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2023 MAC Football Week 2 Game Preview: Texas Southern Tigers @ Toledo Rockets

The Tigers travel north to take on the Toledo Rockets, with both teams looking to wash the bitter taste of defeat out of their mouths.

NCAA Football: Texas Southern at Baylor Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Toledo will be looking to take care of business when they face Texas Southern at home on Saturday. The Rockets are coming off a heartbreaker at Illinois in Week 1 and should aim to put the Tigers away early, who are coming off a heartbreaker of their own.

Game Notes

  • Date and time: Saturday, September 9, 2023 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time
  • Network: ESPN+ (a valid subscription is required)
  • Location: The Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio
  • All-time series: First meeting

Toledo outlook

Toledo played well enough to pull off an upset on the road at Illinois last week, but fell short due to a miraculous play by the Illini late in the fourth. Despite the losing result, there were many positives for the Rockets to take away from the game and if they continue doing those things, Texas Southern shouldn’t be a problem for them.

Toledo faced one of the most talented defenses in the country last week and still put up solid all around numbers on offense. QB Dequan Finn made a few mistakes in the opener but looked sharp overall with Junior Vandeross III and Jerjuan Newton as his main targets. Finn reminded us of his ability to lead long drives and make things happen on the ground, which should be a nightmare for Texas Southern.

Toledo’s running game in general, is coming in hot, with starting back Jacquez Stuart coming off a game where he rushed for 82 on nearly seven yards per carry. Expect the Rockets to put the ball on the ground plenty behind strong o-line play against the Tigers.

The Toledo defense is also coming off a game they should be proud of. The unit allowed 23 points in the loss to Illinois and was particularly good against the pass, allowing just over 200 yards. LB Terrance Taylor Taylor provided good pass pressure in the opener and can make some noise against the Tigers. CBs Quinyon Mitchell and Chris McDonald provided very solid coverage against Illinois and should make an experienced Texas Southern WR group feel the heat.

The only concern with Toledo’s defense at the moment is stopping the running game. They allowed 168 yards against Illinois, including 69 to QB Luke Altmyer, who is not known for his legs. The Rockets will have to do better to contain Tigers QB Andrew Body who has rushed for over 500 yards in his first two years as Texas Southern’s starter.

Texas Southern outlook

Head coach Clarence McKinney needs a successful 2023 season. He’s just 9-27 since he was hired by Texas Southern in 2019, but had his best year in 2022 going 5-6. Now that he has some experienced starters who have been around for a few years, a winning season should feel like an achievable goal for McKinney this season.

The year started off with as frustrating a result as any for Texas Southern. The Tigers had a 34-17 lead at home against conference rival Prairie View A&M but lost it in the final 16 minutes of gametime and walked away with a 37-34 overtime loss.

There were definitely some positives on offense that the Tigers can look to carry over to Week 2. The team rushed for 200 yards including 104 on eight carries from fifth-year RB Ladarius Owens who has been with Texas Southern for the entire McKinney tenure. Andrew Body rushed for 64 of his own from the quarterback position. Look for Texas Southern to try to get their ground game going early against a Toledo squad that had difficulty stopping the run last week.

The Tigers are not known for a strong passing game, throwing for just 167 yards per game last year. The passing game saw some mixed results in the opener, with Body throwing for 286 yards and three touchdowns but completing less than 50 percent of his passes and throwing three interceptions. Toledo’s pass defense is very strong and the Tigers likely won’t put the ball in the air much if they can get some momentum with the running game. If Texas Southern gets its pass game going, look out for Jackson State transfer Quay Davis to catch some balls — he hauled in seven catches for 120 yards last week.

Texas Southern had a good defense last year allowing about 25 points per game, but did not start off this season particularly sharp against Prairie View. They allowed 275 yards in the air and 180 on the ground, allowing a few lengthy drives. Despite having trouble slowing down Prairie View consistently, the Tigers still made some plays in the backfield picking up nine tackles-for-loss. Junior linebacker Jacob Williams notably racked up three sacks and is someone the Toledo offensive line should be aware of.

Game outlook

Toledo is coming off a game where they played well enough to beat a Big Ten team on the road. The Rockets had enough going on offense in Week 1 to feel like they can move freely against a FCS squad. The only concern right now for Toledo is the run defense and if they straighten that out on Saturday, the day should go very smoothly.

Texas Southern is also a team that will be motivated to pick up its first win of the year after a heartbreaking loss in the opener. However, they’ll have to pull out all the stops to prevent Dequan Finn and the Toledo offense from running (and passing) all over them. Jason Candle and the Rockets should be able to treat the home opener crowd at the Glass Bowl to a blowout win.

Prediction: Toledo 49, Texas Southern 7