Posted: 3:47 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013
By Matt Daley
The puzzle that is the MAC Championship Game is coming more and more into focus every day. Before tonight's huge dose of #MACtion known as the Ball State Cardinals versus the Northern Illinois Huskies, we're here with a clear picture of who can still end up in Detroit in three weeks.
This one is the easiest. If the Ball State Cardinals win tonight, they will improve to 10-1 overall and 7-0 in Mid-American Conference play. That record will clinch the MAC Western Division championship, no matter what happens during the remaining two weeks of the season. Why? Because even if they would lose their final game, they could do no worse than a tie with either Northern Illinois or the Toledo Rockets, and they would own the head-to-head tiebreaker over both teams.
This one is pretty simple, too. Northern Illinois obviously must win tonight, given the first scenario. If they do, then they only need to win next week against Toledo to clinch the MAC West championship. Wins in both games would give them an 11-0 overall record and a 7-0 mark in the MAC. At that point, even if they lost their final game, the Huskies could do no worse than a 7-1 tie with Ball State and would own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Well, perhaps not chaos, but we would have to wait until the final day of the season to know the MAC West champion. If NIU wins tonight and then loses to Toledo, that would create a three-way tie between NIU, Toledo and Ball State. Each team would have 6-1 records in the conference.
How would this play out on the final day?
Toledo would clinch the Western Division IF they win at Akron and Northern Illinois also beats Western Michigan OR IF they win at Akron and both Northern Illinois and Ball state lose. Toledo would win head-to-head tiebreaker with NIU and would win a three-way tie at 7-1 because their opponents from the East have a better cumulative winning percentage in the MAC.
Northern Illinois would clinch the Western Division IF they win versus Western Michigan AND Toledo loses at Akron. NIU would win a head-to-head tiebreaker with Ball State.
Ball State would clinch the Western Division IF they win versus Miami AND Northern Illinois loses versus Western Michigan. Ball State would win a head-to-head tiebreaker with Toledo.
To recap, here are the clinching scenarios for all three West teams...
BALL STATE CLINCHES WITH...
Win tonight at Northern Illinois OR
Loss tonight at N. Illinois AND win vs Miami AND N. Illinois loses vs Toledo and W. Michigan
TOLEDO CLINCHES WITH...
Ball State loses tonight at Northern Illinois AND
Win next Wednesday vs Northern Illinois AND
Win on Friday (11/29) at Akron AND
N. Illinois wins vs W. Michigan OR N. Illinos loses vs W. Michigan and Ball State loses vs Miami
NORTHERN ILLINOIS CLINCHES WITH...
Win tonight vs Ball State AND
Win next Wednesday at Toledo OR
Win on Tuesday (11/26) vs Western Michigan AND Toledo loses at Akron
There is only one scenario for the Eastern Division -- whomever wins when the Bowling Green Falcons at Buffalo on Friday, Nov. 29th will win the division. The game will be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills. A win by the Buffalo Bulls would place them in the MAC title game for only the second time ever and the first time in five years (2008). Bowling Green would also play in their second MAC title game with a win, but it would be their first trip to a MAC Championship Game in Detroit. In their last title game appearance ten years ago (2003), the Falcons hosted the championship game in its last year of on-campus play.