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2021 Week 12 Midweek MACtion Preview: Toledo Rockets at Ohio Bobcats

Two teams with goals still in play clash in Athens on a special night for Ohio seniors.

Ohio v Cincinnati
Three-time Bobcat captain Cam Odom will play his last game at Peden Stadium this week when Ohio hosts Toledo
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Game Notes

  • Time and Date: Tuesday, November 16th, at 7 p.m. Eastern time
  • Network: Exclusively on ESPN+ (A valid subscription is required for viewing.)
  • Audio/Internet:
  • Ohio: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/ohio/
  • Toledo: https://utrockets.com/watch/?Archive=7791&type=Live
  • Location: Athens, Ohio, Peden Stadium
  • Weather: 48 degrees, wind 6 MPH
  • ESPN’s ‘Matchup Predictor:’ Toledo 83.6 percent chance to win.
  • ESPN’s Line: Ohio +6
  • Last Meeting: November 8, 2017, Ohio won 38-10.
  • Common Opponents: Eastern Michigan: beat Toledo 52-49; lost to Ohio 34-26 || Central Michigan: beat Toledo 26-23 (OT); beat Ohio 30-27

Ohio Bobcats

The ‘Cats (3-7, 3-3 MAC) head into this one needing a win to keep its MAC East title hopes alive. To claim the MAC East, Ohio needs to win out against Toledo and Bowling Green, Kent State would need to lose both of its remaining games to rival Akron and Miami, and Miami would need to lose to Bowling Green.

The night promises to be a special one for Bobcat seniors who will be playing in Peden Stadium for the final time. Tight ends Ryan and Adam Luehrman are two of those seniors playing their last home game in front of their childhood hometown crowd. Joining the Bobcats after playing for Athens High School, the Luehrman brothers became a key part of Ohio’s offense, doing a lot of the dirty work in the trenches to make the running game go and making plays in the passing game.

Super-seniors WR Cam Odom and DE Will Evans opted to return in 2021, and will be making their 51st and 50th appearances respectively for the Bobcats versus Toledo on Tuesday night.

Odom and Evans (as well as the Luehrmans and current seniors such as center Nick Sink, right guard Hagen Meservy and safety Jarren Hampton) helped the Bobcats win three-straight bowl games from 2017-2019, quite a feat given that only two other current MAC members have ever won three straight bowls (1969-71 Toledo Rockets, 1973-75 Miami RedHawks. Former member Marshall also won consecutive bowls from 1997-2002).

The ‘Cats come into the contest playing their best football of the season, having split a pair of games against MAC East co-leaders Kent State and Miami, followed by a strong road win over Eastern Michigan, where Ohio played well in all phases.

The Rockets will have their hands full preparing for the Bobcats’ two quarterback offense, with QBs Kurtis Rourke and Armani Rogers combining for 116 yards rushing last week, while Rourke threw for 230 yards and three scores.

In addition to QB runs from Rogers and Rourke, Ohio has a deep group of running backs led by De’Montre Tuggle, who is third in conference with 6.03 yards per rush.

WR Isiah Cox leads the charge in the passing game recently, gaining momentum the last three weeks with 17 catches for 252 yards and three scores.

Defensively, Ohio arguably turned in its best performance of the season last week, holding the Eagles to just 26 points after EMU averaged 50 points per game the past two weeks.

Safety Tariq Drake, who is putting together an All-MAC-type performance this year, collected his third interception of the season last week, which ties him for first in the MAC.


Toledo Rockets

Toledo (5-5, 3-3 MAC) crushed Bowling Green last week by a score of 49-17, and now comes to Athens looking for the win that they need to secure bowl eligibility.

The Rockets and the Bobcats share a similar story this year, with conference title dreams bedeviled by close losses. Each team has three conference losses, with Ohio losing by a combined 11 total points and Toledo by seven total points.

With Northern Illinois holding a two-game lead and the tiebreaker due to a head-to-head win, Toledo is out of the MAC West race with only two games to play.

Toledo’s offense has been on fire the last two games, scoring 49 points per contest. Dual threat QB Dequan Finn has been lights out in the last two games with 731 passing yards and six touchdowns against only one interception. Finn has also gashed teams in the red zone and has eight rushing scores this year.

The Bobcats run defense will be tested this week as Ohio will have to try to slow down not only Finn but Toledo’s star running back Bryant Koback, who moved into fifth all-time last on the Rockets’ career rushing yards list with 3,562 yards. Koback is also third all-time with 39 rushing touchdowns.

Key to Koback’s success will be the play of 2021 All-MAC candidates center Bruce Harris and left tackle Vitaliy Gurman.

Defensively, Toledo has the tools to stop opponents cold, ranking first in the MAC in scoring defense, allowing only 21.5 yards per game.

Linebacker Jamal Hines leads the charge for Toledo, a disruptive force in the passing game this year ranking second in the MAC with 6.5 sacks while contributing seven passes defensed.

The Rockets have some talented players in the secondary to combat Ohio’s receiving corps, including Samuel Womack, who set the Toledo career record for pass breakups last week with two PBU’s versus Bowling Green, bring his career total to 37.


Prediction

The Rockets have a strong squad and can compete with any team on its schedule any given week, which they showed early in the year in a three-point loss to eighth-ranked Notre Dame and a two-point loss more recently to MAC West leader Northern Illinois. Ohio, despite a glut of injuries, has showed continual improvement throughout MAC play, culminating in its best win of the season last week on the road versus MAC West contender EMU. Ohio will continue its improved play and cover the spread at +6, with the Bobcats likely winning outright.