Any year where I do updated power rankings, I don’t have to go far to run into weeks where I feel like it’s totally impossible to rank 12 teams in these 12 slots. At the end of the day, somebody’s going to have to be my third-ranked team in the Mid-American Conference but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have many glowing thoughts about my third-ranked MAC team. When we step back and look at how the world works with the powers that be a bigger universities and brands like Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon, what power do you think the third-best MAC team through Week 3 holds anyways?
I say all that to say that I don’t even feel comfortable sharing who my second-ranked MAC team is right now. For all the ways this season has already gone in the three short weeks of the season, there hasn’t been enough to cheer about. All of the MAC vs. P5 games have been stinkers up until Western Michigan’s exciting shootout against Pitt, and giving everybody a reason to finally learn why people are high on Kaleb Eleby’s talent. He throws the ball effectively in different ways, different situations, and beat a quality, P5 opponent for the first time in his career.
The only other MAC team to beat an FBS team during Week 3 was Eastern Michigan over UMass. Miami beat Long Island, Bowling Green beat Murray State, Akron beat Bryant — three FCS victories that should definitely happen, and none of them joined Ohio in the mess it caused last week.
Buffalo didn’t beat the ranked #16 Coastal Carolina (UB’s first ranked opponent that it hosted since 2014 when #8 Baylor visited and won 63-21) but it didn’t get run over either. I don’t know if you’re a believer in “good losses” but if you are, this might be one of them.
Toledo was a huge disappointment. It came into Saturday’s home game as 14-point favorites and ended up losing by 16. Nobody else — not Central Michigan, not Kent State, not Ball State, not Northern Illinois, and not Ohio on Thursday — found an offensive pulse in their Week 3 contests either. The state of the OL play in this league is staring right into the face of everybody that’s paying attention to these results.
The early rankings usually require degrees of preseason thoughts and expectations based on last year’s results, but now it’s time to not consider 2020 at all and let the 2021 results speak for themselves. (Translation: Ball State fans might, uh, I don’t know what you should do right now but you won’t like what happens below.)
While I feel confident in none of the teams ranked 2-11 (I think I’ve got Nos. 1 and 12 right), this post must be posted. Feel free to argue in the comments, but just remember my one main rule about MAC football power rankings: You’re not allowed to be made at them.
Week 4 MAC Football Power Rankings
WESTERN MICHIGAN — WMU’s win over Pitt is the first MAC-over-P5 upset since Eastern Michigan won at Illinois in 2019, and the schools’ first P5 upset since 2016 when the Broncos beat, again, Illinois. Kaleb Eleby had some really nice throws to put his team in good spots, and his receivers (with Skyy Moore re-joining after injury) came through for him in key spots. WMU more than anybody else in the league
MAC-over-P5 wins since 2015
- 2015 — Toledo 16, #18 Arkansas 12
- 2015 — Bowling Green 48, Maryland 27
- 2015 — Toledo 30, Iowa State 23
- 2015 — Bowling Green 35, Purdue 28
- 2016 — WMU 22, Northwestern 21
- 2016 — CMU 30, #22 Oklahoma State 27
- 2016 — Ohio 37, Kansas 21
- 2016 — WMU 34, Illinois 10
- 2017 — CMU 45, Kansas 27
- 2017 — EMU 16, Rutgers 13
- 2017 — Ohio 42, Kansas 30
- 2017 — NIU 21, Nebraska 17
- 2018 — EMU 20, Purdue 19
- 2018 — Akron 29, Northwestern 34
- 2018 — Buffalo 42, Rutgers 13
- 2019 — EMU 34, Illinois 31
- 2021 — WMU 44, Pitt 41
CENTRAL MICHIGAN — CMU’s got a lot of things figured out, but has dropped two games (albeit in two SEC road trips) with one shutout win over an FCS team. Get CMU into MAC play and maybe Jacob Sirmon won’t get sacked so much.
BUFFALO — Holding Coastal Carolina (America’s Team of 2020) to only a three-point game at the end is absolutely not what I had expected for this Buffalo team a few months after the season. I’m going to reconsider some previous thoughts/scares that I had for this team heading into the season and start to be more optimist for its future. RB Dylan McDuffie, a local kid with family members that have made it to the NFL (his brother is a rookie LB for Green Bay) and led Buffalo’s rushing efforts with 92 yards picked up and his third career (and season) rushing touchdown against Coastal. Earlier, this team thrashed its FCS opponent, and lost to Nebraska (don’t like that!).
TOLEDO — The Colorado State game might’ve been one of the most demoralizing efforts I’ve seen out of Toledo in a long, long time. No TDs scored at home for the first time since 2010 (Arizona 41, Toledo 2) and Toledo entered the game as 2-TD favorites. Penalties are a killer, and the OL play has been disastrous (has allowed second-most sacks + tackles for loss in MAC so far). I want to put Toledo lower than this, but the rest of the league won’t let me, so I’ll end on a positive: Toledo’s DL might be the best defensive position group in the MAC.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS — Still gets to say that it beat Georgia Tech, which means NIU also put a transitive scare into Clemson over the weekend. NIU ran into the same Michigan team that dominated WMU 47-14 two weeks ago, and UM beat NIU 63-10. I’m honestly still impressed with last week’s Wyoming game.
KENT STATE — Kent State’s played two top-10 teams on the road and have come away with two touchdowns scored. Not exactly a great look for Sean Lewis (re: moving up in the coaching world) but that’s a topic for another day. The Flashes can still be really good in MAC play, but we’re just not there yet.
MIAMI OH — After closing in on MInnesota in last week’s road loss (31-26), it blew out its FCS opponent this week. Still a lot to ask for out of this RedHawks team as the season goes on, but Army’s going to be a great test for this program. This isn’t the same Army team that likes to sit on 21-7 final scores with 11-minute drives.
EASTERN MICHIGAN — The only other two-win team in the MAC, but the wins are over St. Francis (an FCS team) and UMass (should be an FCS team), so I’m going to be the non-homer and make it my fifth-ranked MAC West team. EMU has also given up 43 points to those two opponents.
BALL STATE — Yes, the defending MAC champions are my lowest-ranked MAC West team on here. In three weeks, this team has shown very little improvement (if at all) and is going in the wrong direction with a roster that’s almost exactly like it had last year during the title run. NIU did a better job against Wyoming in Week 2, and NIU has a better win to show for than the Cardinals do.
BOWLING GREEN — Had 300+ passing yards last week against South Alabama and lost. Beat Murray State which is okay I guess. Still a lot of work to do, generally hasn’t shown enough to prove that it should be out of this bottom-3 territory.
AKRON — Kato Nelson’s out with a lower-body injury, and D.J. Irons stepped in just fine at QB. Akron was tied only 14-14 heading into the fourth quarter, and then scored 21 points late.
OHIO — The only 0-3 team in the league. Ohio showed, very little pulse against Louisiana on an early-season ESPN game. Really impressive things not going on here.