1 with win over Miami) can slip up at least twice in their final three games: home vs. Western Michigan, at Bowling Green, at Akron.
Toledo’s on winning the West certainly hasn’t improved a ton since dropping the Bowling Green and Ball State games, but Toledo’s undefeated at home this year with Kent State (tomorrow) and Northern Illinois (next Wednesday) still to come. But then it has to go to Buffalo and Central Michigan, which are also really tough teams to play when they’ve got home field. And it’s not like Toledo’s been playing well away from the Glass Bowl this season.
Still, Toledo needs to finish with a higher MAC record than Ball State, which means Toledo will have to see if Ball State can lose at least two of these next four games: at Western Michigan (tomorrow), home vs. Central Michigan, at Kent State, home vs. Miami. Two losses out of this would put Ball State at 5-3, and Toledo winning out would give the Rockets a 6-2 record. If Toledo and WMU both won out with Ball State dropping to 5-3, Toledo would win the tiebreaker over WMU for winning the head-to-head matchup.
Or if Toledo wanted to finish the regular season at 5-3 in MAC play ahead of everybody else at 4-4, that’d be a spectacle worth checking out too.
Those are the best ways for Miami and Toledo to make it to Detroit: a championship matchup we haven’t seen since 2004, when the MAC first started playing title games at Ford Field. It’d require a lot more chaos than one probably could’ve expected heading into the year, because it all starts with Miami being in the driver’s seat while its offense still averages fewer than five yards per play. (For reference, the 2017 Akron Zips averaged 4.9 yards per play.) And I didn’t think I’d say this in August, but wins at Buffalo and CMU would be very impressive for the Rockets at this point.
Ok, time for power rankings. There were only three games last week, and they were all bummers. Buffalo smacked EMU on the road. CMU defended its house against NIU. Bowling Green and Akron… lived up to the hype?
MAC Prospectus Power Rankings (thru Week 10)
3. Ball State
7. Buffalo (last week: 9)
8. Kent State (7)
9. EMU (8)
The only movement in my rankings happens in the 7-9 range, changing my list from Kent State-EMU-Buffalo to Buffalo-Kent State-EMU. This is because most of the teams at the top of the list were on bye, and play either tomorrow or Wednesday. CMU could’ve moved over Toledo, but a lot of how I feel about Toledo depends on whether or not Mitch Guadagni is healthy yet. CMU’s the only bowl-eligible team in the MAC right now, but it’s also the only team that didn’t have a bye week until just now, and has had a pretty easy schedule (all things considered from last year’s offense). CMU’s five wins better than last year with an entire month to go, but I’m not sold that it’s a better team than Toledo is right now, even with the health concerns at quarterback.
I’m not sold that Toledo will win at CMU in the season finale, either.
(h/t to @broncofitz for helping me think through Toledo’s MAC title hopes)