College football betting preview: MAC

By Tim Murray and Dave Tuley  (VSiN.com) 

July 28, 2022 08:01 PM
USATSI_16733156

The VSiN college football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 131 FBS teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.

Here are the team previews for the MAC:

AKRON

Joe Moorhead takes over the Zips program after the Tom Arth era came to a close nine games into the 2021 season. The Zips have not reached a bowl since 2017 and have won a combined three games over the last three seasons. Moorhead has a record of 52-25 as a head coach at Fordham and Mississippi State and most recently was the offensive coordinator at Oregon. Akron hiring Moorhead away from Oregon was one of the most impressive coaching moves of the offseason. He has the potential to lead Akron to new heights over the coming years, but 2022 will likely be a struggle.

Offense

The Zips were 119th in scoring offense last season and have to replace QB Zach Gibson, who transferred to Georgia Tech, and leading WR Konata Mumpfield, who transferred to Pitt. DJ Irons (296 rushing yards) will likely take over at quarterback, but Albany transfer Jeff Undercuffler could compete for the job. In 2019, Undercuffler threw 41 touchdown passes and helped lead Albany to the FCS playoffs. Running back Jonzell Norrils (573 yards, 3 TDs) returns and Akron added RB Cam Wiley from Minnesota. At wide receiver, the Zips were busy in the portal, adding Alex Adams (LSU), Shocky Jacques-Louis (Pitt) and Daniel George (Penn State). Jacques-Louis had over 1,000 yards receiving in 45 games at Pitt. Akron also added tight end TJ Banks from West Virginia. TE Tristian Brank had 25 receptions for 269 yards last season.

Defense

Defensively, Akron returns 16 of its 18 top tacklers. However, the Zips averaged a woeful 1.25 sacks per game last season. LB Bubba Arslanian returns after missing the final eight games last season because of injury. Arslanian had 43 tackles in the first four games. Akron added a couple of Power 5 transfers to the secondary, KJ Martin (West Virginia) and Cam Threatt (Mississippi State).

Outlook

Akron should open the season with a win over FCS St. Francis (Pa.) but has trips to Michigan State, Tennessee and Liberty to round out the nonconference schedule. If Moorhead can find the recipe to blend the transfers with returning players, Akron should surpass last season’s win total.

Pick: Over 2.5

-- Murray

BALL STATE 

We’re just one season removed from Ball State’s surprise 2020 MAC championship, but the Cardinals are back to being picked last in the West Division in several preseason publications. After overachieving in that one magical season, the Cardinals went 6-6 last year to be bowl-eligible, but a 51-20 loss to Georgia State in the Camellia Bowl left them with their seventh losing season in eight years. 

Offense

QB Drew Plitt is gone, with the undersized John Paddock (5-11, 196 pounds) his likely replacement. Paddock reportedly was mostly dinking and dunking short passes during the spring, so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to get the ball downfield in the fall. He does have some returning receivers to work with in Jayshon Jackson (69 catches) and Yo’Heinz Tyler (49). Running back Carson Steele (891 yards, 4.6 yards per carry) should take some pressure off Paddock, and the backs are also capable in the passing game. They’ll all operate behind a line that dealt with a lot of injuries last year, but the backups should benefit from the playing time and the line should be improved with the return of seniors Jaylen Turner and Joseph Boggs.

Defense

The defense didn’t fall off as badly as the offense last season, but it still allowed 28.4 points and 419.4 yards per game. It’s surprising that one of Ball State’s best games was against run-happy Army in a 28-16 victory, but the Cardinals ended up allowing 176.4 rushing yards per game (95th in the nation) overall and had a hard time getting their opponents off the field. DE Tavion Woodard (team-high five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss) and LB Clayton Coll (team-high 103 tackles) are back along with CB Amechi Uzodinma, but there isn’t much experience behind them.

