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2023 MAC Football Power Rankings: Week 8

As we reach the start of weeknight games, it’s time to take stock of where the 12 MAC programs are. Boca Raton Bowl - Liberty v Toledo Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Hello all and welcome back to the MAC Football Power Rankings!

As we’re in the midst of the Great Reset, there’s only two games this upcoming Saturday before weeknight #MACtion takes center stage. With last week serving as a tidy end to the “regular” season, we take a look at where every teams stands before the nationally-televised final stretch of the 2023 MAC season.

Let’s get right into it:

12. Kent State Golden Flashes (LW: 12)

  • High vote: 11 (once)
  • Low vote: 12 (six)
  • Average vote: 11.85

Kent State just can’t find an edge against better teams, which while not a surprise considering their circumstances, still doesn’t feel good. The Flashes showed some early moxie, collecting some defensive stops and finishing off two drive with field goals in the first quarter, but they ultimately fell apart and allowed 24 unanswered points to finish the game. The offense especially struggled, finishing with less than 100 yards in passing and rushing. They’re going to want to do better than that if they want to finish the season on a positive note.

11. Akron Zips (LW: 11)

  • High vote: 11 (six)
  • Low vote: 12 (once)
  • Average vote: 11.14

The Zips are trying their best, but they’re a dispirited, fragile group which has faced way too much adversity in 2023. Their spirit finally broke on Saturday with a blowout loss to Bowling Green in which they had four turnovers and struggled to generate offense until late in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of hand. The defense had to try and overcompensate and it just caused even more issues as a result. There’s nothing more to say, really, and nothing to be happy about in the Rubber City at current.

10. Ball State Cardinals (LW: 10)

  • High vote: 9 (four)
  • Low vote: 10 (three)
  • Average vote: 9.42

Ball State pulled off a fairly shocking upset against Central Michigan last weekend, physically dominating the Chippewas on both sides of the ball en route to their first win over an FBS program in the 2023 campaign. The offense seems to finally have something cooking with the Kiael Kelly option offense, as their ability to run the ball to open up the pass came into play a lot against both Toledo and Central. The defense was also a highlight for the Cardinals, keeping CMU to just 260 total offensive yards and 3-of-13 on third-down conversions.

The postseason is unlikely, but you’ve got to give someone flowers when they’re due.

9. Buffalo Bulls (LW: 9)

  • High vote: 8 (three)
  • Low vote: 10 (twice)
  • Average vote: 8.85

Buffalo moves to 3-1 in the MAC East with an expected win over Kent State, and they looked alright in doing so— though it can’t be helped but to wonder if they left some meat on the bones in this one. Buffalo went 7-of-16 on third downs (good!), but also put up seven punts, five of which came on drives of five plays or less (bad!), while also getting six penalties on the day (compared to a clean sheet for KSU.) This is by no means a perfect Bulls team, and they’re still trying to figure out what works best for them over the long run, but per their division record, they’re still a program which largely controls their own destiny.

8. Western Michigan Broncos (LW: 8)

  • High vote: 7 (twice)
  • Low vote: 10 (twice)
  • Average vote: 8.28

The Broncos once again put up a solid performance in what turned out to be a loss to the Ohio Bobcats. That’s been the theme for a lot of Bronco performances so far, as they start out thorny and get the opponent off-schedule, but just can’t hold on and let the opponent get back into the game at WMU’s expense. (If only they could script entire games instead of the first 15 plays!) For what it’s worth, they at least have the answers to some of their burning questions, as Hayden Wolff has solidified an offense which had already found its rhythm prior to his installation and the defense has found personnel packages which play into their strengths.

7. Central Michigan Chippewas (LW: 6, down 1)

  • High vote: 6 (once)
  • Low vote: 9 (once)
  • Average vote: 7.25

CMU just continues to slide down the rankings after showing some promise at the start of the MAC campaign, taking a bad loss to the Ball State Cardinals this go-round. They’ve failed to score more than 20 points for three games in a row, and their defense (already considered one of the worst in the country) has taken some massive hits in the injury department. They’re now essentially out of the MAC West race unless something strange happens and have no more room for error when it comes to the postseason, sitting at 4-4 with games against division favorites Toledo and Ohio to end the season.

