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2022 Hustle Belt MAC Football Power Rankings: Week 5

The highest variance team in the MAC messes up the tables in Week 5, as the tiers start to establish themselves.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Holy Cross at Buffalo Photo by Joshua Bessex/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week was a league-defining one, as the various programs of the Mid-American Conference have started to define themselves into tiers of performance, with the cream of the crop (and the bottom of the barrel) polarizing themselves from the rest.

The margins in the middle of the table are only getting narrower somehow. Highlighting this is the difference between tenth place and sixth, which currently stands at only 1.4 points. That’ll happen when some unexpected results and adjustments to long-term projections force a shake-up which has propelled at least one surprise team into the stratosphere of MAC relevance.

Are you intrigued yet? Let’s get into this week’s rankings:

12. Akron Zips (Last Week: 12)

  • Unanimous #12

The Zips lost to BGSU on Saturday, but it wasn’t out of hand at any point in the game.

Akron answered the Falcons essentially punch-by-punch, and even forced Matt McDonald’s first interception of the season in one of the most competitive games of the weekend, showing clear progress. The Zips took the Falcons down to the last possession, though they were ultimately unable to get that last score they needed.

This is a punchy Akron squad, and no opponent should underestimate them moving forward.

11. Bowling Green Falcons (LW: 8, down 3)

  • High vote: 10 (twice)
  • Low vote: 11 (five)
  • Average vote: 10.66

BGSU, as stated above, beat the Akron Zips last weekend, picking up their first league-opening win since 2015 in the process.

It was a must-win situation, and the Falcons played like it was, showing an urgency we haven’t seen from them in recent years against a much-improved Akron squad. They were able to weather a few storms (most notably the interception), and even built up a two-possession lead before the late Zips rally.

They’ll have to keep the positive momentum up, as their next four weeks are extremely tough games against teams who are better than them on paper.

10. Miami RedHawks (LW: 5, down 5)

  • High vote: 7 (twice)
  • Low vote: 11 (once)
  • Average vote: 8.5

Miami is in the dregs after lofty preseason expectations were tempered by an injury to Brett Gabbert in the final moments of the Kentucky game. Their win against Northwestern feels fairly hollow by now, as the Wildcats have disintegrated like sugar into water in the last few weeks as well.

Miami is a team which is built to win in a very specific way, and so far this season, it has simply not happened. They’ve got a positive turnover margin, sitting at plus-four, but their offense has been woeful, getting outscored by opponents 19.6 to 25.4.

Whether it’s due to their opening slate, a lack of execution or both, it’s hard to feel good about the RedHawks right now.

9. Ball State Cardinals (LW: 10, up 1)

  • High vote: 6 (once)
  • Low vote: 10 (once)
  • Average vote: 8

The Cardinals have played to the wire in both of the MAC contests to open the season, losing to WMU in the last moments in Week 2, but also forcing overtime and winning in dramatic fashion against NIU this past week. Pair that with some flashes of potential against some tough non-con opponents, and this BSU team could be going places with another win this week.

They’re in P9 right now, as to be expected due to the margins of their losses, but don’t underestimate this unit; a balanced attack offensively can score in bunches if you allow them to.

8. Ohio Bobcats (LW: 9, up 1)

  • High vote: 5 (twice)
  • Low vote: 10 (twice)
  • Average vote: 7.33

The Bobcats took the Kent State Golden Flashes to the closing ticks of the clock last week, and could have won the game if a few different plays went their way. It was an admirable effort all around, as they kept up with an explosive offense and made plays when necessary on defense and special teams to keep the game alive.

The result didn’t go the way they would have liked this time around, but this is a team which has seemingly found direction in all three phases. That’s dangerous in a wide-open MAC East.

t-6. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LW: t-7, up 1)

  • High vote: 4 (once)
  • Low vote: 11 (once)
  • Average vote: 7.16

A casual observer would see a 20-13 final score against the UMass Minutemen as an indication that EMU is struggling mightily. But a closer look at the game summary indicates EMU was more dominant than they appeared, scoring 20 straight points in the second half to put the Minutemen away after being caught off-guard in the early going.

EMU picked up more rushing yards, more passing yards, converted their three scoring drives for more points, committed less penalties and forced more punts in the game, all positives, and all with a backup QB.

This is a team with high highs and low lows, but at the moment, it seems this is a team who is finally learning how to win games (as opposed to not losing them.)

t-6. Western Michigan Broncos (LW: 6)

  • High vote: 5 (once)
  • Low vote: 8 (four)
  • Average vote: 7.16

WMU got their feel-good game against New Hampshire out of the way last week, demolishing the Wildcats 44-7 in a game which was not close from the first play from scrimmage.

