Dan Enos lettered four years and started two at quarterback for Michigan State. So hes got an idea of what it means for a team from a mid-major conference to knock off somebody from the power conferences.
Ive coached in the Big Ten. Ive played in the Big Ten, said Enos, now in his third year as the head coach at Central Michigan, a Mid-American Conference member. And when you understand the resources that those (bigger) schools have and the amount of money that they have and the facilities and the recruiting aspect, yeah, it is a big deal.
There have been plenty of big deals around the MAC these days.
Just last weekend, MAC teams knocked off four schools from Bowl Championship Series automatic-qualifier conferences. Enos Chippewas won at Iowa of the Big Ten, 32-31, on a last-second field goal. Northern Illinois knocked off the Big 12s Kansas and coach Charlie Weis, 30-23. Ball State, which a week earlier had won at Indiana of the Big Ten, played host to South Florida of the Big East and won, 31-27. And the Big Easts Connecticut lost to Western Michigan, 31-24.
No one is saying the MAC is even remotely close to being on equal footing with the Southeastern Conference, but the MAC has sort of elbowed in and found a spot between the bullies that surround it.
Youve got to find your niche, Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said.
One way the MAC does that is to recruit kids passed over by the Big Ten and others.
If anybodys a competitor you want to play against teams that didnt want you, Cubit said.
Im the same way as a coach, too. You want to go out there and prove your worth. Theres no doubt we use it every time we play teams like that.
I dont think this is a new phenomenon that MAC teams have beaten FBS automatic-qualifier teams, said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who regularly schedules teams from the surrounding MAC. Any team that goes into playing a MAC school who thinks theyre going to beat them automatically, they havent been prepared real well.
Perhaps the best team in the MAC resides in the shadow of a superpower.
Ohio University has an enrollment of more than 17,000. It hired Frank Solich as head coach eight seasons ago after he had a sterling record as Tom Osbornes successor at mighty Nebraska.
The Bobcats are on the cusp of the Top 25 this week, riding a 4-0 start that has already resulted in some publications predicting Ohio might just become the Boise State of the Midwest.
Ohio grabbed a lot of peoples attention by going to Happy Valley and handing beleaguered Penn State and new head coach Bill OBrien a relatively one-sided 24-14 loss in the season opener.
It was tremendous for our program, within this community, in this state actually and around the country, Solich said. That game was watched by a lot of people for various reasons. We knew we had an opportunity to showcase our program in a positive manner. And it did come off that way.
It was just another momentous win for the conference.