Ohio is back in the Mid-American Conference Championship game for the first time since 2016, and it is looking to break its 54 year conference title drought, the longest in the MAC.
Standing in Ohio’s way is Toledo, a team that is regularly at the top of the MAC recruiting rankings and consistently has one of the most talented rosters in the conference.
The Rockets have won 10 MAC Championships since the Bobcats’ last title, including in 2017. This season, the Rockets started the season 7-3, but are coming into the MAC title game with two-straight losses.
Here is everything you need to know about Toledo:
Jason Candle is in his seventh season as Toledo’s head coach, but he has been at the university for the last 13 years, serving as an assistant under Tim Beckman first and then under current Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell.
Candle has been extremely successful at Toledo and is regularly mentioned as a candidate for bigger jobs. His best season came in 2017, when he won 11 games and the program’s first MAC Championship since 2004.
Toledo has made four bowl games under Candle, but has lost each of them. However, he did beat Temple in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl, his first game as head coach after taking over from Campbell.
Toledo has massive questions at quarterback going into the MAC Championship game.
Dequan Finn, who was Toledo’s starter at the beginning of the season and was selected to the All-MAC Second Team, has been struggling with various injuries over the last few weeks. Although he did play against Western Michigan last Friday, he went just 5-for-11 for 35 yards and two interceptions.
Backup quarterback Tucker Gleason has also been dealing with some injuries of his own, and while he also played against Western Michigan, he struggled as well. He was a woeful 13-for-38 for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
In the MAC Championship game press conference Thursday, Candle said that Finn was on a pitch count last week. Although he will likely play Saturday, Candle did not sound confident that Finn would be 100%.
Toledo’s No. 1 receiver is Jerjuan Newton, who was selected to the All-MAC Second Team along with Finn. Newton leads the Rockets in catches with 42, receiving yards with 711 and receiving touchdowns with nine.
Toledo has a number of other receivers who have contributed this season behind Newton, but the most notable is tight end Jamal Turner. Turner has just 25 catches for 314 yards on the season, but he is a significant threat in the red zone, finishing just behind Newton with eight touchdowns.
Toledo’s rushing attack is one of the best in the MAC, ranking third in the conference in yards per game and tied for fourth in touchdowns. Toledo has four different rushers with at least 300 yards on the season.
Among the running backs, Jacquez Stuart, Peny Boone and Micah Kelly all have at least 96 carries this season. However, Kelly did not play against Western Michigan, so Toledo’s running back room could be missing some depth on Saturday.
The most dynamic part of Toledo’s rushing attack is Finn, who has carried the ball 95 times for 522 yards and eight touchdowns this season. However, Finn was also limited in the running game against Western Michigan, with just two carries for a loss of eight yards.
Toledo has one of the best defenses in the MAC, allowing the fewest yards per game and fourth fewest points per game. Toledo also has seven All-MAC defensive players, four on the first team and three on the second team.
The Rockets are headlined by defensive tackle Desjuan Johnson, who was named to the All-MAC First Team after finishing fourth in the conference with 15.5 tackles for loss.
Notes on Ohio
C.J. Harris will start once again for Ohio, and he was excellent in his first career start against Bowling Green. Harris is much more of a threat in the run game than Kurtis Rourke, so just like last week, expect a heavy dose of read options and quarterback draws.
According to Ohio coach Tim Albin, starting running back and MAC Freshman of the Year Sieh Bangura is as healthy as he has been since the start of the season. It has shown in the last three games, as Bangura has 389 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in that time.
After another excellent defensive performance against Bowling Green, Ohio has now allowed just 321.5 yards and 16.3 points over the last six weeks of the season.