In the sea known as the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), 130 schools are battling for the top spot in their respected conference. However, 12 schools are looking to fly the crescent of the Jolly Roger among their rivals in mark of a dominant performance on the field. 

#FlyTheFlag is a new launched tradition in the Mid-American Conference in which MAC schools will be able to fly a black flag with crossbones and the conference logo on their home field after a major win. 

“I have provided a MAC Jolly Roger flag to each institution [that have] have asked after each victory, home or away, that the flag be run up the flagpole and remain there until the next game,” MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a tweet posted by the Mid-American Conference. 

Major MAC upsets in the past five seasons: 

Sep 16, 2017: Northern Illinois def. Nebraska, 21-17

Sep 10, 2016: Central Michigan def. No. 22 Oklahoma State, 30-27

Sep. 12, 2015: Toledo def. No. 18 Arkansas, 16-12

Sep. 13, 2014: Bowling Green def Indiana, 45-42

Aug. 31, 2013: Northern Illinois def. Iowa, 30-27

The MAC has held the title of being a “spoiler” conference for many years. For the past five seasons, MAC squads have upset the likes of Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and many others. It’s no surprise that the MAC has claimed the title of the Pirates of the FBS. 

“If you just look at the history of our conference, you will see, year in and year out, that there are some teams who have gone into places where they weren’t expected to win and come out with that win,” Ball State head coach Mike Neu said. “A lot of times a MAC team will go in some place and a lot of teams will say 'Man that’s good football.' MAC teams are competitive, well coached and all those things.” 

For Ball State Football, after first flying the flag in a dominant win over Central Connecticut State last Thursday, the Cardinals will look to keep that flag waving due north in the enemy waters of the St. Joseph River facing No. 8 Notre Dame. 

The Irish are coming off of a major win against rival No. 21 Michigan, 24-17. While it may seem like a heavy task, the Cardinals have seen other groups of five teams challenge other power five teams this season. On Saturday, Sun Belt team Appalachian State took No. 13 Penn State down to the wire, forcing overtime and leading the Nittany Lions for the majority of the fourth quarter. 

“It’s very possible for us to upset,” Sophomore wide receiver Justin Hall said. “Just look at Appalachian State. They almost upset Penn State in that overtime loss. We plan on coming out on Saturday with a lot of hope, getting a game plan going, just trusting one another and playing hard.” 

The Cardinals have been zeroed in on facing the Irish this entire week, getting used to the environment at Notre Dame Stadium and playing fan noise and the Notre Dame fight song at practice. The team looks to set a tough tone heading onto the field this weekend. 

“I'm making sure that our guys are prepared and ready to go,” Neu said. “We want to play tough, hard nosed, scrappy and leave it out on the field. That’s all I can ask from them.”

While the Cardinals are looking to upset, the secret to success has been treating this as any other game. History has shown that MAC squads who upset tend to have a strong overall season. According to Hall, they shouldn’t be more hyped up for the Notre Dame game than any other game. 

“If you gotta get hyped up for this game, you shouldn’t be here,” Hall said. “We’re just going to come out, ball out and everyone is going to play their hardest.” 

Contact Jack Williams with comments at or on Twitter @jackwilliamsBSU.