No One Controls The MAC West

It’s Week 12 in November and no team in the MAC West controls their own path to the MAC Championship Game. I wrote a similar article last year about the tiebreakers that could play out. I tried to lay out the scenarios this season and they are just way too messy.

Four teams in the MAC West have the ability to get 6 conference wins. The most possible at the end of the season is three. Central Michigan has two of the remaining two-loss teams left on their schedule and will play a huge role in determining a West Champion.

The East is much simpler. Miami holds all of the cards and has a weak schedule. If the Redhawks go 2-1 it’s theirs. I’ll get into some chaos at the end, but as much as I would love to see it, it’s very low probability.

Standings

In case you’re unaware, this is the situation we find ourselves in. Some things might jump out at you. Miami is 4-1 in conference despite being +5 in point differential. Akron averages 9 points a game, 6 in conference games. Three MAC West teams are unstoppable at home and somewhat less than that on the road.

Remaining Schedule

The remaining game is to the left. Only two byes are left for anyone, and they belong to WMU and CMU. Everyone else has a full slate of MACtion the rest of the way.

As stated earlier, Central Michigan’s schedule is very important down the stretch.

Western Michigan is a large factor to represent the West, but their schedule has no teams of consequence the MAC West race on it.

Miami plays an easy schedule on paper, but we all know what happens to Chuck Martin in one-possession games. Enough schedule talk. Let’s get into the specifics.

Ball State

Record:   4-5  (3-2)
Division Wins: Toledo, Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan
Division Losses: Western Michigan

Ball State can hand CMU it’s third loss in conference play. If they fail to do so, they may be eliminated. After that, the Cardinals have two tricky MAC East teams. Kent State has proven to be pesky, just not quite consistent. Miami is going to win the East barring a meltdown.

If they do beat Central, they will hold a 4-1 record in the division. It may not matter if they can’t take care of business, but it does mean they hold almost every head to head tiebreaker. The one they don’t hold is to Western Michigan. That could be a problem.

The Cardinals go to Detroit (what a wild statement) if they end in a three-way tie with Western and Toledo. They would do so because of that 4-1 record in the division. If they tie for the best record with one other team they move on as long as the other team is not Western Michigan.

With a 5-3 finish, things get messy. Surprise! So many teams can get to 5-3 it’s not possible for me to cover all scenarios, but here goes nothing. If there is a four-way tie with Ball State, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, and Toledo, then Ball State would go. Trade NIU for Central and that’s not true anymore. If WMU falls apart and it’s Ball State, NIU and Toledo, Ball State advances again.

Basically, they have to avoid ties with WMU involved and they are favored.

Western Michigan

Record:   6-4  (4-2)
Division Wins: Central Michigan, Ball State
Division Losses: Toledo, Eastern Michigan

Western Michigan can win out and lose a tiebreaker to Toledo at 6-2 in conference play. If Toledo takes a loss, the conference is theirs at 6-2. That’s the cleanest it can be.

If they lose to Ohio, the game becomes difficult. The rules stay the same, but more things have to break their way. Ties with Toledo involved are losing propositions. They either force a three-way tie with Ball State that eliminates the Broncos because both of their losses are in the division, or are head to head with Toledo. If you remember Bryant Koback terrorized the Broncos in Toledo early in the season.

If Western Michigan takes care of business and Toledo drops a game, the Broncos would have a chance at a championship.

Toledo

Record:   6-3  (3-2)
Division Wins: Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan
Division Losses: Ball State

Toledo has two MAC West opponents left on their schedule. Due to that, a lot of the scenarios are based around what happens in their final three games. If they get to 6-2 in the MAC, they cannot tie to Ball State. WMU won’t factor into at three-way tie.

At 5-3, the Rockets would move forward in a tie with CMU and WMU. To get there, Toledo has to beat CMU. The loss can be with either Buffalo or NIU. Four-way ties do not favor Toledo. Either Ball State is involved or the path to get another team to 5-3 means Toledo loses to them.

There is a weird three-way tie with Central Michigan and NIU that would go to the fourth tiebreaker. Combined conference record of crossover opponents. That would teeter on the outcome of Miami and Bowling Green most likely. If Bowling Green pulled the upset, Toledo would move on.

In short, if Toledo wants to win a MAC Championship, they should win out and hope for Ball State to trip. Five conference wins is a dangerous place for them with very few outs.

Central Michigan

Record:   6-4  (4-2)
Division Wins: Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois
Division Losses: Western Michigan

Central Michigan is in a similar spot to Toledo. Their only two games left are with MAC West two-loss opponents. Central Michigan might be the most important team in the rest of the way. They can knock teams out or assert themselves. It’s already been a massive success for Jim McElwain in Mount Pleasant, this is the icing on the cake.

Six conference wins still need help though. It would knock Toledo and Ball State to 3 losses but WMU would hold the tiebreak against them. With a WMU stumble they would go to Detroit.

At five wins, there aren’t many scenarios that favor the Chippewas. Whoever they lose to would need to fall apart and not factor directly into the tie break procedure. From there, everyone else burning to the ground would certainly help.

The real problem is they’d be 3-2 in the division, which isn’t great for tie break purposes and their cross-division opponents include Akron. That level of tie-breaking is tanked because of their 0-5 record.

Just win your games and hope WMU chokes it away. It’s happened before.

Northern Illinois

Record:   3-6  (2-3)
Division Wins: None
Division Losses: Central Michigan, Ball State

Probably the easiest to write. Win out is the only chance. Get into the 5-3 slop and make it a mess. For them to do that, they beat Toledo, Western Michigan, and Eastern Michigan. It’s a tall order.

No one can get to 6 wins or the Huskies are obviously out. They can personally make sure that Toledo and Western Michigan don’t get there.

After that, a four-way tie with WMU, CMU, Toledo, and NIU actually produces the Huskies. They would be 2-1 versus that group and so would Toledo. NIU has to beat Toledo to get to this point, so they have the head to head.

If WMU crashes out and finishes 4-4, then that same group goes to the next level of tie-breaker. It’s the opposite of the same situation in the Toledo section. If Miami beats Bowling Green that would likely give the edge to NIU to move on.

Huskies, you’re not dead yet, but you’re close.

The East

Miami can go 2-1 and win the East. With their schedule, if they are not in the MAC Championship game it would be a total system failure. I’d be willing to make an exception if everyone got hurt in the last three games but that would be terrible for a lot of reasons.

For Ohio and Buffalo to make it, the need to finish a full game clear of Miami. It’s a really tough position to be in with three weeks left in the season.

There are some outside shots that exist. Bowling Green still has to play Miami, so they could win and take the head to head tiebreaker. To make that matter, Miami would need to lose out and Akron would need to start winning. Sorry Akron fans, it’s just not in the cards. Better years are ahead.

It’s Miami’s East and the other teams are just living in it.

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