Outlook

It doesn’t look like the offense will have enough firepower to overcome the deficiencies on defense. Ball State has a tough assignment with a trip to Tennessee for the Sept. 1 opener as the Cardinals are 32-point underdogs. They then jump right into the MAC schedule against Western Michigan. The Cardinals might pick up a win or two on the rest of their soft nonconference schedule (Murray State, Georgia Southern, UConn), but they’re likely to be underdogs in every MAC game, plus they don’t have the East Division’s worst teams (Akron, Bowling Green) on their schedule. It’s hard to see them being bowl-eligible as they’re likely to finish with a losing record for the eighth time in nine years. 

Pick: Under 5.5

-- Tuley

BOWLING GREEN

The Falcons stunned Minnesota 14-10 last September as 30.5-point underdogs en route to a four-win season. Bowling Green won a pair of MAC games (Buffalo, Ohio), and head coach Scot Loeffler is back for his fourth season. The Falcons return 17 starters and added a couple of key transfers. According to ESPN’s Bill Connolly, Bowling Green is No. 1 in FBS in returning production (95% on offense, 88% on defense).

Offense

QB Matt McDonald is back for a sixth season. McDonald passed for 2,555 and 12 touchdowns last season. McDonald’s top three targets, WR Austin Osborne, WR Tyrone Broden and TE Christian Sims, all return. The trio combined for 1,560 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. The Falcons added WR Odieu Hilaire, a transfer from Alabama A&M. Hilaire had 71 receptions for 918 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Arguably, the biggest addition was center Jakari Robinson from Memphis. He spent four seasons at Cincinnati before moving to Memphis.

Defense

Bowling Green brings back eight starters on defense, including DE Karl Brooks. Brooks had 7.5 sacks and was third-team All-MAC last season. Linebacker Darren Anders led the Falcons with 124 tackles and was a first-team All-MAC selection. Safety Jordan Anderson and CB Davon Ferguson are expected to lead the secondary with Georgia State transfer Chris Bacon.

Outlook

Bowling Green visits UCLA and Mississippi State in nonconference and hosts MAC rivals Kent State, Miami and Buffalo. The Falcons won a pair of MAC games last year and should exceed that this season. With a home game against FCS Eastern Kentucky, Bowling Green should surpass its win total.

Pick: Over 3.5

-- Murray

BUFFALO

After a disappointing 2021 season, Maurice Linguist is back for Year 2 as head coach of the Bulls. Buffalo will need to replace its starting quarterback and leading rusher after they left via the transfer portal. QB Kyle Vantrease went to Georgia Southern and RB Dylan McDuffie (1,049 rushing yards, 11 TD) is at Georgia Tech.

Offense

The Bulls bring back only 51% of their offensive production, according to ESPN’s Bill Connolly. Three starters on the offensive line transferred. Leading receiver Quian Williams is one of the only three returning starters. Williams had 64 receptions for 835 yards and two touchdowns. However, Linguist was busy in the portal, adding WR Justin Marshall (Louisville), WR Boobie Curry (Arizona) and T Desmond Bessent (San Diego State). 

Defense

First-team All-MAC linebacker James Patterson returns after posting 114 tackles and four sacks last season. All four starters are back on the defensive line, including Daymond Williams (6.5 sacks). The Bulls added three Power 5 transfers in the secondary — CB Elijah Blades (Florida), CB Caleb Offord (Notre Dame), S Jahmin Muse (Boston College). According to 247 Sports, the Bulls are bringing in the second-best recruiting class in the MAC.

Outlook

Buffalo has a pair of challenging nonconference games at Maryland and Coastal Carolina. The Bulls will be favorites against FCS Holy Cross and at UMass. With a ton of production leaving via the portal and uncertainty at quarterback, it could be a challenging second season for Linguist.

Pick: Under 5.5

-- Murray

CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Jim McElwain has turned around the Chippewas program after being let go at Florida, where he led the Gators to two SEC title games. He hasn’t won a MAC title yet, either, but he’s 20-13 overall in three seasons, 15-7 in the MAC, and should have the Chippewas in the race again.

