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MAC QB1 Power Rankings: Rain, rain, go away
Lots of playing time for the run-first QBs on Saturday. Brett Gabbert takes top spot, Kurtis Rourke slips after three fourth-quarter INTs at Northern Illinois.
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#1 Brett Gabbert - Miami OH
Brett Gabbert stats (season): 97/158 passing (61.4%), 1,455 yards (9.2 Y/A), 14 TD, 4 INT; 42 rush att., 129 yards (3.07 avg.), 2 rush TD
No more fooling around, it’s time to put Brett Gabbert up here at #1. Through the midpoint of the season he’s the MAC’s leader in touchdown throws (14), passing average (9.2 yards/attempt), and QB rating (162.93) with 129 rushing yards and 2 rush TD.
Against Western Michigan, Gabbert was 20/35 through the air for 223 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, and 2 more scores on the ground. He has a couple of transfer receivers to thank for the success. While many teams are thankful for a breakthrough at a single position, Gage Larvadain (Southeastern Louisiana, FCS), Joe Wilkins (Notre Dame), and Cade McDonald (Michigan State) are all playing at high levels right now — they combine for 64 catches for 1,058 yards and 9 TD.
Gabbert had a poor game against Kent State, but he still hasn’t played with his foot off the gas pedal, and that’s going to be really important this weekend when Toledo comes to Yager Stadium for the first time since 2009.
#2 Dequan Finn - Toledo
Dequan Finn stats (season): 103/160 passing (64.4%), 1,265 yards (7.9 Y/A), 12 TD, 5 INT; 68 rush att., 438 yards (6.44 avg.), 4 rush TD
Dequan Finn is coming off of a head-scratching win at Ball State, especially if we’re scoreboard-watching. For as good as Toledo ought to be and for as low Ball State has looked, a 13-6 final score feels light. Rain was certainly a factor, but Ball State’s coverage came up huge for long stretches in that game. Finn went without a score last week, but he’s still hitting on all the right notes to keep his #2 spot here.
#3 Kurtis Rourke - Ohio
Kurtis Rourke stats (season): 98/155 passing (63.2%), 1,068 yards (6.9 Y/A), 8 TD, 5 INT; 32 rush att., 151 yards (4.72 avg.), 2 rush TD
The MAC scripts itself too damn well sometimes. Down goes Ohio at Northern Illinois, and down goes Kurtis Rourke on this list thanks to three straight interceptions thrown in the fourth quarter. NIU’s defense deserves a lot of credit for not getting beat deep (longest pass: 15 yards) or on the ground (longest rush by an Ohio running back: 9 yards).
Rourke brings plenty of attention to the MAC by being a no-secret NFL Draft prospect with last year’s play, and a game like this might hurt the way scouts view him in April, but a game like this also puts Ohio in a bad spot in the MAC standings. The Bobcats are now 2-1 while Miami’s riding high at 3-0, and the Bobcats really need to win their next two games against WMU and Miami before things theoretically cool off in November (at Buffalo, vs. CMU, at Akron).
#4 Rocky Lombardi - Northern Illinois
Rocky Lombardi stats (season): 97/169 passing (57.4%), 1,187 yards (7 Y/A), 6 TD, 4 INT; 36 rush att., 13 yards (0.36 avg.), 2 rush TD
He’s not really setting the world on fire with his QB play, but Rocky Lombardi’s done a nice job of running this NIU offense without needing all of the huge plays (except I’m sure one or two more big plays against Toledo would maybe have the Huskies in first place in the MAC West). All four of Lombardi’s interceptions came against Southern Illinois (3) and Nebraska (1), and is 46/69 passing in MAC play (66.7%) for 621 yards (9.0 Y/A) with 5 TD throwing and 1 TD rushing.
Against Ohio, Lombardi had a modest 15/23 passing line, and his 58-yard TD throw wasn’t exactly a bomb. On 3rd & 2, NIU ran a play-action pass out of a power-run look, and Grayson Barnes caught the short pass just three yards past the sticks and took it to the house for a score.
