This week’s MRO Power Rankings were moved back a little in order to incorporate results from midweek action. On one hand, there weren’t any huge surprises last week, but there were some developments that might have an impact heading down the homestretch.
Let’s take a look and see where teams landed this week.
The Rockets are the only team with an unblemished MAC record. They stayed perfect this week, jumping out to a 30-7 lead before leaving town with a 30-20 win at Kent State. However, they may have paid a steep price as quarterback Logan Woodside and All-MAC center Greg Mancz left with injuries and did not return. Both are backed up by freshmen on the two-deep.
Woodside actually took over earlier this year when starting QB Phillip Ely went down for the count. Michael Julien went 2 of 6 for a negative-1 yard after taking over for Woodside against Kent State. Even stellar running back Kareem Hunt is banged up.
It’s another terrible development for the snake-bit Rockets, who face nemesis Northern Illinois in Dekalb Tuesday. That might determine the MAC West champ. Toledo then hosts arch-rival (and MAC East leader) Bowling Green in the Glass Bowl the following Wednesday before closing the regular season at Eastern Michigan.
2. WESTERN MICHIGAN (6-3, 4-1 MAC)
The Broncos get the nod for No. 2 this week. They are on a four-game win streak that includes a victory over MAC East leader Bowling Green on the road. WMU throttled Miami (41-10) Saturday after dumping Ohio rather easily (42-21) the previous week.
With freshman RB Jarvion Franklin routinely breaking the century mark and sophomore QB Zach Terrell producing, as well, the Broncos have put up over 40 points in three of four during their current winning streak. The Broncos defense also looked pretty good against Miami last week, limiting the RedHawks to 149 passing yards and 236 total yards. The next three weeks will be HUGE, HUGE, HUGE for WMU, which remains in title contention.
3. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (7-2, 4-1)
Speaking of MAC West title contention, guess who gets that title – AGAIN -- if they win out. That’s right, the Huskies are in a good place right now. The have one conference loss – to Central Michigan. But the Chippewas already have two MAC losses. The big matchup against Toledo Tuesday in DeKalb now looks even more winnable given the Rockets injury issues.
4. BOWLING GREEN (6-3, 4-1 MAC)
After a bye week, the Falcons bounced back Tuesday with a road win over Akron. With a two-game lead and nary a MAC East challenger (just Kent State) among the remaining three games, the Falcons are looking good for a trip to Detroit. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe it was the BG defense, but the Falcons certainly benefitted from four second half turnovers (five total) by Akron to pull away in the second half Tuesday. Fred Coppet (18 carries, 113 yards) and Andre Givens (14 carries, 101 yards, 1 TD) both went over the century mark for the winning Falcons.
5. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (6-4, 4-2 MAC)
The Chippewas absolutely dominated Eastern Michigan last week, rolling up 501 yards of offense while holding the Eagles to a 97 in a 38-7 thumping. Saylor Lavallii’s 41-yard TD run on the third play from scrimmage got things rolling, and by halftime it was 31-0. Lavalllii and (24 carries, 105 yards) and Devon Spalding (18 carries, 154 yards) each had two touchdowns. Deon Butler led receivers with five catches for 95 yards. Central returns to action Saturday, Nov. 15 when it hosts a struggling Miami team. One week later, it’s a showdown against Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. WMU has won four of its last five, but that lone loss – 32-29 at home against Ball State – may well prove to be VERY costly.
6. BALL STATE (3-6, 2-3 MAC)
As they have in so many losses this year, the Cardinals stayed right with Northern Illinois Wednesday. It was 14-all at the half and 28-21 in favor of NIU with over 10 minutes left. Two BSU turnovers (interception and fumble), however, ended the final two Cardinal drives. Ball State committed five turnovers on the evening. One might say it was a turnover turnaround for BSU. The Cardinals had benefitted from five opponent turnovers in each of the previous two outings.
7. OHIO (5-5, 3-3 (MAC)
The Bobcats got back on the winning track this week with a decisive 37-14 win over reeling Buffalo. It was 17-0 by intermission and 27-0 before UB finally got on the scoreboard late in the third quarter. The ‘Cats took advantage of four Buffalo turnovers and A.J. Ouellette paced OU’s offense with 155 rushing yards and two TDs on 29 carries. Ohio is now off until it closes the home campaign Tuesday, Nov. 18 with a tough assignment against Northern Illinois. The Huskies are very much in the hunt for the MAC West crown.
