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2022 Hustle Belt Mid-American Conference Football Power Rankings: Week 2

It was BLOOD WEEK for a lot of MAC programs in Week 2, forcing a lot of tough choices on the chart.

NCAA Football: Toledo at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Week 2 has come and went, and it seems to have been a blood week across all of college football, with many ranked upsets and upsets of favored programs all over the four-window broadcast schedule.

The MAC was not immune, as the entire conference went 2-8 in non-conference games, including not one, but two losses to FCS squads. Even the conference matchup between WMU and Ball State was fraught with chaotic energy, making for a very tough edition of the rankings.

At the end of the day though, we have to rank them all 12-to-1 in a way which makes sense, even if last week turned out to be one of the darkest days in recent MAC history.

Without further ado: here are the rankings!

12. Bowling Green Falcons (Last Week: 11, down 1)

  • High vote: 11 (three votes)
  • Low vote: 12 (three)
  • Average vote: 11.5

It’s been a dark, dark era for BGSU since the departure of Dino Babers in the mid-2010s, and Saturday may have been the darkest on-field performance in program history, as the Falcons looked like the lesser team in the majority of their game against Eastern Kentucky, ultimately falling in seven overtimes.

BGSU built up a multiple possession lead, lost it, regained the lead late, then gave it up on a miracle drive at the end to go into overtime, then failed seven times to put the game away at home. There isn’t much else to be said about it, though Matt McDonald going for five touchdowns and zero turnovers was noticeably good.

(It cannot be emphasized enough that Bowling Green had SEVEN opportunities to put the game away— or EIGHT, if you count the last play of regulation.)

We try our best to advocate for and be optimistic about MAC teams, but it is truly impossible to be either of those things here; the truth of the matter is it was a truly woeful performance in every fashion.

They face Marshall, fresh off an Notre Dame upset, for a Homecoming Saturday game.

11. Akron Zips (LW: 12, up 1)

  • High vote: 10 (three)
  • Low vote: 12 (twice)
  • Average vote: 10.33

The Zips went on the road and took an expected loss to the Michigan State Spartans. What wasn’t expected however were two things: 1) a relatively impressive performance on defense (it was 14-0 until deep into the third quarter, with all 14 points directly off turnovers) and 2) the loss of quarterback DJ Irons to a leg injury, likely for the season.

Keep in mind this was the same MSU team the Broncos took on last week and kept competitive with. In that spirit, it was an admirable performance from the Zips, especially considering the circumstances. What will the offense look like with UAlbany transfer Jeff Undercuffler against a hot Tennessee team? We’ll see.

10. Buffalo Bulls (LW: 9, down 1)

  • High vote: 9 (once)
  • Low vote: 11 (four)
  • Average vote: 10.5

The Buffalo Bulls, much like BGSU, took their FCS matchup for granted, building up a multiple-score lead only to blow it and find themselves in a heavyweight bout of haymakers, a position no FBS team wants to be in.

Just like BGSU, the Bulls gave up a last-second score to decide the fate of a game— except in their case, they lost in regulation on a poorly-defended Hail Mary play. When paired with their performance against Maryland, where they looked lost and without a clear identity, it’s hard to have a lot of excitement about this team going forward.

They’re in tenth likely because on paper, they’re better than Akron and BGSU. But they’re going to have to prove a lot moving forward. Coastal Carolina is up next.

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

  • High vote: 7 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (three)
  • Average vote: 8.33

The Cards held up admirably in their first league game of the year, as they hosted WMU in a barnburner of a contest to decide who gets the distinction of topping the MAC West table for the first part of the season.

Ultimately though, their stoic conservatism in game management situations left them susceptible to being taken advantage of, and the Broncos would exploit that to take the win.

There is not a lot to be mad about here, as BSU led for a good majority of the game and showed flashes of brilliance all across the board. The offense especially looks like it hasn’t lost a step, even despite the departures. The defense could use some interior leadership, but there’s still some reason for optimism.

We’ll see if they can build upon that promise in the next few weeks, starting with this week against Murray State.

8. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LW: 8)

  • High vote: 5 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (twice)
  • Average vote: 7.5

Feels like a serious case of deja vu in saying this, but EMU looked very good early on against a frisky Louisiana-Lafayette team on the road, building up a multiple-score lead at the half. But something happened along the way, and after the break, EMU gave up a 49-7 second-half run to lose a game they were very much in control of.

It’s hard to know exactly why this team performs like it does on a consistent basis. Is it game management? Is it a talent deficit? Is it schematics? A combination of all of it? EMU has always been a tough read, and they’re really not helping themselves with how the season has gone so far. We had this team as a Top 5 MAC program coming into 2022, so the pieces are there for a competitive program.

They’ll get more chances to put down a proof-of-concept the next three weeks, with games against Arizona State, Buffalo and UMass.

7. Ohio Bobcats (LW: 7)

  • High vote: 3 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (once)
  • Average vote: 6.83

The Ohio Bobcats surprised us all in Week 1, with a firecracker performance against FAU in the pouring rain. Their next game would not have as many fireworks, to say the least, as they took on Penn State at home in a Big Noon Saturday game.

It was an expected loss, but generally, it was not a bad performance. After a rocky 2021 season which saw them go 3-9, there is a reasonable amount of optimism surrounding this squad. They were holding on by a 19-7 score prior to halftime, and catching Penn State off-guard a few times with some clever play design, so Ohio gave them everything they could muster.

