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2020 Mid-American Conference Football Week 1 Game Preview: BGSU Falcons at Toledo Rockets

What is arguably the MAC’s biggest rivalry takes center stage on national tv.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 15 Toledo at Bowling Green Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What a way to kick off the MAC football season in Northwest Ohio with some MACtion, featuring arguably the MAC’s premier rivalry game.

On Wednesday night, the heated rivals, separated by roughly 25 miles, will kick off a nationally televised game with the winner taking home “The Battle of I-75 trophy.” Rivalries don't get much closer than this as the all-time series is tied 40-40-4 after Bowling Green took home a major upset victory in 2019 to snap the Rockets’ nine-year win streak.

A year ago, BGSU won 20-7 in front of a crowd of over 19 thousand at Doyt Perry Stadium. The Falcons defense chased Mitchell Guadagni from the game via injury and held Bryant Koback to just 60 yards while Grant Loy led the Falcons to victory, passing for 185 yards and running for 137 more with two total touchdowns enroute to victory, their first vs Toledo since 2009.

Despite last year’s win, BGSU hasn’t won in The Glass Bowl since 2008 and hasn’t won back to back games against UT since winning three straight from 2007 to 2009.

Both teams are looking to build off of very different 2019 seasons. Bowling Green finished 3-9 in Scot Loeffler’s debut season, matching their previous record. It was a team which was certainly on the rebuild, as Loeffler began the team’s transition from air raid to pro-style concepts and construction.

Toledo finished 6-6 a year ago, good for their worst record since 2009. It was their first season without a bowl game appearance since 2013. That result is uncommon for Rocket head coach Jason Candle and the program as a whole, who haven’t had losing record since the mid-2000’s.

The MAC coaches poll picked Toledo to win the West, while media had UT finishing behind CMU, with BGSU finishing fifth in the East in both polls. So how does all that set up this year’s primetime matchup?


Game info

When: Wednesday, November 4th, 8:00 PM

Where: The Glass Bowl, Toledo Ohio

Watch: ESPNU

Weather: Partly cloudy, high of 65 and a low of 42.

Odds: Toledo (-22), over/under 61.5 points, per OddsShark.


Series History

Series record: 40-40-4 in 84 meetings

First meeting: 1919, Toledo 6-0

Last meeting: BGSU, 20-7

Longest win streak: BGSU 12 times from 1955 thru 1966/UT 9 times between 2010 and 2018

Largest margin: Toledo, 63-0 in 1935


Players to watch

BGSU:

  • QB Matt McDonald
  • HB Andrew Clair
  • TE Quintin Morris
  • HB Bryson Denley
  • MLB Kholbe Coleman

Toledo:

  • HB Bryant Koback
  • WR Bryce Mitchell
  • C Bryce Harris
  • DE Jamal Hines
  • CB Samuel Womack

The two rivals are very different in their attitudes yet they feature similar storylines. The schools who are two of the MAC’s proudest football programs, are looking to rebound.

Both schools will be breaking in new quarterbacks this season. In Toledo’s case, they list three quarterbacks with the trendy “or” designation on their depth chart: Carter Bradley, Eli Peters and Dequan Finn.

Bradley, the son of the Los Angeles Chargers coordinator Gus Bradley, saw action in seven games while Mitch Guadagni was banged up. However, he had a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio while passing for 502 yards on 46 completions. Peters, a senior, saw time in four games with five starts. The former Illinois transfer, had a 6:3 ratio and 828 yards on 62 completions. Finn, a redshirt freshman from Detroit, flashed in limited action in three starts a year ago.

BGSU, meanwhile, will turn the reigns over to Boston College transfer Matt McDonald, as Darius Wade has graduated and Grant Loy, the architect of last year’s upset, has transferred out. McDonald followed Loeffler from Boston College and would have started last season if not for NCAA transfer regulations.

Both schools also return key players from injury.

For BGSU, they welcome back talented back Andrew Clair, who was limited to four games a season ago. The two-time third team all-MAC selection, will be playing with a heavy heart following the loss of his sister this off-season to COVID. A preseason Doak Walker nominee, Clair has 1,671 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 26 career games.

Toledo welcomes back center Bryce Harris from injury. The senior, was a second team all-MAC in 2018 after starting 13 games. He has 33 career starts across three positions. Toledo also returns corner Justin Clark from injury.

Both teams also have other tremendous play makers among the MAC’s best.

Junior running back Bryant Koback is one of the MAC’s best, as the former Kentucky transfer was a second team all-MAC selection a year ago for the Toledo offense. He finished with 1,187 yards rushing (good for 4th in the MAC) and a 6.1 yards per carry average (good for third in the MAC). He had 917 yards rushing on 6.0 yards per carry in 2018.

BGSU tight end Quintin Morris should provide a safety valve for McDonald, after he himself was second team all-MAC a year ago. He led MAC tight ends with 55 receptions and 649 yards. It was his second straight season catching over 42 balls. Imagine his numbers if he gets improved QB play.

Both teams struggled on defense last season.

UT allowed an average of 32 points per game, and 475 yards. Their Bowling Green loss was the only loss where they didn’t allow more than 31 points. Gone are defensive coordinator Brian George and linebackers coach Mike Ward. In comes Craig Kuligowski, a former Rocket who has had spent time on the staff of former Toledo coach Nick Saban at Alabama. He is joined by his co-coordinator in Vince Kehres, who spent the past eight years as head coach at Division III power Mount Union. With the Purple Raiders, he had a .941 win percentage and national titles in 2015 and 2017.

BGSU held Toledo to seven points a year ago, and was one of three games where they held their opponent under 35 points. Those three games accounted for their three victories in 2019, as they allowed averages of 38.6 points and 467 yards per game otherwise.

Both teams feature talented backup running backs as Toledo’s Shakif Seymour has over 2,000 career yards after rushing for 741 a year ago while BGSU has Bryson Denley, who had 1,224 all-purpose yards a year ago filling in for Clair.

With the two schools so close together, the result of this game is paramount for recruiting purposes. UT and BGSU had the top two recruiting classes in the MAC a season ago.


Prediction:

Bowling Green will be improved in year two under Loeffler and the early word from practice is that McDonald is the real deal. The Falcons avoid what is usually a solid Rocket crowd for this game. (Toledo led the MAC with a 20,339 average attendance a year ago.)

However, the Falcons are young with their two deep depth chart featuring nine true freshman and seven redshirt freshman. (Toledo’s features two true freshman and four redshirt freshman).

It’s going to be tough for any defense to stop Koback this season and especially tough for a young Falcons team. Expect Candle and company to lean on Koback while they sort out the quarterback play. Asking Kholbe Coleman and company to stop the Rocket offense is a tall ask as Bryce Mitchell is one of the MAC’s best receivers and Drew Rosi is a sleeper at tight end.

Anything can happen in a rivalry game, especially in 2020. With that being said, Clair and Morris are talented enough to keep the Falcons in the game but the Falcons are still likely a year away.

Toledo is picked to win the MAC West for a reason.

Toledo 31-24