2023 MAC Conference Preview: Sleepers, Busts and All-Conference Teams

2023 MAC Conference Preview: Sleepers, Busts and All-Conference Teams

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

If you, like me, my Rotowire college football brethren, and basically everybody who comes to Rotowire for CFB content, are a major consumer of collegiate gridiron action, you have a soft spot for, well, MACtion. We round out our conference preview coverage with them. The MAC is the cult conference of the FBS. Rarely does a team make a national splash. It's never the top Group of Five conference but also typically never the worst either. You have to be into college ball to think about the MAC, to tune in for those Tuesday games. That also means you know fantasy success can be found by mining the MAC.

Check out the 2023 College Fantasy Football Draft Kit, sleepers busts and all-conference teams below.

2023 College Fantasy Football Draft Kit

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MAC All-Conference Fantasy Teams

First Team All-MAC

QB: Kurtis Rourke, Ohio

RB: Sieh Bangura, Ohio

RB: Marquez Cooper, Ball State

WR: Alex Adams, Akron

WR: Sam Wiglusz, Ohio

TE: Brady Hunt, Ball State

Second Team All-MAC

QB: Dequan Finn, Toledo

RB: Samson Evans, Eastern Michigan

RB: Antario Brown, Northern Illinois

WR: Jerjuan Newton, Toledo

WR: Jacoby Jones, Ohio

TE: Anthony Torres, Toledo

Third Team All-MAC

QB: DJ Irons, Akron

RB: Keshawn King, Western Michigan

RB: Jacquez Stuart, Toledo

WR: Daniel George, Akron

WR: Devin Maddox, Toledo

TE: TJ Banks, Akron

2023 MAC Fantasy Sleepers

QB: Layne Hatcher, Ball State

Hatcher is on his third college team, but he's also been named the starter for his third college team, which says something. Sure, he's never replicated his 2020 season at Arkansas when he threw 19 touchdowns against only two interceptions, but that level of turnover avoidance was never going to happen. Last season at Texas State he had 19 passing touchdowns against 10 picks, but with a 62.2 completion percentage that was a personal best. Joined by Kent State transfer Marquez Cooper, Ball State has a chance to produce a sneakily-good offense, and Hatcher would play a key role in that.

QB: Connor Bazelak, Bowling Green

Bazelak is a "water finds its level" play. He was decent at Missouri, but that is an SEC school. He was a bit worse at Indiana in 2022, but that's a Big Ten school, and one with substandard offense through much of its history. Bazelak is now a MAC starting quarterback. That is a significant step down in terms of oppositional talent. There's a reason he got to start at Mizzou and Indiana. I'd be surprised, frankly, if he can't handle the MAC.

RB: Lorenzo Lingard, Akron

Alright, Joe Moorhead. You have a season at Akron, one of the FBS' lowliest programs, to get your feet under you. Now, it is time to tap into your offensive reputation to get the Zips moving offensively. He has basically an entirely new set of running backs, which is probably a good sign. Lingard barely played at Florida but, again, he was at Florida. The Gators gave him some carries if only a handful. Lingard will see more work for Akron. If it pays off, he'll finally get a chance to put up some stats.

RB: Ron Cook, Buffalo

The Bulls have a history of notable MAC backs, though not all under head coach Maurice Linguist. In two of his final three games in 2022, Cook ran for over 100 yards with a touchdown. Then, his momentum came to a halt due to a neck injury. Now, he's back practicing and seems primed to be the lead back in 2023. Maybe Cook is the next Dylan McDuffie or Jaret Patterson.

WR: Odieu Hiliare, Bowling Green

These days, we focus on transfers within FBS football, but players do still come up from the FCS and make a splash. Hilare was a big-time performer at Alabama A&M, and last year he had 58 catches for 747 yards and six touchdowns for Bowling Green. Sure, eight catches, 242 yards, and two touchdowns came against Toledo, but also, he did that against Toledo! That's his upside, and now he has Bazelak as his quarterback.

