When the Miami Hurricanes come onto the field at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday to take on the Toledo Rockets, it will have been three weeks since they last played a game. Because of Hurricane Irma, the Hurricanes canceled a game at Arkansas State and postponed their showdown with rival Florida State to Oct. 7.
To prepare for the Rockets, the Hurricanes are practicing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World. Miami will have its hands full playing a Toledo team that hasn’t scored fewer than 37 points in any of its three games this season.
Miami won the only previous matchup against Toledo, 24-14, at the Orange Bowl on Nov. 21, 1987. The Hurricanes finished that season 12-0 and won their second of five national championships in program history.
Toledo at Miami
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 23, at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Miami -13.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Mark Walton
Junior running back Mark Walton rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the Hurricanes' 41-13 Week 1 victory over Bethune-Cookman. That moved Walton into a tie with Tyrone Moss for the ninth-most 100-yard rushing games in Hurricanes history (seven).
Miami needs Walton to continue to put up huge numbers. He is an even bigger part of the Hurricanes offense this year with a first-year starting quarterback in Malik Rosier under center. In his first game, Walton averaged 9.8 yards per carry.
The best way to keep an explosive offense off the field and your defense fresh is an excellent running game. Expect the Hurricanes to use Walton early and often against the Rockets.
2. Logan Woodside
Quarterback Logan Woodside is arguably one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football. He currently ranks 11th in the nation in passing yards (1,004) and tied for 11th with eight passing touchdowns.
Woodside leads a Toledo offense that ranks 16th nationally in scoring offense with 46.0 points per game through three games. In the Rockets' 54-51 comeback victory against Tulsa, Woodside tied a school record with six touchdown passes. The Hurricanes defense will need to get a lot of pressure on Woodside to create turnovers.
3. Hurricanes' defense
In their 41-13 Week 1 win against Bethune-Cookman, Miami’s defense gave up 350 yards of total offense and 13 points and allowed the Wildcats to convert 8-of-17 third-down attempts.
Against Tulsa last week, Toledo scored 54 points and put up 679 yards of offense, as Woodside threw for 458 yards and six touchdowns. After a long layoff, Miami's defense will need to play much better than it did in Week 1.
“You’re playing an opponent who’s scoring points for fun and has now played a lot of ball, so they’re into their season routine,” Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said earlier this week. “They’ve improved every week.”
While Toledo has lit up the scoreboard so far in 2017, the Hurricanes' defense will be by far the most talented team the Rockets have played this season. Miami has one of the best defensive fronts in the country, and that could give Woodside and the Toledo offense some problems.
Rosier performed decently in his first game of the season, throwing for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Toledo ranks 88th in scoring defense, having given up an average of 29.3 points per game. Look for Malik Rosier, Mark Walton and the rest of the Hurricanes' offense to exploit the Rockets' defense on Saturday.
Prediction: Miami 41, Toledo 20
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
(Logan Woodside courtesy of Daniel Miller/The University of Toledo)