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2020 Hustle Belt MAC Football Power Rankings: Week 5

Buffalo is the runaway favorite once again after taking down our #2 team last week. Where does the rest of the conference stand?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 28 Kent State at Buffalo Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

12. Bowling Green Falcons (LW: 12)

  • Unanimous #12

BGSU, sadly, looked uncompetitive and overmatched in a 52-10 thrashing at the hands of the Ohio Bobcats, who were rested from a COVID-forced break the previous week.

There really isn’t much else to say for the Falcons, who have shown themselves to be a genuine mess in all three phases of the game in 2020. They’ll have a chance to try and gain a victory against fellow winless MAC east member Akron.

11. Akron Zips (LW: 10)

  • High vote: 10 (one)
  • Low vote: 11 (seven)
  • Average vote: 10.85

Speaking of Akron, they’re back in the 11th spot after cratering once again in a Week 4 performance they’d probably rather forget.

The Zips struggled to move the ball at all in Week 4, totalling barely over 150 yards of total offense due in part to a relentless RedHawks defense taking a sledgehammer to their rushing totals. The Zips couldn’t handle the Miami air attack either, as Brett Gabbert and Jack Sorenson combined to score four times against a sorry secondary. Michael Mathison’s lone touchdown near the end prevented the game from being a total shutout, as they fell 38-7.

They play BGSU for their first attempt at a win since 2018.

10. Northern Illinois Huskies (LW: 11)

  • High vote: 9 (two)
  • Low vote: 11 (one)
  • Average vote: 10

The Huskies showed a lot of bite in a narrow loss to undefeated MAC West for WMU, but ultimately couldn’t stop the Bronco offense late in the game, falling by a final score of 30-27.

The Huskies didn’t commit a turnover for the first time all season, and this clearly propelled the offense into production, as Ross Bowers’ three touchdowns helped propel NIU to push the Broncos close. The Huskies also ept hold of the ball for much of the game, choking WMU’s normal gameplan. Even the defense had a role to play, limiting Kaleb Eleby to basic reads and forcing WMU into uncomfortable situations throughout.

Even late in the proceedings, WMU was still forced to turn to uneven placekicking to take away a victory. That’s a credit to NIU’s preparation.

They next face Toledo in a battle of 2010’s heavyweights.

9. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LW: 9)

  • High vote: 9 (six)
  • Low vote: 10 (two)
  • Average vote: 9.14

EMU looked primed to win their first game of the season against a CMU side that looked gassed, broken and emotionally gutted after the loss of starting QB Daniel Richardson to a leg injury early in the third quarter.

Up 20-6 at the start of the fourth quarter, EMU only had to maintain their pace. They led all game, and even with some missed opportunities in the first three frames, still held a pretty good lead. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as the Eagles completely folded under pressure with some bad fumble luck and an incredibly unlucky interception to seal the game in a 31-23 loss.

EMU has lived on the razor’s edge for years under Chris Creighton, and that once again showed itself true on Black Friday. They’ll have to regroup in a hurry, as they face the undefeated Broncos next.

8. Ohio Bobcats (LW: 8)

  • High vote: 4 (once)
  • Low vote: 8 (three)
  • Average vote: 7

The Bobcats thoroughly dispatched BSGU, as expected, on Saturday afternoon. The rest period from forced cancellation of thie previous game certainly seems to have helped the Bobcats, as their offense was at full throttle after weeks of struggling to get into gear.

Both Kurtis Rourke and Armani Rogetrs expereinced success against the hapless Falcons, as the ‘Cats scored on six of their first seven possessions— and added a kickoff return touchdown courtesy of Julian Ross— to put the game away early.

Rourke did suffer an injury in the game, but with this week’s bout vs. Buffalo cancelled due to COVID, they won’t have a chance to improve on this week’s ranking— or have a chance to compete for the MAC championship.

7. Toledo Rockets (LW: 4)

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

Toledo suffered a loss they simply couldn’t afford on Saturday afternoon, falling to Ball State at home in a game where the Rockets looked fairly lost until the late stages.

The final score was ultimately 27-24, but Toledo found themselves in a 27-9 hole at the 5-minute mark of the fourth quarter before scoring the first of two touchdowns to bring the game to within respectability. The result was especially perplexing, especially considering Ball State was without their best player in Caleb Huntley, who was ruled out at game time with an injury.

Bryant Koback was limited to 33 yards as well for Toledo, another inexplicable performance in a must-win game.

Toledo will look forward to improving their record against a winless, but hungry, NIU.

6. Miami RedHawks (LW: 6)

  • High vote: 4 (once)
  • Low vote: 8 (once)
  • Average vote: 6.14

Miami is our sixth-best team for a third-straight week, as they picked up an expected win over Akron coming off their COVID break in Week 3.

