They should've beat Akron. The Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl would have almost certainly selected Toledo over Ohio to play East Carolina. But David Fluellen on one good leg just left too much doubt in the bowl committees.
However, and I don't mean to reopen old wounds (or do I?), but now that the MAC went 0-for-bowl season, I can't help if the Rockets could have given us a better bowl record. Indeed, our five bowl games — Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, Buffalo, Ball State, Ohio — lost by an average score of 32-21. Only one opponent (Pittsburgh) played in an AQ conference. Everything about this season pretty much sucked.
So let's see if Toledo could have made it better. Using my favorite trusty simulator tool WhatIfSports, I threw Toledo into the machine against Pittsburgh, Utah State, San Diego State, East Carolina and Arkansas State. I assumed that Fluellen's ankle injury made it that he *could* play, but probably wouldn't. So I bumped him down to fourth string.
(Note: Ignore the "at" — all five games were played on a neutral field.)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Look at that, a comeback victory! Down seven in the fourth quarter, Ricky Pringle broke off an 80-yard touchdown and Terrance Owens threw a touchdown Alonzo Russell, his third TD pass, in the final minutes. The UT defense then forced a fumble on A-State's last-chance drive.
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl
As mentioned, this is the game they would have likely played with an Akron victory. But alas, ECU rattled off 24 straight second-half points as Toledo struggled with third down conversions (3-for-15). Again, UT had a decent rushing game (4.3 ypc) but Owens completed less than half his passes and the O-Line allowed six sacks.
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
James Conner was not a worldbeater like he was against BGSU, but Pitt did even better, mostly thanks to Owens' three interceptions. UT's defense at least held the Panthers to five field goals of 41 yards or shorter. Ethan Kagy did have a first quarter interception return for touchdown. I love when they sim those.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Chuckie Keeton could not play in this game for the Aggies, so he was swapped out for Darell Garretson, who didn't have a very good game for USU against NIU. He was simmed almost poorer: three interceptions, one which was returned 92 yards for a touchdown by Ray Bush. The rushing attack was mostly bottled up, not unlike what they did to Jordan Lynch in Actual Football, but it was Rocket defense which actually did their job here.
My goodness. Kareem Hunt ran 20 times for 200 yards. If he's as good next year as the simulator loves him, Fluellen will be missed but not irreplaceable.
So, to recap: They would have won three times, lost twice, and David Fluellen had zero carries. But the game they most likely would have played — the Beef 'O' Brady's — would have also been a blowout loss. They should've beaten Akron, yes, but they also should've beaten Ball State and/or NIU too.
Now that I think about it ... let's simulate that regular season finale one more time. Hell, if we're playing the what-if game, then let's give them another shot against...
...ah never mind.