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MAC Kicks Off

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MAC Kicks Off

The Mid-American Conference may be in a flux as to whether they are part of ACRC or not, but they will most definitely grab at a chance for the newly-unveiled USA Rugby fall playoff structure.

And whether any of that happens smoothly or not, league play begins Saturday. And while Bowling Green were the class of the MAC in the fall of 2013, there is a long line of teams hoping to overcome them.

One of them is in action this weekend, as Dayton (3-3-1 in 2013) visit Central Michigan (1-6 in 2013). Ohio is back from suspension and eases in carefully against Ball State, who were winless last season.

Another team that didn’t play in the league last year is Louisville, which has moved into the MAC and is looking to pull a few surprises. Louisville tied Western Kentucky last weekend in a warmup, but playing the defending champs at Bowling Green won’t be an easy task.

Bowling Green is led by senior prop and captain Alex Garnaut, and vice captain and former scrumhalf Mike Powell, who at 6-0, 205 has to be one of bigger #9s in the conference, but is moving to center. But overall BGSU is quite young, with more than 60% of their roster being freshman and sophomores.

This might be the time to catch the Falcons, and perhaps the team to do it is Miami, which won’t start their league season for a week. Miami is young, too, said Head Coach Jared Moore, with about 20 of their roster of 50 being new.

“What’s good is we don’t have players who stand out - we have a total team effort,” said Moore. “We’re getting the new guys in rotation and getting them up to speed.”

Miami always seems to be able to run and move the ball. If they can do it more smoothly and take advantage of their experience, they might be the team to watch.

Also in the crosshairs are Cincinnati, who, like Miami, warmed up against Xavier University in Cincinnati. The Bearcats have been working hard all summer after finishing 4-2-1 in 2013, and tested themselves this past weekend in a three-period run-out with the Cincinnati Wolfhounds club team.

Cincinnati doesn’t actually get going in league play until September 20, but then they have a grueling six-week stretch with four away games, and then when they do get back home, they have to play Bowling Green.

The MAC has expanded to ten teams, and so has split into two conferences (some say it’s East and West, others say North and South - North and South look more logical). The teams play the other four in their conference, and two from the other conference. So the teams cursing the schedule might well be Louisville and Cincinnati, as they have to play Bowling Green, while Miami gets Northern Illinois and Ball State, a combined 2-11-1 in 2013.

Next year, the MAC will expand even further, as Akron and Kent State join. Those two are MAC schools in other sports, as well. Of the 12 colleges that play varsity sports in the MAC, then, only Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, and Toledo will not be in the rugby conference, while Louisville, Cincinnati, and Dayton will be interlopers. There is precedence for college conferences to adjust the teams involved based on the sport, so this shouldn’t be a problem for the teams involved in the future.

MAC North (2013 conf. records in parentheses)
Ball State (0-7)
Bowling Green (7-0)
Central Michigan (1-6)
Northern Illinois (2-4-1)
Western Michigan (4-3)

MAC South
Cincinnati (4-2-1)
Dayton (3-3-1)
Louisville (NA)
Miami (5-1-1)
Ohio (NA)

This weekend’s games:
Dayton at Central Michigan
Louisville at Bowling Green
Ohio at Ball State