It’s hard to learn about a team from such an expected blowout result, but we can at least say this much: it was a much-needed shot in the arm for a unit which seemed to be ailing for any positives on the offense or the defense. WMU fans hope this is the jolt hey need to get serious in conference play, where they’re up 1-0 currently.

5. Central Michigan Chippewas (LW: 2, down 3)

  • High vote: 3 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (once)
  • Average vote: 5.16

The pessimism is starting to settle in around the program from Mt. Pleasant, as they suffered a drumming at the hands of the Toledo Rockets to open up league play last weekend.

It would be one thing if this was a loss in isolation of other results, but this loss ended up being emblematic of the Chips’ 2022 performance so far, with an off-rhythm offense, a lackadasical defense and catastrophic special teams play all coming home to roost once again. Somehow, some way, this team is still ranked in the Top 5, but if they lose again this week, they could have a precipitous drop a la Miami.

4. Northern Illinois Huskies (LW: 1, down 3)

  • High vote: 3 (twice)
  • Low vote: 10 (once)
  • Average vote: 5

The NIU Huskies are left to wonder why once again, as they blew a 24-7 halftime lead and lost in overtime to the Ball State Cardinals in the Bronze Stalk game by a final score of 44-38.

It’s not the first time this has happened either; they’ve been in similar situations against EIU, Tulsa and Vanderbilt this year, which is starting to become a bit of a concern for the Huskies, as a lack of go-for luck on offense and a sieve-like defense (436.8 yards per game on average, 95 percent red-zone scoring, 23 opposing touchdowns in five games) have caused regression overall.

Even understanding the number of injuries, NIU has stumbled a little too many times now for it to be coincidence. They’re talented, ans should still be a top competitor, but we’re keeping an eye on them.

3. Buffalo Bulls (LW: t-7, up 4)

  • High vote: 3 (three)
  • Low vote: 6 (twice)
  • Average vote: 4.16

We’re just as surprised as you are, honestly.

The Buffalo Bulls are atop the MAC East with a 2-0 conference record after shocking EMU on the road and taking a win out from under the Miami RedHawks in the waning monents last week. This was a team who lost seven-straight prior to Week 4, and wasn’t projected to finish very high in the East or conference tables. It’s a credit then to the coaching staff and players for the quick turnaround, with a fun, balanced offense and an opportunistic defense which has caused several matchup problems.

This team has been the highest-variance unit by far in our Power Rankings to this point. Staying up top or falling to the bottom is a 50/50 proposition in any week, but at least it’ll be an interesting ride.

2. Kent State Golden Flashes (LW: t-3, up 1)

  • Unanimous #2

The Golden Flashes pulled a Piccolo and let off the training weights against Ohio, sending every creative playcall and ultra-talented athlete they could down the field to generate as many points as possible. It certainly worked for the most part, as they got whatever look they liked on offense on a decent Ohio defense. There’s some slight concerns about vulnerability on the big play on defense, and going to OT against a team you were favored to beat by 11.5 points isn’t great, but as long as they keep scoring like that... it honestly may not be an issue.

This is a team who is simply extremely talented and has the resume to prove it at present. They still need to maintain that momentum to firmly take control of the division, but the East is their oyster if they keep going like this.

1. Toledo Rockets (LW: 5, up 4)

  • Unanimous #1

The Toledo Rockets once again jump up to the #1 spot after beating down a Central Michigan team with aplomb on Saturday, reminding the viewers why they should be considered a conference favorite.

It was an effective and efficient takedown, winning in all three phases by a fairly comfortable margin, with 14 of CMU’s 17 points coming in garbage time. The result was never in doubt, rendering an uneven performance against San Diego State essentially moot.

With no other teams outside of Kent State really jumping up to claim the top spot, Toledo just stands out that much more due to their sheer depth of talent on a balanced roster. It’s hard to see where they could lose at this point in the schedule, but with the way this season has gone, we could well have a new #1 by publication time next week.

Anonymized ranking

Akron Ball State Buffalo Bowling Green Central Mich Eastern Mich Kent State Miami NIU Ohio Toledo Western Mich
12 6 3 10 9 8 2 11 4 7 1 5
12 9 4 11 3 6 2 7 10 5 1 8
12 9 6 10 4 11 2 7 3 5 1 8
12 7 3 11 6 5 2 9 4 10 1 8
12 10 6 11 4 9 2 8 3 7 1 6
12 7 3 11 5 4 2 9 6 10 1 8

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!