The Toledo Rockets have a non-conference schedule that shows the reality of being a Group Five school. When they are looking for teams that they can generate wins, they typically have to punch below their weight class, and when they are looking for teams to generate some revenue they the team that is getting punched.
Thursday, Sept. 1: Toledo vs. Long Island University Sharks
The Long Island Sharks make the trip from Brookville, New York, to Toledo to open the Rockets season at the Glass Bowl.
The Sharks are introducing their new coach, Ron Cooper and they are in their fourth year as an FCS team. Last year they had a 2-8 record overall and a 2-5 record in the Northeast Conference. They were beat by the Miami RedHawks by a score of 35-3 in 2021.
Overall, they averaged 99.3 yards on the ground with Jonathan Dibique getting the lion’s share of the yardage with an average of 59 yards per game. He is returning as a grad student, so he might lead their rushing attack again. Their passing attack was led by Camden Orth, who had a 55% completion rate and averaged 165 yards per game, but he wil not be returning due to graduation. Sophomore Dom Darbuto is projected to be the starter at QB after seeing time in nine games last year, but doesn’t have much of a record to speak of.
The offense scored an average of 14 points per game while allowing 40 points per game. I don’t expect they will give Toledo much trouble. This game will be on ESPN3.
Saturday, Sept. 10: Toledo vs. Massachusetts Minutemen
The Minutemen continue their tour of the conference they spurned a few years ago in 2022, sceduling another MAC team for the 2022 season. They finished last year with a record of 1-11, resulting in the prompt firing of then-coach Walt Bell. They played two MAC teams in 2021 and lost, dropping games to Eastern Michigan (42- 28) and Toledo (45-7.)
The Minutemen averaged 16 points per game, while allowing 43 points per game. Their rushing attack averaged 147 yards per game and was led by Ellis Merriweather, who averaged about 95 yards per game, which accounts for neary half of all of UMass’ offensive yards. He appears to be returning this year, so I would expect him to carrying the rushing load again. They had several quarterbacks last year and their passing game averaged 153 yards per game. On defense they gave up 235 yards per game on the ground and 249 yards in the air.
Again, I wouldn’t expect Toledo to have much trouble with them. This game will be on ESPN+.
Saturday, Sept. 17: Toledo at Ohio State Buckeyes
After hosting two opponents at home, the Rockets head down I-75 to US-23 in order to face The Ohio State Buckeyes at the Horseshoe.
The Buckeyes finished last season with a 11-2 record, with the two losses coming against the “other” University in Washtenaw County and Oregon. They finished the season with an appearance in the Rose Bowl against the Utah Utes, beating them 48-45. As far as the MAC goes, the Buckeyes soundly defeated the Zips by a score of 59-7 in their 2021 season opener.
The Buckeyes averaged 46 points per game while allowing 23 points per game. In their ground game they gained 180 yards per game. In the air, they gained 380 yards per game. Returning rusher TreVeyon Henderson averaged 96 yards per game. Backup Miyan Williams averaged 50 yards per game. Quarterback C.J. Stroud from Rancho Cocamonga (no relevance but I like saying it) averaged 370 yards per game and almost 4 touchdowns per game. For receivers, the explosive Jaxon Smith-Njigba looks to return, he averaged 123 yards receiving per game.
I don’t think that the Rockets will sneak a victory against the Buckeyes. The game will be shown on Fox though, so the national relevance if theyu can put up a fight will be great for the Rockets.
Toledo Rockets at San Diego State Aztecs - Saturday September 24
Next, the Rockets travel to San Diego to face the Aztecs. The Aztecs finished last year with a 12-2 record, going 7-1 in the tough Mountain West Conference. They faced UTSA in the Frisco Bowl (which interestingly enough is not in San Francisco) and they were able to defeat them by a final score of 38-24.
The Aztecs averaged 27 points per game, while giving up 20 points per game. They were able to gain 175 yards on the ground and were led by Greg Bell’s 78 yards per game. They will have to replace that production, as Bell was picked up in undrafted free agency by the Detroit Lions this offseason. Sixth-year senior Chance Bell projects to take the mantle.
In the air, they average 167 yards per game and were led by Lucas Johnson with 110 yards per game. He shared duties with Jordon Brookshire in six games, he had 138 yards per game. Virginia Tech transfer Braxton Burmeister returns home to San Diego to take over the starting duties after passing for 1,960 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions as a Hokie in 2021.
I’m not sure what to expect in this game. They do not share a mutual opponent but they are Group of Five teams. With Toledo traveling there, I don’t think that will have a positive effect on their play and so I expect the Aztecs to win. This game will be on the Fox Sports Network.
The Rockets are returning with a 7-6 overall record and 5-3 in the MAC. They game within a field goal of the Fighting Irish but lost 32-29. They lost their bowl game against Middle Tennessee by a score of 24-31. They averaged 197 yards on the ground and were led by Bryant Koback who is not returning this season.
The next running back on the list was Micah Kelly with 24 yards per game. In the air, they were led by Dequan Finn with 159 yards per game in the air and another 39 yards on the ground per game. They would score 33 points per game versus 22 yards per game.
The non-conference schedule looks interesting, but as usual, a 2-2 record will be a reasobale projection for the Rockets. Two of their games will be on regular TV and two will be online, showing once again the realities of a changing college football media landscape.