Fans of MAC East schools psych themselves up for games against their rivals (i.e. Kent/Akron, Miami/Ohio, etc.).
In reality, it's these crossover games that make or break a team that seeks a first-round bye at The Q. I call it the "don't screw it up" part of the schedule.
First, beating up on the West teams helps to ensure that the West only gets one of the four byes. Heading into tomorrow's games (Kent @ Toledo, Miami @ Ball State), two West teams (CMU and NIU) are leading the conference at 4-1. If both of these teams can escape crossover play at 7-4 or better, then the competition in the divisional games becomes a lot hotter. Without a bye, one of the three favorites (UB, UA and KSU) must win four games to earn a MAC Championship.
Second, it's a chance to catch your breath. The MAC East is a gauntlet. It's not quite so bad with Ohio having a down year, but would it really surprise anyone to see Buffalo to lose at Ohio? (Check.) Or for Kent to lose at Miami and at home against Bowling Green? (Check. Check.) Conversely, Toledo and Ball State should be wins, regardless of the venue. And, despite their pre-crossover records, the West teams should not come into Buffalo, Kent or Akron expecting to win.
Third, the parity makes a season sweep in the East unlikely. If you're going to pick up games, you have to look to the crossover schedule.
The good news is, I think the 4-1 teams are not the best two West teams. If I'm right, they will fall off, and Western Michigan (my favorite to win the division) will rise.
The Zips will face off against the Broncos tomorrow at 7 p.m. Then Akron will return home Saturday to play the hapless Rockets. Beating WMU at Kalamazoo would be a great start to the "don't screw it up" games.