FACTS & STATS: Site: InfoCision Stadium (30,000) -- Akron, Ohio. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: Toledo 5-1, Akron 2-3. Away Record: Toledo 2-3, Akron 2-4. Neutral Record: Toledo 0-0, Akron 0-0. Conference Record: Toledo 5-2, Akron 3-4. Series Record: Toledo leads, 9-8.
GAME NOTES: The Toledo Rockets will try to bounce back as they close out their 2013 regular season against the Akron Zips in a Mid-American Conference tilt at InfoCision Stadium.
The Rockets held a three-point lead over the nationally-ranked Huskies in the third quarter of their last outing, but they could not contain Jordan Lynch, who led Northern Illinois to a 35-17 victory at the Glass Bowl. The loss ended Toledo's chances of winning the MAC Championship and dropped it to a 7-4 overall record. Coach Matt Campbell owns a 17-8 career record, including a 1-0 mark versus Akron, thanks to the Rockets' 35-23 win over the Zips in the 2012 regular-season finale.
Coach Terry Bowden's Zips will no longer be an easy out in MAC play. The school that had won just a single game in each of the past three seasons is entering its season finale at 4-7 overall and also on a two-game winning streak. Akron has yet to lose in November as it downed Kent State, 16-7, at home before defeating Massachusetts, 14-13, in its final road game of the campaign. The Zips had a bye last week so they should be well rested for their Senior Day at InfoCision Stadium.
This will be the 18th meeting in history between these schools. Toledo's win last season gave it a narrow, 9-8 all-time series lead.
The loss to NIU marked the Toledo's first setback since Sept. 28. NIU outgained the Rockets, 566-419. Campbell's squad had been on fire, posting an average of 45.2 ppg in its previous five games. Senior quarterback Terrance Owens completed 17-of-29 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns with two picks. His interception in the first quarter snapped a string of 76 pass attempts without an interception. NIU also found a way to slow down Kareem Hunt, who had his streak of four 100-yard games come to an end. Hunt finished with 91 yards on 19 carries. Hunt was also intercepted on a halfback pass.
Hunt will most likely get a full load of carries for the season finale as senior running back David Fluellen is doubtful to return due to an ankle injury. Hunt has scored six TDs over his past five games. The play of the offensive line has been exceptional this season, which has allowed Campbell to switch running backs with ease. Toledo has allowed only five sacks on the season, which is the fewest of any FBS program. Senior wideout Bernard Reedy is leading the Rockets with 799 yards on 59 catches. Three of Reedy's seven TD receptions have come over his past two games.
Despite back-to-back poor outings by the Rockets' defensive unit, it is still in the middle of the pack in the MAC rankings with average allowances of 28.4 points and 428.8 yards per game. Linebacker Junior Sylvestre is tied for first the MAC and 15tth in the nation with 10 tackles per game.
Toledo's rushing attack may have trouble as it goes against Akron's run defense that ranks fourth in the conference in yards allowed per contest (158.1). The Zips managed to force Kent State's star running backs Trayion Durham and Dri Archer to fumble and also picked off three passes versus the Golden Flashes. Defensive coordinator Chuck Amato's unit forced a pair of fumbles and picked off two more passes the following week against the Minutemen.
Junior linebacker Justin March and senior defensive back Malachi Freeman have picked off three passes apiece. Seniors Nico Caponi (seven sacks) and Albert Presley (six sacks) lead a very good Zip defensive front line.
Akron's defense will need to continue its strong play if sophomore quarterback Kyle Pohl continues to struggle. Pohl completed 20-of-33 pass attempts for 208 yards and one touchdown against UMass, but has not thrown multiple TDs in a game since entering MAC play. Zach D'Orazio reeled in six receptions for 82 yards while Fransohn Bickley also finished with six catches for 55 yards at UMass. The Zips offense has averaged only 16.4 points per game in league action.
Junior running back Jawon Chisholm has picked up steam as the season progressed. Over his past five games, Chisholm has produced 545 yards and six TDs on the ground. He has previously gained only 287 yards through his first six outings. Z'Orazio is pacing the team's receiving corps with 510 yards and four TDs.
Bowden recently received a two-year contract extension for his work this season and Akron should continue to rise in the conference rankings with the former Auburn head coach at the helm of the program. Although the Zips have the most momentum they have had in years, they will be overmatched by the Rockets, who will be out to prove they are deserving of a bowl bid. Toledo's losses have come at Florida, at Missouri, at Ball State and versus NIU. The majority of the non-BCS conference schools in the FBS would have come up empty against those foes. The Rockets are still a decent squad, with or without Fluellen.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 38, Akron 20
Friday, November 29, 12 p.m. (ET)