We’ll preview every major conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision between now and the start of college football season on Aug. 26 through the lens of sports bettors. Each preview will include a shallow dive into the favorites, long shots and our favorite pick.
We’ll start with the non-power five conferences and work our way toward the big fish in the pond, finishing with the Southeastern Conference. When the season begins, you’ll have a comprehensive look at the top divisions in the sport.
We’ll begin with the Mid-American Conference.
The MAC saw two new faces in the conference title game last season as the winner of the West Division, Toledo, topped the East Division winner, Ohio, 17-7. The Rockets would go on to beat Liberty 21-19 in the Boca Raton Bowl to cap off a 9-5 campaign.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats beat Wyoming 30-27 in the Arizona Bowl to finish the season 10-4. The eventual runner-up in the MAC was the only team to win 10+ games while Toledo and Eastern Michigan won nine a piece.
Buffalo was the conference’s only other team with a .500 win percentage by season’s end. However, there were a host of seven-loss squads (Ball State, Bowling Green, Kent State, Miami (OH) and Western Michigan) that hovered around the aforementioned mark.
It should come as no surprise that the conference’s two top dogs last season, the Bobcats and Rockets, are favored to meet again in the MAC championship this season. Caesars Sportsbook has Toledo (+180) listed as the favorite to win the conference over Ohio (+210).
The Rockets return star quarterback Dequan Finn for his junior season as he looks to continue to shatter school records. Factor in a stout defense and Toledo has a good chance to win 10+ games for the first time since 2017.
Toledo isn’t the only team to return a playmaker at quarterback either. Ohio’s C.J. Harris — who earned the starting job late in the season — looks to build on an Arizona Bowl MVP that helped earn the Bobcats their 10th win of the season.
Miami (+750) has the next-best odds to win the conference. The Redhawks likely won’t have any issues bringing back a top-tier defense with Chuck Martin still at the helm as head coach. However, Martin’s refusal to lean on analytics has resulted in Miami’s offense being unable to reach its full potential. If there is a sleeping giant in the East Division, it’s the Redhawks.
Buffalo (+800) and Eastern Michigan (+800) could also play spoilers if they manage to put together consistent performances.
Central Michigan (+1600) is the first name to consider when keeping an eye on long shots. As long as former Florida head coach Jim McElwain is at the helm, the Chippewas will have a shot, regardless of their odds. McElwain certainly has his work cut out for him next year, but he’s faced tougher tasks during his time in Mount Pleasant.
He needs to replace nearly his entire offense as the experienced group has moved on. Luckily, Bert Emanuel Jr. looks to be a bonafide star in the making. The young quarterback could take the MAC by storm next year.
The other long-shot competitor worth considering is Northern Illinois (+2000). The Huskies have been one of college football’s biggest rollercoaster rides over the last half-decade. They’ve posted records of 8-6, 5-7, 0-6, 9-5 and 3-9 since 2018. If Thomas Paddock’s team continues this trend, they’re in store for a successful year in 2023.
This is especially true if Northern Illinois’ experienced offensive core stays healthy. Could they make a return to the top? Time will tell.
The MAC hasn’t had a repeat champion in football in over a decade. Northern Illinois was the last team to go back-to-back in 2011 and 2012. There have been six unique winners since then; in other words, the MAC stands for parity.
Toledo is currently the favorite to win the conference at +180. Despite all of the Rockets’ talent, less than 2-to-1 odds do not provide value for interested bettors. As far as realistic potential winners go, Miami (+750) provides more value.
The Redhawks play two of their toughest conference games — Buffalo and Toledo — at home. If they are able to figure things out on offense, Martin’s defense can cause opponents issues. The key date to circle will be October 28 (subject to change) at the Ohio Bobcats.
It’s also worth taking a flyer on Northern Illinois (+2000). You can get the 2021 MAC champion offensive core at 20/1 — need I say more? If the Huskies can stay healthy, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the MAC.
Full MAC odds and win totals
(Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook, as of Tuesday, July 11)
|Team||Division||Title odds||Win total|
|Miami (OH)||East||+750||7 (u-125)|
|Eastern Michigan||West||+800||7.5 (u-120)|
|Northern Illinois||West||+2000||5.5 (o-140)|
|Ball State||West||+2200||5 (u-125)|
|Bowling Green||East||+2500||4.5 (o-145)|
|Western Michigan||West||+4000||4 (u-150)|
|Kent State||East||+10000||2.5 (u-130)|
College football conference pieces
July 12: MAC
July 13: Conference USA
July 19: Mountain West
July 26: Sun Belt
Aug. 2: American Athletic
Aug. 9: Pac-12
Aug. 15: Big 12
Aug. 16: ACC
Aug. 22: Big Ten
Aug. 23: SEC