Mid-American Conference football: Predicting where CMU, EMU, WMU will finish in 2020

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Mid-American Conference football is the final FBS league to return to play, meaning three in-state teams — Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan — are finally back in action.

The six-game conference-only schedule begins Nov. 4 and concludes with the MAC championship Dec. 18 at Ford Field. To be eligible for the title game, at least three of the six games must be played.

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CMU’s Kobe Lewis is tackled by Miami’s Matthew Salopek during the 2019 MAC championship game.

All games in the first three weeks of the conference’s campaign will be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the final three games for each team will take place on Saturdays. Fans are not permitted to attend competitions, but family members will be able to fill the seats if local and state health guidelines allow it.

[ Mid-American Conference releases 2020 football schedule ]

Last season, Miami (Ohio) defeated CMU, 26-21, in the championship.

Here is the Free Press’ predicted order of finish for MAC teams:

East

1. x-Buffalo

2. Miami (Ohio)

3. Ohio

4. Bowling Green

5. Kent State

6. Akron

West

1. Central Michigan

2. Toledo

3. Ball State

4. Western Michigan

5. Northern Illinois

6. Eastern Michigan

x-conference champion

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Why Buffalo?

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Buffalo’s Jaret Patterson is chased by Rutgers defenders in 2018.

The Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks combination out of the backfield will be too much for most defenses to handle. Bringing back quarterback Kyle Vantrease gives Buffalo a distinct advantage against many foes still searching for stability at the most important position, especially within the offense-heavy MAC.

Last season, Patterson racked up 312 carries for 1,799 yards and 19 touchdowns, along with 13 catches for 209 yards and another TD. The 5-foot-9 junior was complemented by Marks, a fellow junior, who had 1,305 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 227 carries. Vantrease completed 101 of 172 passes for 1,193 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions, chipping in six rushing TDs.

These three players can carry the Bulls’ offense, which should be enough to put them in a spot to win their first MAC title since 2008. Lance Leipold, entering his sixth season at the helm, is the right coach to take them the distance.

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Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold during the second half of the Mid-American Conference championship game against Northern Illinois, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, in Detroit.

MAC coaches and media preseason polls:

Coaches poll

East

1. x-Miami 64 (6)

2. Buffalo 58 (4)

3. Ohio 48 (1)

4. Kent State 42

5. Bowling Green 23

6. Akron 17 (1)

West

1. Toledo 54 (4)

2. Western Michigan 53 (2)

3. Central Michigan 52 (5)

4. Ball State 50 (1)

5. Eastern Michigan 22

6. Northern Illinois 21

Media poll

East

1. x-Buffalo 135 (19)

2. Miami 107 (3)

3. Ohio 101 (1)

4. Kent State 85 (1)

5. Bowling Green 50

6. Akron 26

West

1. Central Michigan 119 (10)

2. Toledo 118 (7)

3. Ball State 93 (4)

4. Western Michigan 89 (3)

5. Eastern Michigan 46

6. Northern Illinois 39

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: MAC football predictions 2020: Where CMU, EMU, WMU will finish