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2021 Hustle Belt MAC Football Power Rankings: Week 3

Toledo can’t stay up top after suffering a bad home loss, putting first place in flux once again.

Coastal Carolina v Buffalo Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

12. Ohio Bobcats (Last Rankings: 11)

  • High vote: 10 (twice)
  • Low vote: 12 (four)
  • Average vote: 11.28

This is not what anyone expected for Ohio, even in their worst scenarios.

Ohio is now 0-3 after falling to Louisiana in a Thursday primetime game, mustering only 14 points on two highlight-reel plays to even make it onto the scoreboard against a Ragin’ Cajuns attack which posted nearly 600 yards.

There are several questions to ask about the direction of the team, which looked listless in all three games. It would be one thing if they had a strength to lean on, but the ‘Cats have been abhorrent in most every phase this season. It’s hard to be optimistic as they go to Northwestern this weekend for a B1G-MAC matchup.

11. Akron Zips (LR: 12)

  • High vote: 10 (once)
  • Low vote: 12 (once)
  • Average vote: 11

Akron picked up a much-needed win against their FCS tune-up Bryant— though, it took them the whole game to be able to do it, as they entered the fourth quarter tied 14-all. Akron needed 21 points in the final frame to put Bryant away for their second win in three seasons.

There was a real danger that a loss (or even a close win) would put Arth’s job security in jeopardy, and that’s going to be something to watch over the rest of the season if the Zips can’t get out of the basement and show some spark in Year 3 of the Arth Era. An expected thrashing at the hands of Ohio State is next on the docket.

10. Bowling Green Falcons (LR: 10)

  • High vote: 10 (four)
  • Low vote: 12 (two)
  • Average vote: 10.71

Bowling Green has been a bit of a pleasant surprise in 2021. After mostly assuming they would be firmly in the “rebuild and nothing more” phase of the rankings, they showed a lot of heart in losses to South Alabama and Tennessee to impress us enough to put them at #10 last week.

They won as expected against FCS foe Murray State, putting their record at 1-2 and finally joining the ranks of one-win teams in the MAC. They will have Minnesota in front of them next.

9. Northern Illinois Huskies (LR: 3)

  • High vote: 6 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (three)
  • Average vote: 7.42

NIU took an expected, if still brutal, loss to the Michigan Wolverines on the road, on Saturday. It was a bit tough to take after the cardiac attacks which were their games against Georgia Tech and Wyoming in the previous two weeks.

This is a young team which is still learning a lot about how to play as a collective unit, so they’re going to be a bit of a back-and-forth group to watch all season. They’ll have a chance to prove their potential against FCS Maine before the start of the MAC season.

8. Ball State Cardinals (LR: 3)

  • High vote: 5 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (once)
  • Average vote: 7.42

The Cardinals are in absolute free-fall after starting the preseason polls (and our preseason polls) up top. A lot of respect was given to the Cardinals after their stroybook season in 2020, and with the vast majority of their team returning, there was no reason to expect a regression.

Well, it’s happened, and now Ball State is sitting at a 1-2 record, with an unconvincing FCS win and two blowout losses to Penn State (understandable) and Wyoming (less so.) They face Toledo next for a game which could likely put the squeeze on the loser for the MAC West title race, and we cannot help but wonder if they’re up to it at present.

7. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LR: 9)

  • High vote: 6 (three)
  • Low vote: 8 (once)
  • Average vote: 6.71

EMU took a trip to Amherst to visit an old friend in the UMass Minutemen, and came away with a fairly dominant win, asserting their will early, especially in the running attack.

If there’s an area of concern to address, it’s the defense, which gave up 519 yards to a Minuteman offense which isn’t exactly a worldbeater. Even in a game where EMU picked up a three-score lead early, you still want to see them shut the door. EMU plays the equally enigmatic Texas State on Saturday.

