The top of the group of quarterbacks in the MAC has been known and Dequan Finn has cemented himself as the unquestioned leader. Ahead of a big-time Week 8 matchup in the conference, how close has Brett Gabbert come to closing in on the top of our MAC QB Rankings?
Our weekly iteration of our 2023 MAC QB Rankings is here, taking a look at where they stack up through seven 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: 1-133 | ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC | AAC | C-USA | MAC | MWC | Sun Belt | FBS Ind.
With the amount of midweek games in Week 7, we’ve paused the written analysis on each quarterback across the country and will save that for a renewed Week 8 ranking following each conference’s games for this weekend.
Reminder – we also released our Midseason All-MAC Team and Midseason All-Americans this week.
Tier 1: The Elite MAC QBs
1) Dequan Finn | Toledo
Last Week’s Ranking: 1st (no change)
Yards: 1,265 | TDs: 12 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 64.4% | YPA: 7.9
It wasn’t pretty in Week 7, but Dequan Finn and the Toledo Rockets got it done. Ball State’s secondary is no joke and Finn kept the offense on schedule more often than not despite the strength of the Cardinals’ defensive.
The focus shifts now to the CFN Group of Five Game of the Week between Toledo and Miami. Finn will have to rely on his game-breaking ability and his arm talent that has seen him push the ball into tight windows and move the sticks consistently with play-action passes off the back of Peny Boone’s success.
This is a matchup for the ages in midseason MAC action in Week 8.
Tier 2: Well-Above-Average MAC QBs
2) Brett Gabbert | Miami (OH)
Last Week’s Ranking: 3rd (+1)
Yards: 1,455 | TDs: 14 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 61.4% | YPA: 9.2
Consistently climbing the the MAC QB Rankings, Brett Gabbert is a play or two away from entering the elite tier of quarterbacks. Gabbert has been lights out this season, dropping only the first game of the season against the more southern Miami and has thrown 14 touchdowns in the past six outings.
He’s seeing the field incredibly well and has done more than enough with his legs to not only buy time in the pocket but also keep the ball on some impressive scramble drills this year. With the way Gabbert is playing, there’s no wonder why the RedHawks are in a race to topple Toledo for the MAC East crown — a Week 8 marquee matchup is on the horizon.
3) Kurtis Rourke | Ohio
Last Week’s Ranking: 2nd (-1)
Yards: 1,068 | TDs: 8 | INT: 5 | Comp. %: 63.2% | YPA: 6.9
It was a confusing and confounding day at the office in Week 7 for Kurtis Rourke and the Ohio Bobcats offense. Rourke threw three interceptions and was slow to read the action all game long against Northern Illinois. In fact, Rourke hardly completed a pass past the sticks against NIU as he was limited to short area passes that allowed the Huskies’ defense to limit first downs incredibly well.
Rourke must get back to what he does best and that’s scanning the field with his vision, maintaining that vision downfield if the play breaks down, and using his accuracy to strike his receivers open at every level of the field. He has all the talent in the world; we’ve yet to see it in a complete game this year, though.
Tier 3: Above-Average MAC QBs
4) Rocky Lombardi | Northern Illinois
Last Week’s Ranking: 6th (+2)
Yards: 1,1887 | TDs: 6 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 57.4% | YPA: 7.0
When Rocky Lombardi transferred to Northern Illinois those years ago, it seemed like the Huskies were ready to take the next step. After a slow start to the season that included four straight losses, things appear to be heading in the right direction.
The Huskies’ defense limited Ohio well and Lombardi distributed the ball with ease against Ohio’s defense, not needing to do too much to run away with a comfortable victory in the end.
NIU gets a home game before a bye week and into some scary Tuesday action on Halloween to kick off MACtion in 2023, and the way Lombardi has turned the corner, opponents may be scared to play him, indeed.
Tier 4: Average MAC QBs
5) Jase Bauer | Central Michigan
Last Week’s Ranking: 5th (no change)
Yards: 1,060 | TDs: 4 | INT: 6 | Comp. %: 57.8% | YPA: 6.4
The Central Michigan passing attack has been somewhat of a mystery this season. There are times that Jase Bauer looks every bit the part of a sound passing quarterback, and then there are plenty of times when he is a running back with a halfway decent arm.
Now, both situations have led to victories, but the consistency has not followed. Still, it’s an interesting proposition for opponents to try and figure out as Bauer is absolutely one athletic and talented quarterback.
Can he harness some downfield accuracy to go along with his dominant rushing ability? That’s the lone question we have because otherwise, he’s a terrific MAC QB.
6) Cole Snyder | Buffalo
Last Week’s Ranking: 4th (-2)
Yards: 1,337 | TDs: 11 | INT: 6 | Comp. %: 59.1% | YPA: 5.6
Despite some high expectations this season at Buffalo, it’s been a largely disappointing season. They needed overtime to defeat Akron and the corner looked to have been turned. However, a loss to Bowling Green and a subsequent abysmal day of passing sees them falter and expectations shift to simply making a bowl game.
