Toledo etched its name all over this one. The game in Mount Pleasant wasn't even a contest, and Toledo finished with a wire-to-wire victory, just one week after a close battle with Eastern Michigan.
Central Michigan followed up a 26-23 upset over Ohio with a crushing defeat. The Chippewas' lone touchdown of the afternoon occurred in garbage time, a 26-yard pass from Shane Morris to Tyler Conklin with 1:06 remaining.
Here's what we learned from the decisive victory by the Rockets:
Toledo doesn't need to pass in order to dominate
Toledo has the benefit of having the best quarterback in the conference on its roster, but Logan Woodside does not need to tear up opposing secondaries in order for Toledo to establish its dominance.
Woodside had a 458-yard, 6-touchdown performance several weeks ago to edge Tulsa 54-51, but as a result of playing in front for an entire contest, Woodside didn't need to do anything spectacular to preserve the victory.
The senior finished 10-of-18 passing for 89 yards, rarely attacking the deep ball against the Chippewas. Woodside has not thrown under the 100-yard mark since 2014, but with Jason Candle building a complete team around him, the passing game does not have to be the focal point of the Rockets' talented football team.
Shane Morris must complete over 50% of passes
When Shane Morris completes more than half of his attempts, Central Michigan is 3-0. When matching or below the 50% mark, the Chippewas are an alarming 0-4. So it is imperative for Central Michigan to display efficiency in the passing game because efficiency leads to victory.
Morris finished 17-of-37 with a touchdown and two interceptions in an overall rough outing at Kelly-Shorts Stadium. The offense struggled in long-yardage scenarios, faring just 3-of-13 on third downs. Morris' inaccuracy paired with a costly first half interception failed to spark Central Michigan's offense, a unit that didn't find the end zone until the game was all but over. Morris' final QB rating was 8.1, and backup quarterback Tony Poljan only earned one passing attempt in a game where Central Michigan's air attack looked absolutely non-existent.
No Kareem Hunt? Well, there's Terry Swanson!
Back when Kareem Hunt lined up in the Toledo backfield, second-string running back Terry Swanson still received a lot of repetitions at running back. The senior rushed for 932 yards in 2015, frequently stepping up for the injured Hunt to boost the running game. Now that Hunt is in the NFL and dominating with Kansas City, Swanson has seamlessly taken over the reigns as the next great Toledo running back — even though this is his final season with the program.
The senior rusher gained a season-high 145 yards on the ground at the Chippewas' house, scoring two touchdowns including a 48-yard scamper to put the Rockets on the scoreboard first in the game's opening minutes. After missing the entire Eastern Michigan game, Swanson responded by posting his third 100-yard mark of the season. If the running back remains healthy, he may finally be able to achieve 1,000 rushing yards for the first time since committing to Toledo.
And if Swanson doesn't stay healthy, Toledo still has Art Thompkins and Shakif Seymour on the roster, who have shown ability to take control of the running game. Seymour finished with 119 yards and a touchdown on Saturday.
Toledo will miss Cody Thompson, greatly
Despite a 20-15 win over Eastern Michigan, Toledo was greeted by awful news at the Glass Bowl last Saturday. The team's leading receiver, Cody Thompson, would likely miss the rest of the season with a broken leg. Before the injury, the senior receiver was dominating at an unprecedented rate.
He registered four 100-yard performances to begin the season before the injury on his first reception in the Eastern Michigan game. But life after Thompson has been rough for Logan Woodside. No receiver particularly stepped up in his place on Saturday.
All pass recipients were held to a maximum of two catches against Central Michigan, and no receiver bested Diontae Johnson's 32 yards. It looked like a different brand of Toledo football without the elite deep threat making plays down field. Thompson had been averaging over 19 yards per catch for the third-straight year before the leg injury. Now, the Rockets require the Johnsons (Diontae and Jon'Vea) to step up at receiver if the team wants to continue to possess the MAC's most versatile and well-oiled offense.
Bowl status of Toledo and Central Michigan
At 5-1 with several freebie wins on the schedule, Toledo is bound to reach bowl season for the fourth-consecutive year and the seventh time in eight seasons. But going into this season, the Rockets goal was beyond just making it to postseason. Late-season losses have plagued Toledo from competing in the MAC Championship Game since 2004, where the Rockets defeated Miami (OH) 35-27. Since Toledo last competed for a conference title, every single MAC team except Eastern Michigan has been featured in the game.
In order to compete in Detroit this December, Toledo probably has to beat two of Ohio, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan. Of the three quality opponents the Rockets face, the game against Northern Illinois will likely feature the largest stakes with the West on the line. Toledo must open up its passing game without Thompson beforehand in order to penetrate through Northern Illinois' seventh-ranked yards per game defense in the much-awaited matchup.
For Central Michigan, similar to last year, the goal is to reach postseason. A 55-10 loss in the Miami Beach Bowl is, in fact, better than missing bowl season altogether. Central Michigan already beat a tough Ohio team on the road and must upset one of Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, or Northern Illinois to achieve the six-win mark. Victories over Ball State and Kent State should be more than feasible for the Chippewas. In order to pull off one of these upsets, it's about bringing the offense together. Central Michigan has a solid defense and has forced many turnovers this year, so it's the offense which will likely decide if John Bonamego's team plays in late December or January this winter.