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Bowling Green vs. Toledo Prediction: Battle of I-75 Resumes on Tuesday Night

Rockets have already clinched the MAC West title while Falcons still need on more win to become bowl eligible.
Dequan Finn, Toledo Rockets Football

Dequan Finn and Toledo take on in-state rival Bowling Green on Tuesday night.

MACtion returns on Tuesday night with Toledo hosting Bowling Green in one of the conference’s top rivalries. The Battle of I-75 also has significant implications for both teams with just two weeks of regular season play remaining. The Rockets have already clinched the MAC West title, but the Falcons need one win in their last two games to reach bowl eligibility. And as always in a rivalry, bragging rights are important to hold for the next year.

The Rockets clinched the MAC West title last week, but coach Jason Candle’s team still has something to play for. If this team can win out (two regular-season games, MAC title and bowl), Toledo could match its best victory total (11 in ‘17) of Candle’s tenure. The Rockets started 2-2 after non-conference defeats to Ohio State and San Diego State but rallied by winning five out of their next six games. The only loss in MAC play came in a turnover-filled performance at Buffalo (34-27) on Oct. 22.

Scot Loeffler’s rebuilding project at Bowling Green has showed small signs of progress since he took over in ’19 and one win is all that separates the program from its first bowl since ‘15. The Falcons went 3-14 in Loeffler’s first two years (2019-20) but went 4-8 last fall and sit at 5-5 through 10 contests in ’22. In addition to bowl hopes, Bowling Green still has a shot to win the MAC East. Ohio leads the division at 5-1 but plays the Falcons on Nov. 22. If Loeffler’s team can win on Tuesday, the East could come down to the Nov. 22 meeting in Athens.

Toledo holds a 42-40-4 series edge over Bowling Green. The Rockets have won 11 out of the last 12 against the Falcons. Bowling Green hasn’t won in the Glass Bowl since ‘08

Bowling Green at Toledo

Kickoff: Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: ESPNU
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Toledo -15.5
Tickets: As low as $26 on SITickets.com*

When Bowling Green Has the Ball

Bowling Green’s offense ranks ninth in the MAC in scoring (23 points a game) and 11th in yards per play (4.8). With Toledo’s high-powered offense on the other sideline, Loeffler will need to find a way to piece together more drives or generate a couple of big plays on Tuesday night to keep pace. The Falcons have only three plays of 40-plus yards all season and rank 11th in the MAC in third-down conversion rate. Both of those numbers have to change for this team to win in the Glass Bowl.

Quarterback Matt McDonald is the catalyst for this offense and ranks among the league’s top signal-callers after throwing for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns this year. The senior takes good care of the ball (just four interceptions) and is efficient (62.6 completion percentage). However, he ranks sixth among qualified MAC quarterbacks in yards per attempt (6.5).

Spraying the ball around in a short-yardage passing game could serve two purposes on Tuesday: Keep the chains moving and prevent Toledo’s offense from possessing the ball. The good news is McDonald has a capable group of weapons on the outside, including Odieu Hiliare (43 catches), Tyrone Broden (28), and CJ Lewis (23). Tight end Christian Sims (36) is also a tough matchup on the outside. However, moving the ball against the Rockets won’t be easy. This secondary has been a no-fly zone all year, as only one team (Ohio State) eclipsed over 285 passing yards. Additionally, Toledo has held its last two opponents (EMU and Ball State) to less than 200 combined passing yards.

A similar story is set to unfold on the ground for Bowling Green. The Falcons average only 3.2 yards per rush and no player has posted more than 500 yards this season. Multiple backs could see time on Tuesday night, but Jaison Patterson (494 yards) is the No. 1 option ahead of Jamal Johnson (229) and Ta’ron Keith (187). The Rockets have been a bit more vulnerable here (143.5 rushing yards allowed a game in MAC play) than through the air.

Toledo’s defense enters Tuesday’s game holding opponents to 4.73 yards a play and 26.3 points a game. On paper, moving the ball is likely to be a challenge for the Falcons, and the Rockets should have an advantage in this matchup.

When Toledo Has the Ball

It’s a matchup of strength versus strength here. Toledo’s offense paces the MAC with an average of 35.1 points a game and ranks third in yards per play at 5.83. This unit has scored at least 27 points in every conference contest this year, including 52 against Northern Illinois and Kent State. Additionally, Candle’s group ranks second in the MAC with 54 plays of 20-plus yards. On the other side, Bowling Green can counter with a defense that’s holding MAC teams to 5.4 yards per snap and 24.3 points a game.

When the MAC postseason honors are released, it’s safe to assume Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn will have a place on one of the all-conference teams. The sophomore missed one game (Eastern Michigan) due to injury but returned in last week’s win over Ball State to throw for 301 yards and three scores. For the season, Finn has passed for 1,938 yards and 21 touchdowns and added 530 yards and eight scores on the ground. Bowling Green has thrived at getting into opponent backfields (33 sacks) all season and that same ability to create havoc needs to show up on Tuesday night. Using an aggressive front to contain Finn on the move or keep him in the pocket gives Loeffler’s defense a chance to slow down the Rockets’ attack.

If teams can hold up in the trenches, there are plays to be made against Bowling Green’s secondary. This unit ranks eighth in the MAC in pass efficiency defense but has limited the big-play damage (seven of 40-plus yards allowed). The Rockets have the playmakers on the outside to take advantage here, as Jerjuan Newton (17.5 yards per catch), Devin Maddox (29 catches), DeMeer Blankumsee (29), and tight end Jamal Turner (20) round out a capable group of weapons for Finn.

Bowling Green’s front is holding teams to 4.4 yards per carry and is probably a little better against the run than the overall numbers would suggest. Toledo doesn’t have a go-to No. 1 back this year, but Jacquez Stuart (544 rushing yards), Peny Boone (326), and Micah Kelly (303) are all likely to see time on Tuesday.

Final Analysis

Although the MAC West title is already locked up, Toledo still has something to play for. A win on Tuesday night would give the Rockets a perfect 6-0 mark at home in ’22, and there’s always something about beating your biggest rival in the last game of the year in the Glass Bowl. Not only should Bowling Green have motivation for the rivalry, but Loeffler’s team is fighting to get bowl eligible and would like nothing more than to play spoiler. A solid defense should give the Falcons a chance to hang around for a while. Also, the Rockets have been a little generous in giveaways (18), so a couple of turnovers could keep this one close deep into the fourth quarter. However, Finn and Toledo’s offense simply has too much firepower. The Rockets have won the last two meetings in this series by 32 or more points. This one might be closer, but the Rockets continue their dominance in the Battle of I-75.

Prediction: Toledo 34, Bowling Green 20

*Price as of publication.