#5 The Treyson Bourguet & Hayden Wolff complex - Western Michigan
Treyson Bourguet stats (season): 57/103 passing (55.3%), 713 yards (6.9 Y/A), 4 TD, 1 INT; 36 rush att., 65 yards (1.81 avg.), 0 rush TD
Hayden Wolff stats (season): 43/64 passing (67.2%), 408 yards (6.4 Y/A), 3 TD, 1 INT
Who’s going to be the starting QB moving forward for WMU? Given the changes on offense with the coaching changes and transfer portal movements, it’s not surprising that WMU didn’t have the guy that it wanted to rely on for 12 games out the gate. Both of WMU’s QB options have had essentially in-season auditions to be the leader for this WMU offense and I won’t be surprised if WMU keeps rotating these two guys over the next few games.
(I also wouldn’t be surprised if Hayden Wolff ran away with the starting job in the long-run.)
The combination of Treyson Bourguet and Wolff has been really strong through the air, led by Woff’s MAC-leading completion percentage of 67.2%, is 100/167 passing (60%) for 1,121 yards (6.7 Y/A) with 7 TD and 2 INT. Against Miami, the two QBs were 19/30 for 136 yards, no scores, and no interceptions.
#6 Cole Snyder - Buffalo
Cole Snyder stats (season): 140/237 passing (59.1%), 1,337 yards (5.6 Y/A), 11 TD, 6 INT; 44 rush att., 37 yards (0.84 avg.), 1 rush TD
Like most MAC teams over the weekend, Buffalo used both its QB1 and QB2 to find some answers in the rain. Passing was hardly a reliable option for anybody, and Cole Snyder’s stat line showed it. He only completed a third of his passes: 5/15 for 30 yards. No scores, two interceptions, and a fumble that BG returned to the red zone. Snyder’s best highlight was a 10-yard TD run in the first quarter, but was heavily limited otherwise (-4 rush yards). C.J. Ogbonna’s day wasn’t much better — 4/14 passing, 41 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 29 rush yards.
In MAC play — at Akron, and home to CMU and BGSU — Snyder is 44/81 (54.3%) for 404 yards (5.0 Y/A), 1 touchdown (three games ago), and 2 interceptions.
#7 Jase Bauer - Central Michigan
Jase Bauer stats (season): 96/166 passing (57.8%), 1,060 yards (6.4 Y/A), 4 TD, 6 INT; 60 rush att., 200 yards (3.33 avg.), 7 rush TD
Jase Bauer, of course, is a strong and capable runner. As a passer, he just doesn’t have the goods right now. He had two interceptions thrown in the first half against Akron and was dangerously close to having three.
Right now, Bauer, who played QB and safety in high school, looks like the kind of guy I’d try to convince to slide over to tight end in future seasons. He obviously has the size and physical play style so there could be a fit there. He’s already at 3 TD to 6 INT thrown in MAC play this year, which is only a slight improvement from last year when he was thrown to the wolves a little earlier than he probably should’ve been (1 TD, 4 INT).
#8 Kiael Kelly I guess? - Ball State
Kiael Kelly (season): 11/31 passing (35.5%), 133 yards (4.3 Y/A), 0 TD, 1 INT; 50 rush att., 279 yards (5.58 avg.), 0 rush TD
Layne Hatcher stats (season): 61/95 passing, (64.2%), 565 yards (5.9 Y/A), 4 TD, 1 INT; 20 rush att., -53 rush yards (-2.65 avg.), 1 rush TD
Ball State’s going through some pains as an offense. It came into the year with two reliable tight ends, but head coach Mike Neu said before the Toledo game that they still had to figure out how to change its season-long plans and figure out how to rely on just one TE. One change Neu’s staff landed on was having Kelly as, now, the starting QB to find some explosive runs from his spot.
