Half of the Mid-American Conference football programs are preparing for bowl games, but we’ve seen enough – enough, that is, to publish our Final 2016 MAC Reporter Online Power Rankings.
Suffice it to say, a few slots were easy to fill. Others involved a bit of “mulling.” But when I stepped back from the dart board, er, screen, I felt pretty good about the really big picture.
Western Michigan, of course, owns the top spot, going wire-to-wire if you want to count the preseason MAC Media Preseason Poll. Speaking of which, I will include that poll with this article. Check it out, because it should be good for at least a few serious chuckles.
To see the preseason poll, AND the entire 2016 MRO Power Ranking
Final, click READ MORE . . .
2016 Football Power Rankings Final
Row, row, row the boat, swiftly down the schedule. … Okay, I couldn’t resist. But the Broncos have put together a fabulous season. Head coach P.J. Fleck has engineered an incredible metamorphosis, turning a MAC door mat into a MAC champion – and MORE!!
The accolades/awards are pouring in for the likes of Fleck, Zach Terrell and Cory Davis. But there is a more to what put this team atop the Group of Five heap and on its way to the Cotton Bowl. Robert Spillane, for example, came up with a late interception last Friday, perhaps saving a MAC title, a No. 17 ranking and a big time bowl invitation. Congrats to the champs!
2. Ohio Bobcats (8-5, 6-2 MAC)
The championship game, albeit a loss, probably earned the ‘Cats some well-deserved respect. Sure, Ohio had two conference losses and really eked out some wins against East Division foes, but the ‘Cats also knocked off Toledo at the Glass Bowl. They were perhaps a few plays from possibly pulling off a bigger upset against WMU.
3. Toledo Rockets (9-3, 6-2 MAC)
UT fell just short once again. As good as the Rockets are – and they are good – nobody was going to deny Western Michigan this year. Now the Ohio loss??? That’s another story.
Kareem Hunt wrapped up a fine Rocket rushing career with 1,355 yards and quarterback Logan Woodside was among the national passing leaders. There’s talent coming back, so UT should be a serious contender again next year.
4. Miami RedHawks (6-6, 6-2 MAC)
The RedHawks were actually in the basement of our power rankings at one time. But what can you expect when you start the season 0-6 and are among the league leaders in turnovers and penalties.
Things changed dramatically after quarterback Gus Ragland returned from his ACL injury rehab. Miami made history by reeling off six straight wins after the 0-6 start. That earned the RedHawks a piece of the MAC East crown, although Ohio went to the title game because of its head-to-head win over MU. Miami was down to its fourth string quarterback at one point. While the ‘Hawks will lose a couple key contributors on defense, MU is a very young team on the rebound and should be an East Division contender next year.
5. Northern Illinois Huskies (5-7, 5-3 MAC)
Like Miami, the Huskies got off to a bad start. Also like Miami, NIU went through its stable of quarterbacks. The Huskies won foiur of their last five games, and lost to Toledo by seven in the only loss during that stretch. NIU was also very competitive in mid-season losses to Western Michigan (45-30) and Central Michigan (34-28). After two straight seasons of quarterback injury adversity, Northern no doubt hopes for better luck and another MAC West title run in 2017.
6. Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-5, 4-4 MAC)
It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of EMU going to a bowl seemed ridiculous. Head coach Chris Creighton has done a splendid job of turning things around. Among the 2016 wins was a victory at MAC East champ Ohio. It’s unlikely anybody will be taking EMU for granted in 2017.
7. Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6, 3-5 MAC)
Although they reached a bowl game, the Chippewas no doubt envisioned a better showing in 2016. The big crash came down the stretch as Central lost four of its last five games. Ironically, the one win was at MAC East champ Ohio. Dramatic losses to Kent State (27-24) and EMU (26-21) were particularly disappointing for CMU faithful.
8. Akron Zips (5-7, 3-5 MAC)
Things looked relatively good for UA through its first six games. The Zips were 4-2 overall and 2-0 in MAC play. Western Michigan then dealt Akron a 41-0 drubbing at home Oct. 15, and it was pretty much downhill from there. UA managed just one win the rest of the way and finished with four straight losses. Injuries, including at quarterback, played a part in the slide, but it was a precipitous fall for a team with designs on another bowl appearance and possible MAC East title.
9. Bowling Green Falcons (4-8, 3-5 MAC)
According to the 2016 MAC Media Preseason poll, BGSU was a favorite to repeat as MAC East champs. This prediction came in spite of the Falcons losing head coach Dino Babers and quarterback sensation Matt Johnson, among others. Reality hit quickly, however, as Bowling Green posted just one win (by one point over North Dakota) in its first nine games. Give the Falcons credit, though. They posted wins in each of their last three contests. Of course, two of the victims can be found below, but at least it kept the Falcons from going from first to last.
10. Kent State Golden Flashes (3-9, 2-6 MAC)
The Flashes weren’t likely to be an offensive juggernaut, anyway, but injuries at the quarterback position took the offense to a whole different level. If there was a “Grit” award among post-season accolades, it probably should go to running-back-turned-quarterback Nick Holley. The junior took over in game No. 5 and helped keep the Flashes in six straight games – primarily with his tough running sills. Holley exceeded 100 yards in five of his first six starts and registered 224 rushing yards in a 44-20 road win over Buffalo. He was also at the helm for a dramatic 27-24 KSU win at Central Michigan. Holley and KSU’s defense were keys for making the Flashes a dangerous out.
11. Ball State Cardinals (4-8, 1-7 MAC)
The 2016 Cardinals were one of those teams that had trouble getting over the hump. That is to say, they often flirted with victories – including against quality opponents. Losses to Miami, Eastern Michigan, Akron, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois were all by seven points or less. With quarterback Riley Neal back, another year under new head coach Mike Neu, and some shakeups among other foes, we could see the Cardinals jumping up the rankings next year.
12. Buffalo Bulls (2-10, 1-7 MAC)
A season-opening home loss to Albany might have been a warning sign for UB. The Bull eventually managed one nonconference win (Army, 23-20 in OT) and one MAC win (Akron, 41-20). A number of the losses were pretty decisive. There’s probably work to be done on both sides of the ball. Tight end Mason Schreck and RB Jordan Johnson will be gone, buy freshman QB Tyree Jackson showed promise at times and the Bulls typically find a way to rush the ball with some success.