Big Ten opponents prove difficult for MAC

The Big Ten Conference and the Mid-American Conference are in the same region of the country, primarily from the Midwest. The level of football between the two conferences, however, is a little less similar.

The Big Ten has two or three national championship contenders every season, whereas the MAC is not even a conference in the Bowl Championship Series.

Despite the disparities, the two conferences frequently match-up in the early part of the season. Some think that it’s unfair that a conference such as the Big Ten is able to schedule those games and beat up on the MAC teams. Although the MAC schools are receiving benefits for playing in the game, they have little chance to come out on top.

“I think the MAC needs to take some of those games away so we can gain some more respect on a national level,” said Kevin Howe, an Eastern Michigan defensive lineman.

Another way to look at it is that the MAC needs as much exposure as it can possibly get. If they are playing in these games against tough opponents, they can get themselves out there and bring in better prospects.

“It’s a great thing, it helps us get a lot of exposure on television and helps us rate ourselves against Big Ten teams,” said NIU offensive lineman Doug Free. “Every year we go against them I think the MAC as a group does better.”

Since 2002, the MAC is 3-38 against the Big Ten. All three wins came in 2003 when the MAC posted a 3-8 record against the Big Ten. BGSU picked up two of the victories.

The record is not anything to confide in, but that is not the only thing that should be considered. In many instances, MAC teams are able to play very competitively.

In 2003, BGSU had already beaten Purdue and was headed into a game against the defending champion Ohio State Buckeyes. The Falcons hung tough with the Bucks and fell to OSU, 24-17, in a thriller.

The MAC is a league that is beginning to gain respect. There have been a number of teams who have played well against the more prominent conferences and schools, not just the Big Ten.

“It does a lot for our conference when we can go in and compete and win some of those football games,” said NIU Running back Garrett Wolfe. “People are starting to give us more credit and it’s credit that we deserve.”

Last season, Ohio University knocked off Pittsburgh in overtime and the year before that the Bobcats beat Kentucky. In 2003, Northern Illinois went 3-0 in a non-conference schedule which featured Alabama, Maryland and Iowa State.

“When you look at that game, Pitt. was coming off of a pretty good year,” said OU Linebacker Matt Muncy. “It just shows that you can go out there and compete with anybody on any given day.”

This season features 13 scheduled match-ups between the two conferences. The only MAC team that does not play against a Big Ten team is Ohio. Ball State plays three Big Ten teams, the most in the MAC.