Discover more from The Ypsilanti Eleven
MAC QB1 Power Rankings: The next step is to do it again
Austin Smith had his best passing game of his career in a loss at Central.
The Ypsilanti Eleven is local, independently run, and is the only sports media hub on the internet (or anywhere) with this much coverage dedicated to Eastern Michigan. Your contributions will help pay for the year-round labor and improvements required to make this your favorite place to read about EMU and MACtion.
#1 Kurtis Rourke - Ohio
Kurtis Rourke stats (season): 56/87 passing (64.4%), 609 yards (7.0 Y/A), 5 TD, 2 INT; 18 rush att., 107 yards (5.94 avg.)
As long as Ohio has Kurtis Rourke playing for them, the Bobcats are going to be way up here. There was no Week 5 action for the Bobcats, which will probably pay off for him in the long run, considering Ohio has this bye week, plus the couple-extra-days-off version of a bye week next month that every MAC team has to turn to the midweek games.
Rourke isn’t statistically booming like he did last year, but we don’t have to pretend to be blind to how valuable he is as a QB. By QBR, Rourke is just the third-highest-rated QB in the conference, but he has the best rushing average out of the 12 MAC QB with really respectable moments through the air so far. The non-conference slate was definitely a tough grind and getting hurt against San Diego State probably didn’t speed things up for Rourke either. Defenses aren’t surprised to know how good he is when he’s out there, so teams are definitely ready to defend the deep pass this year. I’m forecasting here, but I’m sure his best games are still ahead of him.
#2 Dequan Finn - Toledo
Dequann Finn stats (season): 73/110 passing (66.4%), 960 yards (8.7 Y/A), 10 TD, 4 INT; 49 rush att.; 241 yards (4.92 avg.), 3 rush TD
Dequan Finn isn’t hurt, and that’s good news for Toledo. Not that backup Tucker Gleason, who filled in just fine last week during the Western Michigan game (6/10 passing, 109 yards, 2 TD), but the Rockets can run so much more of its playbook with Finn in the lineup. Finn was electric against Northern Illinois (16/20 passing, 281 yards, 2 TD; 7 rushes, 61 yards, 1 TD), and his true dual-threat ability will always make Toledo a true threat in this league.
#3 Brett Gabbert - Miami OH
Brett Gabbert stats (season): 62/106 passing (58.5%), 1,062 yards (10.0 Y/A), 10 TD, 3 INT; 27 rush att., 66 yards (2.44 avg.)
Brett Gabbert’s having a really, really great season right now. Through the air, Gabbert truly is playing like the second coming of Ben Roethlisberger with MAC-leading marks this season in average depth of target (13.6), big-time throw rate (8.1%, per Pro Football Focus), and yards per attempt (10.0) . In meatheads words, Gabbert leads the MAC in Fuck it, Chuck it.
Kent State limited Gabbert’s success over the weekend (37% success rate when passing, 11/23 passing) who was without his best target in WR Gage Larvadain.
#4 Rocky Lombardi - Northern Illinois
Rocky Lombardi stats (season): 72/131 passing (55%), 824 yards, 3 TD, 4 INT; 28 rush att., -4 yards (-0.14 avg.), 2 rush TD
Rocky Lombardi’s off to a worse start than anticipated. He’s older than 12 of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks, so the traditional school of thought is that he’ll make fewer mistakes for it. Instead, Lombardi has the third-highest interception rate of the 12 MAC starters (3.05%).
Against Toledo, Lombardi was 21/31 passing with 2 TD through the air, 1 TD on the ground (26 yards, 3.3 avg.), so much better than what he showed over the first four games. I still think NIU’s always got a shot at winning its MAC games with Lombardi in the lineup and can be talked out of his early hiccups with his previously-earned street cred.
#5 Cole Snyder - Buffalo
Cole Snyder stats (season): 115/190 passing (60.5%), 1,075 yards (5.7 Y/A), 11 TD, 4 INT; 35 rush att., 21 yards (0.6 avg.)
Feels weird to have Buffalo, led by Cole Snyder, ranked so highly on here considering it took an overtime bout against Akron to find its first win of the year. In Week 5, no less.
Snyder, the second-year transfer from Rutgers, isn’t exactly one of the MAC’s stars of the position, but he’s playing effectively enough without making too many mistakes. He’s far and away the MAC’s leader in pass attempts and touchdowns thrown with the fourth-lowest interception rate of the 12 MAC starters (2.11%) and pressure-to-sack rate (15.1%). Where he lacks is the big throws, which is largely by design. Snyder has the second-lowest average depth of target in the MAC (7.4 yards).
