That’s what it looked like Saturday as several teams that had been on a roll went down. Toledo, the MRO No. 2 team last week, escaped the carnage by taking the week off. However, the first, fourth and fifth ranked teams all fell. Western Michigan, the No. 3 team, survived by knocking off top-ranked Bowling Green.
The flip side of all that, of course, is that some of bottom teams posted wins. Let’s see where everybody landed this week.
Technically, the Rockets are coming off a loss (37-30 at Iowa State Oct. 11). However, they not only are undefeated in three MAC outings, those wins are against some key competition (Ball State, Central Michigan and Western Michigan) within the division. Mid-November contests -- at Northern Illinois and at home against Bowling Green -- loom as huge games. A work of caution, however: BEWARE! This week’s opponent – UMass – is a much-improved team that is especially hot on offense.
2. WESTERN MICHIGAN (4-3. 2-1 MAC)
How’s this for balance: The Broncos ranked 49th nationally in passing yards, 50th in rushing yards and 50th in points against. They may be 81st in points allowed, but the defense has fared pretty well in two of the last three outings. One was a 20-19 overtime loss to Toledo, in which the Broncos missed a tying field goal in overtime. The other was Saturday’s 26-14 win over BG. Western held the high-flying Falcons to 274 total yards and forced two turnovers. WMU enjoyed a gigantic time of possession advantage: 39.26 -20:34!!
3. BOWLING GREEN (5-3, 3-1 MAC)
The Falcons are this week’s winner of the CSS Award. That CSS stands for Can’t Stand Success. BG no sooner climbed into the MRO Power Rankings top spot than it went down. The Falcons had flirted with MAC losses on two other occasions, but last Saturday they decided to take one home. The same team that ranks 29th nationally with 289.4 yards passing managed 274 TOTAL yards while losing at home to Western Michigan. A pair of turnovers and some tackling issues didn’t help. With Akron losing at Ohio, the Falcons missed an opportunity. This week’s matchup against those Zips – in Akron – could be critical.
4. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (5-2, 2-1 MAC)
Positions four (Akron) and five (Central Michigan) both lost Saturday. One part of my brain tells me I can’t move NIU ahead of Central, which defeated the Huskies a week earlier. But Akron is dropping, and I can’t exactly reward Central for losing. The Huskies probably dropped a little far last week anyway, and at least their offense was impressive against Miami. Bottom line – Northern moves up to No. 4. Is it too early to start talking about NIU vs. Toledo or WMU later this year. The answer is YESSSSSSS!!! It’s crazy out there! Take care of business every week!
5. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (4-4, 2-2 MAC)
One week after taking down Northern Illinois on the road, the Chippewas crashed at home. What happened? How about five turnovers!! Even with that, CMU fought back to tie the game with 2:22 left, only to let Ball State drive into position for a winning 55-yard field goal. The Chippewas have put together some nice late season runs. This would be a good time to start one.
6. AKRON (4-3, 2-1 MAC)
The Zips drop two spots this week after falling at Ohio, 23-20. A late fumble and 24-yard return set OU up for the winning field goal. Akron’s defense can keep it in games, but there are some very capable opponents coming up.
7. OHIO (4-4, 2-2 MAC)
Give the ‘Cats credit. They played well enough to put themselves in a position to win. Jovan Johnson’s recovery and 24-yard return of a late Akron fumble set up the winning field goal. In close games, turnovers can make all the difference. Ohio moves up one spot this week.
8. BUFFALO (3-4, 1-2 MAC)
The Bulls spent their bye week regrouping after the dismissal of head coach Jeff Quinn. It will be interesting to see how they respond Saturday when a talented Central Michigan team comes to town. The Chippewas are stinging from a loss last week. That dropped them to 4-4, 2-2 MAC, but nobody got fired. The Bulls enter Saturday’s matchup ranked fourth (MAC) in scoring (33.0) and third in total offense (475.9 ypg). They are fourth in rushing (185.1 ypg) and third in pass offense (290.7 ypg). It’s a formidable offense against a formidable defense. CMU is second in scoring defense (24.8 ppg) and first in total defense (346.6 ypg).
9. BALL STATE (2-5, 1-2 MAC)
After being so close so many times, the Cardinals finally got over the hump in a close game with a 32-29 win Saturday at Central Michigan. Scott Secor’s 55-yard field goal with 17 seconds left proved decisive. Jahwan Edwards carried 32 times for 98 yards and quarterback Jack Milas completed 21 of 38 for 198 yards with one interception. Five CMU turnovers played a key part.
BSU has 12 takeaways on the season, with 10 in the past four games. The Cardinals, who meet Akron this week, have won the last four games in the series, including a 42-24 win in Akron last year.
10. UMASS (2-6, 2-2 MAC)
The cork is out of the bottle with UMass, which registered its second consecutive win last week. The Minutemen held Eastern Michigan to 280 total yards while amassing 562 of their own. EMU was able to convert just 2 of 12 third downs. UMass also put together a balanced offensive effort with 337 passing yards and 225 rushing yards. Receiver Tajae Sharpe had a huge game with 13 receptions for 193 yards. The score might have been worse had the Minutemen not committed three turnovers.
11. EASTERN MICHIGAN (2-5, 1-2 MAC)
The Eagles have a tough schedule ahead of them, including a matchup at home against Northern Illinois this week. They’ll need more “Buffalo-like” performance to post some wins. The word must have gotten out on QB Regional Bell Jr., because he came back to earth with 21 carries for 40 yards against UMass. He did connect on 10 of 21 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
12 A&B – We’ll leave the basement technically closed this week since two candidates play each other Saturday.
Kent State (1-6, 10-3 MAC)
KSU travels to Miami this week, with the Flashes coming off their first win of the season. KSU’s offense came to life, rolling up 467 yards in a 39-17 home win over Army. Quarterback Colin Reardon initiated much of the Flashes offense, passing for 360 yards and three touchdowns on 27 of 40. He also ran for 42 yards and a touchdown on six carries. James Brooks registered seven catches for 108 yards.
Miami (1-7, 1-3 MAC)
Quarterback Andrew Hendricks continues to produce – with the pass and occasionally with his legs. Dawan Scott returned long enough Saturday to contribute 62 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Hendrix carried 14 times for 72 yards and three TDs.
The RedHawks defense, however, continues to struggle big time. The result last week was a 51-41 loss at Northern Illinois. This Saturday represents one of the RedHawks’ better win opportunities down the stretch. A similar opportunity didn’t go so well in Week Two when Eastern Kentucky edged MU in Oxford. Unless the offense starts giving up sacks or moving backward with penalties, the RedHawks should put up points this week. The question is, can the MU defense stop something. Northern Illinois had 658 yards of offense, including 433 rushing yards last week.