We’re yet to get into those dark, cold, October days where midweek MACtion fills our screens and hearts, but the action in the Mid American Conference is as unmissable as always. Who are the standard bearers and who can we barely stand to watch?
Our MAC Power Rankings tell the story of the season so far.
MAC Power Rankings 2023
Our MAC Power Rankings for the 2023 college football season take into account a number of factors. Overall record is a consideration, but roster talent and depth, coaching staff, strength of schedule, plus offensive and defensive efficiency are taken into consideration in our latest update.
12) Kent State Golden Flashes
Preseason Ranking: 12th
With the departure of offensive coordinator Sean Lewis to Colorado, and a host of their most talented players following him out the door via the transfer portal, 2023 was always going to be a tough year for the Kent State Golden Flashes.
They started the year at rock bottom of our MAC Power Rankings and remain there.
They have an FCS win on their résumé but have been handily turned over by every FBS opponent. The defense has haemorrhaged points, and their 15.0 points per game is bolstered by the 38 put up in that lone win.
11) Western Michigan Broncos
Preseason Ranking: 8th
With two Power Five programs and reigning MAC champion Toledo on their early schedule, it hasn’t been easy sledding for the Western Michigan Broncos in their first season under Lance Taylor. They’re 1-3 heading into Week 5, with a win over FCS St. Francis (PA) as their only victory so far this year.
Running back Jalen Buckley has proven a bright spot in what has been a fairly consistent shellacking at the hands of, with no disrespect to the Broncos, significantly better opposition.
While MAC play might give them some opportunities to show their true ability, their opening performances see West Michigan slide three places in our updated MAC Power Rankings.
10) Northern Illinois Huskies
Preseason Ranking: 5th
Our initial MAC Power Rankings had the Northern Illinois Huskies ranked fifth on the basis of a projected bounce-back year and the return to health of some of the key elements of their team. Positive noises out of DeKalb also appeared to be the sound of sweet success when the Huskies beat Boston College to open the year.
That turned out to say more about the Eagles than Northern Illinois as Thomas Hammock’s team has slumped to three consecutive defeats — including to FCS opponent Southern Illinois. Offense has been a restrictive issue, with standout RB Antonio Brown limping to 2.9 yards per carry, and the team mustering just 15.8 points per game on average.
9) Buffalo Bulls
Preseason Ranking: 3rd
Our 2023 MAC Power Rankings are not based solely on overall record, as we explained in the introduction, but whatever way you cut the cake, an 0-4 record after Week 4 doesn’t taste too sweet for the Buffalo Bulls. We’d high hopes of them continuing on an upward trajectory in our preseason edition, but they look far from up to the task of finishing as the third best team.
A defense that has so often been the strong suit of the team has given up an ungodly amount of points so far this season, with Wisconsin’s 38 points in Week 1 actually the fewest allowed by Maurice Linquist’s team so far this season.
They’ve lacked some luck on offense, with QB Cole Snyder playing better than the box score suggests. Nonetheless, there’s tough tests down the road.
8) Ball State Cardinals
Preseason Ranking: 9th
The start to the 2023 college football was always going to be beyond challenging for the Ball State Cardinals, with an out of conference scheduled that featured two SEC programs including the reigning national champions.
Unsurprisingly, both of those games resulted in a convincing loss — although they held Georgia scoreless in the first quarter of their Week 2 clash.
While a convincing loss to their Power Five opponent might have been expected, they should be more competitive against other Group of Five competition than the 40-3 beatdown suffered at the hands of Georgia Southern. Giving up 40+ points per game validates concerns about a secondary that lost key pieces ahead of the season.
7) Akron Zips
Preseason Ranking: 11th
While most of the teams mentioned in our MAC Power Rankings so far have failed to live up to preseason expectations, Akron has actually outperformed them. That might seem like a strange thing to say about a team that is 1-3 with just an FCS win on their 2023 résumé, but there have been seasons in the not too distance past where the Zips failed to achieve even that.
Alongside the Morgan State win, Joe Moorhead’s team has played Power Five opposition close. Indiana needed overtime to undo the Zips, while they restricted Kentucky to fewer points than Ball State achieved.