Offense

All-MAC running back Lew Nichols III is Central Michigan’s biggest weapon as he led the nation in rushing with 1,848 yards. He was a workhorse with 341 carries and added 16 rushing TDs, and he was a dual threat as he caught 40 passes out of the backfield and another two TDs. He should have more support with the return of Kobe Lewis, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2019 who missed the last two seasons with a knee injury. A key will be replacing two offensive linemen who were lost to the NFL. The passing game isn’t too shabby with QB Daniel Patterson (2,633 yards, 24 TDs, only six INTs), working off play action from the elite running attack. Last year’s top receiver, Kalil Pimpleton, is now in the NFL, but Dallas Dixon (45 catches, 701 yards, eight TDs), who earned third-team All-MAC honors in a secondary role, is expected to fill his role.

Defense

Last year’s defense was great as the Chippewas led the nation in sacks, ranked fourth in tackles for loss, tied for 50th by allowing 25.8 points per game and 67th with 381.8 yards allowed per game. However, it’ll be hard to duplicate those numbers as they not only lost their top pass rushers and leading tackler to graduation/the NFL but also linebackers Troy Browns (Mississippi) and George Douglas (SMU) and safety Devonni Reed (South Carolina) to the transfer portal. McElwain has his work cut out to replace all of those contributors.

Outlook

The overhauled defense will get an early test in the Thursday night, Sept. 1 opener at Oklahoma State as Central Michigan is a 21-point underdog. After facing South Alabama and Bucknell, the Chippewas visit Penn State. If they are 2-2 heading into MAC play, they have a chance to go over their win total with a 6-2 conference record and compete for the MAC title. The key game for both goals might be Nov. 2 at Northern Illinois, which beat Central Michigan 39-38, ultimately costing the Chippewas a spot in the conference title game. 

Pick: Over 7.5

-- Tuley

EASTERN MICHIGAN

The Golden Eagles got a big boost last year when quarterback Ben Bryant transferred from Cincinnati and led Eastern Michigan to 30.2 points per game, a 7-5 record and a bowl berth, EMU’s fourth in six years. But in a sign of what college football has become in the transfer portal/NIL era, Bryant has transferred back to Cincinnati. The Golden Eagles have a solid enough team to get another bowl bid and a shot at the MAC title, but they need to find a QB.

Offense

Former Missouri and Troy starter Taylor Powell got the start at QB in the spring game and appears to have the inside track over sophomore Austin Smith and Cincinnati transfer Cam’Ron McCoy. Whoever gets the job should benefit from an offensive line that returns four starters, led by All-MAC guard Sidy Sow, as well as a strong receiving corps led by Hassan Beydoun (97 catches, 1,015 yards, four TDs) and Dylan Drummond (64 receptions). Leading rusher Jawon Hamilton has run out of eligibility, but Darius Boone Jr. stepped in when he was injured last year and had 451 rushing yards while Samson Evans had 13 rushing TDs.

Defense

The offense excelled last season, but the defense kept the Golden Eagles from posting an even better record. They allowed 30 points and 435.5 yards per game and failed in many crucial third-down situations that could have turned games in their favor. There is hope for improvement, however. Eastern Michigan received great news when defensive end Jose Ramirez (6.5 sacks last season and 12 tackles for loss) chose to stay in Ypsilanti after he was courted by several Power 5 schools. He is joined by middle linebacker Tariq Speights (team-high 90 tackles), plus coach Chris Creighton dipped into the transfer portal, adding DT Vidal Scott (Arkansas State), LB Joe Sparacio (Boston College) and LB Chase Kline (Michigan State). The main concern is the secondary, which needs more talent and depth to keep up with some of the MAC’s passing offenses.

Outlook

Eastern Michigan is right on the cusp of being a contender if Powell (or another QB) steps up and if the defense improves. Some are saying the Golden Eagles have a soft nonconference schedule, probably because they don’t play any Big Ten teams like most of their rivals do, but the games at Louisiana and Arizona State won’t be walkovers. Still, if they go 2-2 in those games, which also include Eastern Kentucky and lowly UMass, they would need to just go 5-3 in their MAC games, and that seems possible because they get some of their tougher opponents, including Northern Illinois, Toledo and Central Michigan, at home.