Even so, there’s still a lot of work to be done, as Kurtis Rourke was under 50 percent completion and no Bobcats rusher picked up more than 29 yards against Penn State. (Understandably so.) It gets a bit easier, though not by much, with Iowa State up next on the docket.

6. Kent State Golden Flashes (LW: t-5, down 1)

  • High vote: 4 (once)
  • Low vote: 8 (once)
  • Average vote: 5.66

It’s still hard to know what this Kent State team will look like when it comes to conference play, since they keep getting relentlessly smothered by clearly more talented programs, but they are certainly finding ways to create optimism.

Andrew Glass kicking through a 37-yard field goal to take an initial 3-0 lead, and managed to stifle the Oklahoma Sooners to a 7-3 lead at the halftime whistle, but could not keep up the momentum, losing the contest by a final of 33-3. It’s certainly a more encouraging effort than the one against Washington the prior week, where the Flashes allowed the Huskies to saw through their defenses early and often.

The Flashes get a reprieve— and a chance to prove their mettle— in a contest against LIU to open up the home schedule at Dix Stadium.

5. Miami RedHawks (LW: 4, down 1)

  • High vote: 2 (once)
  • Low vote: 6 (three)
  • Average vote: 4.83

It’s rare to get a win and fall in the rankings, but it was a very weird week, with five teams falling from their previous rankings, while only three teams stayed where they were last go-around.

Miami took care of business like they needed to against Robert Morris, but they could have done a bit better, winning 31-14 in a game where they were favored by 38 points in the sportsbooks. We do have to be fair to them, as they had to replace a starting left tackle, tight end and quarterback in this game, and it will take them some time to warm up to the task.

All said, only winning by 17 to a 4-6 FCS team isn’t terribly encouraging, even if it counts as a win in the record books. They’ll now face a vengeance-centered Cincinnati (who recently fell out of the rankings for the first time in two seasons) at Paul Brown Stadium.

4. Central Michigan Chippewas (LW: 1, down 3)

  • High vote: 2 (once)
  • Low vote: 7 (once)
  • Average vote: 3.83

Well, the top spot was fun for about a week for CMU.

CMU suffered a humiliating and humbling loss to South Alabama on Saturday on their home grounds, looking outmatched in all three phases from the starting gun to the last whistle. You could give CMU benefit of doubt for the first game of the season between opening game jitters and a hostile road environment, but this week exposed a lot of issues on offense and defense which absolutely will have to be addressed.

This is still an extremely talented team who is capable of winning it all, which is why they’re up here despite being 0-2, but they’ll need to get it together and find some solutions quickly. Bucknell should offer CMU an opportunity to test some concepts out.

3. Northern Illinois Huskies (LW: 3)

  • High vote: 1 (once)
  • Low vote: 5 (once)
  • Average vote: 3.16

NIU has looked fairly vulnerable in both their games this season, building up a big lead before having to shut down an EIU comeback rally in Week 1, and then falling by multiple scores to come back and try to preserve a narrow lead on the road against Tulsa in Week 2, ultimately failing to do so.

The Huskies have a lot of experience in weird, back-and-forth games, which helped them bridge the gap in the second half after trailing 24-7 at halftime, but they may have met their match in Tulsa, a team who similarly has learned to navigate the art of the comeback.

It was a tough loss, one which they were fully in position to preserve before a series of bad decisions in the late going. The Huskies are still the defending champs, and are uber-talented, so they get our benefit of the doubt for now. Vanderbilt is up next; a complete performance against an SEC squad would really set the tone.

2. Western Michigan Broncos (LW: t-5, up 3)

  • High vote: 1 (once)
  • Low vote: 2 (four)
  • Average vote: 2.1

WMU has been screaming up the charts with their recent performances, holding up admirably against Michigan State in a pressure-filled situation in Week 1, and then putting down a great performance in Week 2 against Ball State.

We had a lot of questions about how this team would look heading into the season, as they lost a bevy of legitimate talent to graduation or transfer, so we were pretty low on them to start, but they’ve proven to be up to the task thus far this season.

The Broncos’ inherent aggressiveness was a great advantage in their conference game against Ball State, stealing possessions and points where they could to counter the Cards’ bleeding-clock strategy, and now they’re technically atop the MAC West division.

The key will be in maintaining that momentum; they started off really hot last season before flying off a cliff in conference play. They host a 23rd-ranked Pittsburgh in Kalamazoo this week, as the Panthers look to make up for an overtime loss to Tennessee last week.

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

  • Unanimous #1

Well, there’s only one undefeated team in the MAC thus far, and that’s the Toledo Rockets. They got every #1 vote from the voters this week, and deservedly so.

They’ve done everything they’ve needed to do in their two games thus far, shutting down LIU and UMass in their first two games with a stifling defense, while showing efficiency on the offensive side of the ball. Even granting that it’s LIU and UMass, you still have to beat the teams in front of you (hello, BG and Buffalo) and look good in doing it. Toledo has done both so far.

Nowe, the level of competition heats up, and our voters will be very interested in how Toledo will look when the pressure is well and truly on.

The Rockets, who have given some Power Five teams a scare over the last few years in non-conference play, will take on Ohio State in Columbus this week.

Anonymized ranking

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

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!