There’s a new leader in my Mid-American Conference football power rankings. Ohio, who’s been at the top since the preseason, slid to No. 4 after Week 4, and Toledo is now at the top after its thrilling win at Colorado State.
WMU also leapfrogged its way to the No. 2 team in the league, says my opinionated list, after being my No. 4 MAC team.
MAC Prospectus Power Rankings (thru Week 4)
- Ball State
- Kent State
1. Toledo (2-1)
Last week: W 41-35 at Colorado State
The Rockets didn’t start at the top but earned its way up here in any case just four weeks into the season. Toledo’s coming off of a really important and really exciting win at Colorado State. Bryant Koback finally had the big game many assumed he was plenty capable of having and it probably won’t be the last time he takes off for over 200 yards rushing.
Toledo’s defense still needs some work before I get really confident in this team’s future success, but at least it’s got a killer rushing attack.
2. Western Michigan (2-2)
Last week: L 52-33 at Syracuse
WMU’s defense is still really bad, and MAC fans know very well that Dino Babers runs the kind of offense that should be torching a defense like that. But the Broncos did outscore the Orange in the second and third quarters, and the scoring shouldn’t be too much of a surprise either. WMU was in this game much like last year’s 55-42 finish, except last year’s game it took an entire half before the game got exciting.
The defense though. It’s rough. It’s 98th in the country with 6.08 yards per play allowed, and that’s with games against Monmouth and Georgia State.
3. Eastern Michigan (3-1)
Last week: W 34-29 vs. Central Connecticut State
EMU was only 19 seconds away from not beating the FCS team that came into Rynearson Stadium last weekend after beating a Big Ten team the week before. EMU’s got an issue with safeties getting burned by the deep ball/intermediate passes in the middle, and there were a couple of missed opportunities that CCSU missed out on by not scoring on those open shots, but the passes either went through the receivers’ hands or were overthrown. EMU won, despite the fact that EMU should’ve lost. EMU won, despite teammates getting into a kerfuffle with a minute and a half left in the game. EMU won, and now it’s 3-1.
4. Ohio (1-3)
Last week: L 45-25 vs. LA-Lafayette
Good thing Ohio’s on a bye week because lordy the Bobcats need it. Getting whopped by 20 points at home to a pretty okay football program in LA-Lafayette is damning to the team that was an overwhelming favorite to win the MAC. Of course, this loss doesn’t prevent the Bobcats from getting to the title game, but this game helped highlight some problems they have that may keep them form achieving their goals. The offense is inefficient, the defense is inconsistent, and the special teams gaffes were inexcusable against the Cajuns. At the end of last season, S&P+ ranked Ohio as its No. 54 team in the country. Four weeks into the new year, Ohio’s all the way down at 97. If we want to use those same numbers but only look at the offensive side of things, Ohio’s dropped from No. 16 to 62.
What I’m trying to say here is that there’s reason to panic, and there’s even more reason to be thankful for this bye week.
5. Northern Illinois (1-2)
Last week: bye
Bad news for the Huskies to kick off Vanderbilt week: Kyle Pugh and Mark Aitken are both out for the year. That’s a second senior linebacker and a true freshman cornerback, respectively, that will be missing from the Huskie defense, which is an unfortunate way to force the team’s hand in showing what it’s got deeper on the depth charts when it’s still early with the new coaching change. The expectation here isn’t to pull off an upset at Vanderbilt, but it’s a good chance for these coaches to see how these players will step up in this situation.
6. Ball State (1-3)
Last week: L 34-23 at NC State
Ball State’s been in games, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at its record. Still, this feels like a trap. It feels like a trap because under Mike Neu, this team has had some good performances in non-conference play — winning or not — but has only gone 4-20 against MAC teams in the last three years.
7. Buffalo (2-2)
Last week: W 38-20 vs. Temple
Buffalo’s win over Temple is a good, much-needed win for the program. Temple was coming off of a really impressive outing against Maryland after the Terps put up 79 points on Howard, then 62 on Syracuse. Temple came in quieted the Terps 20-17, and to preview last week’s game, Buffalo wasn’t the lighting the world on fire with its offense and just lost pretty regretfully at Liberty. But Buffalo proved that its group of running backs is one of the best position groups in the league, and an improving defense should boast well for the Bulls in future games. Now that we’re entering the second third of the schedule, the big question I have about the starting quarterback is will Matt Myers ever emerge as a star before November hits?
8. Kent State (2-2, 1-0 MAC)
Last week: W 62-20 vs. BGSU
I don’t know if “Dustin Crum stats” was ever typed into my search bar until this year, but it’s pretty impressive if you ever find yourself into one of those rabbit holes. Here’s a primer: this year he’s throwing 8.1 yards per attempt, completing 71% percent of his throws, five touchdowns, no interceptions, and a QBR of 158.2. He’s even getting the job done with his legs, getting 3.7 yards per rush and 140 yards picked up, sacks (11) included.
This is a significant moment in Sean Lewis’ young coaching career that will have to be remembered as we talk about his future coaching here and wherever else he ends up after Kent State. Not only was Crum not the starting QB to start the year, but he also didn’t start last year. Woody Barrett was the guy, and it was pretty obvious that would be the case when the former Auburn Tiger transferred (via JUCO route) to Kent to play for the new FlashFast offense. Crum was already at Kent as a sophomore with some game experience and, obviously, some ability to play the position. Crum wasn’t Lewis’ recruit, and Lewis benched the guy who he brought on for the guy who didn’t transfer out and developed into a dependable junior QB. That is not an easy decision to make, but it’s starting to really pay off for the Flashes.
9. Central Michigan (2-2, 1-0 MAC)
Last week: L 17-12 at Miami-FL
Credit where it’s due: of all the teams in the MAC going through coaching changes, CMU’s the team that’s playing the hardest. It’s doing so after losing some talented players to graduation/NFL Draft/transfers, but Jim McElwain’s got these guys playing games closely. Granted, Miami-FL isn’t as good as we remember it being just a few years ago (not to mention a few decades ago), but there’s not a lot of bad things you can say about a team that isn’t favored to win many games this year that’s already suffered some harsh injuries early, and still playing a one-score game at a Power 5 venue should make CMU fans very happy. CMU earned that.
Also, shout out to the fact that this defense held Dan Enos’ offense under 20 points. Not sure if that’s something to expect the rest of the way, but it’s not going to be ignored.
10. Miami (1-3)
Last week: L 76-5 at Ohio State
There’s no point I can make here that Justin Fields already didn’t make in the second quarter on Saturday.
11. Bowling Green (1-3, 0-1 MAC)
Last week: L 62-20 at Kent State
Earlier this week when I was just scrolling through Twitter, I saw Bowling Green fans yell about how they think they’re actually worse than Akron. At some point the two teams will settle that debate out on the field, and… well that’s it. They’ll settle the score and we’ll live to not talk about it for the rest of our days.
12. Akron (0-4, 0-1 MAC)
Last week: L 35-7 vs. Troy
Earlier this week when I recorded an episode of Tuesday Night Lights with the Free on Saturday boys, I asked if Troy’s offense was bad. I was told that Troy took its gas off the pedal and that’s why the score was as close as it was.