Yesterday, we took a look at where Conference USA and the Sun Belt sit after the first month of play. Today, it’s time to check in on the two conferences who’ve managed to pull into October at exactly .500 on the year.
Really, and especially since the conferences have split the six games played between them, the only thing separating the MAC from the Mountain West is that the Mountain West hasn’t lost to any FCS teams. The MAC has already dropped four games to the lower level, which isn’t a good look. On the other hand, the MAC is 4-9 against the Power 5, and Western Michigan is currently in first place in the Big Ten West...
One of those four FCS losses was this weekend, as Northern Illinois (0-4, 0-2) continued their nosedive into oblivion by losing to Western Illinois. The Huskies are also largely responsible for the MAC and MWC being evenly matched head-to-head, as they lost to both Wyoming and San Diego State. The week wasn’t terrible for the MAC, though. The league went 5-6 in non-conference games, just enough to stay at .500 on the year. Of course Kent State lost to Alabama, and Miami and Bowling Green losing to Cincinnati and Memphis respectively wasn’t surprising. Unbeaten Central Michigan losing to winless Virginia? Now that was a stunner. The Chips had actually been a road favorite in that one. The other league loss was Akron to Appalachian State, sort of a wash.
But the MAC had some good wins on Friday and Saturday, too. Wyoming isn’t necessarily a great trophy, but Eastern Michigan improved to 3-1 by beating them. That’s noteworthy, as bad as the Eagles have been historically. Western Michigan improved to 4-0 with a win over Sun Belt favorite Georgia Southern. And Buffalo, who somehow lost to FCS Albany, turned around and beat unbeaten Army in overtime. Ohio and Ball State also picked up wins against lesser competition.
It’s been a weird and exciting season for #MACtion. They’ve had some head-scratchers; they’ve had some huge wins. (They’ve also had one they didn’t deserve at all, but hey, scoreboard.) But it’s interesting to look at the standings, because if you start with the East you’re left nonplussed. The East may be completely up for grabs, with Akron (2-2, 0-0) and Ohio (2-2, 0-0) with at least the appearance of a leg up.
Out west, though? Well, Northern Illinois is stinking up the joint, but every other team in the division is 3-1 or better. Western Michigan is 4-0, Toledo is 3-0, and Ball, Central, and Eastern are all 3-1. The MAC West could be absolutely LIT this fall.
Mountain West (21-21)
It was an awful week for the MWC, going 1-6 out of conference. The worst part is that four of those losses were to Eastern Michigan, Idaho, Purdue, and Iowa State -- all teams that are either historically awful, currently awful, or both. Fresno State at least had the decency to lose in overtime to Tulsa, and Colorado State lost at Minnesota as expected. Boise State, winners over Oregon State, provided the league’s only non-conference win.
In contrast to the MAC, the Mountain is much worse against the Power 5, racking up a dismal 3-13 record against the big boys. And two of those wins are courtesy of Boise State, so the rest of the conference has some explaining to do. That third win, probably the conference’s signature victory thus far, was San Diego State beating Cal. The one saving grace: there aren’t really any bad losses on the schedule if one presumes losing to a P5 school is automatically not “bad”. The non-P5 teams MWC teams have lost to are Toledo, Central Michigan, Tulsa, and New Mexico State. Only the latter of those is a “bad” loss, but it was New Mexico that lost to them, so in-state rivalry etc. etc.
So far, the league has only played one conference game, Air Force escaping Utah State with a one-touchdown win. That leaves Air Force (3-0, 1-0) and Boise State (3-0, 0-0) as the class in the Mountain Division, with San Diego State (3-0, 0-0) set to roll in the West. Utah State (2-2, 0-1) is the only real threat to the two behemoths in the east; Nevada (2-2, 0-0) is the closest competition for the Aztecs out west. Although UNLV (1-3, 0-0) has the horrible distinction of being 1-3 despite outscoring their opponents, that’s because they road-graded a SWAC team; their losses to UCLA and Central Michigan were both by three touchdowns, and, well, losing to Idaho in OT isn’t going to win any converts.
The real battle is going to be for the bottom of the league. Lots of candidates there, as there are seven teams with either only one win or two really gross ones.