6. Miami RedHawks (LR: 7)

  • High vote: 3 (three)
  • Low vote: 9 (once)
  • Average vote: 5.57

Miami took care of business against LIU, seemingly exorcising some ghosts in the process, showing some great offensive firepower in a 42-7 victory. There wasn’t a while lot to learn, given the level of opponent, but you can’t help but be encouraged taking the last six quarters of play into consideration.

Miami hopes to keep that momentum going against a very strong Army West Point side.

t-4. Central Michigan Chippewas (LR: 5)

  • High vote: 4 (three)
  • Low vote: 7 (once)
  • Average vote: 5.14

Death Valley swallowed up another victim in the form of CMU on Saturday night under the lights.

It was a unique situation for the Chippewas going into the game— and a unique chance at an upset— but they still looked severely overmatched against a simply bigger and faster Tigers squad who was eager to prove their 1-1 start wasn’t indicative of their talent. It happens! They will host 1-2 FIU in Mt. Pleasant on Saturday, looking to get to 2-2 on the year.

t-4. Toledo Rockets (LR: 4)

  • High vote: 3 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (once)
  • Average vote: 5.14

Toledo was apparently suffering from their heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame the previous week, as they dragged their way through a 22-6 loss to the previously 0-2 Colorado State, who had suffered blowout losses to Vanderbilt and an FCS team prior to their meeting.

Toledo looked simply lethargic, managing only two field goals, while allowing Colorado State to rack up five field goals and a special teams touchdown. It was an effort which simply defied belief to see. They’ll face Ball State on Saturday, hoping to rebound their performance and show why they were preseason favorites.

3. Buffalo Bulls (LR: 6)

  • High vote: 3 (three)
  • Low vote: 5 (twice)
  • Average vote: 3.85

Perhaps our biggest riser once again, the Bulls took a nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina to the edge in what was ultimately a one-score loss.

The game never really felt out of reach for the Bulls, who were tied with the Chanticleers at 14-all at the half. Even when CCU took the lad in the third quarter, Buffalo kept finding ways to stay in the game, getting a two-point conversion after a Kevin Marks touchdown to give themselves a chance to win at the end of the game after trailing 28-17 at the start of the fourth quarter.

With so many teams in front of them faltering, and knowing the talent on this roster, the Bulls have re-emerged as a potential contender in the MAC, and face Old Dominion next.

2. Western Michigan Broncos (LR: 4)

  • High vote: 1 (three)
  • Low vote: 2 (four)
  • Average vote: 1.57

WMU pulled off their first Power Five upset since 2016 on Saturday, taking down Pitt on the road in a wild 44-41 victory. It was a well-earned victory, and one they had to fight until the bitter end to preserve.

This is a team who is fascinating for a variety of reasons; they have a lot of natural talent in both the offensive and defensive skill positions, and when they put it together, it’s a sight to behold. But it’s also a side which has a lot of inexplicable weaknesses, especially in pass defense, which still need to be addressed.

But even in their lone loss, WMU has shown great potential moving forward, placing them to #2 for now.

#1. Kent State Golden Flashes (LR: 2)

  • High vote: 1 (four)
  • Low vote: 2 (three)
  • Average vote: 1.42

“When in doubt, Kent State” has seemingly been the motto for our voters this season. With both Toledo and Ball State falling down the ladder, it was KSU and WMU who fought for top honors. Voters’ belief in this Golden Flashes squad is unwavering; WMU’s win vs. Pitt couldn’t get them to the top spot despite KSU losing 30-7 against Iowa on the road.

That’s not to say Kent State is lucky; they gave Iowa, a Top 5 team, a scare on the road and were it not for an unfortunate fumble at the goal line, the tenor of the game could well have changed with a second KSU touchdown early on. This ranking can be looked at as a projection for expected future performance, given the lack of confidence in other teams currently. They have a potential upset special against Maryland on Saturday to close out the non-conference slate, which should tell us a lot more about this squad.

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!