8. UMASS (2-7, 2-3 MAC)
The Minutemen had rolled to a pair of wins before Toledo edged UMass back on Oct. 25. After a bye week, the Minutemen get another MAC West foe in Ball State (Wed., Nov. 12). That could be an interesting matchup as the MAC’s top passing offense (UMass, 331.2 ypg) meets the No. 3 pass defense (Ball State, 208.9 ypg). The Cardinals are also capable of generating turnovers (19 total in 2014). Even with last week’s five-turnover debacle on their own part, the Cardinals top the MAC in turnover margin with a plus-8. UMass, meanwhile, is 12th with a minus-6.
9. AKRON (4-5, 2-3 MAC)
Tuesday night’s loss to MAC East leader Bowling Green extended the Zips losing skein to three straight and pretty much finished any hope of a 2014 MAC East title. Akron, would in fact, have to win all three to post a winning overall record. Two wins, would mean 6-6 season.
The remaining portion of the schedule has its challenges, but each game is also a legit opportunity. This week’s foe, Buffalo has its own problems.
10. BUFFALO (3-6, 1-4 MAC)
Are the Bulls teetering on the edge of a free-fall in this 2014 post-Quinn era? During the current four-game tailspin, Buffalo’s offense has produced – in order – 35, 27, 14 and 14 points. Somehow, UB managed just 106 yards passing against Ohio Wednesday, with 74 coming off the arm of quarterback Joe Licata, who connected on 9 of 20 with 1 TD and 1 interception.
The Bulls managed just 134 total yards (28 rushing) and topped that off with four turnovers. Surrendering 223 rushing yards certainly didn’t help the UB cause, either.
UB seems to be dialed in a little better at home, so maybe they can stop the skid with a win over the Zips.
11. MIAMI (2-8, 2-4 MAC)
It’s not that the RedHawks stood that great of a chance of knocking off Western Michigan last week. It’s the way MU lost.
Really, neither side of the ball looked that good. The defense, now missing several key cogs, could not stop the Broncos run (282 yards) or pass (217 yards). Granted, RB Jarvion Franklin producing well against just about everybody, but you have to get some stops and move to ball to be competitive. WMU converted 8 of 11 third down opportunities and punted just once – late in the game. Miami, meanwhile totaled 236 yards of offense, with just 149 passing. Quarterback Andrew Hendrix was 7 of 19 for 96 yards with one TD and 1 interception. For whatever reason, the fifth-year senior transfer has been under 40 percent completions in each of his last two contests.
A rest might do Hendrix and all the remaining RedHawks good. After 10 straight weeks of competition, they have a bye this week. It’s a very tough road test at Central Michigan (MAC No. 1 in total defense) when MU returns to action Saturday, Nov. 15. Miami then gets 10-days to prepare for a season finale at home against rival Ohio.
12. EASTERN MICHIGAN (2-7, 1-4 MAC)
The Eagles are certainly somebody who could give a testimonial on Central Michigan’s defense. EMU managed just five first downs and 97 total yards on offense last Saturday. Of course, that could also speak to EMU football without Reginald Bell Jr. The freshman quarterback who stepped into a starting role during the season, exited very early in the CMU contest and did not return.
Things weren’t a whole lot better on the other side of the ball as CMU, which had a 27-0 halftime advantage, rolled up 501 yards.
On the plus side, Eastern is off until Saturday, Nov. 15. On the flip side, EMU closes with Western Michigan, Ball State and Toledo. Hey, the first two are at home!!
13. KENT STATE (1-8, 0-5 MAC)
Give the Flashes credit. After falling behind Toledo 23-0 Tuesday, they scored 17 of the game’s next 24 points to pull within 10 at the 13:15 mark of the fourth quarter. They then held Toledo – sans quarterback Logan Woodside and All-MAC center Greg Mancz after injuries – to three straight punts.
Unfortunately for KSU, the Flashes finished their final three drives with a fumble, punt and interception.
The 20 points – scored on consecutive drives in the second half – were the most points scored by Kent State in a conference game this season. In fact, KSU has scored more than 17 points in only one other game this season – a 39-17 victory over army. Not surprisingly, then, the Flashes rank 126th nationally in points scored (14.8 ppg). KSU’s pass offense isn’t that much to brag about (9th MAC, 218.4 ypg), but the rush offense owns the cellar (85.1 ppg).
Barring another KSU vs NIU performance, it will be hard to stop Bowling Green this Wednesday. However, the final two games (at Buffalo and home against rival Akron) appear to be more manageable opportunities.