MAC Division Races: Tie Breaker Madness

Have you ever stared at something long enough that it doesn’t even look at all like it did at the start?  Welcome to my weekend staring at the MAC standings.  Here I was trying not to get into tie breakers because they can be really murky.  Turns out, when you try to get Eastern Michigan to win the West division you need to hammer those out.  And by the way, there is a very unlikely scenario that gets Eastern Michigan to Detroit.  Make sure to read the Eastern Michigan scenario if you need another reason to watch Akron at Bowling Green on November 17.

There are only two undefeated teams left in Mid American Conference action.  The Northern Illinois Huskies and the Buffalo Bulls are both 4-0 and are as far apart in the conference as possible.  The drive to Detroit, as long as Buffalo stays in America, is different by only 18 miles.  The Bulls and Huskies are the favorites to get there at this point, but there is a lot of football to play.

The East is closer to figuring itself out.  Two teams are eliminated in each but the West can come down to some obscure games deciding the champ.  The MAC has 4 layers of tie breakers and the West can get into the third level.  I’m going to explain the tie breakers as they come up.  They read like terms and conditions of an iPhone unless there is an example to show how they work.


MAC East

Buffalo Bulls

Conference Record:  4-0

Division Record: 1-0

Remaining Schedule:  Miami, Kent State, at Ohio, at Bowling Green

Opponents Conference Record: 6-10

Path to Detroit:  Win and they’re in.  Their opponent record is deceiving.  Miami and Ohio are both 3-1 while Kent State and Bowling Green are winless.  Buffalo could lose a stunner to Kent or BGSU and be fine.  If there only loss came against Miami or Ohio, Buffalo would need that team to drop another game somewhere else.  If Buffalo were to drop both games against winning teams it gets messy.  Buffalo would hold no tie breakers head to head and would have the worst in division record.  They would need the best record in the division outright.  It is possible but they would need:

  • Ohio to lose to WMU
  • Ohio to beat Miami
  • Miami to lose to NIU
  • Ohio to lose to Akron

That would get Ohio and Miami to three losses and Buffalo with two.  This is the tip of the iceberg.


Ohio Bobcats

Conference Record: 3-1

Division Record: 2-1

Remaining Schedule: at Western Michigan, at Miami, Buffalo, Akron

Opponents Conference Record: 12-4

Path to Detroit:  Despite the one loss and the tough remaining schedule, Ohio still controls their own destiny.  They have no margin for error without help.  Ohio can drop against WMU or Akron as long as Miami gives Buffalo their second loss.  If they lost both to WMU and Akron the Bobcats need a collapse from Buffalo and Miami.  Akron also enters the picture at that point, but we’ll get there in a second.  A lot of the tie breakers come down to the Miami and Buffalo game on Tuesday October 30.  If Buffalo wins and remains undefeated in conference, Ohio has to run the table unless Buffalo doesn’t win another game.


Miami Redhawks

Conference Record: 3-1

Division Record: 2-1

Remaining Schedule: at Buffalo, Ohio, at Northern Illinois, Ball State

Opponents Conference Record: 13-4

Path to Detroit:  Miami might have the toughest remaining schedule in the MAC.  The Redhawks still only have one loss in conference and could win out to get to Ford Field.  Their position is extremely similar to Ohio, losing means they need a lot of unlikely help.  A loss would be their second, and even if they beat Buffalo, someone else would need to beat Buffalo to give them their second loss.  The peril of the Miami schedule is probably best illustrated by beating Buffalo, Ohio, and Ball State.  A loss on the road at NIU and Buffalo winning out means losing the division to Buffalo despite going 5-0 in the division.  A missed field goal against Western Michigan could define the season.


Akron Zips

Conference Record: 2-2

Division Record: 1-2

Remaining Schedule: Northern Illinois, at Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green, at Ohio

Opponents Conference Record: 9-12

Path to Detroit:  Lets get crazy here.  With two losses, Akron already needs help.  Akron obviously needs to win out.  Any loss knocks them out of the race.  Ohio needs to beat their East opponents and only lose the season finale to Akron.  Looking good so far, at least plausible.  Miami needs to take themselves out but also do some damage to Buffalo.  Miami beats Buffalo, loses to Ohio and NIU and their last game doesn’t matter.  That still sounds okay.  Buffalo needs to implode.  They need to lose to Ohio, Miami, and either Bowling Green, who fired their coach, or Kent State who is in a true year zero rebuild.  Akron winning out is hard to imagine but almost as hard to imagine is a Buffalo collapse.


