Western Michigan is one of two teams left in college football with a goose egg in the loss column. Steamrolling through the entire schedule and dethroning Big Ten affiliates like it’s their day job, the nationally-ranked Broncos (12-0, 8-0) will square off against the Ohio Bobcats (8-4, 6-2) with their sights set on a MAC title, a rather attainable feat considering the circumstances.
Western Michigan is in a tier of its own in the MAC. The Broncos’ roster possesses NFL-ready talent. The Broncos are projected to win this game by three touchdowns. The only other conference-champion favorite to hold more of an advantage in Week 14, at least according to the ‘books, is the Alabama Crimson Tide (-24); that’s not bad company.
It looks so easy for the Broncos, but this is a certain situation in which MAC programs — most notably the ones with the little numbers next to their school name — have floundered in recent history.
Could there be an upset brewing? Really? Ohio? Recent history, despite a paltry sample size, hasn’t been kind to Goliath.
Ranked MAC teams are 0-4 when playing unranked opponents in the championship game over the last 15 seasons. Which absolutely, 100 percent means that Nick Saban left a whirlwind of curses on the conference back in the mid-1970s when he played for Kent State… and they’re slowly but surely materializing.
If we recall correctly… *checks the record books* … we take you back to 2001, when the first domino fell.
No. 21 Marshall, back when the MAC was the cool hangout spot (traitors) and not Conference USA (Marshall didn’t do too well this season), was two years removed from the Chad Pennington era. The head coach? Former Herd tight end and fullback Bob Pruett(!).
Unranked Toledo erased a 23-point first-half deficit and Herd quarterback Byron Leftwich couldn’t stamp the envelope on his MAC Offensive Player of the Year honors. Then he got drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars after losing to Toledo. Yikes. That’s a nasty 1-2 punch to endure.
In 2008, the Ball State Cardinals and head coach Brady Hoke were in a similar spot as P.J. Fleck’s Broncos — an undefeated, Top-20 team with all the right pieces in place. Remember Ball State’s Nate Davis?
The Cardinals were embarrassed by 18 points at the hands of the unranked Buffalo Bulls. Ten days later, Hoke gave Muncie the thumbs up and ditched BSU for San Diego State.
Leaving the MAC a few days following the title game and heading out West? (COUGH, FLECK TO OREGON, COUGH.)
Two years later, the title game lobbied for more drama when the No. 24 Northern Illinois Huskies (do you see how terrible it is to be ranked in this segment?), led by generational talent — yes, generational talent — Chandler Harnish, lost to Miami (Ohio) on a last-minute scoring strike from Austin Boucher to Armand Robinson.
Days later, Huskies head coach Jerry Kill ventured out of DeKalb and took the Minnesota job.
Leaving the MAC a few days following the title game and heading to the Big Ten? (COUGH, FLECK TO PURDUE, COUGH.)
Only a few years ago in 2013, unranked Bowling Green flat-out embarrassed No. 16 Northern Illinois. It was the first real coming-out party for the Falcons. I vividly recall watching this game in my college apartment and thinking this team is going to be very, very good for a long time. Then Mike Jinks happened, for all the frown faces.
So, Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson takes down NIU and decides he needs a change — so the guy heads to Wake Forest.
Leaving the MAC a few days following the title game and heading to the East Coast? (COUGH, FLECK TO NORTH CAROLINA WHEN FEDORA TAKES THE OREGON JOB, COUGH.)
There really isn’t much stock to put into a four-game sample size. There are some unique factors playing into the MAC title game, though, especially the reoccurring theme with Fleck and the possibility that he jumps for a Power Five gig. There have been talks the last couple weeks about a potential switch, and Ohio could be the perfect lookahead spot on Friday.