For a number of years now the MAC has been an oddity. It was the only conference that had 13 teams. This odd number made for two uneven divisions, the East with seven teams and the West with a more standard six.
Starting in the 2012 season, the University of Massachusetts will join the conference. This is a move from the FCS to the FBS level. In my opinion it is a decent move. Not really a great one, but not necessarily a bad one either. UMass has a solid history, but over the last couple seasons they have just been okay.
With this the conference must restructure within itself just a little bit. UMass takes over as the school farthest east in the conference so they will obviously be placed in the East division. Temple, Buffalo, Kent State, Akron and Ohio will likely all stay in the East as well. The school that will shift to the west is the question.
The two real options are Bowling Green and Miami (OH). Here are the arguments.
Miami (OH) is part of the East right now, but is located west of Eastern Michigan and Toledo, two schools in the West. Miami (OH) may even be more west than Central Michigan. Geographically, Miami (OH) makes the most sense.
Bowling Green however, is located just south of their greatest rival Toledo. As of right now the two are in different divisions. Moving Bowling Green to the MAC West would allow for the rivalry to be played every season. Miami (OH) has no long standing conference rivalry game to adjust for.
I think Bowling Green for this reason alone is the better choice.
Going forward with that assumption, what will the divisions look like?
I see no power shift with any of this. Bowling Green has been a mid to lower half team who competes for the conference for a number of seasons now. Playing in the West instead of the East will likely see them hold ground and be close to the top every few years.
I can’t see UMass coming in and competing for the title right away. Looking at the MAC East, I don’t even know if I could see them being .500 in conference play for the first few seasons.
Unless another conference decided they wanted to invite any of these teams and someone jumped conferences, I think the MAC stays with 14 teams for years to come.
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