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2023 MAC Football Power Rankings: Week 5

The top three have separated themselves, while the rest of the field continues to fight for relevancy.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 30 Miami (Ohio) at Kent State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Week 5 has come and gone, and a lot of unique results have not only reconfigured the division and league standings, but have also revealed a few things about several of the programs in the MAC.

This week, we saw the top three teams really separate themselves from the rest of the table, while a clear #4 delineates a clear gap between the elite players and those still figuring themselves out. We also saw a lot of major drops and major gains as the first results of league play start to trickle in, creating even more movement.

Without further ado, onto this week’s rankings:

12. Buffalo Bulls (LW: 12)

  • High vote: 9 (twice)
  • Low vote: 12 (three)
  • Average vote: 10.85

It’s not terribly often a team wins a game and stays in the basement of the rankings, but Buffalo finds themselves exactly in that situation, as their win against Akron was by the skin of their teeth.

You’d have liked to see a more competitive result considering the offensive firepower they put up in a lot of their losses, but the Bulls seemingly had no answers for an Akron defense which was flying all around the field. Some good special teams play ultimately bailed them out last week.

11. Ball State Cardinals (LW: 7, down 4)

  • High vote: 7 (once)
  • Low vote: 11 (three)
  • Average vote: 10

It was a simply embarrassing performance for the Cardinals last week against Western Michigan, as the box score suggested a closer game than what the result really was. Layne Hatcher got his turn in the batter’s box after Kadin Semonza started over the last month and did not produce very much. The defense also continues to be susceptible to the big play, giving up several explosive touchdowns early to set the tone of the game.

There doesn’t appear to be any answers coming anytime soon for the Cards, as injuries and bad play have affected their ability to be resilient. They’re in prove-it mode until further notice.

10. Akron Zips (LW: 6, down 10)

  • High vote: 6 (once)
  • Low vote: 12 (twice)
  • Average vote: 9.85

Things are looking grim once again for the Zips.

They’ve lost quarterback DJ Irons for the year due to an ACL tear suffered vs. Buffalo in what was ultimately a loss, and saw perhaps their best chance at a win in 2023 go to smoke on a field goal block in overtime. The offense just changes completely with Jeff Undercuffler under center, and that makes it hard to evaluate how they’ll look moving forward. The Zips have been severely unlucky this season even before the Irons injury. They could be 4-1 right now if some bounces go their way. If there is a bright spot, that defense looks legit and could possibly drag them into respectability.

9. Kent State Golden Flashes (LW: 7, down 2)

  • High vote: 7 (once)
  • Low vote: 12 (twice)
  • Average vote: 9.71

Kent State didn’t have very much to offer against Miami, but then, not many teams in the league do at the moment. The Flashes were kept out of the endzone all day, and had some fourth-down calls go the wrong way in a game which was not as close as the 23-3 score suggests. They’re primarily at the #9 spot because their long-terms prospects are a lot better than the teams below them, but this season for them will primarily be concerned with ensuring a good culture is in place, so a few bad performances here and there will be forgiven.

That said, in the long term, if they can’t find any offense later in the season, it could be an indication of deeper issues.

8. Northern Illinois Huskies (LW: 9, up 1)

  • High vote: 6 (once)
  • Low vote: 11 (once)
  • Average vote: 8.28

The Huskies seemed to really hit the film room and increase the intensity at practice ahead of their game against Toledo, a team which their fanbase considers a rivalry even if there’s no trophy associated with it. NIU posted a season-high 33 points and were within 10 seconds of being able to set up a potential game-winning field goal, but instead took a bad sack at the gun to fall by two points.

It’s yet to be determined if this result means anything in the long term, especially as it concerns the offensive production, but it’s nice to see they haven’t completely given up despite how the season started for them.

7. Western Michigan Broncos (LW: 8, up 1)

  • High vote: 5 (once)
  • Low vote: 8 (twice)
  • Average vote: 7

The Broncos took care of business and then some against Ball State, picking up three passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns en route to an utter destruction of the Cardinals in their second league game of the season.

The concerns about the offense from early in the season seem to have subsided, with Treyson Bourguet winning the QB job and the combo of Jalen Buckley and Zahir Abdus-Salaam giving the Broncos an excellent 1-2 punch in the backfield. The defense was gashed a few times, giving up 300+ passing yards, a 100+-yard receiver and a 136-yard rusher, but the game was out of hand for most of the contest, so they weren’t as aggressive as they could have been. This team suddenly looks a little dangerous.

