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2021 Hustle Belt MAC Football Power Rankings: Week 1

We’ve got two high risers and one team sinking like a stone in our latest update to the Power Rankings

NCAA Football: Kent State at Texas A&M Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

t-11. Bowling Green Falcons (Last Rankings: 12)

  • High vote: 11 (four)
  • Low vote: 12 (four)
  • Average vote: 11.5

Look at that, not 12th for the Falcons!

BGSU did very well for themselves in hostile territory against Tennessee, covering the spread and even winning a quarter on the box score with two missiles from the leg of Nate Needham. It was a performance which inspired optimism for a BGSU faithful that have been looking for signs of progress for the last few seasons after being stuck in the football desert.

That optimism was reflected in our rankings this week— though it wasn’t enough to get them out of last place. This week vs. South Alabama should be a better indication of how far the roster has come.

t-11. Akron Zips (LR: 11)

  • High vote: 11 (four)
  • Low vote: 12 (four)
  • Average vote: 11.5

Not a lot to say here for the Akron Zips, as they went down to The Plains and were treated to some Southern hostility in the form of a 60-10 loss. The Zips were punchy early, but then once Auburn figured out the Zips offense, it was all over. This isn’t a terribly unexpected result, but getting shellacked by 50 is certainly at least a little concerning.

It’s Year 3 under Coach Arth, and the team is still trying to show any signs of moving forward. The tail end of last year showed some promising moments, but it’s hard to look at last weekend and say Akron is looking better, even knowing the circumstances. They’ll take on a similarly ailing Temple team in a brief reanimation of a former MAC rivalry.

10. Miami RedHawks (LR: 5)

  • High vote: 6 (once)
  • Low vote: 10 (three)
  • Average vote: 8.625

The most precipitous drop in the rankings belongs to the Miami RedHawks, who looked absolutely listless in a loss to future Big XII member Cincinnati in their traditional trophy game. It’s the 15th straight such loss, and a result which secures a tie in the historic record of the Victory Bell Rivalry.

Brett Gabbert was “out, but available”, which is a pretty apt description of Miami’s performance this one, as the RedHawks allowed 42 points in a row before scoring their first points with 3:20 remaining in the game. Cincinnati doubled up Miami in yards (542-278) despite Miami having more time of possession (34:15 to 25:45) as well, showing Miami’s efforts were severely futile. Miami tries to rebound vs. Minnesota on the road this week.

9. Ohio Bobcats (LR: 9)

  • High vote: 6 (twice)
  • Low vote: 10 (four)
  • Average vote: 8.5

The Bobcats looked pretty sluggish against the Syracuse Orange, thought that isn’t severely unexpected.

New coach at the helm, first game since November 28th, and playing a decent ACC team at home, you can chalk up a lot of this performance to rust. Ohio will have a lot to prove over the next few weeks, as they’ve got a lot of talent, but still need time to get their chemistry together. They’ll be lodged in that 7-10 range until they show they’re clicking on all cylinders. They face Duquense on Saturday.

8. Northern Illinois Huskies (LR: 10)

  • High vote: 6 (twice)
  • Low vote: 9 (three)
  • Average vote: 7.75

The NIU Huskies added another exposed limb to the Boneyard, pulling off yet another upset of a Power Five team in their heralded non-conference history. This time, it was against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and it wasn’t just a win. It was a dominant win, where NIU looked like the better team all night.

Coach Thomas Hammock at halftime said they would “find out” who the tougher team was in the second half, and his Huskies delivered, shutting the door with just over a minute remaining on a two-point conversion to seal the victory. They now face Wyoming in their home opener in what could suddenly be a very winnable game if they can replicate their performance from last week.

7. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LR: 6)

  • High vote: 1 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (three)
  • Average vote: 7.25

EMU had a convincing win against their FCS for St. Francis (PA) on Friday night, but there’s still a lot of reservation about this team at current, with six of our eight voters putting them at 8 or 9. (They play Wisconsin this week, which is probably why many are hesitating to put them higher.)

EMU went for five rushing touchdowns between three different rushers in this game, showing they won’t be afraid of the dreaded “backfield committee” this upcoming season. Perhaps the most curious decision was to play both Preston Hutchinson and Ben Bryant. We’ll monitor if this is something to watch in the future.

