Some guesses here. Stricly guesses, some of semi-educated variety.
Clearly, it is in the MAC’s best interest to get its best teams in the most visible games. There are hurdles, complications and contracts that come in to play, however. And with the coaching turnstile just starting to spin, a lot can change between now and bowl time.
If Northern Illinois doesn’t crack the top 16 of the BCS and the Orange Bowl, I believe Kent State will either play in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., or in the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C., against San Jose State.
If Northern Illinois does make the Orange Bowl, Kent State is likely to go to Mobile, Ala., for the GoDaddy.com Bowl
I believe Toledo will play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Utah State — or play Bowling Green in an All-MAC Little Caesar’s Bowl in Detroit. BG vs. Ball State is another possibility there.
I believe Cincinnati will play Duke in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
I believe that both Ohio and Bowling Green will receive bowl bids. I’ve been guessing on the others (except Cincinnati) and I’d really be guessing if I offered predictions on which bowls.
The MAC has three contract bowls — Detroit, GoDaddy., and Idaho. It has secondary tie-ins in other places, and the Big East and Conference USA each came up short in terms of bowl-eligible teams to fill their tie-ins. The Little Caesar’s Bowl has first pick of the MAC but is unlikely to want Kent State or Northern Illinois back after just 18,000 showed up for the biggest game in MAC history.
I’d guess Little Caesar’s wants Toledo or BG (or both) for geographical reasons but would love to have Ball State. The Cardinals peaked late in the year and haven’t been to a bowl game in a while, and would likely bring some fans. If it’s not an all-MAC matchup there, maybe Western Kentucky will be the MAC opponent.
Ohio did not peak late in the year as injuries caught up with the Bobcats, but Frank Solich and Tyler Tettleton should draw the interest of some bowl trying to fill a spot. The Military Bowl is an option, as is St. Petersburg and maybe even the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham.
Because the Big Ten got eight bowl-eligible teams, the Heart of Dallas Bowl is probably out and that means the streak of no MAC team playing on Jan. 1 since 1948 probably remains intact — unless Northern Illinois ends up No. 16 in the computers and makes the Orange Bowl.