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Toledo Rockets vs. Ohio Bobcats Preview and Prediction

Kareem Hunt

Kareem Hunt

The Thursday night clash between Ohio and Toledo in the Glass Bowl features two of the MAC’s top teams and could be the first of two meetings between these two programs in 2016. Of course, there’s an asterisk by that note, as the Bobcats and Rockets still have major hurdles to clear within their own division before booking a trip to Detroit for the MAC Championship Game.

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While Ohio and Toledo are essentially tied for the lead in their respective division, both teams have some work to do. The Rockets are a step behind Western Michigan in the West, and the Bobcats are tied at 3-1 with Akron with four games remaining. The Zips still have a remaining matchup against Toledo next week, so it’s likely the Nov. 22 meeting between Akron and Ohio decides the winner of the East Division.

Under the direction of first-year coach (and rising star) Jason Candle, Toledo is off to a 6-1 start. The Rockets only loss came at BYU (55-53), and five out of the six victories this year came by 14 points or more. Ohio is 5-3 through eight weeks, suffering losses at the hands of Tennessee (28-19), Eastern Michigan (27-20) and Texas State (56-54). Coach Frank Solich’s team scored a win over Kansas in Week 2 and held their own in the loss against the Volunteers.

Toledo owns a 31-19-1 series edge over Ohio. Additionally, the Rockets have won 12 in a row over the Bobcats. These two teams have not played since 2010.

Ohio at Toledo

Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Toledo -16

Three Things to Watch

1. Ohio’s Quarterbacks

Greg Windham started the first seven games at quarterback for Ohio, but coach Frank Solich made a switch in last week’s win over Kent State. Windham was benched in favor of talented (but inexperienced) redshirt freshman Quinton Maxwell. Windham passed for 1,282 yards and eight scores and rushed for 350 yards and three touchdowns during his stint under center, while Maxwell has completed 40 of 61 passes for 495 yards and three scores in five appearances. Maxwell also has 68 rushing yards on 18 attempts.

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Both players have produced good moments under center, but neither has shown enough consistency to direct this offense to an upset win over Toledo. Maxwell is expected to start once again on Thursday night, and the redshirt freshman should be more comfortable in his second start. The Rockets rank seventh in the MAC by limiting opponents to 5.8 yards per play and rank second in the conference in fewest points allowed per game (22.4). This unit also leads the MAC in third-down defense and has generated 16 sacks in seven games.

Ohio has been dealing with a handful of injuries at running back, but the duo of Sebastian Smith (15.6 ypc) and Jordan Reid (31 catches) can make plays on the outside. Maxwell is a promising player for Solich but making a start on the road at Toledo is never easy. Can Maxwell step up in his second start under center and provide a spark for an offense averaging 20.3 points in MAC games this year?

Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 9

2. Toledo’s Ground Attack

The MAC boasts a handful of talented ground attacks, including Western Michigan (252.8 ypg), Northern Illinois (229.8 ypg) and Ball State (226.6 ypg). The Rockets aren’t far behind at 208 yards per game, with two of the MAC’s best running backs (Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson) leading the way. Hunt rushed for at least 866 yards in each of his first three years on campus and is poised to eclipse 1,000 in 2016. The senior averages 4.9 yards per rush, with Swanson (5.03), Damion Jones-Moore (6.1 ypc) and Art Thompkins (8.01 ypc) providing depth.

It’s no secret Toledo has a deep backfield of options and is one of the MAC’s best on the ground. However, Ohio is going to present a tough matchup on Thursday night. The Bobcats lead the MAC in rush defense (115.1 ypg), limit opponents to just 3.2 yards per carry and have allowed only eight rushing scores all year. No opponent has averaged more than 4.9 yards per rush in a matchup against Ohio this year. The success for this group begins with end Tarell Basham (10 TFL, 7.5 sacks) and standout linebackers Quentin Poling and Blair Brown. Stopping Toledo’s high-powered attack isn’t going to be easy, but Ohio has a chance to slow down the ground game thanks to a strong front seven.

Which side gets the upper hand in this matchup? Will Ohio find a way to keep Hunt under 100 yards? Or will the Toledo offensive line and the running backs control the line of scrimmage?

3. Toledo QB Logan Woodside

Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell and Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush generated the preseason attention (and rightfully so) as the MAC’s top quarterback for 2016, but Woodside is quietly making a strong push for first-team all-conference honors. The junior leads all MAC quarterbacks with 28 touchdown tosses and is completing 71.4 percent of his throws on a healthy yards per attempt clip (10.7). Additionally, Woodside has been careful with the ball (four picks) and has tossed at least four touchdown passes in six consecutive games. The junior has a solid group of weapons at his disposal, with Cody Thompson (nine touchdown catches) and Corey Jones (38 grabs) the top two targets. However, tight end Michael Roberts (nine touchdown catches) and receiver Jon’Vea Johnson should see plenty of passes in their direction.

Ohio’s secondary was the biggest concern for coordinator Jimmy Burrow this preseason and ranks seventh in the conference in pass efficiency defense. The Bobcats have allowed 16 passing scores and opposing quarterbacks are completing 63.2 percent of their throws. While those numbers are troubling for Solich and Burrow, Ohio has allowed only two passes of longer than 40 yards and ranks first in the MAC with 29 sacks generated. If the Bobcats struggle to get to Woodside, the Rockets have the weapons to take advantage of the secondary. And if Ohio can’t get to Woodside, it has to prevent 10-yard plays from becoming 40-yard gains. Essentially, limit the big plays by Toledo and make the Rockets work the full length of the field.

Final Analysis

As mentioned in the introduction, this is a potential preview of the MAC Championship Game in early December. However, the path for both teams isn’t easy in November and features a couple of roadblocks. With midweek MACtion starting next week, Toledo and Ohio won’t play another game on Saturday for the rest of the season. The Bobcats have enough on defense to keep this one close for a half. However, Ohio’s offense is still looking to find enough consistency to keep up with a high-powered attack like Toledo. Maxwell should have a couple of bright spots for the Bobcats in his second start, but the Rockets simply have too much firepower and pull away for a comfortable win in the fourth quarter.

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Prediction: Toledo 34, Ohio 17