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2020 Hustle Belt MAC Football Power Rankings: Week 6

A new contender enters the ring— right as the season comes to its concluding bell.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 NIU at Ball State Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

12. Bowling Green Falcons (LW: 12)

  • Unanimous #12

The season ends ignominiously for the Falcons, as their final game of the season was cancelled earlier this week due to COVID-related roster issues for the Miami football team.

In a way, it’s a fitting end for the Falcons, who finish the 2020 campaign similarly struggling to field a competitive team throughout the season (albeit for different, non-pandemic related reasons.)

The autopsy on the BGSU season will certainly not be pretty, especially given their last game saw them blow a lead in a game vs. a winless side which hadn’t won a game in two calendar years. They have a defense so haunted, it could be classified as a paranormal activity, and an offense so remedial, it makes Pop Warner kids blush. There’s a simple lack of FBS-caliber talent in the program, and the full effect has resulted in one of the most confusing and (frankly) sad seasons in MAC play we’ve seen in some time.

That’s a story for another day though. Suffice to say that BGSU is the worst team by a mile in the MAC.

11. Akron Zips (LW: 11)

  • High vote: 10 (two)
  • Low vote: 11 (six)
  • Average vote: 10.71

The Akron Zips have shown flashes of brilliance this year, especially in a 31-3 win over BGSU last week. That game was won in all three phases, starting with special teams getting a key block for a touchdown, continued with the defense forcing BGSU mistakes, and concluding with the offense adding on to a lead which proved insurmountable as the game went on.

Now that the monkey is off the back of head coach Tom Arth and company, perhaps some real progress can finally be made for the Zips, who no longer have the spectre of a 21-game losing streak hanging over them.

Their task will be fairly tough, however, with their last game of the season, as they’ll be tasked with keeping a motivated Buffalo Bulls team in front of them all day.

10. Northern Illinois Huskies (LW: 10)

  • High vote: 10 (six)
  • Low vote: 11 (two)
  • Average vote: 10.28

NIU has found themselves in the perilous position of completing their first winless season since 1997, but it’s not necessarily becasue they’re a crater of talent.

In fact, NIU has proven to be quite a conundrum on the offensive side of the ball, with Tyrice Richie proving himself to be a WR1 in the truncated season. Ross Bowers has also rebounded with some great performances after struggling to stay healthy in 2019. Defensively, the Huskies have proven a capable, if young, unit as well, with Jordan Hansen especially highlighting in the secondary.

They gave both Ball State and Western Michigan, the two teams competing for the division title, hell in those respective games, clawing their way to one-possession losses in both.

But as Bill Parcells once said, you are what your record says you are, and if the Huskies can’t pick up a win vs. EMU this week, they’ll be at a floor they haven’t been in over 20 years.

9. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LW: 9)

  • High vote: 7 (one)
  • Low vote: 9 (six)
  • Average vote: 8.57

The Eagles pulled off one of the most shocking results of the year last week, gutting out a tough 53-42 victory to earn their first win of the 2020 season— and put rival Western in jeapordy of losing the MAC West.

Preston Hutchison once again hit the 300+-yard, three touchdown mark through the air against WMU, and pressed the Bronco defense throughout with efficient drives that gave EMU an early lead they would spend most of the night defending. It was, all in all, very much unlike their game scripts up to this point, as three of the previous four games had been ended by one possession or less.

They’re mired down in ninth, likely due to their previously being 0-4, but don’t get it confused; EMU is a highly competitve team and could just as easily be 3-2, 4-1, or even 5-0 if a coulpe plays had happened differently.

8. Ohio Bobcats (LW: 8)

  • High vote: 3 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (once)
  • Average vote: 7.71

Once again, there’s nothing really to report with Ohio, who saw their final two games of the 2020 season cancelled due to COVID-related issues. This week’s particular cancellation stemmed from contact tracing at Kent State, while last week saw Ohio roster issues cancel what was supposed to be a showcase game with Buffalo.

They’ll finish the year 2-1, with their last game of the year being a trouncing of BGSU.

7. Toledo Rockets (LW: 7)

  • High vote: 2 (two)
  • Low vote: 3 (one)
  • Average vote: 6.57

Toledo managed to get over an old amicable rival in NIU this past week, dispatching the Huskies 41-24 on the road to get to 3-2 on the season.

They’re finally starting to look like a Toledo Rockets team that many tabbed the preseason favorite to win the MAC West— right as the last game of the season is upon us. It’s honestly a shame this roster won’t get a full schedule to better reflect their abilities. The offense has finally seemed to gel together, with seven receivers possessing 12 or more receptions on the season. The defense, a major problem area in 2019, has become the MAC’s best unit as well in 2020, looking significantly improved in what is typically a murderer’s row of a division.

They’ll face CMU to try and finish above .500 on the season on Saturday.

