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2023 MAC Football Week 3 Game Preview: Toledo Rockets vs. San Jose State Spartans

The Rockets look to continue their high-flying performance against the Spartans.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Cal Poly at San Jose State Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Toledo Rockets (1-1) and the San Jose State Spartans (1-2) will face off for just the second time in history when they meet at the Glass Bowl Saturday. Both teams are coming off blowout wins against FCS schools and will be hungry for a competitive matchup with a fellow G5 school.

Game Notes

  • Date and time: Saturday, September 16, 2023 at 7:00 PM
  • Network: ESPN+ (valid subscription required)
  • Location: The Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio
  • Gambling considerations: Toledo is a seven-point favorite, with an over/under of 56.5, per DraftKings.
  • All-time series: Toledo 1-0
  • Last Meeting: Toledo 27, San Jose State 25 on December 19, 1981 (California Bowl)

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

The Rockets totally throttled Texas Southern in their home opener last week putting up the third highest point total in school history with 71. Easy wins are not a sure thing for MAC teams against FCS opponents, but Toledo sure made it look like it. Jason Candle’s squad will be looking to continue a lot of good things from last week, as well as from the week before when they nearly upset Illinois.

Toledo has been in rhythm offensively early this season. Quarterback Dequan Finn has been very effective passing and has also shown great leadership ability, especially late in game 1 at Illinois. He’s currently 36/53 with 468 yards, five touchdowns and one interception — good for a 169.5 passer rating. Look for him to continue to find receivers Junior Vandeross III and Jerjuan Newton for big yardage in the passing game.

Similar to the passing game, Toledo’s rushing game is a well oiled machine right now. Running back Jacquez Stuart leads the team with 119 yards on 17 carries while Finn has 82 yards on 24 carries. Stuart’s running back counterpart Peny Boone has 68 yards on 15 carries and leads the team in the rushing touchdown department with three. Finn should also be able to make some plays on the ground against a San Jose State defense that isn’t particularly strong against the run game.

Defensively, Toledo is firing on all cylinders as well. The linebacker play has been the most impressive so far with Dallas Gant and Terrance Taylor putting themselves all over the field in the first two games. Taylor has had a knack for getting to the backfield and will look to add to his tackle-for-loss total. The defensive back unit didn’t get tested much against Texas Southern but has looked good so far. Safety Nate Bauer has continued to be a leader in that group and he’ll be happy to have Maxen Hook back after having served his one-game suspension for targeting in Week 1. From the cornerback group, Quinyon Mitchell has played particularly well with a couple of pass deflections.

San Jose State outlook

San Jose State v USC Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Spartans have had a very unbalanced schedule so far. They lost 56-28 to #6 USC in Week 0 and then 41-7 to #16 Oregon State in Week 1. Last week, they blew out FCS Cal Poly 59-3. San Jose State was also picked by most outlets to be in the middle of the pack of the Mountain West before the season, so they are tough to properly assess at the moment. A more competitive matchup with Toledo should help with that.

The offense is led by sixth-year senior QB Chevan Cordeiro who is in his second year with San Jose State after transferring from Hawaii. Cordeiro, who has 546 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions this year, looks to have improved as his college career has gone on. He had a little bit of trouble limiting interceptions in his Hawaii days but has been much better at avoiding trouble since arriving in California as he has just six interceptions in 15 games.

Look for Cordeiro to connect in the air with receivers Nick Nash and Charles Ross who each have over 100 yards so far this year. The Spartans QB also likes to hit tight end Sam Olsen who has eight catches in 2023.

San Jose State’s rushing game has been the strongest part of the offense. Junior running back Quali Conley has led the way with 202 yards on an impressive seven yards per carry clip and broke off a couple of big runs in his team’s opener against USC. RB Kairee Robinnson is coming off a 124 yard game against Cal Poly and is also averaging over six yards per carry on the season. Toledo’s run defense hasn’t been bad, but it’s a part of their game that San Jose State can look to exploit. Cordeiro isn’t afraid to use his legs and could also try to disrupt the Rockets defense in that area on Saturday.

If you subtract the Cal Poly game, San Jose State’s defense has had much to feel good about in 2023. To be fair, they faced two pretty good QBs in reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams and DJ Uiagalelei in their first two games. Still, the Spartans allowed more than 500 yards combined in the air to those two and only forced 12 combined incompletions. The Spartans defense, which has relied on an aggressive pass rush in recent years, will have to step up to create havoc for the elusive Dequan Finn.

Team-leading tackler LB Bryun Parham and DL Tre Smith are a couple of guys that have been making plays on the defensive end for San Jose State. CB Jay’Vion Cole has been having a nice year as well, with three pass deflections and a sack.

Game outlook

Because San Jose State hasn’t played a team that close to their level yet, this matchup could work as a benchmark for them. The two things that stand out for the Spartans so far are that they have an offense with pieces in place to succeed and a defense that is struggling against the pass.

The Rockets should be able to take advantage of an inconsistent Spartans pass defense with Dequan Finn coming in as hot as ever. Toledo can also get the run going with a couple of backs who are having seasons to be proud of as well. If San Jose State can get their run game going, they could stay in this game but otherwise, it’s going to be tough.

Prediction: Toledo 38, San Jose State 21