12. Akron Zips (Last Rankings: t-11)
- High vote: 11 (six)
- Low vote: 12 (one)
- Average vote: 11.14
Akron got off to a flaming fast start on the hapless Temple Owls, getting a double-digit lead against the American Athletic Conference squad early in the first quarter. They looked like they finally turned things around from recent years, and optimism was high!
Then, Kato Nelson went down, Temple threw down a huge rally to win the game by a final score of 45-24, and the Zips regressed to their previous mean. Now, they’re 0-2, and they’re going to be starving for a win against FCS Bryant. Someone had to be last this week, and it was Akron in Week 2.
11. Ohio Bobcats (LR: 9)
- High vote: 10 (three)
- Low vote: 12 (three)
- Average vote: 11
It’s completely unacceptable to lose to an FCS team in any fashion. It’s abhorrent to look like the lesser team to an FCS team at home. And it’s absolutely irreconcilable that Ohio had to mount a comeback rally just to be able to bring the scoreboard close to respectability.
Even granting Duquense was a 4-1 team who was an overtime away from winning the NEC title, there’s no defending Ohio’s performance, especially in light of their 29-6 drubbing to Syracuse the previous week.
Ohio has a lot of work to do to get that faith back. They’ll play a recently embarrassed Louisiana team under the weeknight lights on Thursday.
10. Bowling Green Falcons (LR: t-11)
- High vote: 10 (four)
- Low vote: 12 (three)
- Average vote: 10.85
It was a valiant effort for the BGSU Falcons on Saturday, in what was a very weird game at the Doyt. These teams were fairly evenly-matched coming in, and it was a full back-and-forth affair throughout, with South Alabama narrowly beating the Falcons on a last-second kick through the uprights.
BGSU held a lead for most of the contest, showing encouraging signs of growth from their 2020 performance, and seemingly confident after hanging tight with Tennessee the previous week. But they still lost, and now they’re a home dog to FCS Murray State. There’s a lot of hurdles yet to clear.
9. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LR: 7)
- High vote: 6 (once)
- Low vote: 9 (four)
- Average vote: 8.28
Well, Wisconsin did what Wisconsin does, and ate up a MAC team for a late supper on Saturday night, keeping EMU to less than 100 yards of offense on the night, while picking up over 500 yards of offense.
That MAC team was EMU, who still has some lingering issues to resolve, especially as it relates to their passing offense and rushing defense. They’re 1-1 at present, and still hard to get a read on as they head into a game against UMass, seeking their first-ever win against the Minutemen.
8. Northern Illinois Huskies (LR: 8)
- High vote: 5 (once)
- Low vote: 9 (once)
- Average vote: 7.42
NIU fell back down to earth for a bit, suffering a hangover from their boneyard win against Georgia Tech. They ended up falling behind Wyoming by as much as 42-16 in the third quarter, looking every part the young Huskies squad that we saw in 2020, and more or less expected in 2021.
Lo and behold, after falling behind 42-16, the Huskies mounted a furious 27-point rally to take the lead with just under three minutes remaining in the game. Needing a defensive stop, Wyoming scored a quick strike touchdown and nailed a key two-point conversion to push the score to 50-43, and NIU fell short on the impending possession. They’ll have another chance to make things interesting against a now-ranked Michigan Wolverines who earlier dispensed of WMU in Week 1.
7. Miami RedHawks (LR: 10)
- High vote: 4 (twice)
- Low vote: 9 (twice)
- Average vote: 6.57
Of all the teams to throw out a surprise result (non-Toledo category), not many expected Miami to take Minnesota to the wire, and especially not after the RedHawks’ pathetic display against Cincinnati the week prior.
Down 21-3 in the first half, the Miami adjustments certainly made a difference, as they outscored the Gophers on the road 23-10, including a 10-0 shutout in the third quarter to get within one score. Miami got within one point, but it was unfortunately as close as they would get, losing by a score of 31-26. They take on the LIU Sharks, a team in its second year at the FCS level, on Saturday.
