To clinch a spot in the conference title game with two games remaining requires a very high level of dominance, and the Toledo Rockets have played up to that level this season. Toledo has won nine straight games leading into this week's matchup with Bowling Green, and if you think they’ll be coasting the rest of the way since their spot in the title game is clinched, think again.
These two teams have an immense history with each other in a rivalry that has coined the name “Battle of I-75.” After BGSU went into Toledo and upset them last season, I’ll break down why the Rockets will come out motivated for a big win.
With a 9-1 record, it’s clear that Toledo has dominated this season, but they have especially dominated since the start of midweek MACtion. The Rockets have been favored by three scores in both midweek battles, and they have covered both games. Most recently, the Rockets beat up on Eastern Michigan 49-23, which has them entering this week ranked 31st in average points per game (32) and 34th in average points allowed per game (21.6).
Finding success in the MAC weighs heavily on the quarterback position, and the Rockets have arguably the best quarterback in the conference in DeQuan Finn. While Finn has been impressive this season, the Rockets' offense primarily centers around their run game. With a run play percentage of 60.8%, the Rockets rank 24th in rushing attempts per game.
That heavy run volume has led Toledo to average 5.5 yards per carry and 219.8 rushing yards per game, which both rank within the top ten in their respective categories. Toledo’s run game is anchored by Peny Boone, averaging 104.2 rush yards per game, setting up an intriguing matchup against a Bowling Green defense that is 24th in the country in total yards allowed per game (328.9).
Thanks to the Falcons' impressive defense, the Rockets are not the only team in this matchup that enters with a win streak. Following their win last week, the Falcons have won four straight games. The biggest thing that might keep the Falcons from extending their win streak is injuries. Bowling Green is a very run-heavy offense, but both of their leading rushers, Ta’Ron Keith and Terion Stewart, are currently listed as game-time decisions for the contest.
This year’s edition of the Battle of I-75 has the Toledo Rockets favored by (-9.5), and I think they’re primed to exact revenge on the Falcons. While the Falcons might be on a winning streak, the four teams they have beaten have all been well below them in the conference standings, and all of their records sit below .500.
In the conference games the Falcons have played against teams with better records than them, they have been outscored 65-7. With another tall task this week, the Falcons' offense could be in a lot of trouble with both of their running backs injured, and even if they do play, they won’t be 100%. If the Falcons are forced to rely more on their passing game, they’ll likely struggle since they rank 125th in passing yards per game and 96th in completion percentage.
Toledo’s primary strength on defense is limiting the pass, holding opponents to a 51.6% completion percentage and limiting them to an average of just 6 yards per pass. With two banged-up running backs and a below-average passing game, I don’t think the Falcons will be able to keep pace with the DeQuan Finn and Peny Boone, who have the Rockets ranked 25th in third down conversion percentage.
Toledo Rockets (-9.5)(-110)