Preseason Power Rankings: MAC
Please note that power rankings are meant to rank teams based on current team strength on a neutral field. It is not necessarily a projection of where I think teams will finish or who has a better resume. It is forward thinking but does not factor in strength of schedule, schedule breakdown, etc.
ICYMI Other Conference Preseason Power Rankings:
2022 MAC Preseason Power Rankings
- Toledo: NIU fans will be mad that I don’t have the Huskies at #1 and I can understand why given what they did last year and what they have returning. But I just like the upside of Toledo a little bit more this year. Toledo is loaded with talent on their roster as a result of having the #1 recruiting class in the MAC 5 of the last 6 years. It’s time for HC Candle to breakthrough and win a championship. Last year I bet them to win the conference and go over on wins and they let me down both times. At times, they looked like the best team in the conference by blowing out Western Michigan and only losing by 3 points to Notre Dame. But they lost 4 games in which they were a 9+ point favorite. They need to clean that up and play to their potential. They return 15 starters this year including playmaker QB Finn who threw for 18 TD and ran for 9 more last year. They also return 4 of 5 starters on the OL which helped the team average more than 200 yards rushing/game in 2021. The offense averaged 35.1 ppg and 461 ypg and bring back many of the key pieces. On defense they have Phil Steele’s #1 ranked defense and defensive line in the conference. This is the most talented team in the conference and it’s time for them to play like it.
- Northern Illinois: NIU had probably the most impressive turnaround last year (even more than Utah State). After going 0-6 in 2020 they surprised everyone by winning the MAC Championship in 2021. Michigan State transfer QB Rocky Lombardi came in and had a huge impact on the team. This year’s team returns Lombardi, along with 17 other starters, which is the most in the MAC West. They were actually -19.3 ypg in conference play last year though, which suggests they we’re a little lucky to end up with the record that they did. They lost 2021 MAC Freshman of the Year RB Jay Drucker to Memphis but with an OLine unit returning that should be the best in the MAC they shouldn’t have much trouble running the ball. They return 10 starters on defense, but they struggled there last year allowing 33.7 ppg & 453 ypg. They brought in a new defensive coordinator and expect to improve on that side of the ball in 2022. They will need to. Overall I think this is a really good team, but they overperformed slightly in 2021. They won’t be sneaking up on teams anymore and instead will have a target on their back as the reigning conference champs. I give a slight edge to Toledo because I think their roster is a little more talented, but the Toledo @ NIU homecoming game in Dekalb on October 8th will be a lot of fun!
- Central Michigan: It’s kind of a bummer that the Top 3 teams are all in the West. It could make for a less exciting championship game as the MAC hasn’t moved to division-less football quite yet. CMU had a nice season last year going 8-4 and then getting a surprise win vs Washington State in the Sun Bowl (after the Barstool bowl they were scheduled to play in got cancelled). They return dynamic QB Daniel Richardson & FBS leading rusher Lew Nichols (1844-5.4-16 TD). To complement Nichols will be the return of 2019 1K rusher Kobe Lewis who missed all of 2021 with an injury. That’s quite an impressive backfield to go along with a pretty experienced offensive line. But they lose their dynamic playmaking WR/KR Pimpleton and their top 5 tacklers on defense. They will have to figure something out on defense to surpass Toledo & Northern Illinois but this team has plenty of potential.
- Miami (OH): Miami is 21-8 in their L29 MAC games and last year they were a missed 2-point conversion in their 48-47 loss to Kent State away from appearing in the MAC title game. They rallied to beat North Texas in their bowl game and finish the year 7-6. They return 14 starters including stud QB Brett Gabbert (Blaine’s brother), who is a MAC player of the year candidate having already passed for more than 5,000 yards and 41 TD in his career. He loses his top WR Sorensen but PSU transfer Mac Hippenhammer (name of the year candidate) should slide in to that role. The OLine returns 4 starters who started every game last season. That returning familiarity up front is huge, especially since so much of their success will hinge on keeping their stud QB healthy. The downside is that they return only 5 starters on defense and play only 5 home games this season. But despite the holes on defense, this team still appears to be the most talented in the East division.
- Western Michigan: Tim Lester got Western Michigan bowl eligible for the 8th time in 8 seasons last year and the Broncos actually led the conference at +141 ypg. They also beat the two division winners by 21 & 33 points in their up and down season. This year they lose their QB, top 3 WR, and 3 OLineman and return only 11 starters. They do bring back their great RB duo of Tyler & Jefferson that combined for just under 2,000 yards last year which should be a huge part of their offense in 2022. They also return 7 starters to a defensive unit which should be one of the better ones in a conference that doesn’t play much defense.
