MAC QB Rankings 2023: Dequan Finn Stands Tall at No. 1

    Dequan Finn leads the final MAC QB Rankings of the 2023 regular season as he leads his Toledo Rockets into the MAC Championship Game.

    Our weekly iteration of our 2023 MAC QB Rankings is here, taking a look at where they stack up through 13 weeks of the season. The MAC Championship is set, and the No. 1 QB in the conference is ready to lead his team to back-to-back titles.

    By all accounts, it wasn’t the best season we’ve seen from MAC QBs across the board, but plenty of moments will live on forever.

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    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 are listed, 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: 1-133 | ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC | AAC | C-USA | MAC | MWC | Sun Belt | FBS Ind. 

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    Tier 1: The Elite MAC QBs

    1) Dequan Finn | Toledo

    Last Week’s Ranking: 1st (no change)
    Yards: 2,384 | TDs: 21 | INT: 8 | Comp. %: 65.1% | YPA: 8.5

    There isn’t much more to say about Dequan Finn, except to point out how exceptional he’s been for Toledo. Despite a lackluster final week of the regular season, Finn pushed his team to a convincing victory over Central Michigan as he rolls into the MAC Championship Game for the second season in a row.

    Finn completed 9 of 17 passes for 97 yards but ran for another 24 and still scored a touchdown through the air. On the season, Finn has done exactly what his team has asked of him and more.

    He’s thrown for over 2,000 yards in the third straight season, setting a career-high with 2,384 already in 2023. His 21 touchdowns through the air don’t match his career-best of 23 last year, but he has taken care of the ball more than ever.

    Finn sees the field incredibly well, is a documented speedster, and one of the top signal-callers in this generation of MAC QBs. He can put a stamp on his elite college football career with another MAC Championship to end the season.

    2) Kurtis Rourke | Ohio

    Last Week’s Ranking: 2nd (no change)
    Yards: 2,207 | TDs: 11 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 63.5% | YPA: 7.2

    It wasn’t always pretty in 2023, but Kurtis Rourke orchestrated a 9-3 record for the Ohio Bobcats nonetheless. While a few contests could have gone the other way for Ohio — going as far back as the season opener against San Diego State — the MAC slipped out of their hand with Rourke’s unavailability due to injury this season.

    When on the field and at his best, Rourke lit up the field with his standard accuracy and timely power on his passes. Rourke is a dynamic athlete and one of the best quarterbacks when he was at his best, it was just too far and few between in 2023.

    Tier 2: Well-Above-Average MAC QBs

    The drop-off from Finn and Rourke to the next-closest MAC QB is steep. As such, we’re uncomfortable placing any of the next-tier QBs into Tier 2 here.

    Tier 3: Above-Average MAC QBs

    3) Rocky Lombardi | Northern Illinois

    Last Week’s Ranking: 5th (+2)
    Yards: 2,074 | TDs: 10 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 57.9% | YPA: 7.0

    Save for a costly fumble, Rocky Lombardi played a well-rounded game for Northern Illinois in Week 13. Lombardi took care of the ball through the air and picked his shots well. The Huskies are going bowling because of Lombardi’s ability to find his receivers in crucial spots and down the field.

    Expect Lombardi to continue this winning formula in their bowl game because, even though the box score doesn’t show it, it was a fine performance from him. He didn’t get much help from his receivers after the catch nor at the catch point, and that should be a focus of emphasis for the NIU staff in the offseason.

    As it stands right now, Lombardi earned his sixth win as the starter this season and has NIU on the right path. It won’t go down as a career year for him, but it certainly will go down as a serviceable season for the longtime college football QB.

    4) Jase Bauer | Central Michigan

    Last Week’s Ranking: 4th (no change)
    Yards: 1,881 | TDs: 12 | INT: 8 | Comp. %: 56.7% | YPA: 6.5

    It just wasn’t meant to be for Central Michigan this season, battling through injuries and some hard-fought contests at will. Jase Bauer did a remarkable job thrust into action midway through the season, taking over as the starter following a rough outing against Notre Dame.