6. Bowling Green Falcons (LW: 10, up 4)

  • High vote: 5 (twice)
  • Low vote: 11 (once)
  • Average vote: 6.85

Okay, what the hell?

Just as we thought we knew what this BGSU team was, they went and flipped the narrative once again, with an absolute takedown of ACC opponent Georgia Tech, pounding them with a 38-point unanswered run after going down 14-0 early. Then again, maybe we should have seen this coming considering their performance against Michigan a couple weeks prior, where the defense kept BGSU in it until U of M out-talented them.

The defense was once again essential in this one, causing several turnovers and scoring on a pick-six, while the offense got everything they wanted against a stunned and tired GT defense. Now, we need to see if they can maintain that pace as league play ramps up.

5. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LW: 5)

  • High vote: 5 (four)
  • Low vote: 6 (three)
  • Average vote: 5.42

EMU had the game in hand in Mt. Pleasant, grinding away over half of the fourth quarter with a long, grueling 14-play drive over 50 yards of field. Jesus Gomez, who had kicked a 55-yarder on the same side of the field earlier in the game, set up to kick one from 46 yards out... but missed, effectively ending any chance of a comeback late.

It was a stunning loss in an intense rivalry game, where the Eagles looked dominant at points, especially on offense. But some sleepy play at the end of halves were ultimately the difference, as the Chippewas were able to take advantage and get the necessary scores and stops to persevere. EMU may have lost, but they seemed to have found some things they can port over to the rest of league play after a poor showing against Jacksonville State two weeks ago.

4. Central Michigan Chippewas (LW: 4)

  • Unanimous #4

Oh hey, speaking of the Chippewas, here they are!

The Chippewas are still a bit of an uneven unit on a week-to-week basis, but the important thing for them is that they’re winning despite such performances. This week was emblematic of that, as they didn’t play their best ball on both sides, but still came away with the necessary plays in order to take home the result. When firing on all cylinders, the Chips offense is one of the most dangerous in the league and that could take them places if they can do it more consistently. The defense still has communication problems, and that could hold them back, but what is important here is they’re 1-0 in league play, have the talent to make a run and know what needs to be fixed.

3. Miami RedHawks (LW: 3)

  • High vote: 1 (once)
  • Low vote: 3 (six)
  • Average vote: 2.71

The RedHawks have quietly put together one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory in 2023, with their sole loss to a Top-10 ranked Miami [FL] team who has realistic Playoff expectations to open the season. Since then, they’ve outscored opponents 157-75 and have won on offense, which is not what Miami is traditionally known for under the Chuck Martin administration.

Miami has scored no lower than 23 points and averaged 37.5 offensive points on their 4-0 run, and even that performance was at half-pace due to game pace, with Brett Gabbert, Gage Larvadain and Rashad Amos creating a core of players who can score at will. Combine this with their typically stout defense and reliable special teams, and that makes Miami a legitimate threat to the MAC East race.

2. Ohio Bobcats (LW: 1)

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

The Ohio Bobcats were on BYE this past week, so they ended up on the wrong side of a tie-break, falling to #2 in the league. They’re 4-1 through the first five games of the season, stumbling out of the gates in Week 0 without Kurtis Rourke vs. San Diego State before reeling off four fairly dominant wins.

We’ll see if the early rest does them well this week, as they seek a ninth-straight victory at home.

1. Toledo Rockets (LW: 2)

  • High vote: 1 (two)
  • Low vote: 3 (once)
  • Average vote: 1.85

The Toledo Rockets narrowly figured things out against NIU in the second of what is sure to be many “best shot” games in their title defense campaign. Once again, the offense was incredible, with Dequan Finn coming back from an injury suffered vs. WMU to go 16-of-20 for 258 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, while Junior Vandeross III had 147 receiving yards and Peny Boone ran for 113 yards to help the Rocket effort. Overall, the offense finished with 542 yards of offense on a Huskies defense which had choked many opponents so far in 2023, and looked the part of the league favorite despite the margin.

They’re now up 2-0 in the MAC West race and get a brief reprieve from intense league play in the form of UMass this week.

Anonymized ranking

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

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!