This week MAC play starts in earnest with five league contests. One in particular to watch will take place in Kalamazoo, Mich., as two of the West Division’s pre-season favorites slug it out with Toledo taking on Western Michigan. One other game in particular worth following is an inter-divisional game between Ball State and Kent State taking place at Kent.
Oh, and one other thing worth watching: The play -– and the health –- of quarterbacks around the league. Which QBs are healthiest and play best may be the league’s story line before the season ends.
Here is a look at the league’s 13 teams, presented in the order I would rank them at this point in the season. …
1. OHIO (4-0, 0-0) (LW #1): It’s hard to believe that posting a 44-10 win over Norfolk State would raise concern, but it did. No, the game itself wasn’t the concern –- the health of quarterback Tyler Tettleton was, though. It turns out Tettleton wasn’t at 100 percent at Marshall, and he didn’t play against Norfolk State. Derrius Vick took his place and performed well by all accounts … but it was against Norfolk State. The good news is that the Bobcats have UMass this week, so Tettleton may have another week to heal.
2. TOLEDO (3-1, 1-0) (LW #2): Yes, the Rockets struggled to beat a FCS team they were supposed to pound in a 38-28 win over Coastal Carolina. But a couple of things to think about, UT doubters: The two main parts of Coastal Carolina’s offense were transfers from South Carolina, and I’ve heard that is a decent program. Also, Toledo’s first three weeks included TWO long plane flights and a game against their arch-rivals. Excuses? Perhaps. But probably part of the explanation, too. And hear this bold declaration: If Terrance Owens continues to play at the level he has to start the season, he’s the MAC’s best quarterback. Period. What’s more, if he does that, this is probably the MAC’s best team. Period.
3. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (3-1, 0-0) (LW #3): I’m about to cheap-shot the Huskies, so let’s start with a good note. Congrats on the victory over a BCS AQ opponent. However … The opponent was Kansas. If this were men’s basketball, I’d be impressed (shocked, actually). But this is football, and it turns out the Jayhawks are not very good. OK, done with the cheap shots. Let’s give kudos to NIU for overcoming adversity Saturday and scoring the last 17 points of the game to win by seven. Let’s give QB Jordan Lynch points for a terrific performance both running and throwing. But let’s not go crazy and give Northern Illinois too much credit for beating a team at home that they should probably have beaten.
4. WESTERN MICHIGAN (2-2, 0-0) (LW #4): Remember how last week I thought the Broncos would be in a better spot? Well, I thought they validated my confidence by posting a win –- albeit at home –- over UConn (a team the Broncos also beat last season). WMU claimed its second straight win over the Huskies thanks in part to a terrific strip-scoop-and-score play by LB Desmond Bozeman, who played an outstanding game. But the Broncos' MAC season may hinge on their home game this week against Toledo. And if reports out of Kalamazoo are correct that QB Alex Carder may be injured, well, that’s going to be a tough assignment.
5. BALL STATE (3-1, 1-0) (LW #5): If you’ve read to this point team-by-team, you are aware that I wasn’t overly impressed by the “big” win from NIU and was only mildly impressed by WMU beating UConn. But the Cardinals win over South Florida got my attention. I wasn’t overly impressed by the victory over Indiana, but I was especially impressed that it seemed as if Ball State WON the game rather than having South Florida LOSE the game -– make sense? The defense played well enough to win, and PK Steven Schott is clearly one of the best in the league. Before the Cards beat the Bulls I would have predicted trouble for BSU this Saturday, when it plays at Kent State. Now I’m really looking forward to seeing who emerges from this contest with a win.
6. KENT STATE (2-1, 1-0) (LW #6): Well, the Golden Flashes victory over Buffalo also got my attention –- not because KSU won, but the way they won. Kent State certainly has a strong running game, and that defense was terrific against a good Buffalo offense. Yes, Buffalo’s main offensive players didn’t play well, but I thought the Flashes deserved a lot of credit for that. And if the only score you allow is on a Hail Mary … that’s a pretty good day. I would be willing to push this team higher in the standings if you can answer one question for me: Who is the starting quarterback? Until that question gets answered, Kent State still has a problem.