Although their offense has been lackluster in putting up points on the board, Lorenzo Lingard has finally showcased some of his high school talent in his new home.
6) Bowling Green Falcons
Preseason Ranking: 7th
After going behind 24-0 to arguably the best team in the CUSA, Liberty, in their season opener, Bowling Green rallied to a respectable scoreline against Jamey Chadwell’s team. Sadly, a comfortable win over FCS opposition aside, the Falcons have had their wings clipped early on in the 2023 college football season.
They didn’t disgrace themselves against Michigan, probably the most difficult opponent faced by a MAC team so far in the fall, but Scott Loeffler’s team has lost the last two games by more than three touchdowns.
There’s talent on the team on both sides of the ball, but something might need to change — particularly on offense — to maximize the potential in this locker room.
5) Eastern Michigan Eagles
Preseason Ranking: 4th
Chris Creighton has made the Eastern Michigan a perennial contender in the MAC, but there’s some challenges to overcome that have thwarted them early this season. An expected win over HBCU program Howard in Week 1 has been followed with three uninspiring performances, with mixed results.
An offensive shutout at the hands of the Jacksonville State defense followed a loss to Minnesota and a closer-that-expected win over UMass. While that unit has been impressive, a team like Eastern Michigan should not be held to under 200 yards and zero points by a fledgling FBS program.
Offensive improvements need to come quickly for the Eagles.
4) Central Michigan Chippewas
Preseason Ranking: 10th
Central Michigan was ranked 10th in our preseason MAC Power Ranking after their worst season under head coach Jim McElwain. However, the Chippewas have already outperformed expectations by going 2-2 in a tough out-of-conference campaign.
The 31-7 scoreline in the opening weekend defeat to Michigan State actually flattered their Big Ten opponent.
A Week 4 win over South Alabama boosts them further up the ranking than we ever imagined. The Jaguars were expected to be one of the best Group of Five programs and an NY6 challenger, but QB Jase Bauer’s ground game contributions led the Chips to a famous win.
Meanwhile, Kyle Moretti and Donte Kent continue to live up to preseason expectation as defensive leaders.
3) Miami (OH) RedHawks
Preseason Ranking: 6th
The Miami (OH) RedHawks have recorded eight consecutive season with a record of .500 or above, and they’re off to a great start in continuing that streak. Their schedule features three of the top teams in our initial MAC Power Rankings, but Chuck Martin’s team’s performance so far mean that they’re now one of the top three teams.
After losing to Miami (FL) to open the season, the RedHawks have been impressive, sweeping aside UMass in a way that some other MAC teams haven’t before recording a famous win on the road against Cincinnati. QB Brett Gabbert has returned in imperious form, carving up opposition defenses with top-target Gage Larvadain.
An October 28 clash with Ohio is one to circle.
2) Toledo Rockets
Preseason Ranking: 1st
Although Miami (OH) has elevated themselves to third in our MAC Power Rankings, there’s a clear top two once again in the conference with little to choose between the two programs that contested the title game last year. The reigning champions came in as the team to beat, and although they’ve proved a potent force, they slip back to second overall in our latest update.
That might seem a little unfair, and I can understand why Toledo fans might be upset. They played Big Ten heavyweight Illinois close in a road loss to open the season, and whether it’s been Dequan Finn or Tucker Gleason under center the offense has put up points. However, they didn’t pull away from Western Michigan until late in their conference opener, and they’ve twice allowed 30+ points already this year.
1) Ohio Bobcats
Preseason Ranking: 2nd
The MAC is Kurtis Rourke’s world and we’re just living in it. We’ll never know if his presence in the MAC title game last year might have provided a different result, but we’re fairly sure they’d be an unbeaten 5-0 team at this point of the 2023 college football season if he’d have suited up in the season-opening loss to San Diego State.
This Bobcats team is simply different with him in it.
While Rourke proves a difference maker for Ohio, it’s their defense that gives them an advantage in our updated MAC Power Rankings. They’ve allowed more than 10 points only once this season, and Bryce Houston has been a force from the linebacker position.
They were convincing to open MAC play with a win over Bowling Green, and have a Power Five scalp in their trophy cabinet after beating Iowa State in Week 3.