This week’s collection of mid-week “#MACtion” has gone a long way towards setting the latest Mid-American Conference Power Rankings in stone.
The Northern Illinois-Toledo game next Wednesday will determine if I have the top three in the proper order, and the Black Friday clash between Buffalo and BG will settle the discussion at four and five.
And while fans may have some arguments with the bottom levels of the poll, I’m pretty comfortable with the results.
For those of you new to the rankings, the premise is simple: If the MAC didn’t have divisions, how would the league’s 13 teams be ranked? This is now a late-season estimation, based primarily on what has taken place on the field this year.
So without further ado, 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 (10-0, 6-0) (LW #1): Just when it seemed as if the Huskies were on the ropes, they pounded BSU with three fourth-quarter touchdowns to win going away. The second challenge for NIU comes next Wednesday when it travels to Toledo; with a win here, the Huskies are home free, since they would clinch the West Division title regardless of their final game result. Then a win over the sinking ship that is the “Row the Boat” squad on Nov. 26 would clinch another undefeated season. Last Week: Beat Ball State, 48-27 (Wednesday, Nov. 13). This Week: At Toledo (Wednesday, Nov. 20).
2. BALL STATE (9-2, 6-1) (LW #2): The Cards gave NIU all they could handle for three quarters … but were pounded into submission in the final period of a three-TD loss. BSU’s chances for a West Division title now are in the hands of UT and WMU (a team whose lifeboats have already been deployed), so that’s looking pretty bleak. All that remains is a home game against winless Miami on Nov. 29 to burnish the bowl resume one last time. Last Week: Lost at Northern Illinois, 48-27 (Wednesday, Nov. 13). This Week: Idle.
3. TOLEDO (7-3, 5-1) (LW #3): Looking forward to watching the Rockets Jekyll-and-Hyde performance against Buffalo on tape. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a team taking a 38-point lead, then winning by only 10. Wondering if the team that hosts Northern Illinois on Nov. 20 for the West Division title will be the team that bludgeoned a good Buffalo team in the first half, or the one that nearly gave it all back in the time that remained. Last Week: Beat Buffalo, 51-41 (Tuesday, Nov. 12). This Week: Home v. Northern Illinois (Wednesday, Nov. 20).
4. BUFFALO (7-3, 5-1) (LW #4): Wow, this team’s fall to earth was something short of graceful. There’s no shame in losing to Toledo in the Glass Bowl, but falling behind 38-0 in the third quarter? Yes, there was a comeback. But next time the Bulls shouldn’t spot the opposition a 38-point lead first. Thank goodness winless Miami is on the horizon before the MAC East Division title game v. BG on Black Friday. Last Week: Lost at Toledo, 51-41 (Tuesday, Nov. 12). This Week: At Miami (Tuesday, Nov. 19).
5. BOWLING GREEN (7-3, 5-1) (LW #5): As impressive as the Miami win was, it still came over a winless team. But the way the Falcons dismantled Ohio? Wow. The final score was 49-0, and it wasn’t even THAT close. BG’s last two wins are by a combined score of 94-3, and there’s some time to prepare before facing Eastern Michigan on Nov. 23. Looming on the horizon is a winner-takes-East-Division contest against Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Nov. 29. Last Week: Beat Ohio, 49-0 (Tuesday, Nov. 12). This Week: Idle.
6. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (3-6, 2-3) (LW #7): Shame on you people who coerced me to put Ohio in front of the Chippewas! Actually, shame on me for listening to you. CMU has a chance to become bowl eligible, but it will take three wins to finish the season. Good thing the schedule shows three winnable games, starting with Saturday’s contest at Western Michigan. And still to come? Home games with UMass and Eastern Michigan. Last Week: Idle. This Week: At Western Michigan.
7. OHIO (6-4, 3-3) (LW #6): OK, I’m no longer wavering on the Bobcats. OU has been outscored 72-0 in its last six quarters, and there were no signs of a pulse in the blowout loss at BG Tuesday. The good news is that Ohio’s final two games are at home, and the Bobcats have beatable opponents in Kent State and UMass. But it may already be too late to salvage this team’s bowl aspirations. Last Week: Lost at Bowling Green, 49-0 (Tuesday, Nov. 12). This Week: Home v. Kent State (Tuesday, Nov. 19).
8. AKRON (3-7, 2-4) (LW #8): The Zips had a week off to prepare for a winnable game at UMass on Nov. 16. A win over the Minutemen would give UA three wins in its last four contests, and that would be plenty of positive momentum heading into the season-ending game at home against Toledo. And the Zips could catch a break by facing the Rockets on a downward spiral if UT loses to NIU. A week ago, this may have been my upset special. This week, I’m not so sure. Check back next week. Last Week: Idle. This Week: At UMass.
9. KENT STATE (3-8, 2-5) (LW #9): The home game against Miami couldn’t have come at a better time for the reeling Golden Flashes, who stomped the RedHawks for a much-needed win that snapped a five-game losing streak. All that is left for KSU is an interesting contest at Ohio next Tuesday. Can the Flashes claim the win, and some positive momentum heading into the off-season? A loss probably cements the “back to the bottom” feeling that would wash away the good from last year’s incredible ride. Last Week: Beat Miami, 24-6 (Wednesday, Nov. 13). This Week: At Ohio (Tuesday, Nov. 19).
10. EASTERN MICHIGAN (2-8, 1-5) (LW #12): While there have been a lot of big games around the MAC recently, I thought the Eagles were the league’s team of the week after their win over WMU Saturday. Two days after their coach was fired, and in a season marred by eight straight losses, not to mention the death of a teammate, EMU found a way to beat the Brocons. Very impressive, no matter what level of competition. Now the Eagles have a week to get things in order before hosting BG and finishing up at CMU. It will be interesting to see this program’s response. Last Week: Beat Western Michigan, 35-32. This Week: Idle.
11. WESTERN MICHIGAN (1-9, 1-5) (LW #10): Yes, I’ve had my giggles poking fun at the “Row the Boat” Broncos this season. But let’s cut the jokes: Saturday’s loss at EMU was an embarrassment. While the talent may be down in this program currently, it should never have reached the level of losing to a team that saw its coach fired a few days earlier. Let’s mix in a few wins instead of creating pithy sayings, and let’s stop boasting about facilities and recruits when this boat has taken on water at an alarming rate -- and may already have capsized. Last Week: Lost at Eastern Michigan, 35-32. This Week: Home v. Central Michigan.
12. MASSACHUSETTS (1-8, 1-4) (LW #11): Good news: The Minutemen can finish the season on a positive note, since winnable games against Akron and Central Michigan are ahead, then a potentially sleep-walking Ohio awaits. Better news: Basketball season has started, and the UMass win over LSU indicates this team will be pretty good. Last Week: Idle. This Week: Home v. Akron.
13. MIAMI (0-10, 0-6) (LW #13): The bad news is the RedHawks last chance to gain a victory went up in smoke with a loss at Kent State Wednesday. It’s hard to imagine this team will beat Buffalo or Ball State in its final two games. The good news? Miami’s field hockey team won the MAC title. Last Week: Lost to Kent State, 24-6 (Wednesday, Nov. 13). This Week: Home v. Buffalo (Tuesday, Nov. 19).
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