The Gabbert-to-Sorenson connection proved too much for a broken Akron defense, to the point where Miami mostly stopped using the run game because the short pass was working almost too well. The RedHawks defense was also ridiculously good, even for “you played Akron” standards, collecting seven sacks, ten tackles-for-loss and an interception return touchdown.

Unfortunately for Miami, their game vs. Kent State was called off due to COVID, which all but dooms them for MAC title considerations.

5. Ball State Cardinals (LW: 7)

  • High vote: 4 (once)
  • Low vote: 8 (once)
  • Average vote: 5.42

Ball State secured its first winning record since 2013, and kept pace in a torrid MAC West divisional race thanks to a victory over the Toledo Rockets on Satuday afternoon.

The Cardinals jumped out to a pretty sizable lead in the early going, thanks in part to Drew Plitt and Yo’Heinz Tyler connecting for two touchdowns, to put Ball State up 24-3 at the 7:35 point of the third quarter. This sudden short passing game was vital, as workhouse back Caleb Huntley was declared out with injury in the leadup to the game. Ball State kept this three-possession lead up until the final five or so minutes of the game, when Toledo started to pass for their lives and BSU went into prevent mode.

Thankfully for BSU, Anthony Epke stripped Carter Bradley to secure the win for the Cards on a day where they proved resilient on the offensive side of the ball. They’re in a must-win situation once again with CMU on Saturday.

4. Central Michigan Chippewas (LW: 5)

  • High vote: 2 (once)
  • Low vote: 5 (two)
  • Average vote: 4.28

CMU looked like a team that was going through the motions early on vs. in-state rival EMU, as if they had spent all their energy in the previous week’s flurry against WMU. A forced transition to Ty Brock late in the game down two possessions added to the hopelessness.

But in the fourth quarter, the offense snapped awake, and the defense beared down pressure on the Eagles (who have been unaccustomed to large leads) and posted 25 points to get away from Ypsilanti with a 31-23 victory. Kobe Lewis proved to be the talisman, with 195 yards and two touchdowns on the day (including all 47 yards of the game-winning drive), while Brock threw a key two-point conversion to Drayton Law to keep CMU in contention.

If CMU can win out—and WMU loses out— the Chips could well defend their MAC West title. CMU will have to hope EMU can give WMU issues next week for it to be a possibility.

3. Kent State Golden Flashes (LW: 3)

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

Sometimes, even when you’re on your A-game, there’s nothing you can do to prevent history from happening, and that was the case last week for Kent State, who proved no match for the historic performance of Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks, as the duo combined for 10 rushing touchdowns on the day.

It’s hard to fault KSU for anything which happened in this game, as Buffalo has proven to be far and away the most balanced team in the conference, while KSU still has some work to do on the defensive side of the ball. It was KSU’s first loss since last calendar year, snapping a seven-game streak.

They ultimately won’t have a chance to keep pace, as a COVID cancellation with their Miami game has all but elimiated them from MAC East contention.

2. Western Michigan Broncos (LW: 2)

  • High vote: 2 (six)
  • Low vote: 3 (two)
  • Average vote: 2.28

WMU barely holds on to their lead in the MAC West divison race, having to conduct a furious comeback rally to set up the game-winning Gavin Peddie field goal to take home a 30-27 win against the perpetual thorn-in-the-side NIU Huskies.

The traditionally high-octane offense struggled immensly against a young NIU defense, with only two receivers (D’Wayne Eskridge and Skyy Moore) earning targets, while La’Darius Jefferson was limited to 81 yards on the day. The defense also failed to get going, as they didn’t force any turnovers and allowed NIU to win the time of possession battle (40 minutes to 19), as well as move the ball more effectively (350 yards to WMU’s 325.)

WMU is set up as the prohibitive runaway favorite to win the division right now, and should they win it outright, they’ll prove a worthy opponent to the Buffalo Bulls. But there’s a small concern about their ability to hold leads over the last two games, something which TIm Lester surely emphasized this week.

They’ll take on EMU this week to try and secure the MAC West title, and depend on Ball State winning vs. CMU.

#1. Buffalo Bulls (LW: 1)

  • Unanimous #1

Who else?

Buffalo absolutely dominated their biggest threat in the MAC East, and secured the division title due to COVID cancellations elsewhere, and did so without mercy.

Patterson’s Heisman game (409 yards, eight touchdowns) was enough to propel the Bulls to victory on his own, and now he’ll have a chance to add on to his simply ridiculous season total agaisnt the (currently winless) Akron Zips next week after a contact tracing issue with Ohio wiped out their game this weekend.

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!