The 2023-24 college football season is swiftly approaching. The Toledo Rockets are eager to begin their MAC-Championship-defending campaign after defeating the Ohio Bobcats in the MAC Football Championship Game last season. Toledo has now captured four total championships, trailing Northern Illinois (5) and Marshall (5) for the most titles in MAC history.
The futures market for the impending campaign has been defined. BetOnline recently updated their odds for the 2024 MAC conference winner. The odds shake out as follows:
- Toledo (+170)
- Ohio (+300)
- Miami (Ohio) (+650)
- Buffalo (+750)
- Eastern Michigan (+900)
- Northern Illinois (+1000)
- Akron (+1600)
- Central Michigan (+1800)
- Ball State (+4000)
- Bowling Green (+4000)
THE FAVORITE AND MY PICK: TOLEDO
Toledo is BetOnline’s favorite to repeat as MAC champions and I agree with that assessment. Head coach Jason Candle returns for a seventh campaign, offering the program a rare case of continuity. Quarterback Dequan Finn is arguably the MAC’s top playmaker after throwing for career-highs in yards (2,269) and touchdowns (23) last season.
Last season’s championship-winning defense remains mostly intact, returning seven starters. Toledo’s defense allowed a conference-low 4.8 yards per play last year. Desjuan Johnson, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, must be replaced on the defensive line.
Toledo is attempting to become the MAC’s first repeat champion since Northern Illinois accomplished back-to-back titles in 2010-11. Toledo is the rightful favorite. The Rockets appear primed to capture a second consecutive championship.
THE NO. 1 CONTENDER: OHIO
Ohio is the East Division’s favorite to represent the conference in the MAC Championship Game. Starting quarterback Kurtis Rourke suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the 11th game against Ball State. Rourke’s ability to fully recover may hold the keys to Ohio’s championship efforts.
Rourke was outstanding before suffering the setback. He threw for 3,256 yards and 25 touchdowns before finishing the season on the sidelines. A dual-threat playmaker, Rourke added 249 rushing yards to his offensive totals.
Even if Rourke recaptures his previous form, Ohio will have to be better defensively if they’re to challenge Toledo. A Swiss-cheese-like defense gave up a conference-high 6.2 yards per play last season. Help arrived via the transfer portal with defensive linemen Kwame Sutton (Austin Peay) and Tristan Cox (Purdue) among those that joined Ohio this summer. Color me skeptical.
THE UNDERDOG: MIAMI (OHIO)
The Miami (Ohio) RedHawks are set to return quarterback Brett Gabbert. Recurring injuries limited Gabbert to four regular-season appearances last season. Gabbert is back for a fifth season, which provides the RedHawks with an opportunity to compete alongside the conference’s heavyweights.
Gabbert is the younger brother of NFL quarterback Blaine Gabbert, a former first-round selection. Brett Gabbert is an extremely talented quarterback in his own right. When he was fully healthy in 2021, he enjoyed an All-MAC season while leading Miami to their first bowl victory since 2010.
Gabbert will have to navigate through some challenges. The program lost two offensive linemen to the transfer portal with Rusty Feth transferring to Iowa, and Caleb Shaffer transferring to Oklahoma. Such is life in college football’s new NIL-based landscape.
Gabbert is talented enough to help the RedHawks execute some upsets this season.
- Sep 29, 2023
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