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Toledo Football: 2022 Rockets Season Preview and Prediction

Dequan Finn, Toledo Rockets Football

Dequan Finn and the Rockets are ranked No. 78 in Athlon Sports' Top 131 for the 2022 college football season

The 2022 college football season is a crucial one for Toledo and coach Jason Candle. The Rockets won the MAC West in '17 but are just 24-20 over the last four years. Although Toledo hasn't met preseason expectations recently, the pieces are in place for a run at the conference title this fall. Quarterback Dequan Finn leads a high-powered offense, and the Rockets have the MAC's top defense with eight starters back. An Oct. 8 matchup at Northern Illinois is likely to decide which team represents the West Division in the MAC title game. 

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022

Previewing Toledo's Offense for 2022

After leading the conference in scoring (33.4 ppg), the Rockets again are loaded on this side of the ball, led by sophomore quarterback Dequan Finn, who threw for 18 TDs and ran for nine more in 2021, with just two interceptions. And his supporting cast is formidable.

Finn's protection is anchored by four returning starters along the line, led by senior tackle Mitchell Berg and junior guard/center Tyler Long. That duo helped Toledo average nearly 200 rushing yards per game last season. Sophomore guard Nick Rosi, an all-conference performer in 2019, returns after missing last season due to injury. Junior tackle Lavel Dumont made seven starts a year ago, while sophomore Vinny Sciury made six starts at guard.

First-team All-MAC running back Bryant Koback opted to depart for the NFL, so Micah Kelly and Jacquez Stuart should share the bulk of the carries. The receiver group is led by junior Devin Maddox, who caught 41 passes for 567 yards and four TDs in 2021. Matt Landers, who led the Rockets with a team-best 25.7 yards per catch, has transferred, opening the way for Jerjuan Newton to take on more of the load in the passing game.

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Previewing Toledo's Defense for 2022

Toledo's defense ranked first in the MAC in points allowed (21.8) and was second in total defense (349.7 ypg). The Rockets could surpass that effort this time around, bolstered by five all-conference players.

Up front, two-time All-MAC defensive end Desjuan Johnson leads the group after registering 70 tackles, 12.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks last year. At outside linebacker, three-time All-MAC Jamal Hines headlines a deep group. Hines had 88 tackles, 15.0 TFLs and 10 sacks in 2021 and joins fellow senior Dyontae Johnson, who had 86 tackles and 8.0 TFLs, earning third-team All-MAC honors in 2021.

In the secondary, sophomore safety Maxen Hook and junior nickel Nate Bauer return with all-conference honors to their credit. Hook had 95 tackles as a freshman in 2021, while Bauer had 55 tackles and 6.5 TFLs. The corners should be sophomore Quinyon Mitchell, who started every game a year ago, along with junior Chris McDonald.

Related: MAC Football 2022 Predictions

Previewing Toledo's Specialists for 2022

Junior placekicker Thomas Cluckey returns, but five-year starter Bailey Flint must be replaced at punter. The leading candidate there is fellow Aussie freshman Jonathon Batzke. All-MAC punt returner Maddox returns along with Stuart, who averaged 27.9 yards per kickoff return.

Final Analysis

Toledo went 7–6 in 2021, moving Jason Candle's record to 45–27 entering his seventh full season. Despite having the MAC's No. 1-rated recruiting class for five of the past six years, the Rockets have not won a league or division title since 2017. The seat is warm for Candle, who has the talent on his roster to bring Toledo back to the MAC's forefront. If Toledo can do a better job of closing out games — the Rockets lost by a TD or less five times in 2021 — then a return to the MAC title game is possible.

National Ranking: 78

Podcast: Previewing and a Deep Dive + Predictions on the Group of 5 Conferences for 2022