1) Players to watch out for in the game?
Kareem Hunt/Terry Swanson Running Game Duo:
Arkansas State should be well aware of senior runningback Kareem Hunt, who was recently named to the Preseason Maxwell Award Watch List. In 2014, Hunt ran for 271 yards and five touchdowns in a 63-44 victory in the GoDaddy Bowl. Despite being injured at times last year, Hunt would still play in nine games and would average well over 100 yards per contest that he played in. Behind him, Toledo has a great stable of runningbacks led by Terry Swanson. Swanson, a junior, will see a lot of action behind Hunt as the running game becomes a major emphasis in first-year head coach, Jason Candle's offense.
This season, DeJuan Rogers will lead the way in the Toledo secondary. The senior out of Detroit has played a big role in the Rocket defense over the past two seasons but is expected to be a leader this fall. Rogers is a speedy safety who enjoys helping out in the run game. The Rocket defense has lost some key leaders (Cheatham Norrils and Rolan Milligan) since last season and will lean heavily on Rogers, especially in the secondary. Aside from Rogers, the front four should be something to look out for led by defensive tackle, Treyvon Hester. Hester is a monster, especially plugging the gaps in the run game.
2) What has changed from last season's 37-7 Toledo win?
Since Toledo's 37-7 win, Toledo is well aware that the Red Wolves will be healthy and provide a much bigger threat than they did in 2015. Aside from that, the game is in Jonesboro, which as A-State fans know, is a tough place to play. As far as Toledo is concerned, quarterback Phillip Ely was not granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA, leading Logan Woodside to take over. Not much will change under Woodside as he already has a lot of experience from the 2014 season. However, Woodside tends to take care of the ball and doesn't take as many chances as Ely does down the field. To continue on the offensive side of the ball, the Rocket offense should be a Top 25 offense in the nation under Jason Candle, their former offensive coordinator, who has taken over for Matt Campbell.
Defensively, the Rockets are now under first-year defensive coordinator, Brian George who oversaw a very good Kent State defense the past few seasons. The Rockets should be excellent defensively after a pretty decent showing in 2015.
3) (no bad blood here) but what are Toledo fans' thoughts about Arkansas State now after playing them two years in a row?
After the 2014 GoDaddy Bowl, Toledo fans have enjoyed playing Arkansas State. The high-powered and fast-paced offensive battle each time the teams play is something every fan can enjoy. A typical Toledo fan may not realize the full threat the Red Wolves, especially offensively, can provide. However, those that follow College Football understand it's a great matchup for both schools, especially with the national attention associated.
4) What's the reaction from the Toledo fan base on playing on Friday night?
As a part of the Mid-American Conference, Toledo fans are used to playing during the week for national coverage. Toledo fans seem to be excited, especially since it's a twelve hour drive from the Glass City to Jonesboro, so they can now enjoy the game on national television rather than make the trip, which is difficult on most. The fan base is ready, as we all are, to get back to College Football.
5) What are the strengths of Toledo?
Toledo's strength will be their running game and strength on the offensive line. Left tackle, Storm Norton is regarded as one of the top tackles in the entire country as is runningback, Kareem Hunt at his respected position. The Rockets will run the ball and run frequently, especially to ease quarterback Logan Woodside into a hostile environment and set up play action. Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson will really carry the load in the backfield and first-year head coach, Jason Candle, will lean on his backs.
6) what are the weaknesses?
Honestly, the weaknesses are tough this season. The Rockets lost a few key pieces defensively, including Trent Voss, Rolan Milligan, and Cheatham Norrils, as previously mentioned. This season, Toledo will be leaning on some younger players to lead the charge defensively and they must contain quarterback draws and read options. Offensively, Toledo lost Alonzo Russell, who had a catch in 48 consecutive games as a Rocket. Aside from wide receivers Cody Thompson, Corey Jones and Diontae Johnson, the Rockets will be looking for players to step up. While they may not be thin at the position, they'll be looking for a few guys to really breakout this fall.