While his final stat line against Toledo wasn’t great (4/16, 38 yards, 1 INT; team-best 98 rush yards), he was so close from potentially making it into an overtime thriller. Down 13-6 with just over a minute left, his 2nd & 8 wheel route pass to Rico Barfield was on the money, but the RB dropped what should’ve been an 80-yard score to tie things up.
I slid Ball State down by one spot this week, and you could argue that maybe it could be one spot lower. The Toledo game was such a strong defensive battle by both sides that I’m kind of leaning towards giving Kelly the benefit of the doubt here in his first career start. I like some of the big-play potential he’s flashed already, and we’d be talking very differently about him if Barfield had pulled through with a catch on BSU’s final drive.
#9 Austin Smith - Eastern Michigan
Austin Smith stats (season): 94/164 passing (57.3%), 952 yards (5.8 Y/A), 6 TD, 3 INT; 67 rush att., 119 yards (1.78 avg.), 1 rush TD
Even though Smith is one of two full-time starting MAC QBs to not throw an interception in MAC play so far (along with Miami’s Gabbert), I really can’t move Smith up on here after he was statistically out-played by Kent State’s backup QB. Smith, in a winning effort at home, was 9/25 passing (36%) for 118 yards and 1 TD. Tommy Ulatowski, who played in the same weather conditions, was 12/28 (42.8%) for 169 yards and 2 TD.
#10 Connor Bazelak or Camden Orth, doesn’t matter - Bowling Green
Camden Orth stats (season): 27/46 passing (58.7%), 291 yards (6.3 Y/A), 2 TD, 4 INT; 33 rush att., 116 yards (3.52 avg.), 2 rush TD
Connor Bazelak stats (season): 75/130 passing (57.7%), 821 yards (6.3 Y/A), 4 TD, 6 INT; 17 rush att., -33 yards (-1.94 avg.), 1 rush TD
Camden Orth got the start over Connor Bazelak against Buffalo, largely because 1. the weather played into Orth’s advantage, and 2. Bazelak’s not exactly a fountain of productivity in dry weather. At Buffalo, Orth went 9/16 passing for 77 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT, and added 72 rush yards and 1 TD on the ground.
#11 Not D.J. Irons - Akron
Tahj Bullock stats (season): 19/35 passing, (54.3%), 146 yards (4.2 Y/A), 1 TD, 1 INT; 30 rush att., 61 rush yards (2.03 avg.), 2 rush TD
Jeff Undercuffler stats (season): 38/57 passing (66.7%), 364 yards (6.4 Y/A), 2 TD, 4 INT
It was always going to be a tough season for Akron. Two games into the year without D.J. Irons being healthy and able has definitely made things way more difficult for this team.
Tahj Bullock’s first interception in the CMU game looked like he wanted to throw it up and away, out of bounds as he drifted toward his sideline. Instead, the ball hung around in bounds and barely made it past the numbers on the field. Akron’s offense gained only 76 yards on 32 plays with Bullock, then Jeff Undercuffler came on to march the field 70 yards on 8 plays with a TD throw.
Akron’s not unique in me saying this: expect to see both QBs from Akron going forward, and maybe it should be that way the rest of the way. There’s still a bowl game to play for (unlikely, but it’s on the table) so I’m not advocating for completely turning the page to next year if you’re an Akron coach, but if I were leading that offense, I’d
#12 Michael Alaimo - Kent State
Michael Alaimo stats (season): 72/130 passing (55.4%), 881 yards (6.8 Y/A), 2 TD, 4 INT; 47 rush att., -41 yards (-0.87 avg.), 1 rush TD
Tommy Ulatowski stats (season): 14/36 passing (38.9%), 181 yards (5 Y/A), 3 TD, 0 INT; 18 rush att., 73 yards (4.06 avg.), 0 rush TD
The weather had a lot to do with how much Ulatowski played last week over Michael Alaimo. It’s a boring conclusion to come to at this point but it’s true. Both QBs will have to see the field the rest of the way while Kenni Burns tries to build things up his way, now entering the second-half of his first season as head coach.