2023 College Fantasy Football MAC Preview

Mid-American Conference

by Corey Pieper
2023 College Fantasy Football MAC Preview

The 2023 college fantasy football MAC preview is one you don't want to miss. If you have never played college fantasy football, you haven't been able to truly appreciate the Mid-American Conference (MAC).

Once MAC conference play begins, it's their conference that plays on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on ESPN. If you're not playing college fantasy football, those are likely games that you just flip the channel on. If you are playing college fantasy football, those games are compelling examples of #MACTION.

#MACTION is an offensive experience that can influence your decisions the rest of the week when playing college fantasy football. One thing that has to be mentioned in any college fantasy football preview for the MAC is that the MAC is a defensively-deprived conference. Last year, it seemed as if progress was made on the defensive front but the conference still had lots of fantasy appeal. The MAC had one top-25 quarterback, four top-25 running backs, two top-25 wide receivers, and four top-25 tight ends in fantasy points. Expect to see similar production from the MAC again this season!

With that in mind, read the MAC college fantasy football preview thoroughly as there are plenty of options for every league!

2023 College Fantasy Football MAC Preview

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Alex Adams, WR, Akron Zips

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At this time last season, Alex Adams was generally off even the most devoted college fantasy football player's radar. That is what happens when through your first two seasons of college football you have a total stat line of two catches for 11 yards. That production took place at the wide receiver factory that is LSU.  Since he was struggling at the Power Five level, Adams decided to transfer to the Group of Five level at Akron. It paid off with a strong first season.

It was a tale of two seasons even within the one productive season we've seen so far.  In the first six games of his Akron career, Adams had 271 receiving yards for three touchdowns from 24 receptions. That was more than we had seen from Adams to that point in his career, but he took it to another level in the second half of his season. In his last five games, Adams had 585 yards for six touchdowns from 39 receptions! With an ending to his first season like that, you can see the reason for the excitement of Adam's second season at Akron.

Marquez Cooper, RB, Ball State Cardinals

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Right now you're thinking that has to be an incorrect picture from the MAC. That's a Kent State player, but this is the Ball State team preview. It is correct as Marquez Cooper did the rare interconference transfer from one team to another. Cooper has finished as a top-25 running back in the past two seasons with at least 1,300 total yards. Yet, there is a possibility of even more this season.

Cooper may have finished as a top-25 running back last season, but last year's Ball State running back, Carson Steele, finished as the running back two in all of fantasy last season. Steele has transferred to UCLA for an upgrade in competition and to possibly boost his NFL draft stock. Cooper stepping into Steele's vacated position should be expected to finish with similar production to what Steele offered. I expect him to finish as a top-10 running back who should have truly fantastic games when the schedule reaches conference play.

Odieu Hiliare, WR, Bowling Green Falcons

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Bowling Green's leaving receiver from last season, Odieu Hiliare, is back for another season. Hiliare led the Falcons in both receptions and receiving yards with 58 and 747 respectively. Those numbers aren't particularly impressive, but it's the possibility of more production that makes Hiliare interesting for fantasy this year.

One of the signs of more possible production is that the other top four receiving options from last season in terms of yardage have now departed from Bowling Green. That's roughly 140 receptions and 1,500 receiving yards that have been vacated by their absences. If Hiliare even gets 25% of that production, it's another 35 receptions and 375 yards which puts him in the 1,000 yard receiving club. Hiliare is a receiver you likely won't need to draft, but watch the box scores once the MAC season begins. Even last season, he put up a 44-point fantasy effort in MAC action, so you know the potential is there.

Mike Washington, RB, Buffalo Bulls

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In the recent past, Buffalo has been a school to look to for rushing production. Going into last season, Buffalo had five straight seasons of at least one 1,000 yard rusher. The most remarkable of those seasons was 2020 when the team only played six games, but Jaret Patterson still found a way to rush for 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns! But last season, the streak stopped as the team decided to split the carries more than before.

Mike Washington led the team in both carries and rushing yards, but that was only 150 carries and 625 yards. Ron Cook Jr. finished second in both carries and yards with 139 carries for 600 yards. And even Al-Jay Henderson chipped in 301 rushing yards on his 59 carries. Cook Jr. has moved on, but both Washington and Henderson are back. Since Washington led the backfield last year, I predict he'll do it again. That being said, this is a team to generally avoid for fantasy purposes.

Bert Emanuel Jr., QB, Central Michigan Chippewas

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Bert Emanuel qualifies as a quarterback on Fantrax but in the limited time we've seen him play, he has essentially been a running back. Emanuel played in four games last season. In those four games, he attempted only eight passes but rushed the ball 67 times! The highlights from his appearances show his jaw-dropping athleticism including this 87 yard touchdown.

In that game against Buffalo, Emanuel rushed for 293 yards and three touchdowns! With rushing upside like that, you can see the appeal of Emanuel as your fantasy quarterback. If he becomes even an average passer, this could be a skillset for fantasy greatness that you can likely acquire in the middle rounds of a fantasy draft. I value Emanuel as a top-40 quarterback with the potential for much more.

Samson Evans, RB, Eastern Michigan Eagles

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Samson Evans has put together back-to-back seasons of fantasy relevance. His 2021 season was unrepeatable though as he scored 13 rushing touchdowns on only 83 carries. Last season, while he couldn't maintain that impossible touchdown percentage, he increased the rushing volume and put together a top-15 running back season. His rushing touchdowns actually increased to 15 last season with over 1,100 rushing yards.