6. Buffalo Bulls (LR: 9)
- High vote: 3 (once)
- Low vote: 7 (three)
- Average vote: 5.85
Buffalo was an upset special favorite last week against a Nebraska program which seems to be in dire straights from an outside perspective, but they just couldn’t really get anything going in a 28-3 loss in Lincoln.
The pass defense especially had a long day at the office, giving up 296 yards on 14 receptions and two touchdowns, lowlighted by two 68-yard touchdowns by Samori Toure. It’s not going to get any easier for the Bulls, as their next opponent is the nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina, which sports one of the most creative offenses in the country.
They jump up to sixth due to the midtable shuffling of teams.
5. Central Michigan Chippewas (LR: 6)
- High vote: 2 (once)
- Low vote: 7 (once)
- Average vote: 5
It was business taking care of the Chippewas on Saturday, taking home a win against a depleted Robert Morris side. We didn’t particularly learn a lot from this CMU team in the victory, though it was their first shutout since Nov. 2013.
They’ve certainly got the talent to annoy teams, as they showed against Mizzou in Week 1’s action, and that tendency will be tested when they take on a motivated LSU under the Saturday lights in Death Valley.
4. Western Michigan Broncos (LR: 4)
- High vote: 4 (four)
- Low vote: 6 (twice)
- Average vote: 4.714
WMU, much like their blood rival CMU, took care of their FCS side as well, disposing of a pretty good Illinois State program which should compete for the Playoffs at their level.
It was a particularly dominant win, showing off the team’s potential, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They allowed only 57 yards of offense to the Redbirds, tying a program record, and the offense looked to figure it self out as well, an encouraging sign as they take on the perpetually unpredictable Pitt Panthers.
3. Ball State Cardinals (LR: 3)
- High vote: 3 (four)
- Low vote: 7 (once)
- Average vote: 4
Ball State is still hanging around at #3 for now, despite two fairly disappointing performances.
Ball State only managed 13 points against Penn State in Happy Valley, allowing 44 in the process. it wasn’t close at any juncture, as Penn State got at least two scores in every single quarter, while Ball State could only muster two field goals in the first half and a garbage time touchdown in the second half. They also allowed 493 yards of offense, while picking up 295 yards (with only 69 yards on the ground.)
They’ll play Wyoming this upcoming weekend in a game which could determine the direction of the season.
2. Kent State Golden Flashes (LR: 1)
- High vote: 1 (twice)
- Low vote: 2 (five)
- Average vote: 1.71
Kent State showed off their offensive prowess in a 60-10 beatdown of the VMI Keydets last weekend.
They had eight different skill players score a touchdown, including seven different running backs (all getting a touchdown apiece!), an encouraging sign for a team which is known as more of a pass-heavy squad under the tutelage of Dustin Crum at quarterback. KSU also picked up four interceptions on the day, which also feels good if you’re a Golden Flash fan anticipating this weekend’s game against Iowa.
It’s been a season of upsets in 2021, and the KSU/Iowa game has great potential for being an upset special.
#1. Toledo Rockets (LR: 3)
- High vote: 1 (five)
- Low vote: 3 (once)
- Average vote: 1.42
Who else but Toledo could occupy the #1 spot in the Hustle Belt Power Rankings after nearly upsetting a nationally-ranked Notre Dame in The Best Game Nobody Saw?
The Rockets were every part the aggressor against the Fighting Irish, staying within a possession for the duration of the game. It could have been a whole different game were it not for a critical, momentum-shifting interception return touchdown by Chris McDonald with :46 remaining in the first half to make the Irish sweat going in to the locker rooms.
Toledo had kept pace with a furious defense, despite having to settle for field goals in the first half prior to that. But the offense woke up in the second half, with two consecutive fourth-quarter touchdowns to briefly take the lead with 1:35 remaining before the defense slipped, allowing a three-play, 75-yard drive in just 29 seconds to put it away.
The Rockets were a preseason favorite to contend for the MAC West for a reason, and showed the viewers why last week. They’ll take on Colorado State in the Glass Bowl this Saturday.
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!