Will It Be Miami Or Toledo?

Tonight's Mid-American Championship Game (7:30 p.m. on ESPN) will decide UConn's Motor City Bowl opponent. Here's Scout.com's preview on these teams.

===================

MIAMI (OHIO)
===================

INSIDE SLANT

Miami won a close one against its MAC title game opponent -- Toledo -- in early November, 23-16, with Josh Betts passing for 295 yards and the defense forcing four Toledo turnovers.

Both teams are sure to be studying those game films in an effort to improve on their previous performances.

This time around, Miami can't afford to rely on its defense to make so many good scoring opportunities, so the offense has to step up and make some big plays Dec. 2 in the rematch.

In previous seasons, the MAC championship game has been held on campus, and under the old system, Miami would have been the host, a huge advantage. But the game has been established as a neutral site matchup in Detroit's Ford Field ... and league coaches say that's a positive step.

Even RedHawks coach Terry Hoeppner.

"Even though there was an opportunity for us to host the game, I was an advocate of this move," Hoeppner said.

The RedHawks won the MAC title game on the road last season, beating Bowling Green 49-27.

NOTES, QUOTES

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Miami's running game will need to turn it up against Toledo, which will certainly have some changes in store defensively against the passing game. Josh Betts' poise in the previous win over the Rockets will serve him well.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Rockets are coming off a 49-point outing in the win over Bowling Green. Miami can't afford to get into a shootout with the potent Toledo offense, so the defense needs to set the tone early.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know when I've had more fun at a football game. I enjoyed that game from beginning to end. I said all week how creative and imaginative Toledo's offense is, and that makes the performance of our defense that much more impressive. It was a great job by our coaching staff in preparing the defense and a great job by our scout team in giving us a good look all week." -- Miami head coach Terry Hoeppner, following Miami's defeat of Toledo in early November.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Miami (Ohio) vs. Toledo, Dec. 2 -- Both teams have bowl berths sewn up, but league bragging rights will be on the line in this one. The RedHawks would love to duplicate this season's previous matchup, but the Rockets are rolling and will be a tough team to prepare for adequately.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Miami (Ohio) QB Josh Betts -- Betts gets his first shot at stardom in the MAC Championship Game. The RedHawks are not going to ask Betts to win the game for them on his own, but if he's playing well, it would be a big boost to the Miami cause.

Toledo WR Lance Moore -- Miami couldn't stop Moore in the first meeting, allowing him to catch nine passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. The Rockets will look to get Moore into the game early to stretch the defense a bit.

ROSTER REPORT: RB Brandon Murphy has played extremely well lately and he will get more time in the MAC Championship Game. He and Luke Clemens give the RedHawks a solid 1-2 combo at tailback.

===================

TOLEDO
===================

INSIDE SLANT

For the third time in the past four seasons, and fifth time in eight years, Toledo has played its way into the MAC Championship Game. The Rockets again represent the West, but for the first time the opponent will be someone other than Marshall.

And in another new twist for the MAC, the league's title game moves to a neutral site. In a major coup, the MAC has locked up the NFL home of the Detroit Lions -- Ford Field -- to host its football championship game.

"This is a big step for this league, and the proper one," Toledo head coach Tom Amstutz said. "We needed to get our championship game away from a situation where one of the teams held a huge home field advantage, and put it in a real showcase location. We have done that, and this is great for the league."

Toledo (8-3, 7-1 MAC) gets a rematch with Miami (8-3, 7-1 MAC), champions of the East Division and the league's overall defending champ. The Rockets dropped a 23-16 decision to the RedHawks in Oxford on Election Night.

"It is rare to get a second shot at a team in the same season, and we feel good about our chances this time," Toledo senior wide receiver Lance Moore said. "We made some mistakes the last time, and you can't do that against a good team. We need to tighten things up and play more like we're capable of playing."

A bowl bid lies beyond the title game, with the Motor City Bowl and the Silicon Valley Bowl as the two most likely destinations for the Rockets.

NOTES, QUOTES

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: After struggling in the first half of the season finale against rival Bowling Green, the Rockets unloaded for five straight touchdowns in the second half and went on to a 48-44 win that put them in the championship game. They need the strong run-pass blend working again.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This much maligned group found its stride when it really counted -- in the second half of critical wins over West foes Northern Illinois and Bowling Green. Toledo is also looking for a little redemption since Miami handed the Rockets their only league loss.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Things didn't look good early in the season after those first two games, but nobody in that locker room gave up. We worked our way back a day at a time, and finally got to our goal of playing in the championship game." -- Toledo linebacker Anthony Jordan

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THE NEXT GAME: Toledo v. Miami, MAC Championship Game, Thursday, Dec. 2, Ford Field, Detroit -- Toledo and Miami faced each other one month ago, and the result was a 23-16 RedHawks victory in rain-soaked Oxford. Toledo outgained Miami, 380-371, but committed four turnovers, the final one leading to the RedHawks' winning score in the fourth quarter.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR Lance Moore -- The senior will leave Toledo with every pass reception record after making first-team all-MAC honors for the second straight season. He has 80 receptions, 1,023 receiving yards and a school-record 11 touchdown receptions.

S Patrick Body -- The Pittsburgh product leads the team and is 13th in MAC with 95 tackles. He also shares the team lead with two interceptions, has 6.0 tackles for loss and is second in MAC with four forced fumbles. Body was a first-team all-MAC pick.

TE Chris Holmes -- Holmes was expected to back up All-American candidate Andrew Clarke, but when Clarke's injured hip forced him to miss the season, Holmes stepped in and was fourth on team with 29 receptions, including a career-high nine catches for 73 yards in a 31-17 win vs. Northern Illinois on Nov. 9.

OT Nick Kaczur -- The Canadian became just the third player ever and the first from Toledo to be selected All-MAC four straight years. Kaczur was a first-team pick his last three seasons after earning second-team honors as a freshman. He is expected to be an early NFL draft pick.

ROSTER REPORT: TE Andrew Clarke, who missed the season with a hip injury, is expected to receiver a medical redshirt and return in 2005. DE Seth Thitoff, who had his ankle broken on a chop block in the Northern Illinois game, has had surgery and likely will be held out of contact in the spring. Sophomore Mike Alston replaces Thitoff in the lineup.


UCONN Playbook Top Stories