6. Miami RedHawks (LW: 6)

  • High vote: 2 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (once)
  • Average vote: 6.14

The Miami RedHawks, already down their rivalry game against Ohio, also lost what could have been a proper end to the season when their game with BGSU was cancelled due to contact tracing issues in Oxford.

This means the defending MAC champions, who had already lost out on defending the East last week, will suffer the indignity of not even being able to have a proper send-off for a senior class that endured some rough football over the years.

It’s difficult to know the outlook for Miami moving forward, as this season had injuries and struggles with form. For now, they anchor the middle as a control.

5. Central Michigan Chippewas (LW: 4)

  • High vote: 5 (four)
  • Low vote: 7 (once)
  • Average vote: 5.57

CMU looked absolutely lost against a Ball State team on the rise in last week’s home loss, giving up a 24-7 halftime lead, and eventually fell by a final score of 45-20, a score which didn’t reflect the Cards’ dominance.

They’re clearly between a rock and a hard place, with an offense which was already struggling to convert on third-down conversion, even before having to put their fortunes in their third-string quarterback and a defense which can’t keep any outside receiver in front of them.

It’s a surprising regression for the Chippewas, even understanding some of the issues from a personnel standpoint. They’ll have a chance to make it right in the end with a game vs. Toledo this weekend.

4. Kent State Golden Flashes (LW: 3)

  • High vote: 2 (once)
  • Low vote: 8 (once)
  • Average vote: 3.85

Kent State won’t have a chance to end their regular season on a high note, as their game with Miami in Week 5 and Ohio in Week 6 were cancelled due to COVID-related issues.

Prior to that, their MAC East hopes had been all but dashed thanks to (you guessed it) a historic performance by Buffalo in Week 4, as the Flashes ceded control of the division to the Bulls with the loss.

A positive of the KSU season in 2020 was that the ofense looked as advertised—and more. Dustin Crum and Isaiah McKoy especially elevated their draft profiles, while Da’Shaun Poke, Marquez Cooper and Bryan Bradford all emerged as future options for the Flashes moving forward.

3. Western Michigan Broncos (LW: 2)

  • High vote: 2 (twice)
  • Low vote: 5 (one)
  • Average vote: 3.28

Well, WMU did the one thing they couldn’t do against rival EMU: lose.

A win last week agaisnt the 0-4 cross-state program would have secure a berth to Detroit for the Broncos for the first time since the storied 2016 season, and put WMU at 5-0. It also would have rendered this week’s game largely meaningless. But alas, the scoreboard is king in sports, and WMU emerged on the wrong side of it.

Flashes of the undisciplined 2019 squad came out once again in the loss, as the team racked up an impressive 13 penalties for 93 yards, adding on to their 113th-ranked defense in terms of penalty yardage. It effectively negated another excellent offensive performance by the Broncos, and now they’re in a must-win situation.

2. Ball State Cardinals (LW: 5)

  • High vote: 2 (three)
  • Low vote: 6 (one)
  • Average vote: 2.57

The belle of the ball is here, and their name is Ball State.

The Dancing Cardinal brought the football team some grand luck, brandishing the sides of BSU’s helmets as they decimated CMU in a must-win situation on the road Saturday to force WMU to sweat out the division title race in the last week.

Ball State has certainly exceeded expectations in 2020, finally changing the narrative on their propensity to blow leads or lose one-score games on its head, going 3-1 in one-score games this season. The only loss was to a full-strength Miami squad in their cross-over matchup in Week 1.

The way they won the CMU game was especially telling, doing so without elite RB prospect Caleb Huntley (injury) and breaking out depth pieces for big gains on a shell-shocked CMU defense. It really did feel like a bursting of the dam after weeks of close contests.

The Dancing Cardinal will once again adorn the helmets this week, as BSU hopes to complete a long journey back to Detroit, somewhere the Pride of Muncie hasn’t been since 2009.

#1. Buffalo Bulls (LW: 1)

  • Unanimous #1

Buffalo got a chance to recover from another historic beatdown in Week 4, as their Week 5 game vs. Ohio was cancelled due to COVID. The cancellation resulted in Buffalo securing their MAC East division crown one week early, and they’ll face a favorable matchup in Akron to finish up the regular season before the MAC Championship Game.

It’s a testament to Buffalo’s discipline they were able to get through the regualr season after suffering a massive outbreak in the preseason, and their place in the title game was well-earned due to their evisceration of the teams in front of them. They even earned a #24 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll for their efforts up to this point.

After being left out of the College Football Playoff Committee Rankings this week, however, Buffalo will be out for style points in an effort to earn the eyes of the deciders in Grapevine, Texas, which should once again make for an entertaining watch, as their game vs. Akron will be aired on CBS Sports Network, the only MAC game on cable television in Week 6.

Did we get it right? Did we get it wrong? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below, or at us on Twitter @HustleBelt!