Make tonight a MACtion night, won’t you? We’re here to answer any questions you may have, as long as they do not involve divining a winner of the MAC East.
Ohio at Ball State
• What information do I, the discerning consumer, require in order to consume this game? The Bobcats and Cardinals are scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. ET at Scheumann Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPNU and streamed on WatchESPN.
• What’s at stake here? Jockeying for bowl invites, mostly. Both squads have clinched bowl eligibility, with 8-2 Ohio and 7-3 Ball State each holding a 4-2 record in the conference, respectively.
As to whether Ohio can still win the MAC East: If Kent State loses its last two games, giving it two conference losses, one would have to be to Ohio in the regular-season finale. That would leave both teams with identical 6-2 league records, and Ohio would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Golden Flashes.
But Bowling Green — which is 5-1 in the MAC and beat Ohio last Wednesday — plays Kent State Nov. 17. Both teams can’t lose (and the MAC is very, very good this year, so that isn’t even a joke!), so while the Bobcats could end up tied with the Falcons at two losses apiece, they’ve already lost the tiebreaker.
Ball State, too, has two teams sitting above it in the West standings, Northern Illinois (6-0 in the MAC) and Toledo (5-1). The Cardinals lost to the Huskies in October, so even a two-game skid by NIU wouldn’t help them at all. Ball State holds a head-to-head advantage over Toledo, but a Rockets loss to NIU would only be enough to nudge the Cardinals into second place in the division.
That all make sense? We have now thoroughly confused ourselves, to the point where general consensus in our office is that Johnny Manziel will probably win the MAC East, by himself.
• For whom are we to be watching? Quarterback Tyler Tettleton is the Bobcats’ all-time leading passer, as of last week’s game against Bowling Green. He’s backed up on the ground by the footballishly named Beau Blankenship, who could surpass 1,200 rushing yards for the season on his first carry with a little luck. Ball State standouts: Tailback Jahwan Edwards (105-plus yards per game), receiver Willie Snead (95 ypg), linebacker Travis Freeman (NCAA’s active career tackling leader) and kicker Steven Schott.
Toledo at Northern Illinois
• What information do I, the discerning consumer, require in order to consume this game? The Rockets and Huskies are scheduled to kick off at 9 p.m. ET in Huskie Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and streamed on WatchESPN.
• What’s at stake here? MAC WEST SUPREMACY. It’s a big year for winningest senior classes in program history. The Bobcats honored theirs last week; NIU salutes its own best-ever crop of fourth-years tonight. And for the third consecutive season, the Rockets-Huskies matchup will decide which school will represent the division in the MAC Championship Game. NIU currently tops the division with a 6-0 record in conference play, trailed by Toledo at 5-1. Win, and they’re in. A Rockets win here, obviously, would displace the Huskies in the conference championship game should Toledo also emerge victorious in its final regular-season contest, a home stand versus … Akron. Yeah, this game is pretty important.
• For whom are we to be watching? If you haven’t paid much attention to NIU junior quarterback Jordan Lynch, now would be the time to start. He ranks fourth nationally in total offense, is a dire running threat and captains an efficient passing attack. This exchange from CBS Chicago sums up the situation pretty satisfactorily:
“I have to cackle a little,” my good friend and former colleague Mike Murphy of The Times in Ottawa, Ill., emailed on Thursday. “All the MAC schools breathed a little after [former Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler] Harnish graduated. Then they look at [current NIU QB Jordan] Lynch and say, “Oh (expletive).”
The Rockets are not without star attractions of their own. Among them: linebacker Dan Molls, tied for first place nationally in tackles with an average of more than 13 per game, and David Fluellen, good for close to 140 rushing yards per game and the reason for way, way too many “What’s in the satchel, Fluellen?” jokes from us. And never, ever refill your drink during a special teams play, lest you miss a blistering return from speedy Bernard Reedy.