MAC West

Northern Illinois Huskies

Conference Record: 4-0

Division Record: 3-0

Remaining Schedule:  at Akron, Toledo, Miami, at Western Michigan

Opponents Conference Record: 10-4

Path to Detroit:  Alright, back to sanity.  If the Huskies win out they go to Detroit for the eighth time in ten years.  Toledo is going to test their defense if they can perform like they did in Kalamazoo.  Even if they drop that one, a win at Western Michigan would be good enough if they can take care of the East opponents still out there.  There is still a possibility that the West devolves into madness and there is a five way tie at 5-3.  Take out the common win against Central Michigan and everyone went 2-2 against each other.  With no head to head separators, and division records the same, it would come down to how the East teams finished.  The team who’s East opponents combined for the highest win percentage would win the division.  NIU takes that one most likely.  Since they avoided the teams without wins, and everything is super connected, the closest they come to losing it is a tie with Eastern Michigan.   That defaults back to their head to head matchup the Huskies won.


Western Michigan Broncos

Conference Record: 4-1

Division Record: 2-1

Remaining Schedule: Ohio, at Ball State, Northern Illinois

Opponents Conference Record: 9-4

Path to Detroit:  The Broncos are the last team that control their own destiny.  Its not an easy slate, but the toughest games are at home.  For Western Michigan to lose to NIU and survive is tough.  Toledo needs to beat the Huskies then fall to either Ball State, Kent State, or Central Michigan.  The Broncos best shot to drop another and go the championship game is to lose at home to Ohio, have NIU beat Toledo, NIU lose to Miami, and beat the Huskies at home to finish.


Toledo Rockets

Conference Record: 2-2

Division Record: 1-1

Remaining Schedule: Ball State, at Northern Illinois, at Kent State, Central Michigan

Opponents Conference Record: 6-11

Path to Detroit:  Toledo’s schedule has one team with a winning conference record on it.  The Rockets will need to win out, which isn’t crazy.  They still would need help getting into a tie break that they could win.  They would hold the head to head with either WMU or NIU in this scenario.  It would be most likely that WMU loses to Ohio then beats NIU.  Toledo would be 2-0 in that 6-2 three way tie and get to Detroit.  If the Broncos totally fade down the stretch, Northern Illinois would have to lose to Akron or Miami to get the Rockets to the championship game.


Eastern Michigan Eagles

Conference Record: 2-3

Division Record: 2-2

Remaining Schedule: Central Michigan, Akron, at Kent State

Opponents Conference Record: 2-11

Path to Detroit:  Is everyone ready to talk to their kids about a possible MAC Champion Eastern Michigan?  Don’t put too much thought into it but know that conversation might be on its way.  In the Northern Illinois section there was a bit about a five way 5-3 tie.  Lets start there and add a bit more chaos.  Lets have NIU lose out.  There is now a four way tie at 5-3 without the Huskies.  In this little bit of madness, Ball State and EMU are tied at 2-1 versus the group of Ball State, EMU, Toledo, and WMU.  EMU beat Ball State head to head and would go to Detroit.

Lets go one further.  Ball State loses to Miami.  There is now a three way tie at 5-3.  The Eagles, Broncos and Rockets all are 1-1 against each other.  All are 3-2 in the division.  The combined records of their East opponents are the tie breaker.  Toledo’s opponents are not good and combine to 8-16.  The directional Michigan schools have comparable records.  Eastern Michigan has already lost to Western and must come out with a better record.  A tie removes Toledo and goes back to head to head.  Eastern’s opponents (Akron, Kent State, and Buffalo) must come out to 13-11.  Western’s opponents (Bowling Green, Miami, and Ohio) must go 12-12.  This could all hinge on an Akron win at home vs Bowling Green.  That was exhausting.  A full break down is below.  I’m not saying it’s likely, I’m saying there’s a chance.

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