If this season (or perhaps any) has been an indicator, there are no sure things in MAC football.
Basement-dwelling Kent State (1-7, 0-4 MAC) will look to add another surprising result to the MAC season when it welcomes conference-leading Toledo (5-3, 4-0 MAC) to Dix Stadium at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
A quick glance at the records suggests Toledo should run away with an easy win, Kent State has not exclusively operated as a pushover in its 2014 campaign. The Golden Flashes boast a 39-17 win over an Army squad that took down Ball State, and they pushed Northern Illinois before ultimately falling 17-14 on the road.
Statistically, Kent State has been average at best and dismal at worst in key team categories. The Golden Flashes offense sits at the bottom of the MAC with just 14.1 points per game (compared to league-best Toledo's 35.0) and the scoring defense is a middle-of-the-pack unit, ranking seventh in the conference at 29.4 points per game.
In Toledo, Kent State faces a team that does everything well except defend against the pass. The Rockets lead the MAC in scoring offense, total offense and run defense, but they have yielded 343.8 passing yards per game, comfortably the worst number in the conference and second-worst in the nation.
While this weakness provides an opportunity for the Golden Flashes, it is anything but a foregone conclusion that they can take advantage of the hospitable Rockets secondary. Kent State signal caller Colin Reardon is completing just 56.3 percent of his passes, with nine touchdowns against 10 interceptions. For the hosts to have a chance, he will have to operate well above his cruising altitude.
If Reardon fails to pick apart Toledo's secondary, the Rockets possess the offensive firepower to blow past Kent State. Toledo running back Kareem Hunt continues to gash opposing defenses at a blistering pace of 8.2 yards per carry. His potency, alongside an experienced offensive line and improvisational quarterback Logan Woodside, should ensure the Rockets will not struggle to put up points against the Golden Flashes.
Having already been eliminated from bowl eligibility with a 1-7 record, Kent State is down to playing for pride. To make matters worse, the Golden Flashes will be heavy underdogs in three of their four remaining contests, as they face Akron and Bowling Green following Tuesday's battle with Toledo, as well as a Buffalo squad desperately trying to salvage the remains of its season following the firing of its head coach.
While Toledo runs the risk of looking past Kent State ahead of its tangles with key MAC West competition Northern Illinois and fierce rival Bowling Green, Tuesday's contest represents a must-win for the Rockets. While Toledo's 4-0 conference record is clearly good enough for a lead, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois hover just below the Rockets in the standings with a conference loss each. If Toledo stumbles against Kent State, it will face an uphill climb to earn a bid to the MAC title game, possibly needing to win out.
The stats suggest that thanks to its offensive production, Toledo can likely rely on enough of a cushion to neutralize its passing defense struggles and stay atop the conference standings.
But then, there are no sure things in MAC football.