A week filled with shake-ups at the top of the college footballrankings also saw both of the teams in this Tuesday night MAC matchup falter as well. Toledo (8-2, 5-1 MAC) lost for only the second time this season but both have been on the road and by at least 22 points, as MAC East leader Ohio trounced the Rockets 38-10 last Wednesday. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Toledo, whose only other loss came near the end of September at undefeated Miami, who was ranked No. 2 in the most recent AP and Coaches Polls.
More importantly, Toledo still controls its own destiny in the MAC West, thanks to a head-to-head win over Northern Illinois two weeks ago. The Rockets will finish out the regular season with Western Michigan, so two more wins and they will play in the MAC Championship Game in Detroit on Dec. 2.
On the other side, a loss was nothing new for Bowling Green, who dropped to 2-8 (2-4 MAC) following a 38-28 defeat at Buffalo last Tuesday. The loss was the Falcons’ third in four games, and they will look to send their seniors out on a positive note after an otherwise disappointing season. Bowling Green took its lumps early, losing non-conference games against Michigan State, Northwestern, Middle Tennessee and FCS opponent South Dakota. But MAC play hasn’t been kind either, as the Falcons’ only two wins this season have come on the road against Miami (Ohio) and Kent State, a pair of teams that are a combined 6-14. This will be Bowling Green’s last chance to pick up a victory at Doyt Perry Stadium.
These two foes first squared off in 1919, a 6-0 Toledo win, but the Falcons hold a slight advantage in the series, 39-38-3. The Rockets have won the last eight matchups, however, and 10 of the last 13 in the Battle of I-75.
Toledo at Bowling Green
Kickoff: Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Toledo -17
Three Things to Watch
1. Toledo’s high-flying offense
It really is no secret that the Rockets’ offense has been one of the most productive in the nation, as the team has been living up to its nickname. Entering this week, Toledo is leading the MAC and 11th nationally in total offense at 497.6 yards per game. Behind senior quarterback Logan Woodside, the Rockets also are tops in the MAC and just outside of the top 20 in the FBS in passing offense (294.0 ypg) while posting a ridiculous 20:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Woodside is averaging 15.1 yards per completion, which is the best in the conference and 10th in the nation, while completing 65 percent of his passes. Besides being explosive, Toledo also is among the top 25 teams in time of possession at nearly 32 minutes per game (Navy leads the FBS with 35:47 TOP). All of this adds up to a tough task for a Bowling Green defense that is last in the MAC and 125th (out of 129) teams in the FBS in total defense at 505.2 yards allowed per game.
2. Battle for field position
This results largely from the poor performance of their offense this season, but one way that the Falcons can attempt to swing the game in their favor is via field position. Bowling Green is fifth nationally (and leads the MAC) with a net punt average of 42.74 yards per punt, so redshirt senior punter Joe Davidson and the special teams unit have done a fantastic job of pinning their opponents deep in their own territory. If they can do the same against Toledo and keep the Rockets from having a short field, Bowling Green may be able to hang around.
In a conference showdown, especially one with all the history that embodies this rivalry, the turnover battle can often be critical down the stretch. Many of these fierce rivalries feature an indicator of a team’s composure and discipline, both of which have the power to keep teams from committing costly turnovers or penalties late in the game. This is an area where Bowling Green has a decided advantage over Toledo. The Falcons lead the nation with 15 fumbles recovered, but Toledo does just as good a job protecting the football as anyone else, throwing the third-fewest interceptions (three) trailing only national leader Alabama (two). Woodside has thrown just two picks this season compared to 20 touchdowns passes.
With one team (Toledo) squarely into the postseason picture and the other (Bowling Green) already eliminated from bowl contention, this game is all about mindsets. For the Rockets, it is a matter of looking forward and getting back to their winning ways and ensuring that the loss to Ohio doesn’t set them back too much. Toledo will have its sights set on clinching the MAC East, which they can do this week with a win and an NIU loss Wednesday vs. Western Michigan. With this game being Senior Night for Bowling Green, the focus shifts to looking back and recognizing the contributions of this senior class, who were part of the team’s 2014 Camellia Bowl win, the program’s first bowl victory since '04. Ultimately, though, the Falcons are overmatched in this one, and Toledo has its sights set on winning its last two games en route to playing in Detriot on Dec. 2 for a MAC title.
Prediction: Toledo 42, Bowling Green 20
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and works for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Associate Editor of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.