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2023 MAC Football Power Rankings: Week 4

The top three teams are fairly cemented at this point. The rest? Well...

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Hello! Welcome back to the Power Rankings.

Week 4 was a strange one; five of our teams had significant dives in what feels like a correction from last week, but several teams stayed where they were despite bad performances. Overall, there’s still a lot to learn as we head into Week 5.

We think you’ll be surprised at how everything under the third spot ultimately shook out, as it’s a decided departure from how it has been handled recently.

Without further ado, onto this week’s rankings:

12. Buffalo Bulls (LW: 8, down 4)

  • High vote: 9 (once)
  • Low vote: 12 (four)
  • Average vote: 11.33

Their losing ways finally got the best of them, as the only remaining MAC team without a win has slid to the bottom of the power rankings. It’s shocking a team who was expected to be competitive this season flounder to start the season. The defense has been to blame so far, giving up no less than 38 points in any of their four contests, including a simply embarrassing 40 points to FCS Fordham.

Not even a last minute rally against Louisiana-Lafayette could save them from the basement; they were shutout at the halftime break, and down 31-7 deep into the third quarter. They’re in a must-win situation vs. Akron.

11. Kent State Golden Flashes (LW: t-9, down 2)

  • High vote: 7 (once)
  • Low vote: 12 (once)
  • Average vote: 9.83

The Flashes are still a mystery wrapped in an enigma, with very inconsistent results over their four contests so far. That’s tytpical of such Year 0 builds in the MAC, so it’s not exactly a surprise, but it still doesn’t paper over the feelings of giving up a 50-burger to Fresno State a week removed from a decent-looking win over an FCS team.

They’ll start their campaign in the deep end, taking on the perpetually thorny Miami.

10. Bowling Green Falcons (LW: 7, down 3)

  • High vote: 7 (once)
  • Low vote: 11 (three)
  • Average vote: 9.57

Back down to planet Earth for the Falcons.

A week removed from putting up an amazing defensive performance against the #2 team in the country on the road, BGSU absolutely fell apart in front of the home crowd in what could be charitably described as a down performance against in-state MAC peer Ohio.

The Falcons were outclassed in every phase of the game and gave up several awful penalties en route to the loss, wiping away any goodwill they might have gained from their contest against Michigan. They face Georgia Tech on the road to end their non-conference campaign.

9. Northern Illinois Huskies (LW: 9)

  • High vote: 7 (once)
  • Low vote: 12 (once)
  • Average vote: 9.33

Incredibly, the Huskies have still yet to fall from ninth place in our Power Rankings despite all efforts, staying put for the third week in a row. The Huskies fell from third to ninth after their loss to FCS Southern Illinois in Week 2 action, and have since suffered further indignities to Nebraska and Tulsa. There’s a quarterback controversy developing, great defensive performances mean nothing since NIU’s offense has scored no more than 14 points, and Huskie Stadium is suddenly a house of horrors, with NIU losing the last seven games there.

It increasingly feels like a 2018 Central Michigan situation, which I can tell you from personal experience is a bad place to be. They’re in must-win mode vs. Western Michigan.

8. Western Michigan Broncos (LW: 12, up 4)

  • High vote: 7 (once)
  • Low vote: 11 (once)
  • Average vote: 8.83

Speaking of the Broncos, they finally escaped the basement with an admirable loss to Toledo. The offense finally seems to be stabilizing under the leadership of Treyson Bourguet at QB, while Jalen Buckley has emerged from seemingly nowhere to lead the MAC in rushing (81 rushes, 507 yards, four touchdowns.)

They were able to stay in the contest thanks to an opportunistic defense which forced two interceptions and two fumbles on the day, scoring once on a Keni-H Lovely fumble recovery. It’ll be hard to replicate four turnovers per game, but if they can continue to force havoc plays and win on the ground, you’ve got something cooking. They take on Ball State next in what suddenly looks like a very winnable game.

7. Ball State Cardinals (LW: 5, down 2)

  • High vote: 6 (once)
  • Low vote: 10 (once)
  • Average vote: 7.83

Ball State tumbles down the rankings after a very poor showing against Georgia Southern. They were certainly not a favorite to win; GASO was a 16-point favorite heading into the contest, but it was an egregiously bad performance, as they lost 40-3 on their home turf.

A listless offense had no answers for one of the country’s worst defenses, while the Eagles got whatever they wanted against a pliable and languid defense which seemed ill-prepared for what they were facing. There’s little else you can say but “dust yourself off and try again.”

