Vander Sanden's Top 5 - Toledo is Tough

This week I focus on the upcoming game against Toledo. It is nine days and eight hours currently from when I started this article and I am jacked to get this ship-a-rolling! I will discuss my top 5 reasons not to overlook Iowa State's first opponent, the Toledo Rockets.

  1. The first reason that Cyclone fans should not overlook Toledo is that they return 44 lettermen.  Of those 44, eight are returning as offensive starters, and seven defensive, and one special team player in Brett Kern, a three-year starter at punter.  The Toledo Rockets also have pre-season honors just like that of the Cyclones. The pre-season All-Mac players are John Greco who is an offensive lineman, Mile Alston at linebacker, and star receiver Steve Odom.  This doesn't include five other returning offensive players.  In turn, it is important to note that they lost their star quarterback from a year ago.  Bruce Gradkowski was a true leader on a top 25 national offensive squad.  Toledo also lost their start running back from a year ago in Trinity Dawson.  Dawson ranked in the top 25 nationally for rushing yards per game, while Bradkowski ranked in the top 35 for quarterbacks and total offense. Defensively, Toledo lost two starting linebackers and two defensive backs.  As you can see, they have some keys shoes to fill, but in turn, return a lot of experience from a year ago. 


  1. The second reason that Toledo should not be overlooked is that it won the 2005 MAC Championship, beating UTEP 45-13.  The returning starters are labeled champions, and rightfully so.  They deserve to be.  The Rockets of '06 know how to play in big games, and the ISU/Toledo game will be a big game for both sides.  Who wants to start off their season 0-1?  For Iowa State to get started on the right track for the Big XII North race, they have to start 1-0 on the season.  Toledo has nothing to lose coming to Ames.  You know their head coach, Tom Amstutz, will have his team ready to go.  What better feeling is it for a mid-major football team to come into a big time conference and take the game off their opponent's home turf.


  1. The third thing on my top five not to overlook Toledo is one word that all programs dream of building.  That is tradition.  Toledo holds the nations 11th best record since 2000.  They have posted a record of 55-19.  Toledo is also 34-2 on their home turf since 1999.  I don't know about you, but these are two big time numbers that jump out at me.  The head coach of Toledo, Tom Amstutz has proven to build his program and build tradition at Toledo.  In five years, Amstutz has lost only eighteen games.  This shows that he has had a winning team each of the five years while being at the helm.  Sure, tradition is in the past and might not have an impact on the season ahead, but players look at that.  They don't want to be the team that let the program take a turn for the worse.  You want to leave your own legacy.  A legacy for the underclassmen to continue.


  1. Fourth on the list, I want to briefly touch the stats department from a year ago.  Toledo's program and staff definitely shows that they know the game of football.  I briefly ran across a few stats from a year ago that attracted my eyes, therefore, requesting attention.  They are as follows:


-15th in Country in total offense

-21st in country in total defense

-10th in country in scoring offense

-27th in country in scoring defense

-#1 total offense and defense in MAC


As you can see, the Rockets have shown to have a powerful offense and defense.  With the returning starters they have, I think we need to be cautious in how we look at Toledo.  The game of football is so much more than x's and o's.  It's a game that requires the attention to details as a player and coach.  It's a game that requires chemistry, teamwork, discipline, and others.  The Toledo coaching staff understands and has great knowledge of the game of football, and the stats above display that.


  1. Lastly, the final top five reason not to overlook Toledo is that they are a mid-major program from the MAC conference.  Iowa State is a program from the big time Big XII conference.  This is a game Iowa State should win.  This is a game that shouldn't even be close in theory.  Toledo has nothing to lose and everything to win.  Expect for Toledo to release the "rockets" and put everything in to win this game.  With Toledo winning the game, it only builds to their tradition and builds confidence at another conference title in the MAC.  If Iowa State were to lose, that means question marks at positions, a worry-some season, and a tough one to swallow.  Iowa State must win this game to build confidence in an inexperienced defensive unit.



Thanks for reading Cyclone fans!

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