The Toledo Rockets, by Mid-American Conference standards, had a fantastic season in 2010. They finished 7-1 in the conference, beat Purdue, and were 3rd overall in the MAC in scoring. Thus far in 2011, Toledo has looked impressive on paper, by defeating New Hampshire by a score of 58-22 in their opener. And if college football worked as simply as middle school algebra, then by the transitive property of the 2010 season we should be very nervous (Toledo beat Purdue who beat Northwestern who beat Iowa who beat Michigan State who beat Wisconsin who beat OSU) . But it doesn’t, so I’m not going to lose sleep. The stats from last year can also show a very different side as the Rockets gave up more points than they scored, due in large part to blowout losses against Arizona, Boise State, and Northern Illinois.
This matchup should provide a bigger challenge than Week 1, and it’s time to preview the Rockets of Toledo…
The Rockets rolled out the 2011 season against New Hampshire with a two quarterback system, featuring junior Austin Dantin and sophomore Terrance Owens. Both QBs were equally as effective in the opener, throwing for over 120 yards each, completing over 70% of their passes, and throwing for a combined 5 touchdown passes. The duo both have the athletic ability to make plays with their feet when the wide receivers are covered downfield (Owens even caught a TD pass last season on a trick play), which will be the first pursuit test for the linebacking core who could have taken a nap during most of Akron’s possessions last week.
Adonis Thomas leads the pack at the running back position, rushing for 115 yards against New Hampshire. Thomas is a good back who rushed for over 1000 yards last year and earned himself 2nd team All-MAC honors. A big reason for his success has to do with the two veteran tackles on the O-line (Mike VanDerMeulen and John Morookian) who have both been 4 year starters and measure up at over 6’5″ and 300 lbs each. However, the highlight of the offense and special teams is Eric Page, a dynamic punt returner, kick returner, and wide receiver who was named an All-American following his sophomore season in 2010. Page is only 5’10″ and 180 lbs, but is a very smart and efficient route runner, always finding the open spaces in the defense, and has the ability to cut on a dime once he gets his hands on the ball. He had over 150 all-purpose yards and 1 TD against New Hampshire and should be the OSU secondary’s main concern on Saturday.
On the other side of the special teams unit, Toledo has shown signs of improvement in their kicking and punting games thus far, going 3-3 on FG attempts and averaging a mediocre 38 yards per punt. However, if not for a penalty, they would have given up a 98 yard kickoff return for a TD against a much weaker team.
The good news for Toledo: Their defense is opportunistic, causing 5 turnovers against New Hampshire..
The bad news for Toledo: Their defense played against New Hampshire as a warm-up to OSU, and gave up 22 points.
Although Dan Molls, a junior linebacker, may be the leader of this defense, they are a very balanced and experienced group, featuring 7 senior and 4 junior starters. It’s tough to find many negative things to say about a defense with 9 returning starters and plenty of experience, but their two major weaknesses, fortunately for Buckeye fans, line up almost perfectly for us. The Rockets struggle with tough, bruising runners because of their smaller size in the linebacker core, so Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith and Co. could have a field day. Also, they have a tendency to give up lots and lots of short passes. They had 20 interceptions last year, but still had trouble stopping the short, underneath passes that OSU has shown to be incredibly accurate with so far no matter who is throwing the ball.
9/10 OSU vs. Toledo
The Rockets come in to OSU with a “nothing to lose” attitude, hoping to cause the biggest upset in OSU history…maybe. However, so does every other team, and we’ve seen how that goes. Toledo brings in much more talent than Akron, but let’s be honest, give me Cleveland Glenville over the Akron Zips plus 6 points and I’ll bet my house against Zippy. Expect Toledo to break Fickell’s career shutout record in this game, but watch for Bauserman, Miller, Stoneburner, and our gang of young WRs to come out slinging the ball and give Toledo a taste of their own medicine. Let’s not forget that Jordan Hall returns to help our RBs and Howard Island (Travis Howard) is back from his 1 game suspension as well, just in time to go up against an All-American in Eric Page.: OSU 42 Toledo 13