NCAA Football MAC East Tiebreaker Scenarios

"All I know is that if we keep winning, no one can catch us." - Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

UB's victory over Ohio all but mathematically eliminates the Bobcats from the MAC East picture and simplifies the tiebreaker picture.

What a great win! This is the very best case we could hope for from the midweek #MACtion deal with ESPN: a national TV audience, a light slate in other sports, an all-time clunker of a call from an overmatched ref that went seriously viral, and a dominating performance from our stud RB and front seven.

Last Bull In Afterparty tonight featured BrandedBull and I talking tiebreakers and the Sabres, and I figured I'd put one of them into words.

In this Halloween morning post, Tim took a look at the potential MAC East tiebreakers going into Tuesday night #MACtion for the three division frontrunners. This brief post tonight will just outlay the different possibilities, without getting too deep into the potential tiebreaker procedure.

I'll give you a sneak peak, though: UB's one game lead over Bowling Green is many times more valuable with just three games to go than it was with four.

First things first, the Ohio Bobcats are essentially eliminated from MAC East contention as far as Buffalo fans are concerned. With two losses and losing the head to head tiebreaker to Buffalo, the only way they can leapfrog the Bulls is if the Bulls lose out to finish with three losses, while the Bobcats win out. They could force a three way tie at two conference losses yes, but even that's a long shot, and if either scenario happens I won't really care too much about the tiebreakers, and you can go to Hustle Belt if you do.

Looking at the final three games for the two remaining contenders, Buffalo's victory over Ohio and Bowling Green's defeat of Miami evens out some of the strength of remaining schedule. Buffalo has remaining games @Toledo, @Miami, and then ten days before vs. Bowling Green, while the Falcons are @Ohio before ten days off and a game @EMU, after which they have a shortish week before the Friday game @Buffalo.

Buffalo has a one game lead thanks to Terrance Owens and Toledo, so Bowling Green either needs to win two more than Buffalo does in the last three games, or needs to win one more than Buffalo and finish tied, possessing the head to head victory in the final game of the season. At 2 AM right now I will not explore any further possibilities. I think with only two tied teams most of the more complex situations don't exist, anyway.

So, with three games left, Buffalo finishes above Bowling Green if:

  • They win all three remaining games, including the head to head matchup vs BG: (Buffalo would have 0 MAC losses, BG 2)
  • They win two: either one of Miami/Toledo + the head to head over BG (Buffalo 1 MAC loss, BG 2) OR both of Miami and Toledo, and lose head to head to Bowling Green, but are helped by a BG loss to Ohio or EMU (Buffalo 1 MAC loss, BG 2)
  • They win one: either one of Toledo or Miami , plus a loss to BG, but BG loses to both Ohio and EMU (Buffalo 2 MAC losses, BG 3), OR, they defeat Bowling Green head to head (Buffalo 2 MAC losses, BG 2. Buffalo owns head to head tiebreaker)
That final scenario is one where Ohio could sneak back into the picture, but UB now has the head to head over the Bobcats.

With three games left, Buffalo finishes below Bowling Green if:
  • They lose all three games, including the head to head. (Buffalo 3 MAC losses, BG anywhere from 1 to 3, but also the head to head tiebreaker)
  • They win only one game: one of Toledo or Miami, while Bowling Green beats at least one of Ohio and EMU (Buffalo 2 MAC losses, BG 1 or 2 but head to head tiebreaker)
  • They win two games: Toledo and Miami, but lose to Bowling Green, who has beaten both Ohio and EMU (Buffalo 1 MAC loss, BG 1 and head to head tiebreaker)

That first point is another way Ohio could sneak back in, but they would need to win out, including a game next Tuesday over Bowling Green themselves, in addition to getting three losses from UB.

Bowling Green finishes above Buffalo if:

  • They win all three remaining games, including the head to head matchup (Buffalo 1-3 MAC losses, BG 1 including the head to head tiebreaker)
  • They win two games: one of Ohio and EMU, and the head to head matchup against Buffalo, while Buffalo has lost to one or both of Toledo and Miami (Buffalo 2-3 MAC losses, BG 2 including the head to head tiebreaker)

To a certain extent, even three weeks out, we can say that the MAC East has already come down to the Black Friday Clash at The Ralph, because:

(Using the full name makes it sound more impressive.)

If UB beats Bowling Green head to head there is no situation where BG can pull ahead of the Bulls. The Falcons could win two more games than Buffalo, but that would only bring them into a tie at two conference losses that would then be broken by the head to head matchup.

From Bowling Green's perspective: They must win two of their final three, and they must beat Buffalo in Buffalo Amherst Orchard Park. Nothing less will get them ahead of UB in the MAC East.

In fact, with wins over both Toledo and Miami, and a Bowling Green loss to either Ohio or EMU, UB can render the Black Friday game meaningless for the MAC East title. Similarly, UB could clinch the East prior to Black Friday with one win from the @Toledo, @Miami stretch if Bowling Green loses to both Ohio and EMU.

If one of those lucky events doesn't happen, UB only needs to win on Thanksgiving weekend, barring an impressive comeback from Ohio.

This is the benefit UB reaps from being one game up in the schedule with three to go instead of with four: Bowling Green needs to win two more than the Bulls to win outright, or needs the one win differential to result from the head to head in the case of a tie. A one game lead isn't huge, but with only three games left, it is. Remember that UB still gets Miami, and then gets ten days to prepare for the Falcons, who do still have EMU, but BGSU cannot simply hold serve - they must be in position to leapfrog the Bulls with a win in the season finale, because a win on that Friday with some help from UB opponents is the only way and the earliest that BG can clinch the East (assuming Ohio doesn't miraculously sneak back in)

The week ahead: On Tuesday, November 12th, Ohio plays Bowling Green, and Buffalo plays Toledo.

The four possibilities, avoiding the possibility of Ohio forcing a three-way tie:

  • Ohio, Buffalo win: Buffalo needs only (1) a win over Miami or (2) a win over Bowling Green to clinch the division.
  • Ohio, Toledo win: Buffalo can clinch with (1) a win over Miami and a Bowling Green loss to EMU, or with (2) a win over Bowling Green
  • Bowling Green, Buffalo win: Buffalo can clinch with (1) a win against Bowling Green or with (2) a win over Miami and a Bowling Green loss to EMU
  • Bowling Green, Toledo win: Buffalo can clinch with (1) a win over Bowling Green
As you can see, it's going to be pretty simple this time next week.
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