#6 Layne Hatcher - Ball State
Layne Hatcher stats (season): 42/62 passing (67.7%), 434 yards (7.0 Y/A), 3 TD, 0 INT; 16 rush att., -51 yards (-3.19 avg.), 1 TD
Kadin Semonza stats (season): 50/82 passing (61%), 480 yards (5.9 Y/A), 3 TD, 5 INT; 17 rush att., 10 yards (0.59 avg.)
Kadin Semonza is Ball State’s QB of the future, but for now he’s just somebody that’s better left fermenting in the system. For now, it looks like Ball State’s finally settling in on Arkansas State & Texas State graduate transfer Layne Hatcher to be QB1 for 2023. The non-conference slate wasn’t a fair shake for him to show his talents, but played a really good game at Western Michigan Saturday (26/37, 316 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT), he just ended up getting swallowed up by the Bronco defense (6 sacks, 3 pass breakups).
#7 D.J. Irons - Akron
D.J. Irons stats (season): 88/133 passing (66.2%), 722 yards (5.4 Y/A), 3 TD, 3 INT; 61 rush att.; 215 yards (3.52 avg.), 2 rush TD
I think D.J. Irons is still one of the best athletes on the field whenever he’s on it. His completion rate and rushing average both sit as third-highest marks of the MAC’s starting QBs, but the offense still has a ways to go. Irons has the most amount of scrambles (18), is sacked 7.8% of the time, and sees his passes dropped 7.4% of the time. Irons isn’t exactly in a winning situation at Akron, and I kind of want to sneak him higher up on this list out of sympathy.
#8 Jase Bauer - Central Michigan
Jase Bauer stats (season): 51/85 passing (60%), 599 yards (7.0 Y/A), 2 TD, 1 INT; 34 rush att., 108 yards (3.18 avg.), 6 rush TD
I thought Bert Emanuel Jr. was going to ultimately win the starting job here, but Jase Bauer’s playing too well and too gutsy to ride the bench. Not a dynamite passer (not half bad, either), but he’s pretty tough to bring down. Of the MAC starters, Bauer’s second in pressure-to-sack rate (7.1%), third in sack percentage (3.2%), and none of his passes have been dropped (yet), per PFF. Bauer is still very green in a lot of ways, but I like his moxie.
#9 Treyson Bourguet - Western Michigan
Treyson Bourguet stats (season): 51/93 passing (54.8%), 676 yards (7.3 Y/A), 4 TD, 1 INT; 31 rush att., 53 yards (1.71 avg.)
Jack Salopek stats (season): 36/53 passing (67.9%), 281 yards (5.3 Y/A), 1 TD, 2 INT; 15 rush att., 41 yards (2.73 avg.)
Treyson Bourguet played the entirety of the Ball State game and looked much improved since last week’s loss at Toledo. Against Toledo, WMU had a 22% success rate through the air. At home against the Cardinals, 47%. Just a few weeks ago, this WMU passing attack looked puzzled, but it might’ve found some answers over the last two divisional contests.
#10 Connor Bazelak - Bowling Green
Connor Bazelak stats (season): 67/113 (59.3%), 757 yards (6.7 Y/A), 4 TD, 5 INT; 13 rush att., -6 yards (-0.46 avg.), 1 rush TD
Camden Orth stats (season): 15/24 passing (62.5%), 206 yards (8.6 Y/A), 1 TD, 2 INT; 18 rush att., 24 yards (1.33 avg.), 1 rush TD
Not the starter, but Camden Orth is a really squirrely dude. He’s a better runner than Connor Bazelak, and will get a lot of red zone touches. Bazelak is one of two starters that still have more interceptions thrown than touchdowns. But if recency bias has anything to offer, he did just help take down Georgia Tech on the road (21/32, 263 yards, 1 TD).
#11 Austin Smith - Eastern Michigan
Austin Smith stats (season): 67/111 (60.4%), 642 yards (5.8 Y/A), 3 TD, 3 INT; 46 rush att., 120 yards (2.61 avg.), 1 rush TD
Austin Smith didn’t have to share playing time with either of Eastern’s backups this week, and with good reason. The Central game was his career-best performance (20/26, 76.9%, 1 pass TD; 19 rush att., 71 yards, 1 rush TD) but the Eagles still fell short in the end. As improved as he looked, the next step at this point is showing consistency throughout the season.
#12 Michael Alaimo - Kent State
Michael Alaimo stats (season): 61/109 (56%), 763 yards (7.0 Y/A), 1 TD, 3 INT; 47 rush att., -9 yards (-0.2 avg.), 1 rush TD
Not exactly the kind of start this Purdue transfer was hoping to have on the new move. Michael Alaimo hasn’t thrown a touchdown in FBS play with Kent State this season, and is sacked at the second-highest rate in the MAC (10.9%).