Of course, the list of “haves” isn't exactly what we expected. The most unexpected party-crasher is Kent State, whose 3-0 start easily is the biggest surprise. The rest of the leaders are pretty much as expected, as Toledo and Northern Illinois remain unbeaten in the West Division while Ohio and Miami from the East also haven’t suffered a league loss at this point. But there’s still plenty of season to go …
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. TOLEDO (5-1, 3-0) (LW #1): I know what you’re thinking, Bobcat fans: Last week I knocked Ohio down a peg when they struggled, so I need to do it again this week when the Rockets struggled to beat Central Michigan. On the contrary: I was impressed that UT didn’t play well, yet managed to demolish the Chippewas in the fourth quarter. The offense struggled, especially with uncharacteristic turnovers, and the defense stepped up with a pair of pick-sixes. And this is a favorable bit of scheduling that sees the Rockets get what amounts to a bye week before playing Cincinnati at home, giving the MAC a chance at a win over a ranked school.
2. OHIO (6-0, 2-0) (LW #2): OK, Bobcat fans, I understand your point about your team doing what it needs to do to win. I’m sold on the fact that quarterback Tyler Tettleton is tough, and I’m sold on the fact that running back Beau Blankenship is one of the best runners in the conference. But I’m most sold on this team’s depth, which has allowed them to overcome a slew of injuries that might have felled a lesser team. But there are “style” points when you rank teams like this, and back-to-back ugly wins don’t help in that regard. But if the Rockets slip …
3. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (5-1, 2-0) (LW #3): Would you believe me if I said this is the team that took the biggest step forward last week, at least in my eyes? Yes, I know they didn’t move a single spot in the rankings. But in the past I thought this squad was at least a tick behind Toledo and Ohio. But scoring the last 21 points to beat a good Ball State team on the road certainly got my attention, and now I think this is a three-team race for the top spot in this poll. That won’t change unless the Huskies stumble on the way to an Oct. 27 match-up at Western Michigan.
4. WESTERN MICHIGAN (3-3, 1-1) (LW #4): The Broncos bounced back from the disappointing loss to Toledo by taking their frustrations out on UMass Saturday. Tyler Van Tubbergen proved he is a capable quarterback by throwing for five touchdowns and running for a sixth score, while the defense dominated the Minutemen. But things are about to get very tough for WMU, which plays at Ball State this week and at Kent State the next.
5. KENT STATE (4-1, 3-0) (LW #5): Last week I said the Golden Flashes’ game at Eastern Michigan could be a “trap” game. Some trap, as KSU pummeled the Eagles to remain unbeaten. Things are about to get interesting for this team, which travels to Army this week before hosting Western Michigan in an important game and then playing at Rutgers in a challenging contest. This team certainly has the talent on defense, and the playmakers on offense, to continue its upward climb in this poll.
6. BALL STATE (3-3, 1-2) (LW #6): The Cardinals gave Northern Illinois a battle for three quarters before falling at home. I would say this team is easily the best 1-2 team in the conference, though. But the degree of difficult rises as BSU must find a way to overcome a two-game deficit in the loss column to both Toledo and NIU. All those factors make Saturday’s home game against Western Michigan a must-watch contest, because the loser has no shot at a West Division title. Further, the Cards’ road will get tougher in coming weeks with a three-week stretch of games against Army, Toledo and Ohio.
7. MIAMI (3-3, 2-0) (LW #7): There’s no shame in losing to a nationally ranked Cincinnati squad on the Bearcats’ home field. The RedHawks got off to a good start in the game, but a pick-six by UC crashed their comeback hopes. The good news? Miami remains undefeated in the MAC as it heads into arguably its toughest portion of the league schedule. The RedHawks are at Bowling Green Saturday, then host Ohio: If they can win both, they set up a potential East Division championship game against Kent State on Nov. 10.
8. BOWLING GREEN (3-3, 1-1) (LW #8): The Falcons put together a dominating effort in the second half of their win at Akron Saturday. The BG D shut down cold an offense that came into the game leading the MAC in both scoring and total offense. Meanwhile the offense “ran” wild, rolling to 226 yards on the ground. If that was gut-check time for the Falcons, they certainly passed. But that merely sets up another must-win contest for Bowling Green at home Saturday against Miami. A loss would give them two in the MAC and severely dampen title hopes. A win would keep those hopes alive as the team enters was would seem to be an easier stretch with games against UMass and EMU.
9. BUFFALO (1-4, 0-2) (LW #10): The Bulls delivered an early punch at Ohio, jumping out to a 14-0 lead. Then UB bounced back after allowing 24 straight points, finding a way to tie the game at 24-24 in the third quarter. But eventually the Bulls crumbled under the weight of an offense that turned the ball over five times. This team may be better than its final record indicates, because things are just starting to get tough for them: They are at Northern Illinois this week, host Pitt next week, then play Toledo, Miami and Western Michigan in the weeks that follow. The Bulls could be the best 1-9 team in the country in a few weeks.
10. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (2-3, 0-2) (LW #9): The Chippewas hung tough at Toledo, taking advantage of the Rockets’ poor early play and finishing with 35 points. But CMU gave up 50 – and while I know the UT offense is good, this total comes with an asterisk. Not only do the Chippewas turn the ball over too much, the turnovers become “painful” mistakes because they always seem to become points. This offense needs to be more disciplined, or at least more turnover-conscious. We’ll see if CMU can muster up the discipline to beat Navy Friday night.
11. AKRON (1-5, 0-2) (LW #12): The Zips certainly had Bowling Green fans in a tizzy at halftime last Saturday. Akron led 10-0 at the break and had held the Falcons in check before BG exploded in the second half to dominate play and earn the win. The Zips’ offense is dangerous, but a lack of depth is hurting the defense. And the schedule-maker does UA no favors the next two weeks as Ohio and Northern Illinois are next.
12. EASTERN MICHIGAN (0-5, 0-2) (LW #11): I must admit that a few weeks ago I was pretty confident that EMU was better than Akron and UMass, and perhaps Central Michigan, too. Now the only thing I’m pretty confident about is that I was wrong a couple of weeks back. Glad I took back the prediction of the Eagles upset win over Kent State BEFORE the game happened. I won’t be making any such prediction this week when EMU hosts Toledo.
13. MASSACHUSETTS (0-5, 0-2) (LW #13): After a strong home performance against Ohio, UMass supporters were predicting a possible upset at Western Michigan. Not so fast, my friends. The Broncos dominated the Minutemen on both sides of the ball to claim a 52-14 win. There are still growing pains involved with this team, as last week showed. But now UMass has the week off to prepare for a home game against Bowling Green … is THAT the Saturday where this squad earns its first MAC victory?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!