Week 12 was one of the most chalk weeks we’d seen in some time outside of NIU’s absolute shellacking of Western Michigan, which resulted in some very strange shifts in the middle of the table— and nowhere else, as just three spots weren’t unanimously agreed upon.
Where does your favorite team sit as we approach the last week of the regular season?
12. Kent State Golden Flashes (LW: 12)
- Unanimous #12
The Flashes lost once again, which isn’t really terribly shocking news if you follow this team even casually. They’re still in search of their first FBS win of the season and if they hope to beat 5-6 NIU this week, they’re going to need to find more than 97 yards of total offense and try not to give up over 300 rushing yards to a Huskies team that loves to keep the ball on the ground. It’s hard to find a lot of positives with this group as presently assembled.
11. Akron Zips (LW: 11)
- Unanimous #11
The Zips have been a hard-scrabble group all season, and have perhaps been the MAC’s unluckiest team to boot. But you are what your record says you are, and Akron has just two wins on the season, with their one FBS win over Kent State. (Even that one was a comeback effort late.) Akron outplayed EMU for most of their game this week and still lost in double-overtime due to an inability to finish games. It’s frustrating if you’re a loyal fan.
10. Buffalo Bulls (LW: 10)
- Unanimous #10
The Bulls’ luck finally ran out last week, but the insult to injury was added this week as Miami mopped the floor with the Bulls on the road to take home the division. Buffalo under Mo Linguist has established themselves on creating havoc on defense and converting with an efficient offense, but the Bulls have simply been unable to execute either gameplan outside of a torrid three-game stretch back in September. They’re an underperformer in the worst way at current and can only play spoiler at this point.
9. Ball State Cardinals (LW: 9)
- High vote: 8 (once)
- Low vote: 9 (four)
- Average vote: 8.8
The Cardinals have really looked very good over the last month, winning three of the last four contests on their schedule. This has coincided with a revamped offense, which switched to a heavy run option look under Kiael Kelly, and they’ve ran it to great success. It’s a case of too little too late, however, as they were eliminated from bowl contention several weeks ago. They’re likely capped here for 2023, but if they can keep up this performance next season... there’s intrigue there for sure.
t-7. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LW: 8, up 1)
- High vote: 7 (twice)
- Low vote: 8 (three)
- Average vote: 7.6
Eastern always seems to make life more difficult than it needs to be, which has been the driving theme of their 2023 campaign. There’s no reason EMU should have been in a all-out, bare-knuckle brawl with a dis-spirited Akron team other than the Eagles not having belief in themselves for so long. Credit to the coaches, they found a page of the playbook that worked in overtime when their backs were against the wall to keep their bowl hopes alive. But it really shouldn’t get to that point before you pull out the big guns.
t-7. Central Michigan Chippewas (LW: 6, down 1)
- High vote: 7 (three)
- Low vote: 9 (once)
- Average vote: 7.6
Central’s already slim bowl hopes took another hit to the teeth with a loss to the Ohio Bobcats. From the very first play on, it was clear the ‘Cats were zoned in on what the Chips wanted to do offensively, and CMU could not adjust. The box score shows a two-score contest, but two of CMU’s three scores were on clear defensive breakdowns by Ohio. Were it not for those, we’re looking at something closer to 34-7— which the stats reflect. Now they have to upset a nationally-ranked Toledo just to qualify for the postseason.
6. Western Michigan Broncos (LW: 5, down 1)
- Unanimous #6
The Broncos unfortunately could not keep their bowl hopes alive in what was essentially an elimination game with Northern Illinois (more on them in a moment.) It could not have been more of a night-and-day performance from the week before, where they looked simply un-killable against Central— though their run of recent form could go to explain why last week was such a letdown. WMU was not supposed to be here at this point in the season, with many thinking they’d be a 1-3 win outfit at best. They’re going to have to learn how to maintain consistency, but even with a shutout loss, you can’t help but have optimism in this group.
5. Northern Illinois Huskies (LW: 7, up 2)
- Unanimous #5
It feels like a broken record to say this every week, but once again, you just can’t get a grip on these Huskies. Easily the most enigmatic and difficult-to-comprehend group in the league, NIU surprised everyone by blanking the Broncos amidst extreme angst from the fanbase regarding their coaching situation. They were creative and efficient on offense and turned up the intensity on defense in a performance which harked back to when Huskie Stadium was a den of nightmares on November nights. They’ll have to build on that to clinch a bowl bid and have a great chance to do so against Kent State.
4. Bowling Green Falcons (LW: 4)
- Unanimous #4
BGSU had the upper hand over most of their contest with Toledo on Tuesday night, but ultimately couldn’t get the one play they needed to put away the Rockets in a heartbreaker loss. The game would have done little to change the overall MAC landscape, as Miami held a chokehold on the East even with a BGSU win and Toledo already clinched the West, but this would have been a massive feather in the cap for a program which has shown legitimate growth over the 2023 campaign. The positives to consider are that the Falcons will go bowling once again, and could also clinch their first seven-win season since the historic 2015 season.
3. Ohio Bobcats (LW: 3)
- Unanimous #3
The Bobcats took care of business at home once again, this time against the Chippewas. It was a dominant effort from the word go, and showed the full potential of this Ohio squad. That makes their losses all the more puzzling; their early season form was disjointed and produced some confusing results, especially on offense. Then, there was the loss to Miami once getting back to full strength. If that was a win, they could well be a legitimate threat for a MAC title game. That’s the ultimate takeaway from the 2023 season, which is much too bad because this defense has been out-of-this-world good.
2. Miami RedHawks (LW: 3, up 1)
- Unanimous #2
The RedHawks feel inevitable at this point, stifling offenses and then choking the air out of the ball against any opposition. Their “death by a thousand paper cuts” philosophy certainly doesn’t help either; you know what they’re going to do, you know how it’ll end (in points) and they’re still going to do it anyway. Having one of the NCAA’s best kickers has certainly helped, as Graham Nicholson (22-of-22 on field goals) continues to be the team’s best scoring threat due to Chuck Martin’s conservative approach. We can’t help but look forward to how they’ll match up with Toledo in Detroit.
1. Toledo Rockets (LW: 1)
- Unanimous #1
The Rockets are once again #1, a position they’ve held strong over the last month. Of the 11 weeks so far, Toledo has been the top squad for eight of our rankings, supplanted only by Miami or Ohio (typically for a week at most), and never falling below second place. It is a testament to their talent and dominance to be up there for as long as they have, and with a newly-minted #24 ranking in the Associated Press Poll, they’re starting to get national notice too. They’ll take their 10-game win streak into Mt. Pleasant for a nationally-televised Black Friday matchup before a trip to Detroit to face off against Miami.
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