MAC QB Rankings 2023: Dequan Finn, Kurtis Rourke Return to Form in the MAC

Dequan Finn leads the group as Kurtis Rourke charges back near the top in our updated MAC QB Rankings through five weeks of the 2023 season

It’s been five weeks of the MAC football season and we’re back to where we started: Kurtis Rourke and Dequan Finn leading the charge at the quarterback position.

Our weekly iteration of our 2023 MAC QB Rankings is here, taking a look at where they stack up through the first five weeks of the season.

2023 MAC QB Rankings

As with all of our conference rankings and our national quarterback evaluations, the MAC QB rankings below consider everything involved with quarterbacking at the major college football level.

While statistics will be mentioned, they were not the lone deciding factor in ranking the athletes. The list below prefers programs with a solidified quarterback situation and one signal-caller who plays significant snaps against top-tier competition. Two-quarterback systems will always be looked down upon, especially in those cases where an answer has not yet been provided for the long term.

Other factors in these rankings include but are not limited to game film, injury history, play-calling, offensive system knowledge and continuity, general quarterbacking mechanics, level of competition, the elevation of supporting casts, and several other influential factors.

All QB Rankings: ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC | AAC | C-USA | MAC | MWC | Sun Belt | FBS Ind. 

Tier 1: The Elite MAC QBs

1) Dequan Finn | Toledo

Last Week’s Ranking: 1st (no change)

Yards: 960 | TDs: 10 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 66.4% | YPA: 8.7

As crazy as it sounds, Dequan Finn hasn’t played his best ball yet in 2023. Still, the Toledo Rockets are a mere defensive stand away from being 5-0 and their only loss is a heartbreaker against Illinois to open the year.

Finn is fresh off his best performance to date, however. Against Northern Illinois in Week 5, Finn completed 80% of his passes for two scores and 281 yards, averaging a whopping 14.1 yards per attempt. He slung it to every level of the field and found his receivers in space all over.

He’s a dynamic quarterback with his elite arm talent and has his Rockets firing on all cylinders on offense.

2) Kurtis Rourke | Ohio

Last Week’s Ranking: 2nd (no change)

Yards: 609 | TDs: 5 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 64.4% | YPA: 7.0

With an off week in Week 5, Kurtis Rourke and the Ohio Bobcats got some rest to recover after a thrashing of Bowling Green in Week 4. That last time we saw Rourke, he was back to the same Rourke that would have won them their Week 0 game against San Diego State and the same one that led them to the MAC Championship Game last season.

He’s a dynamic thrower and far more accurate than even last season so far in 2023. Rourke seems to be back to full health and ready to lead this MAC team to new heights once again. Can he stay healthy and finally overtake Finn at the top? Either way, the fans and viewers will be the benefactors as these two duel it out.

Tier 2: Well-Above-Average MAC QBs

3) Brett Gabbert | Miami (OH)

Last Week’s Ranking: 4th (+1)

Yards: 1,062 | TDs: 10 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 59.0% | YPA: 10.1

Brett Gabbert is back to playing the level of football that won the Miami RedHawks a MAC Championship. That’s a scary thought, considering their talent on defense and their offensive line play to date.

Gabbert is seeing the field well and picking his shots at will. He’ll lull defenses to sleep with his underneath passing game before hitting the deep shot to his skill players on the outside or over the middle all the same. Miami, with Gabbert leading them, is a team to watch as a dark horse for the MAC Championship.

4) DJ Irons (Jeff Undercuffler) | Akron

Last Week’s Ranking: 5th (+1)

Yards: 722 | TDs: 3 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 66.2% | YPA: 5.4

Prior to leaving the game against Buffalo with an injury, DJ Irons quite literally did it all against the Bulls. Irons has been the lifeblood of the Zips offense this season, throwing for three scores and rushing for two more. However, as MAC play goes on, it’s likely his style of play couldn’t last long.

Jeff Undercuffler entered the fray and couldn’t quite move the ball against Buffalo. Irons will desperately be needed for this team to see any kind of success in MAC play this season.

Tier 3: Above-Average MAC QBs

5) Cole Snyder | Buffalo

Last Week’s Ranking: 3rd (-2)

Yards: 1,075 | TDs: 11 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 60.5% | YPA: 5.7

In fairness to Cole Snyder, he rallied his troops in overtime against Akron and came out victorious for the first time this season. That was inevitable as Snyder hasn’t been playing as bad as the box scores and final results may indicate.

Snyder had some bad interception luck early this season, yet he’s continued his same gunslinging mentality and hasn’t lost a stitch of confidence. He’s still finding his receivers well and faring well over the middle of the field. If Snyder can use the Akron performance as a catalyst for success, this is the lowest we’ll find him in these rankings.

