Opportunity is the word used by Toledo coaches and players to describe the Week 1 match-up with the Florida Gators. Florida enters the contest ranked No. 10 in the country, which will give the Rockets an opportunity to notch their eighth Top 25 victory in program history. However, hardly anybody is giving Toledo a chance to knock off the Gators. Despite being an extreme underdog, the Rockets will prepare as they would for any other game.
"We're going to go into that game as if we're playing another MAC team," said senior defensive end, Christian Smith.
No matter how much we pretend, we all know playing Florida isn't just 'any other game', especially when you travel to Gainesville.
"We're all excited to play in front of the big crowd," said senior quarterback, Terrance Owens. "We'll go in as underdogs just like any time we play big schools, but we enjoy it."
Senior wide receiver, Bernard Reedy says the team is prepared for Florida. "We prepare with loud music and by putting ourselves in tough situations so that when we get down there we won't have any surprises."
This will be the first time a Toledo football team has faced a SEC opponent. Despite that fact, head coach Matt Campbell says there won't be a problem with the atmosphere. "One thing our program is used to is playing in some big environments," he said. "Our guys have played at Ohio State, and we've played in those environments."
The Rockets potent offense, which features Reedy, Owens and running back David Fluellen as its primary pieces, will have its hands full in Florida. In 2012 the Gators had the nation's fifth best defense, but will return only three starters. The lack of experience could give Toledo an advantage, however the SEC (and Florida) is known for having incredible depth, and highly talented players all across the roster. On offense, the Gators bring back junior quarterback Jeff Driskel along with starting wide receivers, Quinton Dunbar and Trey Burton and a veteran offensive line.
It'll be two veteran offenses, against two young defenses, as Toledo also is starting the season without several key contributors from a year ago. But the pressure of facing such a talented team, with some glaring holes on the defensive side of things isn't worry the team.
"There's two ways you can take it, you can take a fear based spirit and worry about it or you can be excited," said Toledo defensive coordinator, Tom Matukewicz. "We get to go and test ourselves against a Top 10 team in the country."
Florida earned a BCS bowl bid last season following an 11-1 regular season, before losing to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.
"We have tremendous respect for Florida's program and tradition," said Campbell. "It's a great opportunity for us and our program to go down there and be a part of a great opening week football game."
Saturday's game kicks off at 12:21 p.m. Eastern time at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The game can be seen on the SEC network and on MyNetworkTV in the Toledo market. Viewers outside of these markets can view the game on ESPN3.