We’re a little late with this week’s Mid-American Conference Power Rankings, but that’s because mid-week November football has started.
You know the drill: MAC schools start playing Tuesday and Wednesday games that are televised by ESPN. The in-stadium crowds are small, but the crowds around TV all over North America are great. Presumably.
As a result, I wanted to wait until after Wednesday’s Ball State-Central Michigan game before publishing this week’s Power Rankings.
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 (9-0, 5-0) (LW #1): Another game, another runaway win for the Huskies. But don’t yawn, as things are about to get “real” for NIU. On Wednesday the Huskies host Ball State for control of the MAC’s West Division, and the follow Wednesday NIU plays at Toledo. The past few weeks have been merely an appetizer; these next two games are the main course. Last Week: Beat UMass, 63-19. This Week: Home v. Ball State (Wednesday, Nov. 13).
2. BALL STATE (9-1, 6-0) (LW #2): The Cards probably circled their next game on their calendars back in August, if not July: BSU is at Northern Illinois on Wednesday, Nov. 13. If Ball State wins that game, give ‘em the West title (not to mention the MAC Power Rankings title), since only woeful Miami will remain on the schedule. And boy, if I was the predicting type … Last Week: Beat Central Michigan, 44-24. This Week: At Northern Illinois (Wednesday, Nov. 13).
3. TOLEDO (6-3, 4-1) (LW #3): Before the season began, the Rockets probably didn’t see their next game as a big challenge. But it will be, as Buffalo comes to the Glass Bowl on Tuesday, Nov. 12 in a game that may have repercussions in both divisions. The good news is that this should keep UT’s focus on the task at hand instead of looking ahead to a critical contest against NIU at home on Nov. 20. Last Week: Beat Eastern Michigan, 55-16. This Week: Home v. Buffalo (Tuesday, Nov. 12).
4. BUFFALO (7-2, 5-0) (LW #4): OK, OK, Buffalo has finally proved it’s a good team. Yes, Bobcat fans will wail about the officiating in Tuesday’s game, but I think a 30-3 score speaks for itself. While the win over Ohio was good, things are about to get tougher for the Bulls as they play at Toledo Tuesday, Nov. 12. A win over the Rockets would lift them higher in the Power Rankings and set up an East Division title game against Bowling Green to end the season Friday, Nov. 29. Last Week: Beat Ohio, 30-3. This Week: At Toledo (Tuesday, Nov. 12).
5. BOWLING GREEN (6-3, 4-1) (LW #5): There were lots of positives from the Falcons dismantling of Miami Tuesday: BG finally dominated an opponent, it got off to a fast start, and there were no injuries as the starters rested in the fourth quarter. A much tougher test looms Tuesday when Ohio invades the Doyt on Nov. 12. With a win there, the Falcons all but officially sew up their side of a winer-takes-all East Division title match at Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Black Friday. Last Week: Beat Miami, 45-3. This Week: Home v. Ohio (Tuesday, Nov. 12).
6. OHIO (6-3, 3-2) (LW #6): OK, I’m wavering on the Bobcats. Yes, an argument could be made that the officiating cost OU in the Buffalo game Tuesday. Here’s my problem with that: The “safety” only made the score 9-3, and probably led to the next Buffalo TD that made it 16-3. What about the two touchdowns that followed? The refs can’t be blamed for that. Ohio needs to polish its bowl resume, and its game at Bowling Green on Tuesday, Nov. 12 gives them a chance to do that. Last Week: Lost to Buffalo, 30-3. This Week: At Bowling Green (Tuesday, Nov. 12).
7. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (3-6, 2-3) (LW #7): Had the Chippewas given Ball State a game on Wednesday, I promise you I would have lifted them above the Bobcats. Instead CMU trailed 31-3 at halftime and frankly looked overmatched. The return of Titus Davis was a nice boost for the Chips, and the schedule the rest of the way would allow for three wins and bowl eligibility with Western Michigan, UMass and Eastern Michigan left. But I predict that, even with six wins, CMU will be left without a bowl. Last Week: Lost at Ball State, 44-24. This Week: Idle.
8. AKRON (3-7, 2-4) (LW #9): Nice win by the Zips over their arch-rivals Saturday. Even better news is that UA will have some time off before playing another winnable game at UMass on Nov. 16. There could be some 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. Upset pick? Not yet. Upset potential? You bet. Last Week: Beat Kent State, 16-7. This Week: Idle.
9. KENT STATE (2-8, 1-5) (LW #8): Last week I wrote, “A disappointing season took another turn for the worse. …” Can I recycle that? What could be worse than losing to arch-rival Akron? Well, good news for the Golden Flashes: Their next game is at home against Miami, the “cure for what ails you.” After that, it will be interesting to see the status of the Ohio team KSU faces to end the season. Potential for a season-ending two-game winning streak? We’ll see. Last Week: Lost at Akron, 16-7. This Week: Home v. Miami (Wednesday, Nov. 13).
10. WESTERN MICHIGAN (1-8, 1-4) (LW #10): Saturday the Broncos have the MAC spotlight as they play at Eastern Michigan. The following week WMU is home against Central Michigan, so there’s a chance the Broncos will be riding a three-game winning streak into their season-ending contest at Northern Illinois. I’ve hinted at upsets in the last two notes; will I do the same for WMU? Ah, no. Last Week: Idle. This Week: At Eastern Michigan.
11. MASSACHUSETTS (1-8, 1-4) (LW #11): It was back to reality for the Minutemen, who actually stayed close to Northern Illinois for a while early before eventually getting crushed by 44 points. UMass will have a chance to make a program statement in the coming weeks as it hosts Akron, then plays at Central Michigan in two potentially winnable games before finishing at Ohio. Last Week: Lost to Northern Illinois, 63-19. This Week: Idle.
12. EASTERN MICHIGAN (1-8, 0-5) (LW #12): That cheering you hear is from Ypsilanti, where for the first time in a long while the Eagles are facing an opponent they might actually beat. I’m not saying EMU will beat Western Michigan, but the Eagles’ first five league games were against Ball State, Buffalo, Ohio, Northern Illinois and Toledo, a quintet that current is a combined 23-3 in MAC play. Yikes. Oh, and BG remains on the schedule … which makes EMU the only MAC team to play all six teams currently at the top of the MAC Power Rankings. Last Week: Lost to Toledo, 55-16. This Week: Home v. Western Michigan.
13. MIAMI (0-9, 0-5) (LW #13): If the RedHawks are going to salvage a win this season, it almost probably is going to have to come next Wednesday when they travel to Kent State. I don’t see this team beating Buffalo or Ball State, do you? Truth of the matter is, the next bit of good news for this program likely comes when a new coach is officially introduced. Last Week: Lost to Bowling Green, 45-3. This Week: At Kent State (Wednesday, Nov. 13).
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