Pick: Over 6.5

-- Tuley

KENT STATE

A year after winning the MAC East in dramatic fashion, the Golden Flashes will have to replace QB Dustin Crum, the 2021 MAC Player of the Year. Good news for Kent State is coach Sean Lewis, the architect of Flash FAST, is back for a fourth season after receiving outside interest this offseason. 

Offense

Collin Schlee, a dual-threat quarterback, is expected to replace Crum. The Golden Flashes’ top receiver, Dante Cephas, is back after grabbing 82 receptions for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns. Kent State did lose its second and third leading receivers. Running backs Marquez Cooper and Xavier Williams return after combining for 2,017 yards last season. The offensive line has a handful of returning starters and added a pair of Power 5 tackle transfers in Nolan Rumler from Michigan and Kevin Toth from Rutgers.

Defense

Coordinator Jeremiah Johnson takes over the defense after nine seasons at Northern Iowa. Kent State allowed 36.3 points per game last season, 121st nationally. The Golden Flashes return seven starters on defense and added UCLA transfer A.J. Campbell to the defensive line. Safety Antwaine Richardson missed most of last season after transferring from Maryland.

Outlook

Kent State might have one of the most challenging nonconference schedules in FBS with trips to Washington, Oklahoma and Georgia. Will the good fortune run out for the Golden Flashes in 2022? Kent State went 4-0 in one-possession games last season, including a 48-47 double-over win against Miami of Ohio. 

Pick: Under 5

-- Murray

MIAMI (OHIO)

After falling short last year, the Redhawks are the favorites to win the MAC East. Chuck Martin enters his ninth season as the head coach and QB Brett Gabbert (Blaine Gabbert’s brother) is back after a solid junior season.

Offense

Gabbert was the Redhawks’ starting QB when they won the MAC in 2019. Mac Hippenhammer, one of the top WRs in the MAC, is back after posting 786 receiving yards and five touchdowns last season. Miami added WR Miles Mitchell from Indiana via the portal. They will try to fill the massive hole left by WR Jack Sorenson, who led Miami with 1,406 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Sorenson signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bengals. In the backfield, Jaylon Bester and Tyre Shelton should be a solid duo after an injury-riddled 2021 season. The offensive line will be a strength with four returning starters.

Defense

The Redhawks lost a lot of production via the transfer portal. Leading tackler Ivan Pace transferred to Cincinnati, Lonnie Phelps (9.5 sacks) headed to Kansas and Kameron Butler (8 sacks) transferred to Virginia. The Redhawks do bring back LB Ryan McWood for a sixth season after he sat out most of last year because of injury. DE Corey Suttle, a transfer from Iowa State, will help make up the production of Phelps and Butler. In the secondary, the Redhawks added Michigan State transfer Michael Dowell.

Outlook

If the defensive front can avoid a massive dip, Miami should be in good shape to win the MAC East. The Redhawks went 5-3 in conference last season, and its three losses were by a combined four points. Miami will struggle against Kentucky and Cincinnati but will have a chance to beat Northwestern on the road this season. 

Pick: Over 6.5

-- Murray

NORTHERN ILLINOIS

After going 0-6 in a pandemic-shortened season, no one saw NIU winning the 2021 MAC championship (not even alumni, ahem), but that’s what the Huskies did behind a relentless running game, which ranked No. 4 in the nation. They came up just short in a 47-41 thriller vs. Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl. However, seven of their nine wins were by a touchdown or less as the defense continually let opponents stay in the game. Of course, that’s typical of MACtion.

Offense

Before last season, QB Rocky Lombardi transferred from Michigan State to NIU and was just what the Huskies needed. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 2,597 yards and was also effective in the running game, rushing for 473 yards. Leading rusher Jay Ducker (1,184 yards, three TDs) transferred to Memphis, but coach Thomas Haddock, a former Huskies RB, has shown he’s fine with a running-back-by-committee approach, especially with an offensive line that returns four starters from one of the best units in the conference. Lombardi will still have second-team All-MAC WR Trayvon Rudolph (51 catches, 892 yards, 17.5 average, seven TDs) to throw to along with senior Cole Tucker and Florida International transfer Shemar Thornton. But, as the running game goes, so go the Huskies.

