Football: Ohio's game against Toledo, to date, will be the game of the year

 

Quentin Poling strips the football during Ohio’s game against EMU on Sept. 23. The Bobcats won 27-20 in overtime. (FILE)

 

This story has been updated to reflect the most recent reporting.

Before the season began, Ohio was predicted to win the Mid-American Conference East Division in the preseason polls. But Toledo was predicted to win the championship.

Ohio, which played in the MAC championship last season against Western Michigan, was projected to fall short. With only three games left in the regular season, though, the Bobcats are once again positioned to win the MAC East.

The Bobcats and the Rockets, the top two offenses in the MAC, will play at Peden Stadium on Wednesday in a game that holds MAC championship implications. The game will be on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

“It’s exciting, man,” redshirt junior cornerback Jalen Fox said. “Best on best man, what more could you ask for?”

When Ohio played Miami last week on Halloween, the video board read “Game of the Year.” The “Battle of the Bricks” is always a big game.

But playing the Rockets is the Bobcats’ biggest game to date. It’s a mentality the Bobcats have shown as the end of the regular season nears.

Ohio (7-2, 4-1 MAC) has the chance to separate from Akron (5-5, 4-2 MAC) in the MAC East standings after Akron’s loss to Miami on Tuesday night.

“It’s going to be a competitive game,” running back A.J. Ouellette said. “If you’re not looking forward to it, you’re not a competitor. And I believe our team is full of competitors.”

A year ago, Ohio went into the Glass Bowl and beat Toledo on the road for the first time since 1967. That was the Bobcats’ best game of the season. Before playing the Bobcats, the Rockets had averaged 41.2 points per game — and the Bobcats held them to 26.

Ohio has shown marked improvement offensively, though. They average 41.2 points per game, good for No. 8 in the country. Toledo ranks second in the MAC for points scored per game with 39.0.

Wednesday’s game could be offense galore.

“We’re looking to hold them to as minimal points as possible,” defensive end Trent Smart said. “We’re definitely not trying to make this a shootout for sure.”

With the Bobcats having quarterback Nathan Rourke, who leads the MAC in scoring (96), they’ll be able to keep pace with the Rockets, which are led by quarterback Logan Woodside.

Like Rourke, Woodside is a difficult quarterback to play against. Woodside is smart and doesn’t make many mistakes; he only has two interceptions this season.

So even if Rourke and the offense hold on their end, even if the Bobcats score 40 or more points again, the defense still must hold on. Because the Rockets might score 40 or more points too.

The game against Toledo will be Ohio’s last home game of the season. The Bobcats will be on national television for a second straight week, and they have a chance to continue to show why their explosive offense is the truth.

The Rockets will be right there with them though.

“Both teams know that we’re both at the top of our game, it’s going to be exciting,” Fox said.

 

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