About two weeks ago, the initial 2017 Amway Coaches Poll was released. No MAC teams were ranked, but Western Michigan and Toledo combined to receive nine votes. This time writers, rather than coaches, assigned numbers to various college football programs.
The AP Poll somehow gave the MAC less respect: zero votes.
The AP Top 25 table is as follows:
|Rank||School (First place votes)||2016 record|
|2||Ohio State (3)||11-2|
|3||Florida State (4)||10-3|
|4||Southern California (2)||10-3|
The others considered include TCU (98), Utah (85), Notre Dame (65), Boise State (37), NC State (26), Northwestern (25), Pittsburgh (23), Oregon (21), Houston (19), Colorado (18), UCLA (9), San Diego State (9), BYU (5), Appalachian State (4), Nebraska (4), Tulsa (4), Kentucky (3), Texas A&M (3) and Michigan State (1).
That’s not great news for the Mid-American Conference, who features not one, but two schools that could possibly make a run at the New Year’s Six guaranteed bowl slot.
This conference won the Group of Five Cotton Bowl spot in the New Year's Six last season. Western Michigan finished the 2016 campaign 13-1, but voters felt that the Broncos lost too many players (and their head coach) in the offseason to maintain their lofty ranking from the previous year.
Toledo, the MAC favorite, surprisingly was snubbed after a solid run of success, featuring three consecutive nine-plus win seasons (9-4 in 2016). The Rockets gave WMU a run for their money in 2016, taking the Broncos to the final game of the season in the MAC West division race before fading away. The Rockets return several key starters, including star quarterback Logan Woodside (4,129 passing yards and 45 passing touchdowns in 2016).
Power 5 teams earned the love over the MAC, especially in the “others considered” section, which included a lot of teams that frequently chalk up losses on Saturdays. Several teams are questionably ranked above Toledo and Western Michigan.
For instance, the Longhorns stumbled to the finish line in 2016 with three-consecutive losses to finish 5-7. The program lost to Kansas and clinched its third-straight losing season. But the media handed Texas the No. 23 spot in the AP Poll, hyped about the arrival of head coach Tom Herman.
Notre Dame went 4-8 in 2016. But the Fighting Irish collected 65 votes to start the new year. Notre Dame lost plenty of close contests in 2016 and showed signs of decency, but the Golden Domers are more of a question mark heading into 2017 than a certainty.
Michigan State dropped from its pedestal last season. The 2015 playoff participant lost nine out of its last 10 to finish 3-9. But the Spartans, who earned one more vote than the entire MAC combined, open with back-to-back MAC opponents in 2017. Mark Dantonio's squad will host Bowling Green and Western Michigan, trying to recover from the 2016 disaster.
Just like most years, all MAC teams will enter the long and arduous journey to achieve a ranking next to their names. Toledo earned it in 2015 after defeating Iowa State and Arkansas. Western Michigan defeated team after team last season in its effort to rise into the top 20. From the Broncos challenging No. 4 USC to the Rockets’ battle with No. 18 Miami, the conference will certainly have the opportunity to prove the preseason voters wrong in 2017.