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2018 Week 13 MAC Preview: Central Michigan Chippewas @ Toledo Rockets

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Bowl eligible Rockets battle the slumping Chippewas to finish the regular season.

Central Michigan v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The end is almost near.

Central Michigan already clinched its worst record in program history with a 1-10 standing heading into a tough road matchup against the 6-5 Toledo Rockets. The Chippewas have yet to beat an FBS program in 2018, and the disappointing campaign has tied the team with five other bottom-feeders for the worst record in the country.

Averaging just 15.2 points per game — third to last in the nation — Central Michigan’s offense is performing at a subpar level just one year after the team scored 41.2 points per game on a five-game winning streak to end the regular season. It’s been known for weeks that Central Michigan will miss out on bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011 and fail to obtain six wins for the first time since John Bonamego took over as head coach.

One of the other MAC’s consistent bowl-qualifiers, Toledo, has attained bowl eligibility for the ninth-consecutive year. Although the 2017 MAC champions lie just one game above .500, the Rockets will receive a golden opportunity on senior day at the Glass Bowl to record a seventh win and plenty of momentum heading into bowl season. The Rockets broke the .500 barrier in Kent last week, demolishing the Golden Flashes behind 56 points from a Eli Peters and a high-octane offense.

While Central Michigan struggles updating the scoreboard during a contest, Toledo revels in doing such. The Rockets are one of 13 FBS programs that score above 40 points per game, with a scoring average approximately 25 points above that of Central Michigan. The Rockets have alternated quarterbacks throughout the year between Mitchell Guadagni and Eli Peters, but both have shown the ability to lead the offense to exemplary performances.

The rushing game, which struggled to gain ground during the first half of the year, has finally etched its mark in the sand. Freshman Bryant Koback is leading the charge, fresh off a career-best 192-yard, 2-touchdown outing at Kent State last Thursday — signifying his first time reaching 100 in his young, promising career.

Toledo is gifted with a stellar corps of receivers but Thursday will particularly be an important day for Cody Thompson and Jon’Vea Johnson. The duo of senior wideouts will be playing its final game at the Glass Bowl, sitting second and tenth in all-time receiving yards in Toledo history, respectively. Thompson is a monster day — 215 yards — from tying Eric Page (2009-11) for most yards in program history. Thompson is already the Rockets’ career receiving touchdowns leader with 30, while Johnson ranks sixth with 22 with Central Michigan and a bowl game to go.

On the other side of the ball, we will witness the conclusion of a storied college career for one of the conference’s top linebackers. Central Michigan middle linebacker Malik Fountain has never missed a game since entering Mount Pleasant, and he’ll participate in game number 51 in his Chippewas career. Third in the FBS in total tackles in 2018, Fountain has registered 386 total tackles and 24.5 tackles for loss throughout the past four seasons.

Fellow senior linebacker, Alex Briones, will be attacking from the outside in Central Michigan’s final game of the year. Briones has 57 total tackles this year and seven tackles for loss, assisting Fountain in anchoring the 30th yards per game defense in the country.

Game Notes

  • Time and date: Friday, November 23 — 12 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Glass Bowl — Toledo, OH
  • Network: ESPN3 (on WatchESPN)
  • Spread: Toledo (-18.5)
  • ESPN FPI Predictor: Toledo has 86.9% chance to win
  • All-time series: Toledo leads, 25-18-3

This is about as one-sided of a series as you’ll find in the MAC. Toledo hasn’t succumbed to Central Michigan since 2009, back when the Chippewas were MAC champions with senior quarterback Dan LeFevour, junior wide receiver Antonio Brown, and freshman offensive tackle Eric Fisher. In the eight-straight Toledo wins, the Rockets have won by double-digits in all but one. The Rockets also enjoyed a 10-game win streak in the series from 1995-2004, with a five-year Central Michigan run of success sandwiched in between.

Prediction

Toledo wins, easily. The Rockets have scored 45 points or more four times at the Glass Bowl this season, and their offense is not going to take an off week on senior day on their home turf.

Central Michigan’s actually decent at defending the pass, so expect Bryant Koback and some of the other backs to boost plenty of the offensive production in an easy victory. Barring a miracle, Central Michigan’s offense won’t be able to maintain the pace of Jason Candle’s dominant offense at Toledo. As long as the Rockets can stop the Chippewas’ struggling run game, Toledo clinches its seventh win, riding a mini win-streak into bowl season.

Prediction: Toledo 48, Central Michigan 17