The question then becomes can he get even more volume and even increase his production further? It would be very difficult to increase substantially given that he is fourth in all of college football in returning rushing attempts from last season. What it does mean though is that Evans is a safe selection in the first few rounds. You can trust he'll get plenty of carries and is going to be the first look when the team is inside the five-yard line.

Trell Harris, WR, Kent State Golden Flashes

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Kent State's football program is seemingly in a year of transition. This team has recently been a goldmine for college fantasy football with players such as Dustin Crum, Collin Schlee, Marquez Cooper, Dante Cephas, Devontez Walker, and Ja'Shaun Poke in just the past couple of seasons. All of those players have moved on either through graduation or the transfer portal.

One of the holdovers from last season is wide receiver, Trell Harris. Harris had two games last season where he had 52 yards receiving. The other six games he saw action in he had a total of 32 receiving yards. So why would I be recommending him? All those players I mentioned above leaving, means there is a lot of production available to step into. The top three receivers from last year's team have moved on vacating over 130 receptions, 2,000 receiving yards, and 15 receiving touchdowns. If I expected Harris to get all that production he'd be a top-five wide receiver. I expect him to be the primary receiver, but he is someone you likely won't need to draft in a standard fantasy league.

Miles Marshall, WR, Miami Ohio Cardinals

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Miami of Ohio has two quarterbacks who could be interesting for fantasy purposes Aveon Smith and Brett Gabbert. Smith led the team in rushing last season. The issue is that I'm not sure that the two quarterbacks won't both be playing which it makes challenging to trust either of them for fantasy. Instead, I'm going to look to the primary pass-catcher for whomever the quarterback ends up being.

After beginning his career at Indiana, Miles Marshall is another player who transferred down a level to play in the MAC. He had limited success last season, but the primary wide receiver for the Cardinals has been a fantasy option recently with Mac Hippenhammer and Jack Sorenson as the most recent examples. If Marshall can step into that primary receiver role, he could be a highly sought-after waiver wire option early in the season.

Antario Brown, RB, Northern Illinois Huskies

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Going into last season, I thought we knew what to expect from the Northern Illinois offense under Head Coach Thomas Hammock. In the three seasons going into 2022 that he had been coach, the team had leaned on the running game. In 2021, the team averaged 46 carries per game and over 240 rushing yards per game which allowed multiple running backs to have productive fantasy seasons. Then, last season the carry volume dipped to only 39 carries per game and 190 yards. It led to disappointing seasons, relative to expectations, for the Northern Illinois running backs Antario Brown and Harrison Waylee.

Waylee has moved on through the transfer portal to the University of Wyoming. Another of last year's backup running backs, Jaiden Credle, has moved on to Middle Tennessee.  I'm certain that some other back will step up to split carries. Whichever running back that ends up being, I'm assuming that Brown is going to take a larger share of the carries than he received his first two seasons. For a back that has averaged over six yards per carry each of his collegiate seasons, an increased workload could lead to a top-15 running back season.

Kurtis Rourke, QB, Ohio Bobcats

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Much like the more well-known in-state Ohio State Buckeyes are the offensive class of the Big Ten, the Ohio Bobcats are the offensive class of the MAC. Running back Sieh Bangura finished as a top-12 CFF option. At wide receiver, Sam Wiglusz transferred from Ohio State to Ohio and had a top-15 CFF finish last season. Both are highly desired commodities again this season, but I'm going to focus on their quarterback, Kurtis Rourke.

Rourke is the engine that powers the Ohio offense with both his passing and rushing abilities. He doesn't necessarily rip off huge chunks of yardage on the ground but still added 245 yards rushing last season. He did that while also throwing 25 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. I think he has the potential for more passing touchdowns. He should be valued as a top-20 option for fantasy quarterbacks in college fantasy football.

Dequan Finn, QB, Toledo Rockets

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Dequan Finn finished as a top-25 quarterback in fantasy points last season even missing multiple games with injury. He is a capable passer with 41 passing touchdowns combined over the past two seasons. He would throw at least one touchdown in every game except for one game against Western Michigan during which he injured his ankle and did not play the entire game. It's not the passing though that makes Finn a fantasy mainstay.

It's Finn's rushing that can lead to truly massive fantasy games, but also a consistent floor. Until he injured his ankle, Finn's lowest fantasy scoring output game was 26 points. His highest-scoring game during that stretch of games was 61 which included 6 passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown! When you have a safe floor of the mid-20s with the immense upside of a 60-point game you see why Finn is an ideal early-round quarterback target for your fantasy team.

Zahir Abdus-Salaam, RB, Western Michigan Broncos

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Other than the 2020 season when Western Michigan only played six games, this team has had a 1,000 yard running back every season since 2014. It's that level of consistency from a position that college fantasy football players crave. For the last few years, the running back to own has been Sean Tyler, but he has transferred to Minnesota. The question becomes who is the next running back in the succession at Western Michigan?

Unless there is a major transfer into a program, I typically side with the player who has the most experience already within that system. Zahir Abdus-Salaam has been at Western Michigan for two seasons. As for college production, it's lacking.  He has 190 rushing yards over 20 games while averaging under three yards per carry. That's not enough to draft him in a standard league. Watch this situation for a running back to emerge and grab him when you need one.


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