Toledo hosts Kent State in the first midweek MACtion November game for the 2019 college football season. The final month of the season is always critical to the race to win a conference title, but the next four weeks won’t lack for intrigue when it comes to the MAC. Entering Tuesday night, 11 of the conference's 12 teams sit between 3-6 and 6-4 overall. Essentially, the race to win the conference title is wide open.
Toledo was the preseason favorite to win the MAC West but has ground to make up over the next few weeks. The Rockets are 5-3 overall and 2-2 in league play, with a 52-14 defeat to Ball State on Oct. 19 putting coach Jason Candle’s team a step behind in the division. A win over Kent State would give Toledo its 10th consecutive season of at least six victories and move the program one step closer to another bowl trip.
Kent State is a tough job, but second-year coach Sean Lewis has this program on the right track. The Golden Flashes went 2-10 in Lewis’ debut last fall and enter the final stretch of the 2019 season with a 3-5 mark. Kent State is 2-2 in MAC play entering Tuesday night’s matchup, with both defeats (Ohio and Miami) coming by seven points or less. After this matchup versus Toledo, the Golden Flashes will take on Buffalo, Ball State and Eastern Michigan. An upset may be needed to reach six wins and a bowl. However, even if Kent State falls short, progress has been noticeable in Lewis’ second year.
Toledo holds a 26-21 series edge over Kent State. The Rockets have won eight out of the last nine in this series.
Kent State at Toledo
Kickoff: Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Toledo -7.5
When Kent State Has the Ball
At first glance, the stat sheet isn’t too kind to Kent State’s offense. The Golden Flashes rank near the bottom of the MAC in scoring offense (23.9 ppg) and yards per play (5.3). However, if you eliminate a brutal non-conference slate that featured Auburn, Wisconsin, and Arizona State, Kent State leads the MAC in scoring (35.5 ppg) in conference-only matchups. The Golden Flashes are also averaging 6.3 yards per play through their four MAC contests this year.
Former Auburn and JUCO quarterback Woody Barrett seemed on the cusp of a breakout year after throwing for 2,339 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. However, Dustin Crum has outplayed Barrett this year and has provided a spark to Kent State’s passing attack. Crum has tossed only one pick over 194 attempts and connected on 67 percent of his throws for 1,345 yards and 10 scores. The junior also leads the team with 374 rushing yards. Isaiah McKoy (40 catches) has been the go-to receiver for Crum, but Kavious Price (32 catches), Mike Carrigan (20) and Antwan Dixon (24) round out a solid group of weapons on the outside.
Crum is likely to handle between 10-15 carries on Tuesday night, but Toledo’s defense can also expect to see Jo-El Shaw (320 yards), Joachim Bangda (167), and Will Matthews (263) on the ground. Between the depth at running back and Crum’s ability to make plays on the ground, Toledo’s rush defense figures to have its hands full on Tuesday night. This group has surrendered seven rushing scores over the last two games and is giving up 5.4 yards per carry. The Rockets were gashed for 374 rushing yards in the loss to Ball State and gave up 289 in a win over Colorado State in September.
Bend but don’t break has been the theme for Toledo’s defense this season. This unit has surrendered 86 points over the last two games and ranks last in the MAC in yards per play allowed (6.7). However, while the Rockets are giving up yards (472.6 a game), this unit ranks second in the MAC in red zone defense and fourth on third downs.
When Toledo Has the Ball
When healthy, Mitchell Guadagni is one of the top quarterbacks in the MAC. The senior has six appearances this season and has passed for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns with just two interceptions. Additionally, he’s rushed for 332 yards and four scores. However, Guadagni was limited to just seven games last season due to injury and has missed Toledo’s last two matchups. The senior’s status for Tuesday night’s game wasn’t officially announced. However, Carter Bradley and Eli Peters occupy the top spots on the depth chart this week. Bradley (the son of Chargers’ defensive coordinator Gus Bradley) started in a 52-14 loss to Ball State and completed 14 of 34 throws for 137 yards and a pick. Peters started the following week against Eastern Michigan and completed nine throws for 138 yards and two scores.
Toledo’s quarterbacks have spread the wealth in the passing game this year. No player has more than 25 receptions or 400 receiving yards entering Tuesday’s game. Bryce Mitchell paces the offense with 397 receiving yards, with Danzel McKinley-Lewis, Desmond Phillips and tight end Drew Rosi rounding out the key weapons.
Regardless of which quarterback starts on Tuesday night, Kent State’s defense should expect to see a lot of Toledo’s ground game. The Golden Flashes rank last in the MAC in run defense, allowing 250.6 yards a game and just over five yards (5.1) a carry. Additionally, three out of Kent State’s last four opponents have recorded over 229 rushing yards. Bryant Koback leads the Toledo ground attack with 985 yards and eight rushing scores, with Shakif Seymour (385 yards) joining to form a capable one-two punch.
Kent State’s defensive struggles aren’t just limited to stopping the run. This unit is giving up 6.3 yards a play and just over 30 points (30.9) a contest. The Golden Flashes also rank 10th in pass efficiency defense and have surrendered 11 plays of 40 yards or more.
Toledo beat Kent State in convincing fashion (56-34) last season. Expect a closer matchup on Tuesday night. The Golden Flashes are making steady progress under Lewis, and the Rockets have been vulnerable on offense. Crum and the Kent State offense has been taking good care of the ball this season and has scored at least 26 points in three MAC contests this fall. Toledo will miss Mitchell Guadagni if he’s unable to play, but Peters and Bradley shouldn’t need to throw 30-35 times against a porous Kent State rush defense. The Rockets get Koback and Seymour on track early, control the pace and time of possession and get a key stop in the fourth quarter to hold off an upset bid by the Golden Flashes and improve to 6-3.