Know Your Opponent: Week 4 (Toledo)

BY CAMERON SURDYK | Ball State Sports Link

Here we go! Believe it or not we are almost more than halfway through the Mid American Conference football season. 

For Ball State, it has an opportunity to save the best for last, facing three MAC West contenders in a row to finish the regular season.

The first hurdle, the Toledo Rockets, were embarrassed last season as the Cardinals won handily 52-14 in Muncie. The Rockets were on the wrong end of a homecoming demolition the likes of which this matchup has rarely seen. 

Ball State attacked early and often as Drew Plitt threw three touchdown passes and the Cardinals were up 38-0 at the end of the first half. The 52 points in last year’s win were the most ever for the Cardinals in the series.

This result was the first victory head coach Mike Neu had earned over Toledo since taking over the BSU program in 2016, as well as the first time in five games the Cardinals have topped the Rockets.

Make no mistake, however, this Toledo team will not have forgotten their drubbing from last year and will be looking for some revenge this time around. Especially since now since both teams are 2-1 in conference play in a shortened season where every game is massive for both teams. 

John Candle and his Rockets will be looking to utilize their momentum going forward after a dominant 45-28 win over a struggling Eastern Michigan.

This win was significant not only because they had bested a MAC West rival, but this victory came after a much publicized loss to Western Michigan in which the Broncos won the game on a fake spike trick play that caught the Toledo defense completely off guard. 

To take that heartbreaking loss and turn it into a convincing win should tell the rest of the MAC that they should not be so quick in dismissing the mental fortitude of this Toledo team. 

“They’ve been able to run it when they want to run it; they’ve been able to throw it when they want to throw it,” Neu said. “We’ve challenged our guys up front, knowing that it all starts in the trenches. We have to play the best game we’ve played so far as far as that front seven goes, defensively.”

If Toledo wants their second win in the Glass Bowl against Ball State Saturday, it will have to rely on another strong performance from senior quarterback Eli Peters.

Peters has the fourth-most passing yards among all MAC quarterbacks. The only problem for Toledo is, the player above Peters in third is Plitt.

However, a strong performance from Toledo’s defense, led by Dyontae Johnson, could stem the tide as the Rockets have proven to be one of the better units in the conference, only allowing 72 points through three contests so far this year. 

In comparison, Ball State’s defense, which is loaded with the likes of the conference’s leading tackler Brandon Martin and a strong secondary led by Bryce Cosby and Antonio Phillips, have allowed 94 points over the course of the current season. 

All in all, whoever plays defense better Saturday will most likely come out on top, as both teams boast blistering speed and incredible scoring ability on offense.

Saturday’s matchup features three of the top four active career rushers in the MAC in BSU’s Caleb Huntley (2,902, 2nd) and Toledo’s Bryant Koback (2,405, 3rd) and Shakif Seymour (2,135, 4th).

Ball State and Toledo are very similar teams, and with the MAC West currently up in the air for four teams (Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Ball State and Toledo) expect emotions to run high.

The Rockets have won three straight over the Cardinals at the Glass Bowl. Ball State’s last win, 34-27, at Toledo came in 2012 when the Rockets were ranked No. 23 nationally.

Ball State vs. Toledo kicks off at 1 p.m in Toledo on ESPN3.