    The Chippewas went as Bauer went in 2023, winning games in which he took care of the ball or flashed with his legs. Though that was a bit too inconsistent to make it to a bowl game, Bauer certainly showed enough to put him firmly in charge as we head to the offseason in Mount Pleasant.

    A talented runner, Bauer showed growth with his arm down the stretch, taking something off his passes in a great come-from-behind effort against Western Michigan down the stretch.

    5) Connor Bazelak, Camden Orth | Bowling Green

    Last Week’s Ranking: 6th (+1)
    Yards: 1,714 | TDs: 11 | INT: 7 | Comp. %: 61.0% | YPA: 7.0

    The Bowling Green Falcons reached bowl eligibility with two weeks left and added to their stock with a dominant win over Western Michigan in the final game of the regular season. The two-quarterback system for Bowling Green worked down the stretch, with Connor Bazelak vastly improving down the stretch.

    Bazelak threw for 11 touchdowns in the regular season, flashing his typical anticipatory nature with some touch throws to the boundary, most notably to TE Harold Fannin Jr. After much travel in his career, the former Missouri and Indiana quarterback hit the 9,000-yard career passing yardage mark in the final game of the regular season and put the Falcons into a middle tier bowl game in the process.

    Camden Orth finished the season with a single start while playing in 11 of 12 games. Orth ran for five scores in his Wildcat-QB packages while still throwing for five touchdowns. Though he struggled to find much consistency through the air, Orth’s insertion into the lineup consistently threw a curveball to defenses who had to shift gears and — at times — failed to figure out this two-QB system.

    6) Aveon Smith | Miami (OH)

    Last Week’s Ranking: 3rd (-3)
    Yards: 529 | TDs: 2 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 52.5% | YPA: 6.6

    Aveon Smith didn’t have his finest day throwing the ball for Miami in Week 13. In fact, it might have been the worst showing of his career yet. The RedHawks ride into the MAC Championship Game on the heels of a two-interception performance and a day of questionable decisions.

    However, there is hope. The Ball State secondary is criminally underrated and has made even the top-tier quarterbacks look suspect at times this season. Smith must shake off that performance as they head into the title game against a vaunted Toledo front.

    The Rockets have the players capable of confusing quarterbacks and taking advantage of errant throws. If Smith can rely on his ability to make the right throw when he breaks contain, he’ll have a chance against Toledo.

    Tier 4: Average MAC QBs

    7) Austin Smith | Eastern Michigan

    Last Week’s Ranking: 8th (+1)
    Yards: 1,775 | TDs: 9 | INT: 7 | Comp. %: 57.4% | YPA: 6.0

    Finishing the regular season on a high note, Austin Smith led Eastern Michigan to bowl eligibility with a Week 13 victory over a hapless Buffalo team. Despite throwing a touchdown, Smith didn’t have his best outing against the Bulls.

    He was a solid contributor through the air in 2023, and Smith’s best moments seemed to come on the ground for the Eagles. Smith ran for just two scores but picked and chose his rush attempts carefully regarding scrambles and performed admirably on designed QB carries.

    Still, Smith flashed some talent with his arm during the regular season when he needed to. He could carve up defenses when he’s presented with plenty of time in the pocket and looking progressively over the middle of the field. If plays broke down, however, Smith’s vision faltered and he was too reliant upon his legs to make plays.

    Despite all this, the foundation is there for Smith to make something happen in 2024 for Eastern Michigan.

    8) Hayden Wolff | Western Michigan

    Last Week’s Ranking: 7th (-1)
    Yards: 1,505 | TDs: 8 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 65.5% | YPA: 6.7

    What could have been for Western Michigan was not to be in 2023. The Broncos finished the regular season with a disappointing showing against Bowling Green, most notably from QB Hayden Wolff. The starter over the last five games, though he played the majority of the snaps in Week 6 and beyond, Wolff struggled with any form of consistency in 2023.