6. Bowling Green Falcons (LW: 7, up 1)

  • High vote: 5 (twice)
  • Low vote: 6 (five)
  • Average vote: 5.71

Bowling Green absolutely mollywhopped the Akron Zips, hanging 41 points on them in what turned out to be a highly efficient day on offense. The defense forced four takeaways, while the offense scored three times on the ground thanks to short field and had two passing touchdowns on 8-of-14 passing. BGSU was incredibly efficient, with 5.3 yards per play on average and six scores on six redzone visits. They’re playing tip-top, complimentary football right now and if they keep this up, they’ll be a hard out for anyone they face moving forward.

5. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LW: 5, down 1)

  • High vote: 5 (five)
  • Low vote: 7 (once)
  • Average vote: 5.42

EMU fought an ugly back-and-forth contest, but once again hit the wall of their own limitations in a loss to the NIU Huskies. Their offense simply failed to move the ball in a way which made much of a difference, and often settled for bad situational plays. Especially frustrating was the inability to finish drives with maximum points; two separate drives of 10+ plays were capped by Jesus Gomez field goals from inside 40 yards, shedding off 11 minutes in the process, artificially shrinking their clock. The defense also giving way at the worst time certainly did not help, as NIU mounted a 10-point effort in the fourth quarter to steal the game way with less than two minutes remaining.

4. Northern Illinois Huskies (LW: 5, up 1)

  • High vote: 2 (once)
  • Low vote: 4 (six)
  • Average vote: 3.71

Speaking of NIU, boy do they look like the Huskies team we saw a few years back when they won it all. The defense is causing turnovers and putting offenses in sticky situations, while the offense has become proficient at smothering the ball and converting on offense when it counts. NIU scored on the first drive of the game, and converted 8-of-17 of their third-down and 1-of-1 on fourth down overall, winning often in situational play. A lot of their damage done in the second half as well after EMU’s defense forced them to punt or kick a field goal on the last four drives in the first half, showing a resilient side who doesn’t give up.

3. Miami RedHawks (LW: 1, down 2)

  • High vote: 2 (twice)
  • Low vote: 4 (once)
  • Average vote: 2.85

Miami lost one of the most anticipated games of the 2023 season and then some. Brett Gabbert, their leader over the last five seasons, is out for the year with a brutal leg injury which required leaving Yager Stadium in an ambulance. The loss means they’ll have to win out and hope Ohio and Buffalo lose at least one more time if they want to earn a trip to Detroit. That drops them down some pegs as they no longer have sole control of the division, as does the uncertainty around if Aveon Smith has developed enough after last season to carry the team to victories. The defense, which has been lights out this season, will be leaned upon even more now to try and salvage hopes of a crown.

2. Ohio Bobcats (LW: 3, up 1)

  • High vote: 2 (four)
  • Low vote: 3 (three)
  • Average vote: 2.42

The Ohio Bobcats got back to their winning ways against Western Michigan— though it wasn’t a perfect performance by any stretch. They had to fight a slow start on offense and WMU’s new-found confidence until the triple zeroes to earn this one, an indication there’s still some work to be done to unlock that gear from last season. Kurtis Rourke’s numbers are lower than expected for a defending POTY, but Sieh Bangura’s emergence in the backfield and a strong defense has helped to prop the team up through their scoring slump so far in MAC play. Ohio should be the betting favorite in every game remaining— though this week’s game with Miami will be important for tiebreaker purposes.

1. Toledo Rockets (LW: 2, up 1)

  • Unanimous #1

Toledo’s emphatic win over Miami shut down any debate of other programs nabbing the top spot. UT looked comfortable with whatever Miami was throwing at them, and got up to such a quick lead early on, it forced Miami to play against tendencies. Even after Miami rallied post-Gabbert injury, Toledo held strong, allowing their defense to win the day after the offense set the tone in the first half. The Rockets can win the West early as long as they don’t drop any more games, and have stepped up to the plate whenever the competition ramps up. Anything can happen in #MACtion, of course, but they should be heavy favorites in their remaining games.

Anonymized ranking

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

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!