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2018 Week 6 MAC Preview: Bowling Green Falcons @ Toledo Rockets

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Battle of I-75. Enough said.

Bowling Green v Toledo Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images

Nothing supersedes tradition.

It doesn’t matter how lopsided a rivalry is. It doesn’t matter that Toledo has beaten Bowling Green in eight-straight matchups.

Students from Bowling Green will engage in the annual tradition of running the game ball 25 miles from the visiting team’s campus to the home stadium. A rivalry trophy is on the line as well. Formerly, the Peace Pipe trophy was transferred between the two Ohio-based programs, but that changed in 2011 to the Battle of I-75 Trophy — an award only Toledo has been presented.

There’s no hiding it. These programs hate each other. The animosity between the two neighboring colleges is so evident that Toledo actually possesses a rocket from the U.S. Army that, if theoretically launched, would hit the 50-yard line of Bowling Green’s Doyt-Perry Stadium.

But one thing that makes 2018’s edition exponentially important is that the all-time series is tied at 39-39-4. Both teams have the opportunity to break the tie at the Glass Bowl this weekend.

Entering Saturday, the 2-2 Rockets have many clear advantages over the 1-4 Falcons in the 83rd meeting between the rivals. The reigning MAC champions are coming off of a brutal 49-27 loss at Fresno State, but the Rockets have proven this year that their offense is capable of exploding for over 60 points.

And there’s no better team to drop 60 on than Bowling Green. Defense has been a recurring struggle of the Falcons in the Mike Jinks era, and last week was no exception. A helpless Falcons’ unit yielded 63 points to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, falling to 0-4 against FBS programs this season.

Toledo’s offensive struggles last week were due in part to the injury of starting quarterback Mitchell Guadagni. It has not been determined yet if Guadagni, who checked out of the Fresno State game with a concussion, will start for Toledo this Saturday (listed day-to-day according to The Toledo Blade. The dual-threat quarterback has worked wonders for the Rockets’ offense this season.

In his last full start, the junior threw for four touchdown passes, rushed for two touchdowns, and ran for 131 yards in the best game of his young Toledo career. If Guadagni is unable to go, backup Eli Peters will take his place.

Still, Toledo’s offense is armed with a plethora of talent at the receiver position. Cody Thompson, Diontae Johnson, and Jon’Vea Johnson should help Peters adjust into the role if Guadagni is unable to play. The former of the two didn’t receive their necessary amount of targets last week, and that’s something Toledo should work on against Bowling Green’s porous defense.

Bowling Green has the 117th best defense in the country in terms of yards allowed per game. Although the passing defense hasn’t been as bad as in past years, the rushing defense is the worst in the FBS. The Falcons yielded 372 yards to Georgia Tech’s run-heavy attack last week and teams put up an average of 341.2 on Bowling Green.

Toledo’s running backs have struggled thus far, but if Guadagni plays, Bowling Green will be responsible for stopping a mobile quarterback threat too.

For Bowling Green, Jarret Doege will make another start at quarterback. The sophomore is fresh off of his first 300-yard passing game of his career, throwing for 305 yards and one touchdown at Georgia Tech. His touchdown-to-interception ratio stands at 2-1 with 12 touchdown passes and six interceptions.

He is equipped with solid targets including possession receiver Scott Miller, who has broken onto the scene with two 10+ catch games and two 100+ yard games in 2018.

Bowling Green’s offense can score, but the team has recorded many garbage time touchdowns this season after games have already been decided. For instance, the Falcons even scored on a Hail Mary pass on the last play of a 38-23 loss to Miami (OH).

Game Notes

  • Time and date: Saturday, October 6 — 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Network: ESPN+
  • Venue: Glass Bowl — Toledo, OH
  • Spread: Toledo (-21.5)
  • ESPN FPI Predictor: Toledo has 93.6% chance to win
  • All-time series: Series tied at 39-39-4

As mentioned earlier, this game is a crucial one in the series as the winner earns the all-time bragging rights. Toledo has won eight-straight matchups and has taken home the Battle of I-75 Trophy each year since the hardware came into existence. The Rockets won 2017’s contest in a high-scoring 66-37 shootout. Bowling Green’s last wins over its archrival came in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

Prediction

This is about as one-sided of a matchup as you’ll get in the MAC in 2018. Toledo’s offense has already broken the 60-point threshold twice in 2018, and if Guadagni plays, consider this one over immediately.

Bowling Green’s defense simply cannot teams, and the Falcons continue to sit in the cellar of the FBS with UTEP, Texas State, Kent State, Charlotte, and friends. The Rockets earn home field advantage at the Glass Bowl too, where the team won two of its opening three games. It’ll be a perfect game for Toledo to establish a previously dormant rushing attack.

Bowling Green couldn’t compete with Miami (OH) at home, and playing Toledo on the road will be a completely different demon for the Falcons.

Jarret Doege and the Falcons offense can score some points, but the defense won’t do any favors against the Rockets.

Prediction: Toledo 51, Bowling Green 21