As typical in this conference we love, the previous year’s champion tends to take a step back and the Rockets were no exception in 2018. Aside from the old cliche’ that it is much easier to climb to the top than stay there, the Rockets lost players and were beset by injuries. Coming into the 2019 campaign, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic for this squad and a few reasons to be worried.
First, let’s take a look at the good. The Rockets are loaded at running back, even despite losing home-run hitter Art Thompkins and his 5.7+ yards-per-average to UConn. Shakif Seymour is a burly back that can carry the load, especially on power downs. Kentucky transfer Bryant Koback was brilliant last season. The offensive line returns 3 senior starters, and the quarterback position seems solid, with Mitchell Guadagni returning from an injury plagued season and Eli Peters looking capable filling in.
The question is at receiver, where the top 3 receivers from last year currently are on NFL rosters. However, coach Jason Candle has done such a brilliant job with that position, we will give him the benefit of the doubt.
Second, the bad. A constant thorn in the Rockets armor has been their defense and there are certainly questions this season. They do return an athletic bunch and have bunch of young potential. The Rockets will rely on their running attack more this season which will help out on this side of the ball, too. My guess is that we will see the best defensive unit in the Candle Era in 2019.
Last, the pretty. The schedule could not be more favorable to the Rockets.
Arguably their toughest opponent come in week one when they head to Kentucky to take on the Wildcats. This game will mean a lot to Koback and company. Anything can happen the first game of the season, and the Rockets will be ready for this game. A win, or even a close contest will put the Rockets on the radar.
Next they host Murray State, which should be a win.
After that is a trip out west to take on the Colorado State Rams. This should also be a win for the Rockets, though not guaranteed. Heading into their final non-conference game, they will probably be 2-1, though 3-0 is not out of the question.
They play host to Brigham Young. The last time these two teams faced off, it was one of the most exciting football games I have ever watched, where the Cougars’ running back torched the Rockets defense. Maybe this time, the three amigos from Toledo will be the ones that do the damage. Even if 2-2 is in the cards for the Rockets, the conference slate is stacked in the Rockets favor.
The first four games are in the Glass Bowl, before heading to Muncie and then another away game taking on arch rival Falcons, who currently have one scholarship QB on the roster. Toledo then closes on the road at Buffalo and then in Mount Pleasant.
While I don’t really see the Rockets as a 10 or 11 win team with a regular schedule, I am very optimistic for this squad. Toledo might need to put the brakes on offense a bit to keep scores on the lower side to help a talented but young defense catch up, while also solidifying their receiving corps, but the pieces are in place for yet another run at the MAC West.
Editor’s note: Bowling Green signed a second QB as I was writing this article. We have also changed the article to reflect Art Thompkins' transfer to UConn.