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MAC Chaos Scenario (The case for keeping divisions?)
Who's up for a 5-way tie in one division and a 3-way tie in another?
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Initially, this article was going to be written about multiple possibilities of the MAC running into 5-way ties in the MAC West. I made a spreadsheet to try and stretch things out as far as I could, then re-worked the schedule in a duplicated tab. Then another. And another. I created 10 tabs of 4-was ties or better for both divisions, and I’ve decided to narrow things down to one possibility. It’s (sort of) my favorite possible outcome we could see out of the MAC this year: a 5-way tie in the West and a 3-way tie in the East.
Let’s begin with today’s standings:
We’re officially heading into the Crazy portion of the college football schedule, which is always right in the heat of Spooky Season. Halfway through he MAC’s in-conference season, we’ve got ourselves some interesting waters.
Because the MAC has decided to not only keep its East and West division splits in a time where leagues like the ACC, Big XII, and Mountain West have decided to drop their splits entirely, the MAC made more rules to strengthen the divisions and make sure teams start seeing more balance in the schedules. Crossover travel will happen more equally, by team and frequency, and our marquee rivalry games will rotate in and out of the weeknight and Saturday time slots moving forward.
Keeping the East and West divisions in the country’s most drivable conference is, to me, an obvious thing worth keeping, but I don’t really care to talk about what a division-less MAC could look like today, because the divisional splits provide a ton parity potential. Historically speaking, no MAC team has ever made it to the MAC championship game with two in-division losses in a six-team format. (Back in 2007 when the East had seven teams, Miami made it to Detroit with two East losses.)
That being said, Ball State has three divisional losses right now, and the math says that the Cardinals still have a shot at this thing. Super unlikely to happen, but this is the time of year where fans are supposed to drink the Kool-Aid without asking too many questions.
Today’s flavor: We’re going to have eight teams (8) finish the year with 5-3 conference records.
Western beats Eastern at Rynearson.
Miami, without Brett Gabbert, upends Ohio in the Battle for the Bricks.
NIU beats Central on the road.
Buffalo picks up its biggest win of the year, so far, over Toledo in the Glass Bowl.
Ball State, also road doggies, downs Bowling Green.
And, you guessed it, Kent State goes to Akron and brings home the Wagon Wheel.
Toledo and NIU would both tie in the standings with 4-1 records while everybody else is 2-3. Stinks by immediate contrast, but we barely got started. How ‘bout them Bulls? They’re as 4-1 in the East division as Miami is, and now the Bulls control their own destiny.
This is a league that, not only lives off bus travel, but is just better coming off of it. A big week for the away teams again:
Ball State downs NIU for the Bronze Stalk trophy.
CMU beats WMU in its rivalry series in Kalamazoo. Defensive effort.
Ohio wins at Buffalo.
EMU wins its revenge game at Toledo.
Miami, the first home win by a MAC team in November, takes care of Akron.
And BG beats Kent State.
Ohio beating Buffalo is major. With that, Miami is the clear front-runner of the current East standings, but they’re not out of the woods just yet. CMU, EMU, and Ball State are all sticks of dynamites in their road games to keep this division exciting, especially when two of those wins come over the two teams that were 4-1 just last week. The entire West division’s gap is closing.
Toledo, pissed as all hell, beats Bowling Green at the Doyt.
WMU, also frustrated, beats NIU in DeKalb.
CMU wins over a struggling Ohio in Peden.
EMU wins at home over Akron.
Ball State wins its home game over Kent State.
How good is Miami, without Gabbert, at this point? Let’s say Buffalo gets hot and beats the RedHawks.
Buffalo beating Miami headlines the East, and now the Bulls beat both Toledo AND Miami this year. Ohio also falls to Central Michigan for its second crossover loss of the season. Toledo’s win over BG gives the Rockets a 5-2 record (same as Miami and Buffalo), and the rest of the West (sans Western) holds 4-3 records.
WMU beats Bowling Green to finish the season 4-4, BG ends the MAC season 3-5.
Ohio beats Akron. The Zips go winless in conference play.
NIU wins at Kent State; Flashes finish the MAC season 1-7 in Year #1 of Kenni Burns.
EMU goes out on top, beating Buffalo on the road.
Ball State, surprisingly, beats Miami in Muncie.
And, CMU, in what ends up being the MAC West’s decider, stuns Toledo at home.
This why I had to focus on just this one chaos scenario. This tab on my Google Sheet is probably the most fun one to think about, even if my biased opinion of this scenario’s outcome gives me gas. But this one, still with five 5-3 teams on one side and three 5-3’s on the other, is basically what something that I’ve always wanted to see.
Not only are there so many 5-3 teams to sort through, none of them are secretly front-runners with a simple head-to-head tie-breaking assortment.
In the West, all the 5-3 teams would have 2-2 records against one another, and the three East teams would have 1-1 records against one another. How neat is that?
The next step is to look down and see who’s below them in their respective divisions. From the MAC’s rulebook:
1. Head-to-head competition a. In the event of a multiple-team (two or more teams) tie, the team with the best head-to-head record amongst the tied teams wins the tie-breaker; b. In a two-team tie, head-to-head competition will be the first criteria; c. If two teams did not play, the second criteria is used to break the tie
2. Record of tied teams within the division [versus rank order, highest to lowest, of division teams]
a. The above tie-breaker procedure is used to determine rank order in the division;
b. Team(s) eliminated in the second tie-breaker criterion are not included in further consideration in the tie- breaking formula;
c. Head-to-head competition is again used to break the tie between the remaining tied teams.
How did Miami, Ohio, and Buffalo fare against fourth-place Bowling Green?
Buffalo, for as scary as they were in the second-half, lost early on to Bowling Green while Miami and Ohio already have wins over the Falcons. Since we can narrow things down to Miami and Ohio again, we go back to the Battle for the Bricks: which I’ve already selected Miami as the winner to let us get this far.
RedHawks win the East after all.
And how’d the rest of the West do against last-place WMU?
The only two West teams to beat WMU, in this run-through, are Toledo (which already happened) and CMU (picked for this scenario) while Ball State, NIU, and EMU all get crossed out. Then, in-head-to-head tiebreaking fashion, CMU advances to Detroit for its season-ending finale.
A killer finish to the end of a divisional chase, but not exactly the Cinderella story EMU fans and regulars of this newsletter were hoping to see here, I’m sure.
But if you’re going to order the chaos that’s on the menu, well I’m sorry but that’s just how it’s being prepared this year.