7. MIAMI (2-2, 1-0) (LW #8): Hey, I actually moved a team in the rankings! Well, don’t get too excited, RedHawks fans. This was more of an indictment of Bowling Green than a nod to Miami, which beat UMass at home on Saturday but wasn’t overly impressive in doing so. This team can be scary when QB Zac Dysert is playing well, but the defense did give up two touchdowns and needed three interceptions to avert more scoring. Will facing Akron this week tell us more about the RedHawks? Perhaps, but if it does, that won’t be a good thing for Miami.
8. BOWLING GREEN (1-3, 0-1) (LW #7): The Falcons lost at Virginia Tech, which wasn’t a surprise. They got shut out by the Hokies, whose defense was put on red alert after struggling the previous week at Pittsburgh. Listen, I’m not telling you to ignore this result, because BG obviously did not play well. But I am shaking my head at people who think the sky is falling because the Falcons had little success against a team that will be ranked in the Top 25 before the season ends. Bowling Green has to be better if it wants to reach its pre-season aspirations, and the hope is that this Saturday’s contest against a struggling FCS squad will get things turned in the right direction.
9. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (2-1, 0-0) (LW #11): I will be blunt: I wasn’t a believer in the Chippewas entering this season. In fact, I thought this team had a chance to drop to the bottom of these rankings. Instead they found a way to upset an Iowa team on the Hawkeyes’ home field. Yes, Iowa doesn’t seem to be very good, and yes, the ending was fluky. But I was dumbfounded CMU was able to pull it off, so I give them credit for the biggest win by a MAC team last week. I am fascinated to see if the Chippewas can carry the good vibes into this week’s game at Northern Illinois, a team CMU has had success against in recent seasons. A warning: I feel in my bones I have Central Michigan ranked too high, so they may drop. So enjoy it while it lasts.
10. BUFFALO (1-2, 0-1) (LW #9): Well, who knew that the toughest defense the Bulls would face this season wasn’t at Georgia, but at home against Kent State? I plan to watch the tape of this game shortly, but I was surprised at the lack of success by QB Alex Zordich. And if RB Brandon Oliver is injured for an extended period of time, Buffalo is going to have to figure something out quickly to get this train back on track. The schedule-maker did the Bulls no favor by sending them to UConn this week; you can be sure the Huskies will be fired up to avenge their loss at Western Michigan last week.
11. EASTERN MICHIGAN (0-4, 0-1) (LW #10): Let’s give kudos to EMU for playing a competitive game at Michigan State –- in fact, this probably was a more impressive performance than some of the ballyhooed victories (Yes, Northern Illinois, this means you). Sophomore QB Tyler Benz started for the Eagles at MSU and didn’t play badly, although I would argue that picking THIS spot for your first career start isn’t a wise choice. I do like what the defense did against MSU, and having the extra week to prepare may set them up to spring the home upset against Kent State on Oct. 6.
12. AKRON (1-3, 0-1) (LW #12): OK, the joke was on me … I thought there was a question of how much Tennessee would run the score up on Akron last Saturday. Turns out the Vols had to shake off a sloppy first half just to win and never did run away from the Zips. QB Dalton Williams has given the offense new life, and the defense really was strong, especially in the first half –- Akron returned an interception for a touchdown and held Tennessee to field goals instead of TDs early in the game. Can the Zips keep this rolling when they host Miami Saturday?
13. MASSACHUSETTS (0-4, 0-1) (LW #13): The Minutemen struggled to stop Miami’s Zac Dysert, but they aren’t the first team to have that problem. UMass also had three turnovers, and this team needs to play a “cleaner” game that that to give itself a chance for victory. This week the Minutemen play their first home conference game … against Ohio. Lucky them.Agree? Disagree? Want to add to the discussion? Use the "Post a Comment" area below to voice your opinions. Keep it clean, keep it civil, and it will be all good. Join in NOW!