FACTS & STATS: Site: Glass Bowl (26,248) -- Toledo, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: EMU 1-2, Toledo 3-0. Away Record: EMU 0-5, Toledo 2-3. Neutral Record: EMU 0-0, Toledo 0-0. Conference Record: EMU 0-4, Toledo 3-1. Series Record: Toledo leads, 29-11.
GAME NOTES: The Toledo Rockets will attempt to become bowl eligible for the fourth year in a row on Saturday when the Eastern Michigan Eagles visit the Glass Bowl for Mid-American Conference action.
EMU's rocky season continued in week nine. It was handed its seventh straight loss by Northern Illinois, which coasted to a 59-20 victory at Huskie Stadium. The Eagles are one of just two teams in the MAC left without a win over a conference rival and have lost five in a row on the road. EMU has not been competitive during the 2013 campaign and has been outscored by an average of 29.6 points per game during the span of its current losing slide.
The Rockets are riding a three-game winning streak after their thrilling, 28-25, win at Bowling Green last week. Toledo built a 21-0 lead by the 4:27 mark of the second quarter before it allowed 25 unanswered points. Terrance Owens came up in the clutch as he found Alonzo Russell for an 11-yard touchdown pass with just over one minute left in regulation to secure the win. The Rockets are now 3-1 in MAC action, which puts them in third place in the West Division behind Ball State and Northern Illinois, who are both undefeated in league play.
Toledo is 29-11 versus EMU in the all-time series after winning the last seven head-to-head matchups. The Rockets outlasted the Eagles for a 52-47 victory in a shootout when these schools met in 2012. EMU's junior tailback Bronson Hill had a breakout performance in the loss with 283 yards and four touchdowns on 28 totes.
Although the Rockets are the fifth most productive team in the MAC offensively with averages of 410.1 total yards and 30.5 points per game, they may have trouble reaching those marks without their star tailback. David Fluellen is the third leading rusher among FBS players with 1,067 yards in addition to his 10 touchdowns. However, Fluellen left the matchup versus Bowling Green in the first quarter with an ankle injury after being listed as questionable for the game due to a back injury. If he is unable to return this week, coach Matt Campbell has a reliable backup in Kareem Hunt, who amassed 114 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against the Falcons' top notch defense.
Owens completed 15-of-23 attempts for 130 yards and three touchdowns at Bowling Green. The turnover-free performance was encouraging as he came into the game with only five touchdown passes against six interceptions. Owens has completed 60.8 percent of his attempts for 1,234 yards in eight games this season. He has a pair of reliable targets in Bernard Reedy and Russell. Reedy is pacing the team with 503 receiving yards and 49 catches, while Russell is close behind with 470 yards on 41 receptions. The duo has accounted for all nine of the team's touchdown catches.
The Rockets are currently ranked fourth in the MAC in total defense with an allowed average of 405.1 total yards of offense per outing, but are sixth in the league in scoring defense at 27.5 ppg. Toledo was excellent last week against BGSU's capable offensive unit as it held the Falcons to only 343 total yards of offense including just 135 on the ground. Junior Sylvestre made a big impact with 12 total tackles, 3.5 stops for loss and three sacks. He is leading the MAC with 88 tackles on the season.
Sylvestre will have a tough assignment this week as he tries to slow down Hill, who is ranked sixth in the conference in rushing at 102.1 ypg. EMU has been unimpressive overall, posting only 364.0 yards and 19.8 points per game. The aerial attack has lacked efficiency all season long. Coach Ron English elected to give true freshman Brogan Roback his first career start at quarterback last week at NIU. Inserting Roback into the lineup was not an immediate cure as he completed only 7-of-17 pass attempts for 109 yards. The regular starter, Tyler Benz, came off the bench to go 6-of-15 for 64 yards and a touchdown. Junior tight end Tyreese Russell is the team's most dangerous weapon in the passing game and paces the squad with 456 yards on 35 catches. He finished last week's loss to NIU with four receptions, 90 yards and one touchdown.
The Eagles were clearly overmatched last week by the Huskies, who amassed 658 total yards of offense against them. They are the worst team in the MAC against the run with an allowed average of 256.4 yards per game. EMU allowed the Huskies to power their way to 327 rushing yards last week. Ike Spearman led the team with nine tackles in the loss. He is second on the team's tackle leaderboard for the season with 54 stops. Mycal Swaim is just ahead of Spearman with 56 total tackles. Both players have recorded one interception, however the Eagles have picked off only four passes through eight games.
With or without Fluellen, Toledo holds an obvious edge over EMU. The Eagles' weakness on the offensive line is preventing them from fielding a balanced attack. The Rockets should be able to coast to another win as they have plenty of experience, a solid field general and the homefield advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 38, Eastern Michigan 21
Saturday, November 2, 7:00 p.m. (et)