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AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE YEAR MACTION MUTATED

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Excerpted from the United Nations/ESPN Joint Commission On MACtion's Post-War Report Sponsored By Dr. Pepper, February 2015

The dangers of MACtion had been well-known for years, and it was thought its limitations were understood.  Small outbreaks would afflict weaker victims like Purdue or Indiana, sometimes even leaping to hurt an ostensibly healthy patient like Michigan.

After Northern Illinois' 2012 trip to the Orange Bowl, some recognition developed that the virus could potentially have major outbreaks, with implications for bowl sponsors and television dollars. The conference commissioners developed a containment plan, under the code name "Playoff", that would ensure, in their belief, that MACtion's damage to their citizens could be limited to at worst, a Cotton or Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

The commissioners were wrong.

August 30th, 2014: PATIENT ZERO

No one was surprised when Western Michigan defeated Purdue. It fit the pre-established narrative of a dangerous disease, but one mostly afflicting undeveloped West Lafayette programs, lacking in basic knowledge of pass-protection and defense. It was instead the beginning of something much larger.

September 6th, 2014: OUTBREAK

Toledo 32, Missouri 21

It did not fit the typical profile. Missouri was young, strong, and healthy, fresh off an SEC East title and a Cotton Bowl rout of Oklahoma State.

Gary Pinkel: "They were fast. They were vicious, relentless, unpredictable. We went in expecting an easy out-of-conference tune-up. We escaped with our lives, but our playoff hopes were devoured alive on the Glass Bowl field

Testing would later prove that what had been reported as a "toxic algae bloom" in Lake Erie in the summer of 2014 was in fact a previously unseen toxin, one that catastrophically triggered the MACtion mutation dormant in the genes up to 60% of Midwesterners.  The root cause is unknown; speculation on Midwestern social media has pinned it on Russia, the White House, or "that meddling Judy at the PTA".  Whatever the cause, it triggered a massive eruption in MACtion cases.

Satellite imagery of the affected portions of Lake Erie, Fall 2014

Akron 42, Penn State 38

The outbreak upended the rules. Men who had been outcasts before, shunned by polite society, found in this new reality a perfect venue for their skills.

Terry Bowden: "I spent decades wandering the college football wilderness, living off the land, getting by on my wits. When it happened, I became strong. Northern Alabama prepares a man for vicious times."

Ball State 51, Iowa 6

Following the defeat, the Iowa fanbase turned inward and the leadership firmly theocratic, believing that a deity they called "AIRBHG" had forsaken their culture in its vodka-soaked wickedness. This was the birth of what we know today as the Holy Ferentz Empire.

EMU 72, Florida 2

Will Muschamp: "I'm gonna be honest with you, I read the schedule the week beforehand and thought we were playing ostriches. Built my whole gameplan around the long necks. When they showed up with football players, I didn't have a plan for that."

Interviewer: "How do you think you survived?"

Will Muschamp: "The same way I survived the 2013 season." [gestures to "Jeremy Foley", a scarecrow in jorts]

September 12-13: SPREAD

Buffalo 52, Baylor 11

Art Briles: "I had no idea there was a good football team in Buffalo.  Didn't sound right."

Miami-Ohio 22, Michigan 17

Brady Hoke: "We were overly focused on the traditionally-tougher opponents on our schedule, like Appalachian State."

September 20-27: PANDEMIC

Bowling Green 38, Wisconsin 10

Central Michigan 8, Kansas 0

Kent State 23, Virginia 9

Western Michigan 6, Virginia Tech 3 (2OT)

More losses were suffered, but by the beginning of October, conference play had started, and the experts believed the threat to have passed. The MAC monsters would destroy each other in weeknight battles, and Saturday would be safe.  The virus could be trapped in Ford Field, and ended there.

Once again, the experts were wrong.

2015 Rose Bowl, Pasadena, 1/1/2015

Ohio 21, Florida State 19

Unnamed Playoff Selection Committee Member: "Honestly, I thought I was voting for Ohio State. We all did. Turns out the Buckeyes had only gone 7-6 themselves, but I like their uniforms, and they're usually pretty good, y'know? Seemed like a good choice."

"... I'm terribly unqualified for this."

Jimbo Fisher: "We hadn't played an opponent this tough all year, but we still felt pretty confident going in. What really hurt us, though, was when Jameis realized Cleveland was heading for the top pick in the NFL draft, and he decided he'd rather play baseball. Half the team followed him. Lotta them'd never picked up a baseball before. Can't blame 'em, either, you can't be too safe with something like that. We dressed 21 players for this game. Three fled to Mexico at halftime."

College Football Championship, Dallas, 1/12/2015

Ohio 42, Oregon 5

Well, Oregon's not great in big games.