It’s the end of the regular MAC season, one which saw a lot of chaos in November that shook up the standings and gave some of the best storylines of the decade, with Kent State rising up to bowl contention for the first time since 2012 thanks to a season-ending three-game win streak (with all victories within one score), to CMU going worst-to-first.
We now have our championship game settled, with CMU and Miami representing their respective divisions on Sat., Dec. 7, at noon EST in Detroit, Michigan. That gives us the chance to rank all 12 MAC teams and get a sense of how the season went for every program generally.
To that end, we complied all the rankings and put them onto plot charts, to show the week-to-week placement of every team, both compared to other teams and on an individual basis. We’ve included every team’s individual chart in their respective summaries, and placed the big chart at the end of the article for the sake of education.
Without further ado: the rankings!
12. Akron Zips (Last week: 12)
- Unanimous #12
Okay, enough with the bit.
The Akron Zips are indeed winless, and they had a lot of issues going down the stretch, but they really showed a lot of potential in a handful of games which can’t be ignored. This was going to be a tough build no matter who took over, and Tom Arth will have a long leash to be able to rebuild the program to a point where it can be competitive over the long run.
0-12 hurts this year, but it’s not necessarily foreign to the Zips. It’s also something which can be used as motivation going forward.
11. Bowling Green Falcons (LW: 11)
- Unanimous #11
Bowling Green finishes the regular season at 11th after two soul-crusing losses to Ohio and Buffalo at the end of the season. In both games, they were consistently ground into the dirt in the running game, simply having no answer for how to stop Nathan Rourke, O’Shaan Allison or Jaret Patterson.
It was a hard season, full of rough patches, but they can take away three wins in a season where many big names were injured or transferred, and a lot of youngsters and walk-ons played. They performed admirably, and know it’s a process.
10. Northern Illinois Huskies (LW: 10)
- Average vote: 9.16
- Highest vote: 8 (two)
- Lowest vote: 10 (three)
Well, NIU did it.
They became a huge spoiler in the MAC West by beating WMU at home in one of the strangest weather games of the season. They even did it with a cloud of distraction around the program, with Tre Harbison announcing a grad transfer and rumors of a mass exodus of talent leaving the program coming out as teams were warming up on the field.
The Huskies put it all behind them and took WMU out of their game early in a soggy mess, opening up the MAC West for CMU to take the crown, which they eventually did. Even when NIU isn’t going to Detroit, the road apparently still goes through them.
9. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LW: 9)
- Average vote: 8.5
- Highest vote: 7 (two)
- Lowest vote: 10 (two)
EMU had an opportunity to secure a seventh win and guarantee the postseason right in their grasp. They were playing at home, with a 5-6 Kent State squad coming into The Factory. The Eagles offense was flying high as Mike Glass III had one of his best performances of the season, Santa had a t-shirt cannon, it was jolly good fun. But as they’re prone to do, the Eagles played their opponent a little too close, and KSU ultimately sneaked out of Ypsi with a win, sealing both teams’ postseason fate to each other.
With a losing conference record, EMU could well see themselves out of a bowl game, which is a disappointing end to a season which had great potential. (Though, the bright side here is that a bowl game is now an expectation.)
8. Toledo Rockets (LW: 6)
- Average vote: 8.16
- Highest vote: 7 (one)
- Lowest vote: 9 (one)
Toledo looked lifeless in Mt. Pleasant on Friday afternoon, swallowing down a tough 49-7 loss like a bitter pill. It was an aura-shattering loss, as Toledo gave up their first loss to CMU since 2009 in the series, and forced them to sweat out a bowl game selection after being the runaway preseason favorite to win the MAC West.
The Rockets have been hobbled over the last few weeks, and have shown uncharacteristic struggles on the offensive side for the first time in a good while. If they do indeed make the bowl season, it’ll at the very least afford them to give more playing time to some of their younger players to see what they’ve got for 2020.
7. Ball State Cardinals (LW: t-6)
- Average vote: 7.16
- Highest vote: 5 (one)
- Lowest vote: 9 (two)
It’s true that the Cardinals did indeed secure a very big win against the Miami RedHawks, taking them out by a final score of 41-27. This was thanks to an epic second half which saw the Cardinals score 27 unanswered points AND pitch a shutout to give the home fans something to cheer about at the end of a seaosn which saw plenty of ups and downs.
But even with the big win against the MAC East champs, it’s a case of “too little, too late” for a Ball State squad who had many close encouters throughout the season they should have won and ultimately lost. If even one or two games ends differently (most notably vs. FAU and CMU at home), this team is potentially playing for the MAC championship game. The fact they’re sitting at home watching their MAC peers get selected for bowl games instead is depressing.
