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Even though the Mid American Conference (MAC) is one of the least regarded conferences in terms of prestige, it may be one of the most exciting. Last year we saw Buffalo running back Jared Patterson run for 409 yards and eight TDs in a single game! Speaking of Buffalo, one of the most feared rushers in the league, Khalil Mack, was a product of the Bulls. There’s plenty of talent within.
Let’s not forget either that there’s always midweek MACtion! The conference tends to have Tuesday and Wednesday primetime slots, so it basically makes every day for a football fan a game day. Even with such a short season, that period from late October through November was a wild ride due to the deep slate of games all week long.
Now that we’ve touched a little on what makes the MAC important to college football, let’s dive in and discuss some hidden gems of the conference:
Akron Zips: RB Teon Dollard
Dollard is a downhill runner who can run though most tacklers in the conference. With the other All-MAC first team running back off to the NFL, the aforementioned Patterson, Dollard will compete to be the best back in the conference. He averaged over 100 yards per game, had 5.9 yards per carry and even scored six times. He’ll bring the juice in 2021.
Ball State Cardinals: WR Justin Hall
This is a player that has made his presence felt through the air and on the ground. In just eight games last season he had 49 receptions and four TDs, as well as another 30 carries and a touchdown on the ground. Hall could easily surpass the 75 reception and 50 carry mark en route to a very efficient season.
Buffalo Bulls: RB Kevin Marks Jr.
The Bulls were the second best team in the country in rush yards per game with 287.4 per game. A lot of that had to do with Patterson going for 1,072 yards, but Marks Jr. was also solid with 741 yards of his own. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry and punched in seven TDs.
In the open field he’s a nightmare as he possesses a great hop step and hesitation to force missed tackles. In the hole he’s a problem because he can shoulder check most linebackers and step on their numbers as he runs over top of them. I wouldn’t be shocked if he finishes top five in the country in rushing.
Central Michigan Chippewas: QB Daniel Richardson
In just four games played last season, Richardson was really efficient for a redshirt freshman. He led the Chippewas to a 3-1 record in those games, ending up with a 2:1 TD to INT ratio and a 64% completion percentage. With a full offseason to acclimate him to a starting role, this quarterback should see his numbers skyrocket in 2021.
Kent State Golden Flashes: QB Dustin Crum
Crum is quietly one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the country. In the four games he played last season, he went for 1,181 yards in the air (almost 300 per game) and another 240 on the ground. His final tally was 16 TDs, averaging one rush and three passing scores per game.
With Crum every throw is on the table. There’s plenty of arm strength to play at a high level, which I would reasonably compare to Kirk Cousins. In the run game he can run through defenders and also speed past them up the middle on read options. There’s a good chance that he becomes the MAC player of the year on offense.
Miami (OH) Redhawks: WR Jack Sorensen
Some teams have their “go-to” guy but with Sorensen, I’ve never seen such skewed stats. Of the teams total 715 receiving yards he had nearly half at 354. He’ll continue to get the ball force fed to him as he can make contested grabs downfield, or beat people underneath on crisp routes.
Northern Illinois Huskies: WR Tyrice Richie
Speaking of “go-to” guys, we find another one with Richie. Though his teams’ passing attack was better all around, thanks to Ross Bowers at quarterback, there’s no doubt he was the number one. Richie had 32 more receptions than the closest teammate in that category and 365 more yards.
He’s shifty once he gets the ball in his hands, which helps with yards after the catch. When one-on-one, it’s hard to press him as he’s elusive from the break. He should be a player that shoots up the draft board.
Ohio Bobcats: RB De’Montre Tuggle
There’s nothing incredibly flashy about his game, but Tuggle just gets the job done in the backfield. He’s a patient runner who uses balance and vision to offset his lack of top end speed. Averaging over 130 yards per game on the ground and 7.6 yards per carry is a great stat line, and duplicating that effort in a full season will stuff a stat sheet.
Toledo Rockets: WR Bryce Mitchell
Mitchell is a big target on the outside at 6’3” and 207 lbs. who can get separation in this conference. Every year he has upped his average per reception, coming in at 23.5 in 2020 for third best in the country. Every trip to the red zone he should get at least one jump ball opportunity, because the worst case would be a defensive pass interference call. The full 2021 schedule should allow Mitchell to have a massive season.
Western Michigan Broncos: QB Kaleb Eleby
With his favorite target D’Wayne Eskridge off to the Seattle Seahawks, Eleby will be looking for a new go-to. His 195.1 passer rating last season was absolutely absurd, boasting 18 TDs against only two interceptions. He really rips the ball on RPOs and can drill the ball into small windows.
Not only is he a gunslinger with his approach in the pocket, but he can use his legs to extend the play. It’s not really as if he’s a running threat even though he is capable, but on designed rollouts and scrambles he can still zip it completely off-balance. I’m really interested to see how NFL scouts will view his potential over the next few seasons.
Western Michigan Broncos: WR Jaylen Hall
Going back to finding Eleby a favorite target, he should look no further than Hall. The man’s numbers are ridiculous, as he led the whole country in yards per reception at 26.9, albeit it was on 12 catches. What’s wild though is he scored seven TDs off them. When someone is scoring on more than half their receptions, you probably want to get them more involved.