WR: Jalen McGaughy, Central Michigan

This sleeper suggestion is based off one game in 2022, the first game of the season at that. McGaughy had six catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns on the road against Oklahoma State. After that, he didn't do much, but he had over 100 yards and scored twice against a Big 12 team. He's atop Central Michigan's depth chart for 2023. We have seen what McGaughy can do. If he does it a few times this season, then he's really helping fantasy players. That's what a certain flavor of sleeper is all about

2023 MAC Fantasy Busts

QB: Hayden Wolff, Western Michigan

Wolff transfers in from Old Dominion, where he was the starter last year, throwing for 2,908 yards, 18 touchdowns, and six interceptions. On the other hand, he can do nothing with his legs, he's definitely statue adjacent, and he fumbled eight times last year. There's also the fact Western Michigan has a new head coach, Lance Taylor. This is Taylor's first head coaching gig, and he has one season as an offensive coordinator to his name. Among the transfer QBs in the MAC, Wolff has the highest bust potential to me.

QB: Rocky Lombardi, Northern Illinois

Lombardi and Ohio's Kurtis Rourke are the two MAC quarterbacks with some track record of success coming off season-ending injuries. The difference is Rourke has done it for longer, and he was putting up big numbers before his injury in 2023. Lombardi never got the chance. He only played in two full games. I don't know if he just goes back to his 2021 performance. On top of that, Northern Illinois has less overall talent than Ohio, meaning Lombardi has less to work worth as he tries to get into the groove of things.

RB: Xavier Williams, Kent State

Williams ran for 812 yards in his last season of action…but that was 2021. He didn't play in 2022, when Marquez Cooper ripped it up. This is not merely Williams plugging into Cooper's role, though, or even his old role. Sean Lewis dipped out as Kent State's head coach to become the offensive coordinator at Colorado. Lewis was in demand because he runs a dynamic, fast-paced offense. Kenni Burns, um, was the running backs coach at Minnesota. Yeah, I think the Golden Flashes will dip the most in terms of offensive production of any team in the FBS in 2023.

RB: Jacquez Stuart, Toledo

Of the backs that made All-MAC fantasy teams, Stuart is the one I have the least confidence in. Scoring touchdowns can vacillate quite a bit, but Stuart has seen the field 31 times for the Rockets and has scored five touchdowns total. Last year he admittedly rank for 770 yards (in 14 games, for what it's worth), but score four times. Also, one of those touchdowns was against UMass. On top of that, in the Rockets' bowl game, he ran for 111 yards against a Liberty team that had packed it in as hard as any college team in recent memory. I could see Stuart taking a step back, or maybe just staying at the same level. I think his placement on an All-MAC team is something of a vote for improvement I don't necessarily buy into.

WR: Jacoby Jones, Ohio

Jones had 45 catches for 776 yards and six touchdowns as a number-two receiver in 2022. I have a couple of things on that. One, he will be the number-two guy again, as Sam Wigulsz is going to be the top receiver for this team. Sometimes teams, especially Group of Five teams, can support multiple high-level fantasy receivers, but there is an increased level of difficulty to that. Second, Jones had 104 yards and two touchdowns against Fordham, an FCS team. He had more games with one or fewer catches than 100-yard outings. That's a high variance, and your mileage may vary on that.

WR: Amir Abdur-Rahman, Ball State

I don't know who will emerge as Ball State's top receiver. That's my issue. I believe in Hatcher at quarterback. Cooper should smash the MAC once again. Nobody among Ball State receivers has any track record of success, though. Abdur-Rahman is the top returning wide receiver in terms of production, but the Cardinals have brought in transfers from Colorado and Wake Forest. Let the dust settle.

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Chris Morgan
Chris Morgan is a writer of sports, pop culture, and humor articles, a book author, a podcaster, and a fan of all Detroit sports teams.
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