Defense

The news isn’t as promising on the defensive side as NIU allowed 33.7 points (112th in the nation) and 452.4 yards per game (115th). That’s why the Huskies were in so many shootouts and had to win all those close games. The one thing the defense did right was come through in the clutch by allowing just 98 fourth-quarter points in 14 games (seven points per fourth quarter) to contribute to the close wins. The defense gets back LB Kyle Pugh, who missed all of last season, and the other good news is last year’s very young defense should benefit from the experience gained in a 14-game season.

Outlook

The Huskies will need to continue their knack for pulling out close games if they’re going to go over their win total of 6.5 or challenge again for the MAC title. They should be favored over FCS Eastern Illinois but then have two potential coin-flip games at Tulsa and at home against Vanderbilt before a really tough game at Kentucky. NIU should be happy if it’s 2-2 heading into conference play. The MAC opener is on the road vs. 2020 conference champ Ball State and the Huskies also have to travel to play MAC West rivals Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. Their only home division games are against Toledo and Central Michigan. Still, a 5-3 MAC record should get them over the win total and any more would put them in the title chase.

Pick: Over 6.5

-- Tuley

OHIO

Despite four MAC East crowns under Frank Solich, Ohio has not won the conference title since 1968, and it does not look like the Bobcats will end that streak in 2022. Ohio struggled to a 3-9 record under Albin, who took over for Solich after he retired last July. 

Offense

QB Kurtis Rourke returns, but Ohio has only three returning full-time starters. QB Armani Rogers rushed for 552 last season and is now trying to be a tight end in the NFL with the Washington Commanders. Running backs O’Shaan Allison (474 total yards) and Sieh Bangura will likely lead the backfield in Athens.

Defense

This should be Ohio’s strength this season. The Bobcats return nine starters and 75% of their defensive production, according to ESPN’s Bill Connolly. Additionally, Ohio added DE Dontay Hunter II from Purdue after he sat out last season with an Achilles injury.

Outlook

Albin was Ohio’s offensive coordinator since 2005, but the defense will likely carry the load for the Bobcats in 2022. Ohio opens against Florida Atlantic as a two-point underdog and visits Penn State and Iowa State the next two weeks. 

Pick: Under 5.5

-- Murray

TOLEDO

If we give Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain grief for not having a MAC title yet, what do we say about Toledo’s Jason Candle as he has the best record (44-27) of any MAC coach over the past six seasons with just one MAC title and no bowl wins since he took full control of the roster in 2016. The antithesis of NIU, Toledo lost five games last year by a touchdown or less. The Rockets have the best team, and the highest Over/Under win total, but will that translate to enough wins on the field?

Offense

Toledo led the MAC in scoring at 33 points per game and QB Dequan Finn (18 TD passes, 505 rushing yards, nine more TDs) is back to lead the offense. Leading WR Devin Maddox (41 catches, 521 yards, four TDs) is back, but leading yardage man Isaiah Winstead (East Carolina) and TD catcher Matt Landers (Arkansas) left via the transfer portal. Running back Bryant Koback (1,400 yards, 15 TDs) is gone to the NFL, but the Rockets still have Jacquez Stuart and Micah Kelly, who combined for more than 560 yards and 5.4 yards per carry, plus Finn will probably pick up any slack. The offensive line returns three starters with the non-starters having seen valuable playing time, plus they get a huge addition with Nick Rosi, who was a third-team All-MAC guard in 2019 before being sidelined by injury. The offense should be just as potent as last season.

Defense

The defense again makes the Rockets a contender as they led the MAC, allowing just 21.8 points per game and return eight starters. Toledo has the MAC’s best linebacking corps with Jamal Hines (10 sacks), Desjuan Johnson (4.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss) and Jackson Barrow (42 tackles). The defensive backs are also solid with the depth needed in the high-scoring MAC.

