Who would you vote for? There certainly are some worthy candidates … Northern Illinois has won 14 consecutive MAC games and nine straight overall. Toledo also has won nine straight and currently is ranked 23rd in the Associated Press poll, the school’s first ranking since 2001. Ohio was ranked in that poll before a tough, close loss at Miami, but the Bobcats still are 8-1 with a win over Penn State. And Kent State knocked off a ranked school in Rutgers – on the road, no less – to improve to 8-1 and join the Huskies, Rockets and Bobcats as MAC teams getting AP poll votes.
Oh, wait, we have the BCS to “elect” the best teams in the country, right? How is that working out?
Luckily, the next few weeks will help clarify the standings, if not these Power Rankings. The games to watch? Toledo travels to Northern Illinois Wednesday, Nov. 14 to determine the likely West Division champ, while several games will be needed to sort out the top spot in the East Division that is currently held by Kent State.
The Golden Flashes play at Miami this week, then at Bowling Green next week before finishing with a home contest against Ohio, while the Falcons and Bobcats, both 4-1, square off Wednesday.
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. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (9-1, 6-0) (LW #1): Remember, I warned you to shield the eyes of young children when the Huskies hosted UMass, and the violence of that 63-0 contest was as graphic as expected. Now NIU gets a week off before hosting Toledo on Nov. 14, while the Rockets have a not-so-easy home game against Ball State today. That’s one narrow advantage the Huskies have, and here’s another: The game against UT will take place at Huskie Stadium, a place where Northern Illinois has won 20 straight times.
2. TOLEDO (8-1, 5-0) (LW #2): I know a lot of people are pointing towards the Rockets’ “championship” game against Northern Illinois, but that’s a mistake – for the moment. UT will have its hands full with Ball State at the Glass Bowl tonight. I’m interested in seeing both games back-to-back because that will address arguably the biggest issue the Rockets have faced this season – and no, it’s not the defense. It’s the inconsistency of a team that seems to play extremely well against good competition but play “down” to the level of inferior opponents. Can UT put together back-to-back big games?
3. KENT STATE (8-1, 5-0) (LW #3): The Golden Flashes had a little more difficult time than folks expected against Akron, didn’t they? But give KSU credit for an explosive second half in the victory over their archrivals. The Flashes still have three challenging and critical games on the schedule – that’s right, I said three, not two. I warn Kent State fans not to overlook Saturday’s contest against Miami. Yes, the RedHawks lost at Buffalo. But Miami is 3-0 at home … and where is this game being played?
4. OHIO (8-1, 4-1) (LW #4): The Bobcats bounced back nicely in their win Thursday over Eastern Michigan, but the schedule gets much tougher quickly as OU finishes with Bowling Green (just six days after playing EMU, and Ohio’s third game in 12 days), then plays at Ball State and at Kent State to end the season. If OU wins the MAC East Division title, the Bobcats certainly will have earned it. And while that final schedule may seem grueling, I wouldn’t bet Ohio isn’t capable of pulling it off with its veteran roster.
5. BALL STATE (6-3, 3-2) (LW #5): The Cardinals almost certainly are on the outside of the West Division title race, since they are two games in the loss column behind both NIU and UT (and already have lost to the Huskies). But BSU certainly can play the “spoiler” role in the West with its contest against Toledo tonight. The Cards also could be a spoiler in the East since they play at Ohio Wednesday, Nov. 14. And Ball State will be motivated, since it is building a resume for a potential bowl bid.
6. BOWLING GREEN (6-3, 4-1) (LW #6): The Falcons have been fighting to play “meaningful” games in November – in other words, games that will give them a chance to win an East Division title. Well, that’s exactly what they will get with Wednesday’s game at Ohio and the home contest with Kent State giving them a chance to bounce back from a 1-3 start to claim the East. It will be interesting to see if BG’s formula of leaning on a stout defense, which flies in the face of the offensively crazy MAC, will be able to carry the day.
7. WESTERN MICHIGAN (4-6, 2-4) (LW #8): The Broncos snapped their three-game losing streak with a win at Central Michigan, keeping their hopes of bowl eligibility alive. The offense seems to have bounced back from the loss of QB Alex Carder thanks to solid play by Tyler Van Tubbergen. But the defense continues to struggle, and Saturday’s game at Buffalo won’t be as easy as facing a 2-7 team might seem.
8. BUFFALO (2-7, 1-4) (LW #9): The Bulls snapped their six-game losing streak with an important home victory over Miami, and this week presents another shot at a win as Western Michigan comes to town. The return of RB Brandon Oliver certainly was a shot in the arm for the offense, but the defense held Miami’s Zac Dysert in check … well, for a while at least. A victory over the Broncos really could give this program a kick-start thanks to a game at UMass the following week, which might give the Bulls a three-game win streak heading into the final game of the season against Bowling Green.
9. MIAMI (4-5, 3-2) (LW #7): You may remember that I sounded a warning last week when I wrote that the RedHawks’ game against Buffalo “won’t be as easy as it sounds.” Well, not only wasn’t it easy … turns out it wasn’t a win, either, as the Bulls kicked a field goal at the final gun to pull off the upset. That loss certain was a kick to the teeth for Miami’s title hopes, but the RedHawks certain can jumble the East Division race when it hosts Kent State Saturday. Is playing at home, where they are 3-0 this season, enough for the RedHawks to pull off the upset?
10. EASTERN MICHIGAN (1-8, 0-5) (LW #10): There are some players on this roster, most notably RB Bronson Hill. But there aren’t enough of them, and the players that are there aren’t playing well enough for the Eagles to post many wins so far. That’s what makes Saturday’s game against Central Michigan so important: If EMU can claim the win at home, things will look brighter entering the end of the schedule. If the Eagles can’t knock off CMU, tough games at Western Michigan and home against Northern Illinois remain. Ouch.
11. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (3-6, 1-4) (LW #12): The Chippewas weren’t able to keep the momentum of their Akron victory rolling when they lost to Western Michigan Saturday. But CMU has another chance to get back on track when it travels to Eastern Michigan Saturday. Believe it or not, a 6-6 record is do-able if the Chips beat EMU, because a winnable home game against Miami and a winnable game at UMass close the schedule. The games are winnable – but can Central Michigan win them?
12. AKRON (1-9, 0-6) (LW #12): The “Battle for the Bottom” takes place Saturday when the Zips host UMass. That’s a bit unfair to Akron, which has made a few teams sweat so far this season – but for this program, that’s progress compared to last year. The Zips gave Kent State a battle for a half before their archrivals pulled away in the second half. If Akron wants to get that first MAC win, it had better win at home against the lowly Minutemen … if they don’t, the Zips’ last shot for a league win comes in a Tuesday night contest against Toledo, which may be a little too much to ask.
13. MASSACHUSETTS (0-9, 0-5) (LW #13): The Minutemen got a glimpse at their future goals last Saturday in a 63-0 loss at Northern Illinois. More importantly, they also got a glimpse at how far away those goals are, at least for now. The schedule lightens up considerably the rest of the way as UMass plays the “Battle for the Bottom” Saturday at Akron, then hosts winnable games against Buffalo and Central Michigan to end the season. Can UMass find a way to claim that first FBS victory before the season ends?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!