2018 has not gone the way that the Toledo Rockets (5-5, 3-3 MAC) or the Kent State Golden Flashes (2-8, 1-5 MAC) have hoped but both have a chance to make something out of this season Thursday night when the teams lock horns at Dix Stadium. Toledo has a chance to get bowl eligible with opportunities to get that sixth win against KSU or at home against Central Michigan to close out the season, while the Flashes have chances for a signature win for Sean Lewis with the game against UT and a home finale against a talented Eastern Michigan squad.
While three losses in MAC play are disappointing for a program like Toledo, they came against three teams that will probably end up in bowl games so the team is no slouch. After starting the last two games at quarterback, Eli Peters gets the nod this week as he has thrown for 1,010 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions in MAC play while the ground attack has added 219 yards per game in conference.
While the UT defense hasn’t been great in terms of yardage allowed, it is an exceptional situational defense as it is tops in the league in third down conversions (30.9%), fourth down conversions (35.7%), and red zone defense in MAC play (11 scores allowed in 16 trips). Tuzar Skipper and Reggie Howard spearhead a unit that has registered 25 sacks on the year by contributing 10.5 between them.
Meanwhile, KSU is still in the midst of a total overhaul but it has some talented players that has been causing defenses fits. Transfer QB Woody Barrett has been a good addition for the Flashes as he thrown for 1,932 yards, 10 TDs, and eight INTs to go with 442 yards and six scores on the ground. The tandem of Justin Rankin and Jo-El Shaw have been productive all season long with 947 rushing yards, 202 receiving yards, and 12 total scores.
Kent State’s defense has not been dominant on paper but it has some quality football players. Corner Keith Sherald leads the team in tackles with 75 and has six PBUs, 4.5 TFLs, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Theo Majette is another disruptive player with 4.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks this season.
As far as special teams go, the only consistent disparities are in the punt return and the kickoff coverage units. UT is averaging 13.5 yards per punt return (KSU: one yard per return) and 44.1 net yards on kickoff (KSU: 40.1 net yards) in MAC play. Obviously, the field position game heavily favors the Rockets.
On paper, this is a game that Toledo should dominate. They have more talent on all sides of the ball and Kent State is too inefficient on both sides of the ball to really keep up with UT. However, Peters is only completing 55% of his passes in MAC play he has a high total of interceptions so the Flashes have a chance to hang around if the game plan calls for him to throw the ball a bunch. 38-20 Toledo as they make a push for the postseason.