Taking a look at how the MAC fared in 2012

With No. 2 Alabama dismantling No. 1 Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship game in Miami Gardens, Fla. Monday night, let’s take a look at how the Mid-American Conference faired in 2012 and in bowl games.

First off, the MAC had one of the best seasons in conference history.

  • Eight teams (Northern Illinois, Ball State, Kent State, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Akron) averaged over 26 points per game. In 2011, just six teams (Toledo, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Temple, Ohio and Bowling Green) that averaged over 26 points per game. In 2010, four teams (Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Toledo and Ohio) averaged over 26 points per game.
  • According to cfbstats.com, all 13 teams in the MAC combined to score 569 touchdowns — the most combined touchdowns scored in the last five years years — and 195 field goals. In 2011, the MAC combined for 555 TDs and 180 FGs; in 2010, the MAC combined for 502 TDs and 140 FGs; in 2009, the MAC combined for 495 TDs and 174 FGs; in 2008, the MAC combined for 589 TDs and 175 FGs; and in 2007, the MAC combined for 515 TDs and 186 FGs. The MAC’s 569 total TDs ranks fifth among all conferences in Division I. Only the SEC (685), the PAC-12 (623), the BigXII (581) and CUSA (573) recorded more combined touchdowns than the MAC. That’s pretty impressive considering the recruiting and coaching advantages of the three aforementioned BCS conferences.
  • Speaking of offense in terms of production, it was quite the year for the MAC. In terms of national rankings, five MAC teams ranked in the top 50 in scoring offense: NIU finished 13th in the nation with 38.6 points/game; Ball State finished tied with Georgia Tech for 33rd in the nation with 33.6 points/game; Kent State finished 35th in the nation with 33.6 points per game; Ohio finished tied with Northwestern for 42nd in the nation with 31.7 points per game; and Toledo finished tied with South Carolina, Duke and East Carolina for 44th in the nation with 31.5 points/game. In 2011, only four MAC teams that finished in the top 50 in scoring offense: Toledo (42.3 pts/game, 8th), NIU (38.3 pts/game, 12th), Western Michigan (35.3 pts/game, 18th) and Ohio (30.5 pts/game, 41st). And only two teams finished in the top 50 in scoring offense in 2010: NIU (38 pts/game, 12th) WMU (32.3 pts/game, tied for 27th with Arizona State).
  • In terms of rushing offense, six MAC teams rounded out 2012 in the top 50 — which comes as no surprise. NIU finished 12th in the nation, averaging 238.21 yards/game; Kent State finished 18th in the nation, averaging 225.79 yards/game; Ohio finished 27th, averaging 203.31 yards/game; BSU finished 28th in the nation, averaging 203.23 yards/game; Toledo finished 35th in the nation, averaging 193.23 yards/game; and Buffalo finished 47th in the country, averaging 176.67 yards/game. The MAC boasted only four teams that ranked in the top 50 at the conclusion of the 2011 season in rushing offense: NIU (234.14 yards/game, 12th), Eastern Michigan (218.33 yards/game, 14th), Toledo (213.62 yards/game, 17th) and Ohio (196.36 yards per game, 24th).
  • In terms of passing offense, five MAC teams ranked in the top 50: Akron finished 16th in the country with 312.8 yards/game; Miami (OH) finished 22nd in the nation with 298.7 yards/game; WMU finished 28th in the nation with 289.8 yards/game; BSU finished 47th in the nation with 254 yards/game; and Toledo finished 48th in the country with 252 yards/game. There were six teams that finished in the top 50 in passing offense in 2011. Despite the slight drop off in 2012, that’s still a pretty remarkable statistic nonetheless.
  • Finally, as far as total offense, the MAC saw six teams finish in the top 50: NIU finished 20th in the nation with 469.6 yards/game; BSU finished 27th with 457.2 yards/game — Both NIU and BSU averaged more yards per game than back-to-back National Champion Alabama (445.2 yards/game, 31st) in 2012; Toledo finished 32nd in the country with 445.2 yards/game; Ohio finished 33rd in the nation with 444.8 yards/game; WMU finished 38th with 439.3 yards/game; and Akron finished 45th in the country with 427.2 yards/game.

Quick thought on the Zips. The Zips averaged nearly 430 yards of offense in 2012, yet they finished with a porous 1-11 mark. With that kind of offensive production, it’s amazing how the Zips averaged just over 26 points per game, while yielding over 35 per game.

Moving On …

The MAC featured seven players who rushed for 1,000 yards or more in 2012. All seven rank in the top 50. NIU junior quarterback Jordan Lynch amassed 1,815 yards and 19 TDs, fourth in the country; Ohio junior running back Beau Blankenship tallied 1,604 yards and 15 TDs on the season, ninth in the nation; Toledo junior running back David Fluellen totaled 1,498 yards and 13 TDs, 12th in the nation; CMU junior running back Zurlon Tipton notched 1,492 yards and 19 TDs, 13th  in the country; Kent State running backs junior Dri Archer scampered for 1,429 yards and 16 TDs, 18th in the nation and Traylon Durham rushed for 1,316 yards and 14 TDs, 26th in the country; and BSU sophomore running back Jahwan Edwards ran for 1,410 yards and 14 TDs, 20th in the country.

That’s extremely impressive for the MAC and next year should only get better for this conference.

Moving On …

After witnessing a remarkable regular season for the MAC, bowl season proved to be a tough road for the vast majority of teams that saw post-season action. Toledo hung with No. 22 Utah State of the Western Athletic Conference for three quarters, trailing 13-6 before the Aggies exploded for 28 fourth-quarter points, and cruised to a 41-15 rout over the Rockets in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. We all know what went down in St. Pete in the Beef ‘O Brady’s Bowl. Ball State was smothered by Central Florida of Conference USA, 38-17. CMU clung to a 24-21 victory over Western Kentucky of the Sun Belt Conference in the Little Caesars Bowl. No. 24 San Jose State of the WAC outlasted Bowling Green 29-20 in the Military Bowl. Ohio took care of Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt 45-14 in the Independence Bowl. No. 15 NIU hung with No. 12 Florida State of the Atlantic Coastal Conference for three quarters, before the Seminoles offense took over, routing the Huskies 31-10 in the Discover Orange Bowl. Finally, No. 25 Kent State laid an egg to Arkansas State of the Sun Belt 17-10 in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

If you kept count at home, the MAC finished the bowl season with a 2-5 mark — a disappointing finish to such a fantastic and noteworthy 2012 season. I understand the disappointment. The majority of the MAC teams that saw post-season play were outmatched by their opponents. There were three bowl games that saw MAC opponents triumph by 21 or more points.

I wouldn’t look too much into how the MAC finished. It’s college football. It’s the nature of the sport. Losses are part of the game. It’s important to look ahead to the future, because it’s certainly bright for the MAC — the conference that proved it can compete with anyone in the country.