This isn't just another game for the Toledo Rockets and the Bowling Green Falcons. Instead, this is the game that everyone had circled on their calendars prior to the season. It's the Battle of I-75 between two prestigious Mid-American Conference programs with a historic rivalry which dates back to 1919. Now, two first-year head coaches: Jason Candle of Toledo and BGSU's Mike Jinks are working to remind their players what this game means to not only the two respected programs but their cities and fan bases as well.
"You treat this like any other game, as far as preparation and what your team looks like," Candle told the media on Monday, "but this game is not like any other game, this game is very important to the city, this region, and past players for both teams, so our guys know what this game means and what it means to the city. One of the reasons you come to Toledo is to play against Bowling Green and we certainly won't take that lightly."
As far as preparing for the Falcons and their personnel, there are a lot of question marks. After a 77-10 week one loss against a dominant Ohio State team, the Falcons rebounded to defeat FCS-level North Dakota in week two, 27-26. From there, Bowling Green has now fallen in four consecutive games to Middle Tennessee State (41-21), at Memphis (77-3), at home against Eastern Michigan (28-25) and at Ohio (30-24). While the Falcons now sit at 1-5 overall during a long losing skid as well as 0-2 in conference, Jason Candle says they are an improving football team.
"I think their staff probably knows their team better than what they did at the beginning of the year," Candle stated on the upcoming visitors, "They're playing competitive football for that reason and another reason is that's a proud program and a proud tradition. A lot of guys in that locker room have been in that locker room for years and expect to play well, when you have that, you have a chance. We'll get their best punch and their best effort, this game is very important to them as well. We look forward to a great game Saturday."
This game has been played in November over the past two seasons but for Candle, the date and times doesn't matter, "Don't care, whatever they put on the schedule, we'll play it."
The Rockets, who enter this year's edition of the Battle of I-75 riding a six-game winning streak over 'The School Down South,' will also welcome in a large crowd for Homecoming, which will feature several former players and recruits as well.
"It's obviously a big game and we love and live for those big games," junior wide receiver, Cody Thompson stated. "Being out at BYU in front of 65,000 people, that's what you want every game to be like, you want to play in front of the biggest crowds on the biggest stages. I think it gets us more motivated coming out of the locker room and the tunnel, seeing all of those fans, no matter what color they're wearing we want to put on a show, especially in front of the Midnight Blue & Gold. At the end of the day, we just want to get that W."
With a 35-20 win on the road at Eastern Michigan last week, Toledo improved to 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the MAC. Now, they'll look to notch another conference victory before a treacherous few weeks consisting of Central Michigan, Ohio just five days later, and Akron on the road just six days following that.
Toledo currently ranks tied for eighth in the nation in passing yards (350 YPG) and are also No. 31 in rushing yardage (219 YPG) which creates a very balanced and lethal offense, led by junior quarterback, Logan Woodside. In fact, Woodside ranks No. 14 in the nation in passing yards as well as No. 3 in the nation with 15.95 yards per completion. Meanwhile, junior wide receiver Cody Thompson ranks No. 4 in the nation with 129 receiving yards per game and is also No. 2 in the country in yards per reception. The recipe for success thus season has been Toledo's No. 1 mark in the nation with a 42-for-74 (56.8%) third-down success rate. In contrast, the Toledo defense ranks No. 3 in the nation allowing just 13-of-67 (19.4%) third-downs, despite only have two takeaways this season, both coming last week at Eastern Michigan.
Bowling Green leads the all-time series with a 39-37-4 overall record. Also, the Rockets are 17-1 against MAC East opponents since 2010 and 59-27 in Homecoming games. We'll have more throughout the week, including a full game preview and official visitors on Saturday. Stay tuned to Toledo Scout for the latest on Toledo Football.