The Mid-American Conference has just three postseason bowl guarantees this season. It has six teams on pace to earn the six wins needed to quality. Chances are a team or two or three will see their seasons come to an abrupt end in late November even though they’re positioned to play on.
MAC teams are far less likely to encounter such disappointment in the future. The conference’s effort to create new postseason opportunities has resulted in a five bowl tie-ins beginning with the 2014 season and the promise of two more in the near future.
Last year the MAC placed a record seven teams in bowls as it drew into spots opened when qualifying teams, such as Ohio State, Penn State and Miami, were subject to postseason bans. MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher has been on a mission to provide MAC teams solid bowl opportunities independent of the misfortune of others.
“It’s not a lot of fun, quite frankly, either for my office or more importantly for the coaches and student-athletes and teams, who have deserving records but you wonder if you’re going to place them or not,” Steinbrecher said on Monday’s MAC teleconference. “At the end of the day we’ll have bowl agreement with probably seven or eight different entities … and we will always have five priority bowl slots every year during the next cycle.”
For instance, the MAC will place a representative in the Boca Raton Bowl each of the next two seasons but not again until 2018. The upcoming announcements will cycle MAC teams into other bowl games so that the conference always has five teams participating provided they have the six wins needed to quality.
For 2014 and ’15 MAC teams will participate in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Ala., against the Sun Belt Conference, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise versus the Mountain West, the Camelia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., against the Sun Belt, the Boca Raton Bowl against Conference USA, and the Bahamas Bowl against the American Athletic.
This season the MAC has just three firm tie-ins: the GoDaddy Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
Bowl games can be an expensive proposition for an athletic department. UB found itself in the break-even range when it played the now-defunct International Bowl in Toronto in January of 2009. It can be a immense help to the bottom line if a program plays in a bowl game that fans find alluring from a geographical standpoint. The MAC’s two new additions, the Boca Raton (Fla.) Bowl and the Bahamas Bowl in Nassau, are attractive in that regard.
“Now we’re going to have a nice array of opponents and a lot of really good locations that I hope will be attractive for our fans to attend,” Steinbrecher said.
The promise of five bowl opportunities is a carrot coaches can dangle in front of their players beginning next year.
“The motivation is to get to that bowl game and if you get the opportunity you’re probably going to be in position to make a run for a championship,” said University at Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn. “And that’s what our focus is, to compete for bowl championships, conference championships. It’s a lot of motivation. There’s a lot of energy that we’re feeling right now amongst our players and coaches to be able to get to that point. To be able to have five tied in, with potentially even more, give you more opportunity but you got to get those wins,”
Bowl exposure can be a valuable recruiting and fundraising tool. To that end, expect UB to construct future schedules that include maybe one game instead of two against teams from the five major conferences to better its chances of securing the six wins necessary to become bowl-eligible. UB has two non-conference games secured for next season, at Army and against Baylor as final part of the home-and-home agreement.
Bulls Strike Again
UB picked up another divisional player of the week award after Saturday’s 33-0 conquest of Western Michigan. This week’s awards:
East: Offense – Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson was 20-34-224 and ran for a TD as the Falcons fell, 21-20, at SEC Mississippi State. Defense – UB’s Colby Way, a senior defensive end, had a career-high three sacks against the Broncos. Special Teams – Akron punter Zach Paul averaged 45.7 yards on nine kicks against Northern Illinois.
West: Offense – Ball State wide receiver Willie Snead was 10-152-2 as the Cardinals rallied over Kent State. Defense – Central Michigan safety Kavon Frazier forced a fumble and picked off a pass as the Chippewas knocked off Ohio U. on the road. Special Teams – Ball State punter Kyle Schmidt averaged 45.8 yards on four kicks against Kent.
UB defensive numbers: Tied with Oregon for No. 2 in the nation in turnover margin at plus-10. Houston tops the chart at plus-14; seventh nationally in sacks with an average of 3.5 a game. No. 1 is Clemson at 4.0; Tied for 64th in scoring defense, a colossal leap after ranking last following the losses to Ohio State and Baylor; 43rd in nation and No. 1 in MAC in third-down defense. … On the offensive side, UB is up to a tie 32nd nationally in time of possession. … Northern Illinois took sole possession of the MAC record for longest home winning streak when it outlasted Akron, 27-20, Saturday. The Huskies have won 23 in a row, one more than former MAC member Marshall in a streak that ended in 2000. … NIU’s Jordan Lynch is now one of 10 quarterbacks in Division I-A history to run for 3,000 yards and pass for 4,000 in a career.