MAC teams need Big Ten wins to earn recognition

Dj Johnson and Dj Johnson

Geographically, the Mid-American Conference and the Big Ten are similar. The MAC’s furthest state east is New York and the Big Ten’s furthest state east is Pennsylvania. The furthest schools west in the aforementioned conferences (Northern Illinois for the MAC and Iowa for the Big Ten) are all east of the halfway point of the country.

With Temple considered, eight of the 11 Big Ten states are found in states that also host MAC schools, and the two most nationally-acclaimed rivals in each conference (the Big Ten’s Ohio State versus the University of Michigan and the MAC’s Bowling Green State versus Toledo) is nothing more than a casual joy ride between the two schools.

But for the most part, that is where the similarities end between the two conferences.

The history of Big Ten football is well-documented. Rose Bowl appearances, national championships and Heisman trophy winners are all fair game to any of the 11 teams in a given year. They’re granted seven automatic bids to bowl games at the end of the year, even though most of them find themselves in one of the top four bowl games every year.

Some of their stadiums can exceed one hundred thousand fans, and it is very rare to see the stadiums not packed to capacity.

The MAC, on the other hand, is a different story. A national championship would send shock waves throughout the entire sporting community, although because the way the BCS is setup, that fantasy is almost impossible. If we jump through enough hoops and blow enough whistles, there’s a bowl game in Hawaii that we can manage to participate at the end of the year but outside of that, we’re really only entitled to two post-season bowl games. And sadly, the MAC stadiums are so small in comparison to the Big Ten teams that most MAC schools can’t even dream of hosting a Big Ten team at home.

Even though both conferences are considered Division 1-A, the point is that the MAC pales in comparison to the Big Ten. MAC graduates have gone on to be Super Bowl quarterbacks and highly-acclaimed wide receivers, but they are few and far between. The truth of the matter is that right now, the MAC is simply not on the same level as the Big Ten.

However, in the past couple of years, it seems like the college football gods have developed a sense of humor. Over time, the MAC and the Big Ten have developed a strange pairing that pits the two conferences in (many times) their first game of the football season. So unlikely match-ups, such as Bowling Green vs. Wisconsin take place before both conferences enter inter-conference play.

It is unlikely that the MAC will become the big national powerhouse that the Big Ten has become, but it has become imperative that this week of MAC/Big Ten collisions on the gridiron really become the focus of the smaller conference’s schedule.

The necessity of this focus is due to the fact that no matter how many times we beat up on Buffalo, Kent State or any of the directional Michigan teams, we won’t get any real national exposure.

Akron winning the MAC title last year was up there along with Jimmy cracking corn. If the Falcons were to cremate every single MAC opposing team on their schedule in a given year, on a national scale, no one notices. Bowl game wins over teams like Memphis are good ego boosts, but they do little to elevate the credibility of the BGSU football team.

Our week against the Big Ten puts us in a limelight that the conference very rarely sees during conference play. Wins over Big Ten schools then make football fans across the country double take – a MAC school gains instant credibility for at least the rest of the season.

Last year, the MAC was unable to come up with one win against a Big Ten school. Granted, any win over a Big Ten team would be considered an upset, but the MAC has handed the powerhouse conference some humbling losses. Bowling Green alone has been able to knock off both Purdue and Northwestern within the past four years. It’s worth pointing out, however, that every MAC team has to step up their games when they take on the Big Ten early this upcoming season – these wins don’t come easy or often.

I’m not saying to go out and find blue and yellow to wear at the next Toledo football game, but it’s in the best interest of Bowling Green and the conference as a whole if a MAC team is able to knock off a Big Ten opponent. Until we can establish some credibility, it will be GMAC and Poinsettia Bowls for BG and the rest of the MAC.

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