#1 Western Michigan Broncos (12-0, 8-0)
The Broncos rowed the boat to a perfect regular season against Toledo, and they did it in impressive fashion. The Rockets entered the game 9-2, just a few bounces from being undefeated themselves, and the Broncos handed them their third loss of the season in a game that was in hand early in the second half. A targeting call against Caleb Bailey and a lower leg injury to Justin Ferguson leave the Broncos shorthanded for the MAC championship game, which is concerning for a defense that allowed 10 yards per carry to Kareem Hunt on Friday
#2 Ohio Bobcats (8-4, 6-2)
The Bobcats scored just nine points against Akron, but the defense held strong and preserved a six point margin that would send them to the MAC Championship Game against Western Michigan. The Broncos will pose a challenge in all phases of the game for the Bobcats, but the defense should be up to the challenge of stopping Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin at Ford Field this weekend. Ohio ranks in the top five nationally in both sacks and rushing yards per game, and will be far from an easy match up for P.J. Fleck’s squad.
#3 Toledo Rockets (9-3, 6-2)
The loss to Ohio earlier in conference play certainly hurt the Rockets, but in the end it never mattered. This season was always coming down to one thing: beating Western Michigan on the road. Perhaps with a better start to the game - Logan Woodside threw a pick six on the first play from scrimmage - the Rockets could have stayed close on Friday night, but even answering right back with a touchdown was not enough, as for the second straight year a loss in the season’s final game keeps Toledo from playing for a championship.
#4 Miami RedHawks (6-6, 6-2)
The RedHawks stormed back from 0-6 and were an Akron dropped TD pass away from playing for a MAC title. Gus Ragland never lost a game at quarterback in 2016, and the final, narrow win over Ball State means, improbably, the RedHawks are going bowling. It was a little unorthodox, but this was precisely the improvement people needed to see from Chuck Martin’s team. If Miami continues to recruit at a high level, expect to see more of the same. Well, you know, without the starting 0-6 part.
#5 Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-5, 4-4)
The EMU season ended with a win over rival Central Michigan, erasing a bit of the pain from the home losses to Miami and Northern Illinois. Chris Creighton deserves strong consideration for coach of the year as his team won seven games and improved drastically upon the 2015 campaign. It’s important to note the Eagles accomplished all of this without running back Shaq Vann, who was injured early in the season against Missouri. We can all shut up about EMU getting rid of their football program for now.
#6 Northern Illinois Huskies (5-7, 5-3)
NIU, like Miami, found all of its wins in the MAC, proving that while the season was disappointing, this isn’t a program you can count out after the non conference season ends. Going 5-3 after an 0-4 start, and nearly beating MAC West runner up Toledo, Rod Carey may be safe in his job. If the Huskies manage to keep a quarterback healthy for a majority of the season, they could find themselves in Detroit yet again in 2017.
#7 Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6, 3-5)
The season began with so much promise for CMU. They beat Oklahoma State, gained some consideration for the AP poll, got to 3-0, and were set to take on 0-3 Virginia before headed home for a game against hated WMU. How many people thought the Chips would only manage three wins after the home win over UNLV? Nonetheless, Jon Bonamego’s squad is bowl eligible thanks to a big win at home over Ohio, and has another chance to improve his team before next season.
#8 Bowling Green Falcons (4-8, 3-5)
Still want to fire Mike Jinks now? Taking over a new team is a bit like a rebuild on the fly, and that’s pretty difficult. But Jinks’ team improved drastically as the year went on, won three straight games to end the season, and finished with the third best record in the division. After dominating the division for years, I wouldn’t expect the Falcons to just go quietly into the cellar. Plenty to be excited about for next season.
#9 Akron Zips (5-7, 3-5)
The Zips ended the year on a four game losing streak, and managed just five wins after starting the season 4-2. The losses to Bowling Green and Buffalo are glaring, the latter preventing this team from getting to bowl eligibility for the second straight year. They had a chance to ruin Ohio’s season on the road, but managed to score just three points in a game many thought earlier in the year would be a MAC East championship game.
#10 Ball State Cardinals (4-8, 1-7)
Ball State’s losses in conference play to teams not named WMU or Toledo were decided by an average of 5.6 points. I don’t think many expected Ball State to compete at the top of the league, but while 1-7 in conference is truly disappointing, fans should still be encouraged with how close the Cardinals came to stealing a couple of games. Losing by just one point on the road to a Miami team that was still competing for a MAC championship at the end of the year is evidence enough that Mike Neu’s team never quit on the first year coach, an encouraging sign for the future.
#11 Kent State Golden Flashes (3-9, 2-6)
The flashes concluded their season by losing three straight games, finishing just above Buffalo in the MAC East standings. A three-win campaign is not what many had in mind for a senior heavy team with one of the best defenses in the conference. However, a tough non conference schedule that included Penn State and Alabama (both on the road) may have been enough to deflate the win total. With two talented young quarterbacks returning from injury in 2017, this may not be the end of the road for Paul Haynes, even with the poor showing in 2016.
#12 Buffalo Bulls (2-10, 1-7)
Wins over Army and Akron are all the Bulls have to show in Lance Leipold’s second season. Buffalo faced considerable turnover on offense, especially at the quarterback position, and were unable to overcome as the season went on. Tyree Jackson, however, is an encouraging young quarterback that has potential to be a star in the MAC, and Buffalo’s fortunes could fall on his shoulders.