Cole Snyder threw two interceptions against Bowling Green’s talented secondary and CJ Ogbonna added two more for a disastrous day at the office in Week 7. The season gets no easier with three of the MAC’s best teams coming up in their next four outings, so something has got to give here because Snyder has a ton of talent and we’re not seeing it.
7) Austin Smith | Eastern Michigan
Last Week’s Ranking: 10th (+3)
Yards: 952 | TDs: 6 | INT: 3 | Comp. %: 57.3% | YPA: 5.8
For the most part, Austin Smith played a solid game in Week 7 against Kent State. He was on time with most of his throws, suffering from some drops from his receivers and learning to live to play another down. Smith did enough to get the win despite some ball security issues.
The question for Smitih moving forward remains will he be able to replicate his previous two performances of high completions and on-time throwing with even greater success as the season gets more difficult.
8) Connor Bazelak, Camden Orth | Bowling Green
Last Week’s Ranking: 8th (no change)
Yards: 826 | TDs: 4 | INT: 6 | Comp. %: 57.4% | YPA: 6.4
This duo hasn’t needed to do too much this season and, on the strength of their ball-hawking defense, are 3-4. Camden Orth has provided the biggest spark and helped lead the Falcons to a win over Buffalo in convincing fashion, thanks in large part to the defense and four interceptions.
Orth threw for just 77 yards and a touchdown, but added 72 yards on the ground and another score as he’s taken what the defenses are presenting him and exploiting any gap he finds with his arm or legs.
They’ll need to figure out this passing attack and get back to basics of targeting their outside receivers because there’s too much talent for this team to hardly have over 1,000 yards through the air at this point of the season.
9) Hayden Wolff | Western Michigan
Last Week’s Ranking: 9th (no change)
Yards: 309 | TDs: 3 | INT: 1 | Comp. %: 68.2% | YPA: 7.0
When Hayden Wolff quietly announced his transfer portal destination this past offseason, the expectations certainly went up for Western Michigan. He hasn’t gotten the consistent chance to showcase his talents yet, and maybe we were a bit too high on those expectations in the first place.
Wolff has a big arm, we all know that, and he can spread the ball out well to each level. However, Wolff has seen his fair share of struggles against some talented defenses this year and is 0-3 in major game action.
Like so many quarterbacks, getting back to basics and staying on time within the structure of the offense will be key.
Tier 5: Work-To-Be-Done MAC QBs
10) Jeff Undercuffler Jr., Tahj Bullock | Akron
Last Week’s Ranking: 7th (-3)
Yards: 364 | TDs: 2 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 66.7% | YPA: 6.4
At one point, the Akron Zips quarterback situation was a potential top-tier unit. That was, of course, with DJ Irons leading the way. Irons lost two games in overtime to close out September, and since exiting the lineup, Jeff Undercuffler and Tahj Bullock have proved ineffective.
The whole offense change with Bullock or Undercuffler and the duo has combined for seven interceptions against three touchdowns. It’s a tough road to navigate without your star quarterback for a school like Akron and an unfortunate one at that.
11) Michael Alaimo, Tommy Ulatowski | Kent State
Last Week’s Ranking: 11th (no change)
Yards: 881 | TDs: 2 | INT: 4 | Comp. %: 55.4% | YPA: 6.8
Michael Alaimo had shown plenty of promise in his first year with Kent State, scoring some points and making some halfway-decent throws. This past week, however, it was Tommy Ulatowski, the dual-threat quarterback who saw more time in Week 7, who showed some flashes of potential.
Ulatowski lulled Eastern Michigan’s defense to sleep with his QB power game and designed runs before hitting a few deep beauties over the top for touchdowns. However, save for those two deep balls that went for scores, it was an inconsistent day and lacked any success moving the ball on the ground or in the short area of the field to move the sticks.
It’s been a long season for Kent State, and it appears only to be getting longer.
12) Layne Hatcher, Kadin Semonza, Kiael Kelly | Ball State
Last Week’s Ranking: 12th (no change)
Yards: 565 | TDs: 4 | INT: 1 | Comp. %: 64.2% | YPA: 5.9
It’s difficult to take any good from Kiael Kelly’s first start for Ball State. On one hand, he kept the ball moving on the ground and did a good enough job of keeping the ball away from the high-powered Toledo offense.
On the other hand, he completed just four passes on 16 attempts and threw a pick. Sure, it was his first start, but with the success we saw with Kadin Semonza in the fold, a new identity was formed: a run-first identity.
Whether or not that leads to success in the long run is up in the air, as the Ball State offensive line failed to dictate the pace of play on the ground in Week 7.