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2023 MAC Football Week 12 Game Preview: Toledo Rockets at Bowling Green Falcons

Toledo aims to take back the Battle of I-75 trophy, while the Falcons look to win their second straight in this matchup.

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

This is a game that not just Northwest Ohio looks forward to every single year, but every fan of MACtion loves as well. It’s time for the Battle of I-75.

Game notes

  • Time and date: Tuesday, November 14th, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time
  • Network: ESPN2 (A valid cable subscription is required for viewing.)
  • Location: Doyt Perry Stadium, Bowling Green, Ohio
  • Gambling considerations: Toledo favored by -10, with an over/under of 52, per DraftKings
  • All-time series and streak notes: Toledo leads 42-41-4 all-time, with Toledo winning eight of the last 10 meetings.
  • Last Meeting: Bowling Green picked up a major upset to keep them in the MAC East hunt, with a 42-35 triumph over Toledo on November 15, 2022.

What Happened Last Time?

It will almost be a full 365 days since Bowling Green stunned the Rockets in the Glass Bowl. The Falcons jumped out to a 21-0 lead before Toledo cleaned up to make the scoreboard look more respectable at 21-14 by halftime. The second half was a game of runs, with the Falcons posting a 13-point run to go up 34-21 before Toledo put up a 14-point run of their own to take a 35-34 lead late in the fourth.

Not going down without a fight, BGSU quarterback Matt McDonald would lead the Falcons on a drive down the field one more time. A pass to Ta’ron Keith would see him run past tacklers and into the end zone to take the lead, then further cement it with a two-point conversion to put the Falcons up 42-35. That would be enough for the Falcons to bring the Battle of I-75 trophy back for the second time in Scot Loeffler’s tenure.

Bowling Green Falcons outlook

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 30 Bowling Green at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Falcons clinched bowl eligibility last week with a dominating 49-19 win at Kent State, and have won four games in a row for the first time since the 2015 season.

The quarterback room had their best game since Week 2 in the contest, with Connor Bazelak finishing 13-of-19 for 188 yards, one touchdown, and one interception while Camden Orth went a perfect 4-of-4 for 98 yards, one passing touchdown, and two rushing touchdowns. (It’s also worth noting Lucian Anderson III got his first career rushing score.) The Falcons need both Bazelak and Orth to be on top of their game Tuesday.

The running back room is the next point of interest here. Terion Stewart sat out last game due to his late injury in the Ball State game and will be a game-time decision. Ta’ron Keith became 2018 Christian McCaffrey, racking up 100+ yards receiving and rushing in the same game. He’s the first Falcon in program history to do so. Keith will also a game-time decision due to his late injury. The next guy up is Jaison Patterson. The leading rusher from 2022 has not seen much action, producing 101 rushing yards. The Falcons hope to have both Stewart and Keith in shape to play, but they have relied on Patterson before.

In case you need a refresher, Harold Fannin is continuing to propel Bowling Green as the MAC’s tight end university. Building off the success that Quinton Morris and Christian Sims had, Fannin has had a receiving touchdown in the past three games.

The Falcon defense continues to lead the FBS in takeaways with 24. Jalen Huskey leads with four interceptions, and Cashius Howell leads with 7.5 sacks. The Falcons will need to keep getting takeaways in order to help give their offense short fields; extended drives have not been this teams’ friend on either side of the ball.

Toledo Rockets outlook Boca Raton Bowl - Liberty v Toledo Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Toledo is as good as advertised, and they’re looking for revenge from last season’s game. Despite already clinching the MAC West, there’s still a lot in front of this team, with potential College Football Playoff implications over the next three weeks. Their current nine-game win streak is the longest since the Rockets won eight straight in 2012.

Dequan Finn is ready after missing last year’s game due to injury. His last appearance in the Battle of I-75 back in 2021 saw him go 18-of-24 for 270 yards, three passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns. An interesting point of note is that his Battle of I-75 win came after a 400+ passing yard performance against Eastern Michigan. This year, the Battle of I-75 comes after Finn threw for 407 yards against Eastern Michigan. Is it foreshadowing or just numerology? We’re going to find out. Despite missing some time, Finn has been one of the best signalcallers in the league, with 2,008 yards and 18 touchdowns on 65 percent completion and 499 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.

Peny Boone has been a revelation in 2023, accumulating 1,042 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns on the season, good for fifth in the FBS in both statistics. Boone has accumulated six 100+ rushing yard games, with a 211-yard performance against Western Michigan in Week 4.

Jerjuan Newton leads the Rocket receivers with 502 receiving yards (5th in MAC) and a MAC-leading nine receiving touchdowns. He’s coming off a 108-yard game against Eastern Michigan.

We could talk all day about Toledo’s offense, but their defense is not to be left out. The Rockets allow 19.7 points/game and 324.6 yards/game (both third in MAC). LB Dallas Gant is the leading tackler with 75 total tackles. Defensive tackle Judge Culpepper leads with five sacks. Safety Maxen Hook leads with three interceptions, while Emmanuel McNeil-Warren and Chris McDonald follow up with two.

Game Outlook

This game features two great defenses. The Falcons lead in takeaways, and the Rockets are balanced all around. This is going to be a question of which offense comes out on top. Toledo’s offense ranks first in almost every stat, while Bowling Green’s offense has seen some inconsistency. Regardless of what is on paper, both teams are ready. This is going to be a fun matchup.