    Even at his best, Wolff was erratic. Against Central Michigan, Wolff tossed three first-half scores but followed that up with a poor second half that almost squandered the game away. In the end, Wolff’s place in the lineup came too late in the year, and WMU missed a bowl game by losing five of their last seven games and four of their last six against MAC opponents.

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

    9) Kiael Kelly | Ball State

    Last Week’s Ranking: 9th (no change)
    Yards: 577 | TDs: 2 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 53.2% | YPA: 4.7

    We wrote last week that the Ball State Cardinals needed to figure out easy throwing lanes and keep Kiael Kelly moving in order to see success. Against Miami in Week 13, they didn’t quite do that, and Kelly struggled to make throws downfield with any accuracy.

    Worst yet, his decision-making was flawed and Kelly threw two costly interceptions from the pocket. The season had promise for the Cardinals, and obviously, their quarterback situation didn’t pan out for them.

    Kelly is a dynamic athlete, and his future may be bright with his athleticism. However, his mechanics need a lot of offseason work, and his decision-making will have to jump up to at least average for him to be considered anything other than a gifted runner from the quarterback position.

    10) Michael Alaimo, Tommy Ulatowski, Devin Kargman  | Kent State

    Last Week’s Ranking: 10th (no change)
    Yards: 737 | TDs: 7 | INT: 2 | Comp. %: 49.6% | YPA: 6.1

    It was a season to forget for the Kent State Golden Flashes. Neither of the quarterbacks could produce much in the form of above-average quarterback play, and the team suffered from a lack of talent all around them.

    Michael Alaimo flashed his ability at times, but he was far too inconsistent to win anything. Tommy Ulatowski wasn’t scared of anything and proved to be a true gunslinger.

    Devin Kargman got the season’s final start and put some interesting throws on tape to potentially look forward to. The roster is barren, but Kargman’s ability to find his receivers downfield and throw into some tight windows against Northern Illinois gives pause as to why he wasn’t given more reps.

    Something has to give for the Golden Flashes for them to make football fun again, and we’re not sure if any of these quarterbacks will be a part of that.

    11) Jeff Undercuffler Jr. | Akron

    Last Week’s Ranking: 11th (no change)
    Yards: 1,378 | TDs: 4 | INT: 9 | Comp. %: 61.6% | YPA: 6.2

    At times, Jeff Undercuffler Jr. looked the part of a solid MAC starting QB in 2023. However, those were marred by inconsistent decisions and some inaccurate passes that ultimately was the undoing of the Akron season this fall.

    Undercuffler has strength in the pocket to stand tall and deliver shots downfield but was hardly able to showcase that ability with pressure on him too quickly or no separation created from his receivers. In his final outing of the season, Undercufler fared well but was under pressure far too often and had to be Super-man against Ohio.

    That is a recipe for disaster and was all too often the outcome of seemingly every Akron game in 2023.

    12) Cole Snyder, CJ Ogbonna | Buffalo

    Last Week’s Ranking: 12th (no change)
    Yards: 2,109 | TDs: 13 | INT: 9 | Comp. %: 54.6% | YPA: 5.7

    What a mess it was for Buffalo in 2023. Cole Snyder entered the season with incredibly high aspirations after throwing for over 3,000 yards in 2022. However, his accuracy and decision-making were erratic and beyond questionable at times.

    Inconsistency led to more snaps for CJ Ogbonna as Snyder went five different starts without a touchdown toss in 2023. Ogbonna was certainly limited as a passer, completing just 8-of-21 attempts, and struggled to make the right reads on the ground.

    When it all came to a head, Snyder still presented the best chance for the Bulls to win any games in 2023 with his powerful arm. However, they limped to a 3-9 record after Snyder and Ogbonna showed time and time again that they couldn’t string together completions past the sticks this year.

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