6. Central Michigan Chippewas (LR: 9)

  • High vote: 2 (once)
  • Low vote: 10 (once)
  • Average vote: 5.25

CMU had an up-and-down performance against SEC foe Missouri on Saturday, ultimately losing by 10 points.

There’s many reasons for this, and the performance can certainly be excused in context, as head coach Jim McElwain had to miss the game due to appendicitis. But a loss is still a loss, even if it’s a close one, and CMU can only blame themselves, as two inopportune turnovers and four penalties leading to Mizzou points wound up being the difference. In a way, being in the middle is perfect for CMU, as they’re not a doormat, but they still need to prove they have the moxie to get good results. They play Robert Morris on Saturday.

5. Buffalo Bulls (LR: 9)

  • High vote: 1 (once)
  • Low vote: 7 (two)
  • Average vote: 4.875

There were some doubts that Buffalo would look like the Buffalo of old with the departure of Lance Leipold in the offseason. Well, new head man Maurice Linguist did everything in his power to ensure that narrative was wiped away quickly, as Buffalo went a perfect 11-of-11 on scoring opportunities against Wagner for a nice 69-7 victory last weekend.

Buffalo will face a bit stiffer of a resistance when they travel to Lincoln to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

4. Western Michigan Broncos (LR: 4)

  • High vote: 3 (once)
  • Low vote: 7 (once)
  • Average vote: 4.375

WMU was a popular pick for a potential upset special against Michigan, as Michigan was unranked going into the season, and faced many questions about their chemistry and talent across the board. WMU returning a lot of their roster back also helped in that evaluation, as did a very generous 17-point spread.

But paper matchups are paper matchups, and Michigan walloped WMU in every phase en route to an easy victory at The Big House. The WMU defense was especially taken for a ride, getting exposed for explosive plays of 69 yards or over at least four times in the game.

There’s still a lot of optimism in this Broncos squad, which is why they’re staying in place. WMU will play FCS quarterfinalist Illinois State this week to try and rebound.

3. Toledo Rockets (LR: 3)

  • High vote: 1 (twice)
  • Low vote: 4 (twice)
  • Average vote: 3.125

The Rockets, perennially a preseason favorite, played up to that expectation this week against Norfolk State, taking home a 49-10 victory.

Bryant Koback looked good in limited action, while Toledo showed they had two capable quarterbacks in Carter Bradley and Dequan Finn. The special teams especially showed up in this one, scoring two touchdowns in that phase.

Notre Dame is not Norfolk State, so we’ll see if Toledo can keep up to that effort this weekend. (Or not, as this game will be streamed exclusively via Peacock.)

2. Ball State Cardinals (LR: 1)

  • High vote: 1 (once)
  • Low vote: 6 (once)
  • Average vote: 2.75

Ball State drops to #2 despite a win over an FCS opponent in Western Illinois, and that’s because they looked pretty bad in the effort.

WIU consistently had Ball State’s number in the first half, as Dennis Houston made his presence known on the outside on offense, while the Leathernecks defense was able to slice through the Cardinal line to put pressure on the backfield. BSU eventually figured out, and pulled away in the end, but there wasn’t a lot of positives to take away from the performance (outside of the sudden emergence of freshman RB Carson Steele), and now they face Penn State in Happy Valley. BSU is lucky they aren’t 0-1 at present.

#1. Kent State Golden Flashes (LR: 1)

  • High vote: 1 (three)
  • Low vote: 9 (once)
  • Average vote: 2.5

Kent State came into last week being a team to watch, and although they ultimately, they couldn’t pull off the upset, they still frustrated a Texas A&M team which is considered to be in the hunt for an SEC title and/or Playoff spot.

In fact, Kent State was a handful of missed field goals away from covering the spread, which would have been a win in and of itself. The KSU defense forced five interceptions, and kept the score to 10-3 until halftime. As late as the 7:27 mark of the third quarter, it was still anyone’s game at 13-3 A&M with Kent State marching down the field until Crum threw a pick-six which put a real chance at winning out of reach.

KSU plays the VMI Keydets this week to try and claim a victory.

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!