The dust (or more likely rubber pellets) has settled from Saturday’s Mid-American Conference championship game. So, while there are bowl games yet to be played for five schools, we can nonetheless get to the business of a final MAC Reporter Online Power Ranking for 2017.
Toledo, which was a media and coaches preseason pick to win it all, did just that on the field. The Rockets were therefore a quick pick atop our rankings. It wasn’t so easy after that, however, and there may be a few surprises.
(Click Read More to see the list . . . )
The Rockets have faltered on their way to a would-be title several times in past years, and there was an “ugly” night in Athens this time around. UT quickly righted the ship, however, and held head-to-head tiebreakers over all the other West contenders.
Six Toledo players made the All-MAC First Team Offense, with Logan Woodside earning Player of the Year honors.
The championship was a long-time coming for a program that is pretty much a perennial contender. In the end, UT left no doubt and deserves congratulations all the way around.
2. Central Michigan (8-4, 6-2 MAC)
Let the surprises begin?
Five games into their season, the Chippewas weren’t looking all that good. They had lost three straight, including an early home MAC contest to the Miami RedHawks.
As they got a little healthier, things began to improve and CMU knocked off Ohio in Athens Oct. 7. It was the start of a nice run. While the Chips fell to Toledo the next week, they ran off five straight down the stretch and are now headed to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Transfer quarterback Shane Morris certainly played a big part in the season, finishing second among MAC QBs in passing average (242.3 ypg) and third in pass efficiency.
3. Akron Zips (7-6, 6-2)
The Zips were a preseason pick for fourth in the MAC East. However, they put up “W”s in their first three MAC games and won of the first five. Like the Chippewas, they overcame a loss to Miami, which posted a 24-24 win in Nelson’s first start at quarterback for Akron. However, a 37-34 win over Ohio the following week proved to be a pivotal decision in the MAC East race. The Zips were simply overmatched against Toledo, but there are probably some good building blocks moving forward.
4. Northern Illinois Huskies (8-4, 6-2 MAC)
Like CMU, the Huskies were a game back of Toledo. But Central edged Northern 31-24 in the season finale.
One again, NIU had to deal with quarterback/injury issues. They’ve sometimes been able to make a title run despite the injuries, but getting/staying healthy at quarterback would be a boost. There will be some extra practice time for all in the next couple weeks as Northern Illinois meets Duke in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit Dec. 26.
5. Ohio Bobcats (8-4, 5-3 MAC)
Much of the season, Ohio appeared to be justifying prognostications which saw them going back to Detroit for another championship game shot. Bobcat fans were especially encouraged by a 38-10 thumping of Toledo Nov. 8. That made four straight victories with two games to go.
Any travel plans took a huge hit, however, the following week when Akron edged the ‘Cats 37-34. The Zips clinched their MAC East title the following week by beating Kent State, while OU fell again at Buffalo.
Ohio gets one more chance to go out on a winning note when it meets Alabama-Birmingham in the Bahamas Bowl Dec. 22.
The Bobcats should certainly have enough to be a strong contender again next yaar, and anybody who plans on beating Ohio better figure out a way to at least contain standout QB Nathan Rourke.
6 Western Michigan Broncos (6-6, 4-4 MAC)
A poor stretch run cost WMU dearly, as the Broncos are one of two MAC teams who are bowl eligible but did not receive an invitation. It’s somewhere between just plain ironic and a bit of salt in the wound that Western fans were enjoying a Cotton Bowl appearance last January.
WMU’s only win over the last month was against a floundering Kent State team. Meanwhile, it fell to Central Michigan, Northern Illinois and Toledo – all tough outings, but all losses.
Sophomore QB Jon Wassink showed some flashes of good potential and there are also other pieces upon which to build in the post-Jarvion Franklin and Darius Phillips era.
Spots 7-9 were particularly vexing to sort out. Ultimately, the Bulls are probably getting the seventh spot because of a strong finish and some close calls in losses.
UB won its last three games to become bowl eligible. Unfortunately for for the Bulls, they did not get an invitation.
Out of the last three wins, the best quality victory was a 31-24 season finale victory over Ohio.
The biggest downside for Buffalo was a four-game mid-season losing streak. That included a loss to Miami.
Bottom line is the Bulls improved this season and a strong finish may give them momentum for 2018.
8. Eastern Michigan Eagles (5-7. 3-5 MAC)
EMU’s mid-season is littered with close calls that didn’t go the Eagles way. Eastern, however, won three of its last four after a six-game losing streak. One of those wins was a 27-24 road win at Miami. That, ultimately keeps them one spot over the RedHawks.
It will be interesting to see how EMU fares next year after quarterback Brogan Roback and WR Sergio Bailey have moved on.
9. Miami RedHawks (5-7, 4-4 MAC)
The RedHawks may have a difficult time looking in the mirror during the upcoming bowl season. Their bowl absence this time around is not due lack of effort, but instead for lack of execution at critical moments during the 2017 campaign. It’s no stretch to say there were four victories easily within reach were it not for a play or two in each of those contests.
The RedHawks should be loaded for next year when a large and experienced senior class will be leading the way. There’s no reason they shouldn’t aim high. If they perform high, that mirror will be smiling back at the RedHawks next December.
10. Bowling Green Falcons (2-5, 2-10 MAC)
The Falcons could score some points. The trouble was stopping other teams from scoring even more.
BG is young at numerous positions. If the defense can improve, Bowling Green could take a leap forward in 2018.
11. Kent State Golden Flashes (2-10, 1-7)
It was a pretty grim season for KSU, which finished last among MAC teams in points scored (12.8 ppg) and 10th in points allowed (35.1 ppg).
Losing Nick Holley three games into the season certainly didn’t help. The Flashes need an infusion of something on both sides of the ball.
12. Ball State Cardinals (2-10, 0-8 MAC)
The quarterback injury bug hit Ball State hard this year, with the Cardinals eventually using four true quarterbacks for the first time since 1984.
QB Riley Neal’s return to join some talented young players at other skill spots could put BSU in a much better position next year. Freshman Caleb Huntley was third among MAC rushers , averaging 83.6 ypg. Freshman Justin Hall led all conference receivers with 6.5 receptions per game.