Following last week’s 13-6 win at Ball State, Toledo football (6-1, 3-0 MAC) became bowl-eligible for the 14th consecutive year, which is the eighth-longest streak in the country.
BTW, a great headline on the Rockets website – Toledo Bowls over Ball State.
Yet, bowl eligibility wasn’t the main goal for Toledo. Defending last year’s MAC championship is the top priority.
Last season Toledo (9-5) won both the MAC title and a bowl game in the same season for the first time in 21 years. Toledo beat Liberty 21-19 in the Boca Raton Bowl.
A repeat performance is what the Rockets are aiming for, and it’s very realistic, but at the same time extremely challenging.
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This week will certainly test Toledo’s MAC supremacy when the West Division-leading Rockets visit East Division-leader Miami (Ohio) in a potential MAC championship preview.
Miami leads the East with a similar 6-1, 3-0 record as Toledo. The 4 p.m. game will be televised by ESPNU.
The game is expected to be a nail-biter. BetMGM has Toledo as a slight favorite at -1.5.
Win or lose, Toledo expects to be in the thick of things in the always-competitive MAC.
The Rockets have won six in a row since opening the season with a 30-28 loss at Illinois, a team that is 3-4, but just earned its first Big 10 victory of the season with last week’s sort of surprising 27-24 win at Maryland.
Last year, Toledo was second in the MAC in scoring offense (31.3 PPG) and third in scoring defense (25.1 PPG).
This year, the Rockets have followed a similar formula to being near the top in both categories. They are first in scoring offense (36.9 PPG) and fourth in scoring defense (20.6 PPG).
Toledo has had three close games this season, two that were led by the D – last week’s win at Ball State and an earlier 21-17 home victory over San Jose State. The offense was the difference in a 35-33 victory over Northern Illinois. In fairness to the offense last week, the weather conditions were miserable at Ball State’s soaking Scheumann Stadium.
Last week, Toledo made things dramatic, scoring the winning TD with just 1:31 left on a three-yard run by junior Peny Boone.
It helps to have a player like Boone when the weather is bad, and it also doesn’t hurt to have him when it is good either.
He entered the week leading the MAC in rushing yards per game (113.1) Boone has rushed for 792 yards (7.4 avg.) and eight touchdowns. He gained 148 yards against Ball State, his fifth consecutive 100-yard game.
The 6-1, 242-pound bruiser of a back began his career at Maryland, where he spent two seasons.
Last year, Boone was Toledo’s third-leading rusher with 443 yards. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns in 13 games. This year, he has taken his game to another level.
QB Dequan Finn was a second-team All-MAC selection last season. This year, he has completed 64.3% of his passes for 1,265 yards, 12 touchdowns, and five interceptions. A serious dual-threat QB, Finn is currently fifth in the MAC in rushing, with 438 yards (6.4 avg.) and four touchdowns.
Like Boone, he attended Martin Luther King High School in Detroit.
Junior wide receiver Jerjuan Newton has surely made the most of his 25 receptions. Newton is averaging 13.8 yards per reception and has caught nine touchdown passes, which leads the nation, along with four other players.
Senior defensive tackle Judge Culpepper is tied for second in the MAC with five sacks. While safety Maxen Hook has four pass breakups and two interceptions.
This is a team with big-play performers on both sides of the ball, and as impressive as their bowl streak is, coach Jason Candle’s Rockets rightfully look at this as a season with much more to accomplish.