This article is part of our Conference Preview series.
As it was across college football, 2020 was a weird season for the MAC. Some teams only played three games, while some played seven or eight. Things will be back to normal this year, and as always there's plenty of under-the-radar fantasy potential to be had across the conference. The two best-known coaches in the conference, Lance Leipold at Buffalo and Frank Solich at Ohio, have moved on to a Power 5 job and into retirement respectively this summer. In terms of fantasy options, the cream of the crop is the quarterback at Kent State, Dustin Crum.
All-MAC 1st Team
All-MAC 2nd Team
QB: Preston Hutchinson, Eastern Michigan (13)
RB: Kevin Marks, Buffalo (24)
RB: Lew Nichols, Central Michigan (35)
WR: Jack Sorenson, Miami (OH) (22)
WR: Ja'Shaun Poke, Kent State (23)
TE: Jack Coldiron, Miami (OH) (25)
All-MAC 3rd Team
QB: Drew Plitt, Ball State (22)
RB: Terion Stewart, RB, Bowling Green (38)
RB: La'Darius Jefferson, Western Michigan (58)
WR: Tyrice Richie, Northern Illinois (24)
WR: Hassan Beydoun, Eastern Michigan (26)
TE: Christian Sims, Bowling Green (42)
Brett Gabbert, QB, Miami (OH)
Gabbert only played in two of of the RedHawks' three games last season, and he suffered a concussion in one of the two he did suit up in. But the one full game, against Akron, was quite good (308 yards and four touchdowns; 48 rushing yards). In 2019, he threw for over 2,400 yards with 14 total touchdowns as he earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors.
Gabbert will have a deep set of pass catchers to throw to, at wide receiver (Jack Sorenson, Jalen Walker, Penn State transfer Mac Hippenhammer) and tight end (Andrew Homer, freshman Jack Coldiron). Miami will also welcome back running backs Jaylon Bester and Tyre Shelton after each missed last season due to injury.
Miami of Ohio is in line to have one of the best all-around offenses in the MAC this year. As the man running the show, Gabbert is lined up for a nice campaign.
Another To Consider: Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan
RB: Marquez Cooper, Kent State
The Golden Flashes have a deep backfield, with Cooper, Xavier Williams, Bryan Bradford and Joachim Bangda. But the most well-rounded of the group looks to be Cooper, with speed and athleticism as well as a nose for the end zone (five rushing touchdowns in 2020).
With Crum back under center, Kent State should again have one of the most potent offenses in the Group of 5 (and in the country for that matter). If someone can emerge from the running back cluster, they'll be a fantasy stud. Cooper is the best bet to make there.
RB: Bryant Koback, Toledo
In three seasons at Toledo, Koback has over 2,600 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground. After rushing for 1,187 yards with 14 total scores in 2019 , he had at least 65 rushing yards and/or a touchdown in five of six games last year. After totaling 12 catches in his first two seasons, Koback had 24 receptions in those six contests last year.
The Rockets have a question mark at quarterback, with Eli Peters retiring as a player. Add in a lack of real competition for touches, and Koback will be the centerpiece of what's traditionally a good offense.
WR: Jaylen Hall, Western Michigan
The departure of D'Wayne Eskridge to the NFL leaves a huge production void in the Broncos' wide receiver corps. Skyy Moore and DaShon Bussell are in line for bigger roles, but Hall is the most intriguing fantasy option of them all.
Hall had just 12 catches in five games last season. But seven of them went for touchdowns, and he channeled Eskridge as a big-play threat (26.9 yards per catch). In 2019, he had three touchdowns on 16 receptions while averaging 17.9 yards per catch. The last two seasons scream "What could this guy do with more opportunities?"
This year, finally, Hall is in line for more opportunities. The sky is the limit, even with some scoring regression on a per-catch basis.
WR: Tyrone Broden, Bowling Green
The Falcons are very young at wide receiver, with Broden the team's leading returning pass catcher after registering six receptions as a freshman. The rest of the depth chart has virtually no experience.
Bowling Green had one of the worst defenses in the country last year, so returning six starters from that unit has to be taken with a big grain of salt. A scheme change to a 3-4 can only help.
Matt McDonald is not that good a quarterback. But someone will have to catch his passes in what promises to be plenty of negative game scripts. Broden is the safest bet there, with sneaky upside if you can ignore the score of Bowling Green's games most weeks.
QB: Preston Hutchinson, Eastern Michigan
Hutchinson started all six games for the Eagles in 2020, completing close to 64 percent of his passes (277 passing yards per game) with 20 total touchdowns (12 passing, eight rushing). He accounted for multiple touchdowns in every game, with multiple passing touchdowns four times. Of his six interceptions, three came in one game (Central Michigan) and two came in another (Kent State).
Hutchinson feels like a lock to keep the starting job based on what he did last year. But Cincinnati grad transfer Ben Bryant came aboard, and he may get a shot to earn the starting job in fall camp. If nothing else, Hutchinson may be on a slightly shorter leash if he struggles.
No matter what, simple regression says Hutchinson will be hard-pressed to average more than three total touchdowns and nearly 280 passing yards per game again in 2021. There's serious downside here, perhaps the most of any of our highest-ranked quarterbacks across the board.
RB: La'Darius Jefferson, Western Michigan
Jefferson led a solid Broncos' backfield committee in 2020, with 112 carries for 624 yards and five touchdowns. But he was also the healthiest of the three, as Sean Tyler and Jaxson Kincaide each missed time to injury.
Tyler averaged 6.6 yards per carry last year, with 11 catches in four games. Kincaide averaged 7.0 yards per carry, with 22 of his 31 carries coming in the final two games of the season. Both guys, provided they can stay on the field, should get more chances this year.
Jefferson took advantage of big workloads when Tyler, Kincaide or both were banged up in or missed games in 2020. A natural reduction in those opportunities this year, in a potential hot-hand situation, sets him up to let fantasy owners down.
RB: Lew Nichols, Central Michigan
Nicholls operated as Kobe Lewis' backup last year, but the reigning MAC Freshman of the Year proved himself worthy of more with 61 of his 78 carries coming over the last three games of the season. A 68-yard touchdown run in the finale against Toledo skews his 6.5 yards per carry average a bit, but he averaged 5.7 YPC on his other 77 totes.
After a breakthrough in 2019 (1,074 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns), Lewis was on-pace for similar production on the ground in six games last year (468 yards, six touchdowns), and better production as a pass catcher (17 receptions for 106 yards, one touchdown). That was with Nicholls taking work and being productive, so he's not going away
The Chippewas' offense is pretty top-heavy, led by Lewis, Nichols and do-everything wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton as the primary options. But if things are held by a lackluster quarterback situation, someone will suffer. Nicholls could become the third wheel quickly, with the more versatile Lewis and Pimpleton being force-fed to bring some stability.
TE: Ryan Luehrman, Ohio
Over the last two seasons, Luehrman has seven touchdowns and 410 yards on 35 catches. The Bobcats only played three games last season, so seven catches and two touchdowns in two games played (with both touchdowns in one game) isn't that bad.
As the saying goes, even in the college game, if you have two quarterbacks you don't have any. The Bobcats attempted to rotate Kurtis Rourke and Armani Rogers over last year's shortened sample, with Rourke the better passer and Rodgers the better runner. Luehrman did catch a touchdown from each in the aforementioned game, for what that's worth.
Luehrman will need a touchdown to register on the fantasy radar most weeks. There will be plenty of two and three-catch weeks with 30-40 yards.