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College Football Rankings: MAC Teams In the Countdowns

Each spring USA Today's Paul Myerberg and the Orlando Sentinel's Matt Murshel embark on ranking every FBS team. Let's see how they ranked MAC programs this year.

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Kirk Irwin

College football is a ratings game. From TV ratings to standings in the polls, to standings, it seems everything that happens in college football revolves around a rating of some sort or another. Which is why when it comes to preparing for the season we have so many preseason rankings. From preseason AP and Coaches polls, to big countdowns that try to rank all 128 FBS football teams, there's no shortage of preseason rankings to look at.

USA Today's Paul Myerberg and the Orlando Sentinel's Matt Murschel each undertake the thankless task of previewing and ranking all FBS schools in order from worst to first, as they perceive it. Not only is this a hellacious undertaking logistically, it's a lose-lose situation for both writers as college football is full of fans who have hair-trigger tempers and are just itching to release them on someone for "dissing their program.

But the purpose of this post isn't to rip either writer for their rankings, it's to see how they both view the MAC this fall. With 128 programs in the FCS, there's a wide margin for disagreement amongst these two countdowns, and we see it first hand with the MAC. Below is how both writers ranked each MAC team overall, clicking on the team's name will take you directly to their preview of that team:

USA Today Orlando Sentinel
36 Bowling Green 34 Bowling Green
39 NIU 38 NIU
53 Toledo 46 Ball State
57 Ball State 53 Toledo
71 Ohio 58 Ohio
79 Buffalo 61 CMU
85 CMU 63 Buffalo
94 Akron 79 Akron
107 Kent State 85 Kent State
117 WMU 110 WMU
122 Miami 118 EMU
126 EMU 120 Miami
128 UMass 123 UMass

The two are near identical on the top three to four teams in the MAC, and somewhat similar in how they view the bottom of the MAC, but it's how the look at those inbetweeners—the Ohios, CMUs and Buffaloes of the MAC—that is intriguing.

Both writers view BGSU and NIU as the top two squads in the MAC, and Top 40 programs overall. Both have Toledo at No. 53 overall. USA Today;s Paul Myerberg, citing the losses at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line, sees Ball State slipping ever-so-slightly in 2014, though he still feels Pete Lembo is the best coach not at a major program.

So why does Murschel have Ball State so much higher than Myerberg? Defense. Muschel thinks Ball State has the defense (and favorable schedule) to help ease in road bumps the offense may hit, and allow the team to be right in the thick of the hunt for a MAC title this fall.

Myerberg ranks Ohio at 71, while Merschel has the Bobcats at 58, again because Merschel feels the 'Cats defense—which returns eight starters this fall—can carry the team. Myerberg points to something many Ohio fans feel: that the coaching staff is to blame for much of Ohio's recent issues (this team is 9-10 since starting off 7-0 in 2012):

What happened? Blame the coaching staff, I suppose, but not for any nuts-and-bolts issues with scheme or overall philosophy - blame the staff for an unwillingness to make changes when changes were due, as was the case for the second half of last season.

It's clear things weren't working out last fall, but Frank Solich and crew didn't make any major changes, which could have helped ignite a fire under the team (or could have led to a rapid downward spiral). I think if you go off what Myerberg is saying here, his ranking of Ohio is more logical. There's a TON of questions on the offensive side fo the ball, and while Ohio returns eight defensive starters, it won't be enough to help Ohio compete for an East title without some major improvements on the offensive side of the ball.

There's a ridiculously large gap in how these two view CMU, with Merschel trending more towards the view of the two MAC media members who predicted the Chippewas to win the MAC, and Myerberg siding with the popular view: that Dan Enos, and staff, just don't know how to make all these weapons work together.

Overall Merschel is far kinder to the MAC, with only four teams ranking 100 or worse, and not listing UMass as the worst team in the FBS. But I think Myerberg rankings are more realistic. The fact is, the MAC has struggled when competing outside of its own ranks as of late (0-5 in bowls in 2013).

How do you feel about these rankings? Which writer do you think did a better job of placing your favorite team in the grand college football matrix?