Get ready for some early Saturday afternoon MACtion because the conference has a pivotal MAC West Division game lined up. Toledo will look to remain undefeated din MAC play, and thus keep the pressure on Western Michigan in the standings, but to do so the Rockets will have to dispatch of Central Michigan first.
Two teams playing well on offense will make for an entertaining matchup, with the winner putting themselves in position to make a run in the MAC. Central Michigan is already a step behind thanks to a loss to Western Michigan, but the Chippewas can step right back into the division race with a win at Toledo.
Central Michigan at Toledo
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 22 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN3
Spread: Toledo -10.5
Three Things to Watch
1. MAC’s top two passing offenses take flight
Expect plenty of air mileage this weekend between Toledo and Central Michigan. The two schools are leading the MAC in passing yards per game as well as touchdown passes this season. Toledo rolls with Logan Woodside, who has already thrown for 2,013 yards, an FBS-best 24 touchdowns, and just four interceptions. Woodside has averaged 335.5 yards per game, tops in the MAC and eighth in the FBS. Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush also has eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark this season (2,060 yards) and has 18 touchdowns to seven interceptions so far through seven games. Both teams rank in the top half of the MAC in passing defense too, but Central Michigan leads the conference with 10 interceptions. Toledo has just two picks thus far.
2. Kareem Hunt still powering Toledo’s running game
Hunt continues to be a key player for the Rockets and is one of the nation’s most productive running backs. In six games, the senior has rushed for 653 yards and five touchdowns. It’s been a solid season back after playing in just nine games last year in which he posted 973 yards and 12 scores. Having an effective passing game accompanied by the option of handing off to Hunt has been beneficial for Toledo’s offense, which is third in the nation in yards (565.2) and 10th in points (43.0) per game.
3. Toledo’s offensive line will be the difference
As you might imagine given how effective Toledo has been throwing and running the football, Toledo’s offensive line has been playing very well this season too. In six games, the Rockets have allowed just six sacks, the second-fewest among MAC programs this fall. This is particularly notable because Central Michigan’s offensive line has been on the opposite end of this spectrum. The Chippewas’ front has already surrendered 25 sacks. That’s the second most in the MAC (Miami, 27) and a total that’s surpassed by just four other FBS teams. In other words, Central Michigan is 123rd out of 128 FBS teams in sacks allowed this season.
Toledo has proven it is capable of taking control of a game, and that should once again be the case here. Central Michigan's best hope will be to find a way to come together as an offensive line and provide any form of protection. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long afternoon against the Rockets, who will find an edge through the air, on the ground and in the trenches. That's a bad combination for the Chippewas, and the Rockets could end up pulling away in a big way in this one to remain undefeated in MAC play.
Prediction: Toledo 34, Central Michigan 24
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.