6) Connor Bazelak | Bowling Green

Last Week’s Ranking: 6th (no change)

Yards: 762 | TDs: 4 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 58.9% | YPA: 6.8

Aided by a strong defense, the Bowling Green Falcons got a big Power Five victory over Georgia Tech in Week 5. Connor Bazelak threw for one touchdown and kept the ball out of the opponent’s hands in a sound performance.

Bazelak took what the defense gave him and rebounded quite nicely from a poor performance against Ohio. What separates Bazelak from others in the MAC is his decision-making, something that appeared much better against Georgia Tech than we’ve seen from him in four games with Bowling Green.

Tier 4: Average MAC QBs

7) Bert Emanuel Jr., Jase Bauer | Central Michigan

Last Week’s Ranking: 7th (no change)

Yards: 599 | TDs: 2 | INT: 1 | Comp. %: 60.0% | YPA: 7.0

It’s been Jase Bauer’s show since we last came together in our MAC QB Rankings, garnering the majority of the reps against South Alabama and starting a dramatic victory over Eastern Michigan in Week 5. Bauer has improved his throwing mechanics this season, notably his vision downfield, yet he remains a more dynamic rusher at this moment.

He’s scored six rushing touchdowns over the past three games, but has led them to two straight victories. As MAC play heats up, this team will undoubtedly hope Bauer’s improved ability to pass continues its upward trend; otherwise, the flair for dramatics could get them in trouble.

8) Austin Smith | Eastern Michigan

Last Week’s Ranking: 8th (no change)

Yards: 642 | TDs: 3 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 60.4% | YPA: 5.8

For years now, Eastern Michigan’s quarterback situation has been an above-average group. There have been some quarterbacks that exceed their short-area passing game’s expectations, while others have fared well enough with their quick reads to win games.

While Austin Smith has shown he’s capable of making the correct reads more often than not, he’s failed to exceed expectations and hasn’t elevated any talent around him. He’s managing the games for EMU, but he’s yet to take that next step with his passing ability.

9) Treyson Bourguet | Western Michigan

Last Week’s Ranking: 12th (+3)

Yards: 676 | TDs: 4 | INT: 1 | Comp. %: 54.8% | YPA: 7.3

Aiding a resurgent Western Michigan team, Treyson Bourguet has improved the outlook for WMU since he took over against Iowa in Week 3. Sure, they’re 1-2 in his starts, but Bourguet has made the Broncos a team on the rise and a scary team to play if you have any defensive lapses in the secondary.

Bourguet has thrown for 676 yards and four touchdowns this season, with the majority of that coming in Week 5 against a Ball State secondary that had fared incredibly well given their Power Five schedule to start the season. He can find his receivers well inside and outside the structure of the offense, but we’ll temper our expectations until we see Bourguet consistently deliver accurate passes this season.

10) Rocky Lombardi | Northern Illinois

Last Week’s Ranking: 10th (no change)

Yards: 824 | TDs: 3 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 55.0% | YPA:6.3

The revolving door at QB for Northern Illinois appears to be shut by Rocky Lombardi, and we’ll see how that goes as the season carries on. Lombardi hadn’t quite taken the reins of this offense until a Week 5 performance against Toledo where he threw for two touchdowns and over 250 yards.

He’s got a lot of atoning to do for his early-season performance this year, yet the Huskies were a mere field goal away form defeating the Rockets with Lombardi leading the charge.

11) Michael Alaimo | Kent State

Last Week’s Ranking: 9th (-2)

Yards: 763 | TDs: 1 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 56.0% | YPA: 7.0

Michael Alaimo hasn’t been terrible for Kent State this season. That need be stated. However, Alaimo has missed a few too many throws and left too much on the table to be considered anything further than an average quarterback in the MAC as of right now.

Alaimo has shown his arm talent on crossing routes and intermediate throws, but he certainly loses velocity and accuracy if he goes any deeper than that. Bringing things back to basics and taking the air out of the ball may be the key to success and rebuilding this team’s confidence.

Tier 5: Work-To-Be-Done MAC QBs

12) Layne Hatcher, Kadin Semonza  | Ball State

Last Week’s Ranking: 11th (-1)

Yards: 434 | TDs: 3 | INT: 0 | Comp. %: 67.7% | YPA: 7.0

It wasn’t a terrible outing for Layne Hatcher in Week 5, but this team certainly needs some answers long-term at the quarterback position. Hatcher may be the band aid over a gaping wound that is the 2023 season as Ball State lacks an identity on offense, but after a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule and an opening week loss in conference, hope is dwindling.

We knew there would be growing pains with Ball State leaning into Kadim Semonza as their starter, but the game appears too fast for him at the moment. Hatcher, a stopgap at this point of his career, could at least make this Ball State team formidable in the MAC, as their defense surely has some playmakers.