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2023 MAC Football Week 11 Game Preview: Eastern Michigan Eagles at Toledo Rockets

Toledo looks to continue their march to perfection in league play, while EMU tries to get back into gear and qualify for a bowl.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Kent State at Eastern Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The second week of weeknight #MACtion continues when Toledo (8-1, 5-0 MAC) takes on Eastern Michigan (4-5, 2-3 MAC) Wednesday night at the Glass Bowl. The Rockets will look to continue their undefeated conference record while the Eagles will try to pull off a much needed win to salvage a disappointing season.

Game Notes

  • Date and time: Wednesday, November 7, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern
  • Network: ESPN2 (A valid cable subscription is required.)
  • Location: The Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio
  • Gambling considerations: Toledo is a 19-point favorite, with an over/under of 46, per DraftKings.
  • All-time series: Toledo leads the all-time series with a 37-13 record, and has won three of the last five contests.
  • Last Meeting: Toledo, down several contributors such as Dequan Finn, beat Eastern Michigan in the waning moments on a field goal, winning 27-24 on October 29, 2022.

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

Toledo just wins.

Once again last week, the Rockets didn’t play perfect football and still walked away with an 18-point victory against Buffalo. The theme in all of Toledo’s wins this year is that different guys on both sides of the ball step up to be the key factors each week. Sometimes the offense carries, sometimes the defense carries, and sometimes it’s a couple players on each unit.

Quarterback Dequan Finn is the man Jason Candle has trusted with his offense for three seasons now and he is proving to be the leader Toledo needs to win a second-straight MAC Championship. He’s only fifth in the conference in passing yards (1,601), but has the second best rating (146.4) and leads the MAC in passing touchdowns. He has made things happen on the ground too, accumulating 489 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

Because the Rockets don’t have a ton of yards in the air, no receivers have put up any jarring numbers this year. Junior Vandeross III and Jerjuan Newton each have 30 grabs for about 400 yards. Tight end Anthony Torres has really emerged as a threat in the last couple of weeks as he has had 133 of his 280 yards and both of his touchdowns in the last two games.

The rushing attack is where Toledo really excels. As mentioned previously, Dequan Finn has proven to be a threat on the ground from the QB position, but it has been running back Peny Boone who has been the star in this area. Boone continued his stellar season with another 100+ yard game which included a 71-yard touchdown last week against Buffalo. He’s got 990 yards on the year and is fourth in the nation in yards-per-carry with 7.3.

Running back Jacquez Stuart has fallen to the RB2 role after missing some time with injury early this season but he still has explosive potential — he showed that with a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown last week.

The offensive lineman are usually the unsung heroes of any great offense and that is the case with Toledo. The unit has only allowed three sacks all year and has been a big part of the running game’s success.

Toledo’s defense has been really solid for three weeks now. They’ve had great linebacker play all year, but recently it has been the defensive back unit that has shown out. Cornerback Quinyon Mitchell has been the star in that unit racking up 13 pass breakups which puts him second in the FBS in that category. Cornerback Chris McDonald has also been a tough customer for receivers this year as he got his second interception of the season last week. Safety Maxen Hook, who had a pick in the Buffalo game as well, has been all over the field as of late.

Eastern Michigan outlook

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Kent State at Eastern Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chris Creighton’s squad was likely hoping to do a bit better than they have in 2023. They went 9-4 last year and while they lost some key players, it looked like they had a real shot to compete for a MAC West title. A couple of close losses to Central Michigan and Northern Illinois did them no good, but last week’s crushing loss to Western Michigan really put a damper on their season. The Eagles have an opportunity to get some momentum going if they can pull off the upset at the Glass Bowl.

Austin Smith has been the man under center for Eastern Michigan and hasn’t put up any numbers that really stand out. He has just over 1,300 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Part of what has made his job so difficult this season is the lack of protection from his offensive line. Eastern Michigan has allowed 27 sacks, which has lost them 181 yards this year. (Those marks are tied for 110th in the NCAA.) Toledo has a front seven that can generate pressure so that will likely be a challenge for Smith to deal with.

The receptions have been pretty spread out for the Eagles, with four players having 200 or more receiving yards. Tanner Knue leads the way with 371 yards on 37 receptions.

On the ground, Eastern Michigan hasn’t been very threatening this year with just 912 team yards on the season — only Akron has fewer in the MAC. Samson Evans and Jaylon Jackson have split running back duties with each near the 400 yard mark on the year. They’ll look to get things going against a Rockets defense that has occasionally had trouble defending the run.

The Eagles defense has been mostly solid this year and has the pieces to slow down Toledo. Joe Sparacio and Chase Kline have been consistent contributors in the linebacker unit, leading the team in tackles. Last week, both backers had 20+ tackles in a long day at the office vs. Western. Cornerback Kempton Shine has made things difficult for opposing receivers with eight pass deflections. The unit has been up-and-down with generating pressure on the quarterback but defensive lineman Mikah Coleman is the biggest sack threat for the Eagles.

Game outlook

Toledo is now three wins away from a perfect conference season and they’ll be looking to take care of business at home as a big favorite. Eastern Michigan will likely go all out to try to get a season-reviving win.

Toledo’s defense has been playing really well lately and it’s just hard to see Eastern Michigan getting much going on offense. The Eagles defense is solid overall but it hasn’t been good against the run and that has been Toledo’s strength on offense all year. Eastern could hang around in this one but the Rockets should be able to move to 6-0 in conference play.

Prediction: Toledo 27, Eastern Michigan 14