6. Kent State Golden Flashes (LW: t-6)
- Average vote: 6.5
- Highest vote: 5 (one)
- Lowest vote: 9 (two)
Kent State did everything they needed to do over the last three games to attain bowl-eligibility, and are now at 6-6 after winning their last three games in a row. They played a lot of extremely tough opponents along the way, including Buffalo, Eastern Michigan and Ball State, and seem to have it all coming together at the right time.
It’s fantastic progress for a team which was all but forgotten about after the first month or so, and they’ll have a chance to make history for their football program should they be seleted for a bowl game. It’s been an incredible coaching job by Sean Lewis and his staff to get KSU in this position, and fans of the Golden Flashes should be proud of the team.
5. Ohio Bobcats (LW: 7)
- Average vote: 6
- Highest vote: 3 (one)
- Lowest vote: 5 (four)
The Bobcats secured a bowl-eligible record with a proper dispatching of the Akron Zips on Tuesday night, and have showed what this team looks like when it’s running on all cylinders. It’s honestly a pity they had such a slow start which put them behind the eight-ball; otherwie, this team might have been able to do some damage when it mattered.
The preseason favorites to win the MAC title will miss going to Detroit once again, extending one of college football’s most bizzare streaks, but they’ll have a chance to send Nathan Rourke out on a high note and further submit Frank Solich’s legacy both in Athens, Ohio, and the MAC should they be chosen for a bowl game at 6-6.
4. Buffalo Bulls (LW: 4)
- Average vote: 4.33
- Highest vote: 3 (one
- Lowest vote: 6 (one)
The Bulls have been completely unstoppable on the ground, with two 1,000+ yard rushers in Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks, and have shown bowl committees the ability to put an exciting product on the field, as Patterson has scored 11 touchdowns over the last two games, including six touchdowns against BGSU on Friday afternoon.
They also have one of the best defenses in the country, and will be a worthy opponent for anyone they play against, now that they’ve secured a seventh victory. They lost to Miami, and then to Kent State (at the absolute worst time) to be shut out of Detroit as defending MAC East champion, but there’s a lot of optimism as the season winds down.
3. Western Michigan Broncos (LW: 1)
- Average vote: 2.66
- Highest vote: 1 (one)
- Lowest vote: 4 (one)
Uh, I feel partly responsible for cursing the Broncos last week. Here’s what I said in last week’s Power Rankings prior to their game against NIU:
Well, WMU found ways to lose their game in DeKalb, and put control of the MAC West into the broken Toledo Rockets’ hands, which is... not a great position to be in. WMU fans will be left in the position of watching two teams they beat handily play each other in the MAC Championship game, which will surely have them in a good mood. The MAC West was in WMU’s hands for much of the conference season, and the fact they fell apart at the worst time to do so sours what was ultimately a pretty good season.
2. Miami RedHawks (LW: 2)
- Average vote: 2.16
- Highest vote: 2 (five)
- Lowest vote: 3 (one)
Miami secured the MAC East two weeks ago, so the object of the time interim has been to stay healthy, figure out a good game plan and soak in the excitement in a healthy way. This paints a bit of a strange picture then, given the results of the last two weeks.
Last week, they allowed 0-11 Akron to make a run on them in the second half in what was ultimatley a one-score game. This week, they gave up 26 unanswered points in the second half to blow a 27-6 halftime lead on the road to Ball State in the Redbird Rivalry. The RedHawks seem to be in high spirits, though, and have a huge chip on their shoulder, as many didn’t think Miami would be in this position in the first place. (Matter of fact, Chuck Martin was a favorite “hot seat” candidate in preseason football talks.)
This Miami team has been an absolutely strange one to predict all season, with plenty of up-and-down performances and head-scratching results. But hey, they’re in position to win the MAC title and secure an eight-or-nine win season. That’s gotta feel good as a RedHawk fan after a decade of wandering around the football desert.
1. Central Michigan Chippewas (LW: 3)
- Average vote: 1.5
- Highest vote: 1 (five)
- Lowest vote: 4 (one)
What was once thought nearly impossible has happened: CMU has gone from a program-worst 1-11 season in 2018 to 8-4 in 2019, with the possibility of a 10-win season, should they win the MAC title game and their bowl appearance.
The buy-in at every level has been apparent, from the administration down to the equipment managers, and the turnaround has been remarkable. CMU was a talented, if rudderless, team in 2018, but a lot of players from that star-crossed team ultimately stepped up and made impacts in 2019 which cannot be ignored.
It took a great X’s and O’s coach in Jim McElwain to figure out how to get the best out of a talented bunch of players, and the results could be a historic rise to the top which could have fans whispering the name of the 2009 Chippewas.
CMU recognized their opportunity to take a title away from their most bitter rival when NIU pulled off the massive upset victory, and now get an opportunity to add a trophy to end what’s been a marvelous run.
As promised, here’s the chart with all 12 teams plotted, with progressions going from our first rankings up to the final games of the regular season. We’ll release one more Power Rankings for the season after the bowl games, but the chart here will probably be more informative of how the season went for each of these teams than anything.