An annual tradition is set to return in less than a week. The Mid-American Conference is scheduled to begin midweek matchups starting on Nov. 2. All MAC teams except for Bowling Green and Buffalo will play on either Tuesday or Wednesday in Week 9.
Ahead of midweek play, the MAC is a tale of two divisions. The MAC East Division is spread out. Kent State and Miami are tied for first with 3-1 records, whereas Bowling Green is still searching for its first conference win after being blown out by Eastern Michigan on Saturday. The MAC West, on the other hand, appears much more even. Five of the six teams in the division sport 2-2 MAC records. The lone exception, Northern Illinois, has won five straight games and is the lone undefeated team in conference play.
The clock is ticking as the MAC Championship approaches. Here are the top performances from around the MAC in Week 8 and what they mean for Ohio:
Standout team performance: Eastern Michigan defeats Bowling Green 55-24
Eastern Michigan is a member of the MAC West and needs all the wins it can get to catch up to Northern Illinois. With little room for error, the Eagles traveled to Bowling Green on Saturday and routed the Falcons 55-24.
After trailing 3-0 after the first quarter, Eastern Michigan’s offense exploded. It outscored Bowling Green 55-21 in the final 45 minutes. The Eagles were led by quarterback Ben Bryant, who completed 20-of-26 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Bryant also picked up a rushing touchdown from a yard out in the second quarter.
Fellow quarterback Preston Hutchinson recorded a touchdown pass of his own in the fourth quarter, and four different Eagles made touchdown receptions Saturday. Overall, the Eagles outgained the Falcons 455-374.
Standout individual performance: Rocky Lombardi, quarterback, Northern Illinois
The Huskies continue to impress both as a team and on a player-by-player basis. This week, however, the quarterback stands in the spotlight as opposed to a member of the Huskies’ conference-leading rushing offense.
Lombardi was vital to Northern Illinois’ 39-38 comeback victory over Central Michigan. After being down 28-10 at one point in the second quarter, Northern Illinois inched out a comeback victory spearheaded by Lombardi. In total, the quarterback threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns on 27 attempts. His longest completion was a 75-yard touchdown pass to Trayvon Rudolph in the third quarter that brought his team within two scores of Central Michigan.
Lombardi’s performance on Saturday is the MAC’s second-highest passing performance in a single game after eight weeks, behind only Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum’s 407 yards against Buffalo. Lombardi passed for 200 yards or more in just two games all season prior to his performance against Central Michigan.
What this means for Ohio
Three of Ohio’s four remaining opponents are 2-2 or better in MAC play. Eastern Michigan is one of those three teams. The Bobcats travel to Ypsilanti on Nov. 9, and they’ll be greeted by the MAC’s top-scoring offense and third-best scoring defense.
Ohio needs to prepare for Bryant, who has the sixth-most passing yards in the MAC after Week 8. The upside for the Bobcats is their own quarterbacks have been putting out exceptional performances of their own since conference play began. Armani Rogers broke a Football Bowl Subdivision record with a 99-yard touchdown run against Buffalo, and Kurtis Rourke passed for over 300 yards against Kent State for the first time in his career. Ohio has two possible answers to match a strong cadre of opposing signal-callers going forward.