- Buffalo: Prior to last season Buffalo lost HC Leipold to Kansas and a bunch of players followed him by way of the transfer portal. HC Linguist wasn’t hired until May so he had no Spring football and only a few months before the season started. This is more like his first real season in his position. They return only 3 starters on offense and lost their QB, 1K RB, and 4 OLinemen (though they did have some good success getting OL to transfer in). On defense they return 6 starters, including LB Patterson, and added some transfers in the secondary. With a full offseason to learn the new system, this team should be better coached. Linguist is recruiting well but will probably need some time to build up the roster. They only have 5 home games this season and I think this year will have its ups and downs for the Bulls.
- Kent State: The Golden Flashes won the East last year, but lost to NIU in the Conference Championship game and then to Wyoming in their bowl game. They have built an identity of playing really fast and scoring a lot of points (but also allowing a lot of points as well). It’s hard to believe they won their division considering the defense allowed 36.3 ppg & 472 ypg last season, but the offense was good enough to overcome that. This year they return only 10 starters and lose QB Dustin Crum and 2 of their top 3 WR. The reports are that incoming QB Collin Schlee has impressed and he should be able to put up big numbers in that system. But the defense will need to improve to give the team a chance with so much turnover on offense. They brought in a new defensive coordinator from Northern Iowa. The Panthers always have played tough defense in the Missouri Valley Conference and are a strong FCS program so maybe he will be able to improve things on that side of the ball. The AD sold his team out for a paycheck by scheduling games @ Washington, @ Oklahoma, and @ Georgia in September so hopefully the team can physically survive that and aren’t too beat up by the time conference play rolls around.
- Ohio: Last year their head coach Frank Solich retired due to health reasons so their OC Albin slid in abruptly. He’s back this year and now he’s had some time to get his feet underneath him. They bring back 14 returning starters. Last year they split time at QB between Rourke (who was more of a passer) and Armani Rogers (who was more of a runner). Rourke is back but Rogers is gone. While Rogers was very talented (he pretty much beat Buffalo by himself last year and easily cashed our +9 bet) his departure will force the Bobcats to pick a lane offensively as they had such contrasting styles. On defense they bring back 9 starters and have added 2 big ten transfers. This team has the potential to surprise and sneak up these rankings of things click for them.
- Bowling Green: The Falcons showed signs of improvement after a really tough 2020 campaign. They improved to 4-8 and we’re more competitive averaging -57.6 ypg in MAC play (8th in conference). They also got a road win at Minnesota. This year they return 18 starters, including a sixth year QB that came with HC Loeffler from Boston College. They are #1 in the FBS in returning offensive stats per Phil Steele. On defense, they showed a lot of improvement last year. They improved from 45 ppg allowed to 30.7 ppg allowed and from 476 yards per game allowed to 374 yards per game allowed. With 9 starters coming back, it’s reasonable to expect these stats to continue to improve in 2022. They have a tough schedule, but things seem to be heading in the right direction for the Falcons.
- Eastern Michigan: EMU is coming off a 7-6 2021 campaign that concluded with a blowout bowl game loss to Liberty. They we’re -58.1 ypg in MAC play last year (#10 in the conference). They return 14 starters, but lose their QB to Cincinnati. To counter this, they brought in transfer QB Taylor Powell who has played at both Missouri & Troy to give them some FBS experience at the position. Fortunately they do bring back their top 4 pass catchers and 4 of their starting offensive linemen. An interesting stat is that Eastern Michigan was #2 in the FBS last season in fewest penalties (only 3.85 per game). This well-coached, disciplined style of play could be the difference in a few games this year with so many MAC teams being very close in my power ratings. The talent is close with many of these teams. The little things will matter.
- Ball State: In the 2020 Covid season, Ball State surprised everyone by winning the MAC and their bowl game. Expectations we’re high heading into last season with 20 returning starters back from a championship team but they fell to 5-7. This year the lost their 4-year starting QB Plitt & all-time career leading WR Hall and return only 11 starters (worst in the MAC). It’s tough to draw too many conclusions about their projected players since so few of them have played, but on paper this certainly looks like a rebuilding year for the Cardinals.
- Akron: Akron improved (yes, improved) to 2-10 last season and are bringing in a new head coach in Joe Moorhead. Moorhead has a ton of coaching experience with a 52-25 record at Fordham & Mississippi State and was also a play caller for conference champion Penn State & Oregon teams, as well as an assistant at Akron in 2005 when they won the MAC. This looks like a good hire to me. He added a ton of transfers this year (22, at last count) to go along with 8 returning starters on both sides of the ball. That’s a good amount of experience and lots of new faces to push those guys for playing time. It will probably take him some time in his first season, but I like the hire and the direction of the program.