The MAC will be well represented at this year’s Super Bowl

Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is all smiles after the Steelers defeated the New York Jets 24-19, winning the AFC Championship, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 23, 2011. The Steelers will face the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Quick, name the conference that will have the second most representatives at this year’s Super Bowl.

The MAC? Damn. You read the title didn’t you? You little title reader, you…

That’s right, the MAC, with its 15 players, is second only to the SEC (18) in terms of representatives at Super Bowl XLV. According to Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun writer and fellow TSR contributor Drew Ellis, the Packers have nine former MAC players on their roster, including Central Michigan’s Cullen Jenkins, Frank Zombo and Josh Gordy, Western Michigan’s Greg Jennings, Buffalo running back James Starks, Miami of Ohio’s Tom Crabtree, offensive lineman T.J. Lang of Eastern Michigan, safety Atari Bigby of Central Florida and linebacker Diyral Briggs of Bowling Green.

Of course, the most recognizable name to come out of the MAC is Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who played at Miami. Pittsburgh also rosters former MAC players Antonio Brown (CMU), linebacker James Harrison (Kent State), quarterbacks Charlie Batch (Eastern Michigan) and Byron Leftwich (Marshall), as well kicker Shaun Suisham (BGSU).

According to a former MAC player, it is the constant disrespect the conference gets on a national stage that could lead to the players succeeding in the NFL.

“It really speaks volumes about the conference,” former CMU quarterback and teammate of Zombo, Brown, and Gordy, Brian Brunner, said. “This conference used to be know for being a quarterback-conference, but it has really become much more. National pundits may dog the MAC but when you see numbers like these you realize that a lot of MAC players that get a chance to play in the NFL, they come into the league with a chip on their shoulder and they are going work hard and push themselves and prove they belong.”

Obviously the number of players that represent a conference in the Super Bowl doesn’t reflect its status in college football. I hardly doubt we’ll hear anyone campaign for Northern Illinois to play in next year’s BCS title game if the Huskies go 11-0 and the MAC won’t suddenly be viewed as an elite conference.

But it’s nevertheless interesting to see that the little ol’ MAC – not the Big 12, Big Ten or ACC – has only three fewer players at this year’s title game than the SEC. It just goes to show you that talent is talent.

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No. 17 Ball State’s season on the line vs. Central Michigan

Nate DavisNo. 17 Ball State puts its season on the line Wednesday night in Mt. Pleasant when they take on MAC rival Central Michigan at 7:00PM ET.

I know, I know – it’s MAC football. Who cares right?

Most will look at this game and shrug it off as just another useless game in the middle of the week, but the ramifications for both teams are pretty high and it should make for an exciting game. First and foremost, Ball State is 10-0 and trying to prove that its an elite program, although if last week’s performance against Miami of Ohio was any indication, the Cardinals are who we think they are – a great MAC team, but one that would get destroyed by the likes of any team ranked ahead of them in the polls.

Meanwhile, the Chippewas are 8-2, but more importantly (at least to them), they’re 6-0 in the MAC. A CMU victory would not only be a huge upset, but it would also catapult the Chips into first place in the MAC West Division and a chance to win the conference for the third straight year. This isn’t just a MAC game – it’s the MAC game of the year.

The Cardinals have essentially steamrolled their competition this season, but also haven’t played any truly tough opponents, unless you consider Navy and Indiana as tough. They did crush Northern Illinois – who has vastly improved this season – 45-14 on November 5th, but the Huskies are still far from an elite team right now.

An upset might be in order tonight. At one point this season, CMU quarterback Dan LeFevour was considered a candidate for the Heisman Trophy but an ankle injury sidetracked his season. He led the Chips to win over NIU last week and appears to be healthy again.

The key in this game, however, will be whether or not CMU’s defense can slow down Nate Davis and the BSU offense, which is averaging close to 40 points a game. The Chips certainly have the offense to compete with the Cardinals, but their no-huddle approach only gets BSU’s explosive passing attack back on the field quicker. And CMU has been known to allow opponents to sneak back into ball games in the second half (see their game at Northern last week as proof), which certainly would spell disaster against a solid Cardinal team.

Either way, football is being played on a Wednesday night. And not only that, but a team is actually unbeaten and ranked…and is playing on Wednesday night. You can’t ask for more.

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