With MAC football kicking off in a little over two weeks, the conference looks to have a very competitive season with just six games, and less of a margin for error. Here are a few of the players to look out for, and a few teams who could run the table.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Jaret Patterson - Running Back (Buffalo)
Patterson became a household name as a freshman in 2018, topping over 1,000 yards. As a sophomore, he took his game to new heights in becoming the leading rusher in the MAC and one of the better backs in the country as he totaled nearly 1,800 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. As a junior in 2020, he could possibly declare early for the 2021 NFL draft, and is an early favorite to be the best player in the conference.
Drew Plitt - Quarterback (Ball State)
It was remarkable to see Plitt’s growth from 2018 to 2019. The Cincinnati-area native went from throwing for just six touchdowns to eight interceptions in seven games in 2018, to being the third leading passer in the MAC in 2019 with the best touchdown-to-interception ratio of 24-7. Back for his redshirt senior year, Plitt looks to put the Cardinals back in a bowl game for the first time since 2014.
Treshaun Hayward - Linebacker (Western Michigan)
Hayward was a super-productive linebacker as a redshirt junior in 2019, recording 142 tackles in his first year of starting in the middle. He also totaled five sacks, forced one fumble and recovered two fumbles. He was a big part in turning one of the MAC’s worst defenses in 2018 to the second-best scoring defense in the conference in 2019. Look for Hayward to be at the focal point of a strong Broncos defense.
TEAMS TO WATCH:
The Bulls are coming off a successful 2019 in which they finished second in the MAC East division and 8-5 overall. The Bulls return their superstar running back Patterson, along with a sound defense that returns seven starters. Kyle Vantrease looked solid under center last year after taking over for Matt Myers due to injury. If the Bulls can get even average quarterback play, I think they are the favorite to win the conference.
Coming off a MAC title in 2019, the RedHawks look poised to finish near the top of the conference again. Like Buffalo, they post a solid defense that makes plays. Offensively, they return a handful of starters on a good offensive line and return a young quarterback in Brett Gabbert, who had a good first year starting under center and will look to improve off of that. Gabbert also has a nice array of playmakers including possession receiver Jack Sorenson and speedster Jalen Walker.
The Rockets are looking to rebound after a disappointing 2019 season which saw them miss a bowl game for the first time in six years. Toledo had a shuffle of quarterbacks last year, and they have a three-man competition featuring Dequan Finn, Carter Bradley and Eli Peters for the position this fall. Whoever goes at quarterback will have two good running backs to boot with Bryant Koback and Shakif Seymour both back this year after totaling over 1,900 combined yards last year. Toledo also has perhaps the best line in the conference. Defensively, they struggled mightily last year and need improvement to compete at the top of the league. If the offense clicks like it should and the defense shows marginal improvement, don’t be shocked to see the Rockets back at the top of the league.