Here is a look at the league’s 12 teams, presented in the order I would rank them at this point in the season. Where it says “LW” that means Last Week … but obviously in this case it means final ranking last season.
Here we go …
1. OHIO (3-0, 0-0) (LW #3): We may not agree on a lot of the information that follows, but we can agree on this, right? The Bobcats opened the season with a win at Penn State, then clobbered New Mexico State before claiming a wild-and-woolly win at Marshall. On offense QB Tyler Tettleton and RB Beau Blankenship have been rock-solid, and the defense has done enough good things to keep things rolling. Ohio has reached the cupcake portion of its schedule with games against Norfolk State, UMass, Buffalo and Akron, so focus – and avoiding injuries – will be the main concern at this point.
2. TOLEDO (2-1, 1-0) (LW #2): After watching the Rockets knock off Bowling Green at the Glass Bowl, Falcon fans have been buzzing the last couple of days about “what’s wrong with BG?” To me, the answer is simple: It’s not what’s wrong with BG, it’s what went right with Toledo – a good team that played a good game. The big numbers allowed by the defense don’t concern me because in their first two games they played strong offensive clubs in Arizona and Wyoming. But the Rockets seem to have settled on Terrance Owens at quarterback, and so far that decision looks smart. After dispatching with Coastal Carolina Saturday, they will be tested at Western Michigan the following week.
3. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (2-1, 0-0) (LW #1): The Huskies gave Iowa all the Hawkeyes could handle in the season opener at Soldier Field, but that loss is looking less impressive as Iowa struggles. I’m probably too negative about the win over Army, a team some are predicting will win a bowl team, but I would have liked a more impressive showing by NIU in that contest as well. QB Jordan Lynch seems to be settling in as the replacement for Chandler Harnish, which is good news for the offense. I look forward to seeing how Northern Illinois fares in a home game against Kansas this Saturday.
4. WESTERN MICHIGAN (1-2, 0-0) (LW #6): I thought the Broncos would do better in their two games against Big Ten teams, but WMU lost at Illinois to open the season and then lost at Minnesota last Saturday. The effort against the Gophers was solid, though, and MAC football fans understand that Minnesota coach Jerry Kill knows how to coach football. Western Michigan may have found a runner to compliment QB Alex Carder as RB Dareyon Chance carried the ball 29 times for 144 yards against Minnesota. The Broncos will be home the next two weeks, but they will be challenged by UConn this week and Toledo next week.
5. BALL STATE (2-1, 1-0) (LW #5): The Cardinals put together a great rally to knock off Indiana last week, but that IS Ball State’s third consecutive win over Indiana – and this IS Indiana. Truth be told, I was more sold on the Cards’ effort in the win over Eastern Michigan, although the Eagles have struggled to start this season. I also like the way Ball State managed to score a good quantity of points (27) at Clemson. I like how RB Jahwan Edwards has stepped up to handle the running load and give QB Keith Wenning some time to develop. It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals hold up against a solid South Florida team Saturday.
6. KENT STATE (1-1, 0-1) (LW #7): Glad to see that goofy play in the win over Towson isn’t on TV replays as much any more, but I was more disappointed in the Golden Flashes’ showing at Kentucky the following week. I’ve had several people tell me KSU was more than competitive in that game before letting things slip away, but things did slip away. This team is built on its defense and its running game, and that defense will face a stern test when it faces the successful Buffalo offense. I must admit I look forward to seeing the KSU defense against the Bulls’ offense on ESPNU Wednesday.
7. BOWLING GREEN (1-2, 0-1) (LW #10): The Falcons earned this spot in the rankings based on one game: the season opener at Florida, when they gave the nationally ranked Gators all they could handle. In fact, had the Falcons played better … unfortunately, now we can say that about all three games BG has played this season. The Falcons were good enough to overcome their troubles and beat Idaho, but they weren’t good enough to do that against Toledo. That has to end – and quickly – as BG now travels to face a Virginia Tech squad that was nationally ranked before suffering an embarrassing loss at Pitt last week.
8. MIAMI (1-2, 0-0) (LW #9): It is dangerous to rank a team with this much talent this low in the poll, especially when QB Zac Dysert seems to be playing well early this season. Losses at Ohio State and at Boise State certainly are no shame. I thought the RedHawks would do more against Southern Illinois, although I’m probably nit-picking there. Miami, which may have a problem if injured WR Nick Harwell doesn’t return soon, but it does have a couple of weeks to put everything together as it opens with UMass this Saturday and is at Akron the following week.
9. BUFFALO (1-1, 0-0) (LW #12): The Bulls really seem to be playing well offensively, opening some eyes with their effort in their season-opening loss at Georgia. The success of RB Brandon Oliver isn’t a surprise, but the early performance of QB Alex Zordich has been a mild surprise – and a pleasant one for the Bulls. Unfortunately, giving up 34 points to Morgan State was a surprise as well, and that one was less pleasant. The offense will be challenged by Kent State Wednesday, so it may be up to the defense to step forward this week.
10. EASTERN MICHIGAN (0-3, 0-1) (LW #8): After last season the expectations have been raised for the Eagles, and so far the expectations seem WAY too high. I’m willing to forgive the season-opening loss at Ball State (good team, on the road, season opener), but I’m not willing to forgive a home loss to Illinois State. I realize the Redbirds are ranked in the FCS, but still … at home? That’s a game EMU has to win. The Eagles just were too sloppy to win at Purdue, and Michigan State looms this week. This team may have the toughest schedule in the league – plays the West Division, two of the top teams in the East (Ohio and BG) and still has MSU and Army. This could get ugly.
11. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (1-1, 0-0) (LW #11): The Chippewas struggled at times, but they did manage to win their opener against Southeast Missouri State – does that mean the glass is half-full or half-empty? A loss to Michigan State followed, and now CMU had a week off before playing at Iowa. This team turns the ball over just too much for my taste, and doesn’t have the offensive weapons to overcome those mistakes. But the biggest problem? After Iowa, the Chips open MAC play at Northern Illinois and at Toledo. Where is the game that can help turn this team around quickly?
12. AKRON (1-2, 0-0) (LW #13): Congrats to the Zips on escaping the basement of the Power Rankings, a spot they held for all of last season. But let’s not kid anyone: This squad is still much closer to the bottom than it is the top. They trailed UCF 35-0 at halftime before losing 56-10 in their opener, and the team’s only win came against FCS member Morgan State, which also was mugged by Buffalo one week earlier. We will see on Saturday if Tennessee is as merciful to the Zips as they were to Morgan State.
13. MASSACHUSETTS (0-3, 0-0) (LW NR): This FBS stuff isn’t as easy as it looks, is it? Of course, it may have helped if the Minutemen had scheduled a breather at some point in the non-conference season. Or was Indiana at home supposed to be a breather? Well, it turned into a 45-6 loss instead, and UMass has been outscored 145-13 in its first three games. This team will need to get things turned around, or it will have little to look forward to this season beyond its Nov. 10 match-up at Akron that could decide which team is the worst in the MAC in 2012.
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