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2017 Week 8 Preview: Akron at Toledo

Could this be a mid-season preview of the MAC Championship game?

NCAA Football: Akron at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season began, I did not foresee this game being so important for the MAC Championship race. Both schools have worked hard to be early leaders the Mid-American Conference.

The Akron Zips (4-3, 3-0 MAC) look very good for a team with three losses already. After defeating a talented Western Michigan team on the road last week, the Zips hope to extend their winning streak against Toledo. Blowout losses to the #2 Penn State Nittany Lions and Iowa St. Cyclones are the only real blemishes on their schedule. Akron also lost to Troy 22-17 in a game that could have easily fallen in Akron’s favor.

Aside from their win against FCS-member Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the Akron Zips have also taken down three MAC schools. Against the Bowling Green Falcons, the Zips won big despite being evenly matched in yardage. The following week against the Ball State Cardinals was another case of a big win without much more yardage gained. The Western Michigan Broncos out-gained the Zips by almost double, but Akron still pulled out the win. Akron is very efficient with their yardage.

Akron is the only MAC East school that is still undefeated in conference play. The Zips are currently in the driver’s seat when it comes to earning a bid to the MAC Championship Game for the first time since 2005. Also, the Zips are only two wins away from being bowl eligible.

Hosting the Zips are the perennial powerhouse Toledo Rockets (5-1, 2-0 MAC). Toledo is fighting to be bowl eligible for the eighth consecutive year, and the first MAC West Championship since 2004.

Toledo’s only loss of the year came from the hands of the currently-#8 Miami-Florida Hurricanes. The Rockets have wins over the Tulsa Hurricane and Nevada Wolfpack, although those two schools are not as successful this year as Miami. Also this year, Toledo beat both the Eastern Michigan Eagles and Central Michigan Chippewas.

Toledo is a game behind most of the MAC in games played due to taking an early bye week before conference play. Regardless, Toledo is also undefeated in the MAC, sharing first place with the Northern Illinois Huskies (4-2, 2-0 MAC). It looks like another fight for the MAC West.

There are a few other interesting tidbits about this game worth mentioning. Both Toledo and Akron have been blessed to each have their starting quarterbacks all season. Both Thomas Woodson and Logan Woodside are seniors that have led their respective teams for years. Akron and Toledo also each wear blue and gold, which I always think is funny.

Players to Watch

Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo - Logan Woodside may be the best quarterback in the MAC this year. This season, Woodside has thrown for 11 touchdowns and only one interception. In the pocket, he has excellent awareness of his receivers and how long he has to get the pass off. With this weekend looking to be sunny, Logan Woodside should have another field day racking up passing yards against Akron. Woodside will likely try to find Diontae Johnson, while Cody Thompson is still injured.

Ulysees Gilbert III, LB, Akron - Gilbert flies all over the field for Akron. Just last week against Western Michigan, Ulysees Gilbert III recorded 10 total tackles, eight on his own. He recorded a sack as well against the tough Bronco offensive line. Incredibly, ten tackles is actually about an average night for Gilbert. He also came up with an interception against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Toledo will have their hands full all night keeping Gilbert away from the ball carrier.

Game Information

Where: Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio

When: 12:00 p.m. EST On Saturday, Oct 21

How to Watch: ESPN3