6. Akron Zips (LW: 8, up 2)

  • High vote: 6 (five)
  • Low vote: 8 (once)
  • Average vote: 6.33

Oh, Akron.

The final hope of a B1G-MAC upset in 2023 fell upon the Zips in Bloomington last week, but they just couldn’t get over the hump in a four-overtime loss to Indiana. They missed a game-winning field goal in regulation, and had a bad penalty on one of their scoring tries in overtime which prevented them from getting the job done.

It’s much too bad; they had earned the win in regulation by bullying the Hoosiers physically and rallying in the second half to tie the game up on an incredible 71-yard rushing touchdown by Lorenzo Lingard. There’s a lot to like from this game if you’re an Akron fan, but at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. They take on Buffalo for their MAC opener.

5. Eastern Michigan Eagles (LW: 4, down 1)

  • High vote: 4 (once)
  • Low vote: 5 (five)
  • Average vote: 4.83

Showing you folks the in-house chat about ranking EMU would be extremely unbecoming, but suffice to say that a lot of us weren’t exactly excited about placing them fifth after losing 21-0 to Jacksonville State.

Part of the issue is there aren’t really many other programs you can put here. By pedigree, EMU should be in this range because they have tended to be reliable in the past to be in this range. But the on-field performance has been sub-optimal, to put it charitably. You simply cannot allow yourself to get shut out by an FCS newcomer and look like a cupcake team in the process.

We do like Mitchell Tomasek’s punts, though. Those rule. They take on CMU to start league play.

4. Central Michigan Chippewas (LW: 6, up 2)

  • High vote: 4 (five)
  • Low vote: 5 (once)
  • Average vote: 4.14

Central Michigan pulled off perhaps the biggest result of the week with their upset of South Alabama on the road.

The Chippewas came in as 16-point underdogs and won by a touchdown, with Jase Bauer coming off the bench to score five total touchdowns in the effort, while finishing with a clean sheet on turnovers. Their defense even showed up to play in this one, only giving up four plays of 20+ yards, nearly half of their game averages up to this point.

This team is still extremely imperfect, a fact they’re freely ready to admit in press conferences, but the ceiling of this team is very high if they can reach it. At the least, it is an athletic and young team which shows a lot of promise. EMU at home is on the docket for the opening game of the MAC calendar.

3. Miami RedHawks (LW: 3)

  • High vote: 1 (once)
  • Low vote: 3 (four)
  • Average vote: 2.5

It was a quiet weekend at home for Miami after their highly-coveted win over Cincinnati last week, as they took care of business in a 53-20 shellacking of the Delaware State Hornets. As we’ve seen many times in the MAC, FCS wins don’t generally come easy, so winning by such a comfortable margin is a relief for a team which has championship aspirations. You gotta win the easy ones, after all.

Miami relied on the run game, scoring six touchdowns on the ground, a little bit of a departure from the passing game which propelled them to success in past contests so far this year. They’re looking ready to make a run in the division, and face Kent State to start the season.

t-1. Toledo Rockets (LW: 1)

  • High vote: 1 (once)
  • Low vote: 3 (once)
  • Average vote: 2

For the first time this season, Toledo looked pretty human in a double-digit victory against Western Michigan. The Broncos turned the Rockets’ aggressiveness against them, forcing Toledo into several game-changing mistakes. Things got worse with the departure of star quarterback Dequan Finn due to injury. The Rockets managed to get by with Tucker Gleason under center, relying on Peny Boone’s 211 rushing yards to choke the air out of the ball and allow Toledo to get away with one.

Looking into the future will be difficult for Toledo as long as Finn is out, but Gleason is perfectly cromulent for a start or two. They face Northern Illinois next.

t-1. Ohio Bobcats (LW: 1)

  • High vote: 1 (four)
  • Low vote: 3 (once)
  • Average vote: 2

Ohio has looked impressive in the 2023 campaign, and last week was no different, as they tossed BGSU around like a salad, dressing them down for a 38-7 drubbing.

It was a thorough rinsing, as the Bobcats out-executed the Falcons in all three phases of the game and generally played a more disciplined, efficient form of football to get up to an early 1-0 start in the MAC East race. It’s surprising the Bobcats don’t hold the first spot exclusively, given they hold the majority of the first-place votes, but it’s just been that kind of year.

Ohio is on a BYE week due to their Week 0 game vs. San Diego State earlier this season.

Anonymized ranking

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