The most overlooked conference championship of the week? It has to be the 2019 MAC Championship between Miami (OH) and Central Michigan, right?
The conference that has dubbed the great term ‘MACTION” after themselves is an outlier on the championship slate, just because there is so little talk about the MAC Championship game. And it is kind of weird that it is not being focused on more so by draft analysts. Just last year, Sean Murphy Bunting, Maxx Crosby, and Diontae Johnson came out of the MAC and were drafted in the Top-100 picks of the draft. Granted, this game is not going to be the most flashy game, but guys like Murphy Bunting came out of nowhere and went early. Could that be the same case for this year’s MAC Championship? Does it hold a prized gem as Miami Ohio and Central Michigan look to take home the MAC Conference Championship?
The answer is maybe, but there is no doubt that for as overlooked as this game has been thus far, this is going to be an incredibly fun game between two teams that have willed themselves to the point where they are at.
Miami Ohio has clawed themselves to a 7-5 record en route to a winning the MAC East. They even had a scare against winless Akron, but that never did discourage the Redhawks from pushing onward and getting a ticket to the MAC Championship.
The first of the guys to watch for the Redhawks has to be running back Jaylon Bester. Bester is a shifty running back who has phenomenal quicks and he has explosiveness and burst in short areas. There is no doubt that his open-field ability to break tackles with his contact balance and footwork is his best trait, however. Bester has not shown much in the receiving game, but he has proven to be a solid pass protector. As of now, Bester has not made a huge dent in the stat sheet, but he could be looked at as a potential player with upside moving forward.
One guy that goes unheralded is Travion Banks, who is just a ballhawk at this point. He has five pass deflections and four interceptions while working from the slot and it is not hard to see why. Teams hardly target him due to his great quicks and sticky ability in man coverage. Banks is used as a blitzer and he creeps down in run defense often. Banks just plays the way an upstart guy should.
Junior linebacker Ryan McWood is a guy to watch on the second level of this defense. He has pretty much been what everyone has wanted him to be. McWood is a smart, driven linebacker that has some serious range at the second level. McWood, living up his name, also brings the wood when hitting. He is a guy that could have a serious impact in the run game that the Chippewas like to establish.
This preseason, the Chippewas were picked to finish last in MAC West after losing a few NFL talents on defense, but they battled back through everything and are now here in the MAC Championship. While they have not replaced all that NFL talent that was lost, they have new-found talent that are making a difference.
One of those talents in standout running back Jonathan Ward, who already has an NFLPA game invite in the offseason. Ward is an incredibly well-rounded player. He is not all that fast and not super elusive, but Ward has great leg churn and contact balance. He has soft hands and can get involved in the passing game. He has really good vision and processing all things considered as well. Ward has an NFL future with his skillset.
Sean Adesanya is the main guy to watch here on the Chippewas defense. Adesanya has 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks on the season. He is not particularly explosive or bendy, and he will not wow you athletically at all, but he has great power and hands. That is why he has been able to disrupt a lot of plays in the backfield thus far on the year.
On offense, slot receiver Khalil Pimpleton will at least get a shot at some team’s training camp to make the team. Pimpleton has an ideal slot receiver skillset with his precise routes, toughness, and ability to still make tough catches in traffic even with his smaller size. Pimpleton is just so quick and can be a mismatch in any game the Chippewas play.
Central Michigan has gotten pretty hot late in the season with three straight wins, but the more important factor here is just the importance of Jonathan Ward. Ward has been phenomenal all year and has been hard to stop. I think he is the separating factor between two teams that are feisty and hungry. The Chippewas will ride the backs of Ward and quarterback Quinten Dormady to a close victory over the Redhawks.
Central Michigan wins 27-21.