Rockets are one win away from bowl eligibility
The Toledo Rockets and Kent State Golden Flashes will battle it out Thursday night in a classic MAC showdown. The Rockets come into the game needing just one win to become bowl eligible. The Golden Flashes, on the other hand, are looking to salvage what has been a fairly disappointing season. They are just 2-8 on the year, with wins over Bowling Green and FCS foe Howard.
Toledo at Kent State
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. ET
Spread: Toledo -13
Three Things to Watch
1. Who can get an early stop on defense?
This game could end up being about momentum. Neither team is great on defense, as they both allow well over 400 yards per game. If one of the two units is able to force an early three-and-out or at least shut down a drive that could be all the confidence needed to swing momentum early. There likely won't be much of a home-field advantage for Kent State, so it will need something big to happen on the field early. A defensive stop would be huge.
2. Can Kent State protect quarterback Woody Barrett?
If the Golden Flashes are going to have any chance of winning this game, they need to protect the quarterback — something they haven't been able to do this season. Barrett has been sacked 36 times, and the impact of those sacks in clear in Kent State's record. If Barrett has time, he can be a dynamic playmaker with the ability to change the game. Watch how he is protected early on; if he can avoid a sack during the first couple of drives, Kent State has a shot.
3. Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson
Johnson is quite simply one of the most exciting players in the country. He is a shifty player in the open field and a nightmare on special teams for opponents. His growth as a receiver has made him an invaluable piece to the Toledo offense, and he'll likely find himself a spot in an NFL offense one day. Look for the Rockets to feed him the ball early and often to move the chains and make big plays. If Johnson is rolling, so is the Rocket offense.
Both of these teams are exactly what their records say they are. Toledo is a solid club — good enough to beat the teams they are favored against and compete well as underdogs. Kent State is simply not very good in any facet of the game. That'll be the story on Thursday, as the Golden Flashes will likely struggle to get much going on offense. Toledo has to show they can muster a pass rush, and that will eventually spell trouble to Kent State. Sit back and be entertained by the electric Diontae Johnson as Toledo cruises to a sound win and becomes bowl eligible.
Prediction: Toledo 34, Kent State 13
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.