Outlook

Again, on paper, the Rockets are the best team in the conference, but after opening against Long Island and UMass, they have tough games at Ohio State and San Diego State before getting to the MAC opener. If they’re only 2-2 after the nonconference schedule, they would need to lose only one game to go over their season win total. The only likely gimmes on the MAC schedule are Bowling Green and Kent State, and the Golden Flashes aren’t the pushovers they used to be. The Rockets seem too good to only go 7-5, but that looks more likely than 9-3.

Pick: Under 8

-- Tuley

WESTERN MICHIGAN

The Broncos are hard to figure out as they keep getting top players and putting up great stats. For example, WR Skyy Moore had 96 receptions and 1,293 yards last year and could replace Tyreek Hill in the Chiefs’ offense in the NFL. And Western Michigan ranked 12th in the nation in total offense in 2022 and No. 18 in total defense. However, they went just 7-5 overall and just 4-4 in the MAC last season. They were doomed by a six-game stretch in which they went 2-4. They did beat Northern Illinois in the regular-season finale, but that was after NIU had already clinched the MAC West.

Offense

The loss of Moore is huge, but just as bad is the loss of QB Kaleb Eleby (3,277 passing yards, 23 TDs), who declared early for the draft. The Broncos are hoping Jack Salopek steps into the role after taking the starters’ snap during spring practice, though he could be challenged by Alabama transfer Stone Hollenbach. The running game appears to be in good hands with Sean Tyler (1,150 yards, nine TDs) and La’Darius Jefferson (836 yards, 10 TDs) sharing the workload. While we can’t overstate the loss of Moore, at least Corey Crooms (44 receptions, six TDs as the No. 2 option) is back, hoping to be the go-to receiver.

Defense

There aren’t as many concerns on defense, but we’ve seen that a great defense isn’t always necessary to win in the MAC. It’s great to get sacks and put up big defensive stats, but MACtion usually comes down to outscoring your opponent in shootouts. Western Michigan was second in the nation in third-down stops and No. 1 in the MAC allowing 28.1 points per game and 329.5 yards (No. 18 in the nation), but the Broncos still went only 4-4 in conference. The MAC’s top linebacking trio of Zaire Barnes, Corvin Moment and Ryan Selig returns. The defensive line has depth, but they’ll need to replace pass rusher Ali Fayad, now with the Philadelphia Eagles. A bigger weakness appears to be the secondary, which had only four interceptions all of last season. Senior safeties Bricen Garner and Delano Ware return, but there’s less experience at the corners.

Outlook

If everything comes together, Western Michigan could contend in the MAC West, but it appears there’s just too much to overcome this season. The schedule makers didn’t do them any favors with a Sept. 2 opener at Michigan and a home game vs. Pittsburgh on Sept. 17. They do get some of their tougher MAC opponents at home, including Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois and Toledo, so if they can defend the home turf, they might have a chance, but I wouldn’t bet on it.  

Pick: Under 6.5

-- Tuley

back to news

Related News

Subscriber Only News  Vsin Exclusive

View All

Screen_Shot_2022-08-22_at_12.19.15_AM

Betting Splits: Percentage of handle & tickets from DraftKings for every game on the board, updated every 10 minutes. GO HERE.

NFL Power Ratings3 sets of numbers from Steve MakinenGO HERE.

CFB Power Ratings3 sets of numbers from Steve MakinenGO HERE.

View more CFB tools for Pro subscribers

View more NFL tools for Pro subscribers

Screen_Shot_2022-08-22_at_12.19.15_AM

A Numbers Game: Remember in the NFL, teams are never as good or as bad as they looked a week before. View more tips

VSiN Big Bets: Compare second-half NFL lines with the live line. You'll often find slight half-point differences, or even more, that will tell you which bet you should make. View more tips

Screen_Shot_2022-08-22_at_12.19.15_AM

Chuck Edel: Michigan State-Penn State Over 52.5.  View more picks

Chris Fallica: Ohio State -8.5 vs. Michigan.  View more picks

Close