Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Improved Bobcats look to challenge UT's winning ways

It is strength against strength when Ohio visits Toledo in for a rare day game at the Glass Bowl at noon today.

The Rockets (4-2, 3-0) have the top producing offense in the Mid-American Conference with 490.8 yards per game, and the Bobcats (3-3, 1-2) have the MAC's best defense, allowing just 285.2 yards per game, and giving up only 18.3 points.

Offensive firepower against defensive muscle. Something's got to give.

"We've seen how well Ohio has played on defense, and we respect them a great deal," UT coach Tom Amstutz said. "We expect to have to be on top of our game against that defense."

Things have probably been pretty fright-filled in the Bobcats film room this past week. The Rockets have averaged just under 50 points over the current four-game winning streak, and are second in the conference in scoring at 38.8 points despite managing just 35 total points in their first two games of the season.

The Rockets have shown a growing diversity on the offensive side that started with the school-record performance by wide receiver Kenny Higgins two weeks ago in a 52-14 win over Ball State. After Higgins caught 10 passes for 233 yards, including a record 96-yarder for one of his three touchdown catches, it became clear that opposing defenses could no longer focus their resources on covering Lance Moore and Steve Odom.

In last week's 59-33 rout of Western Michigan, tailback Trinity Dawson rushed for a season-high 158 yards on 24 carries and scored two touchdowns. When forced to stay honest and account for Dawson, the bewildered Broncos were exposed on the flanks and allowed UT to gain 649 yards of total offense - the third highest game total in UT history.

"We showed people we can still run the football, and we can run it with some success," Dawson said after the Rockets hammered the Broncos for 350 rushing yards in the game. "I think that makes our offense a lot more dangerous when we can move the ball on the ground, or through the air. We just have a lot more options that way."

Toledo is looking for an 11th straight win at home. The Rockets are 27-1 in their last 28 games at the Glass Bowl, dating to the middle of the 1999 season. UT is 50-9 (.847) at home since 1995.

- Matt Markey

Time: Noon.

TV/radio: ESPN/1370

Records: Ohio is 3-3, 1-2 in MAC East; UT is 4-2, 3-0 in MAC West.

Last game: UT d. Western Michigan 59-33; Ohio lost to Marshall 16-13.

Favorite: Toledo by 13 1/2

Notable: This is not the Ohio that a lot of the MAC has come to love in recent years. The Bobcats have shelved the option offense that was their bread and butter for so long, and now go with a variation of the spread offense that has been very productive for teams like the Rockets and Bowling Green. But it is on defense where the Bobcats have impressed the MAC the most. With nine starters back, including all of its linebackers and defensive backs, Ohio has been rock solid on that side of the ball. In the narrow loss to Marshall last Saturday, the Ohio defense did not allow a touchdown for the second time in three weeks. Another indicator as to how the Bobcats have performed on the defensive side - Ohio has forced 20 turnovers in six games this season. The Rockets have dominated this series in recent years, winning eight straight games. Toledo and Ohio have met just once since the MAC moved to divisional play in 1997, a 48-41 Rockets win in Athens in 2001.

Time: Noon.

TV/radio: Ch. 13/760

Records: Michigan is 5-1, 3-0 in Big Ten; Illinois is 2-4, 0-3.

Last game: Michigan d. Minnesota 27-24; Illinois lost to Michigan State 38-25.

Favorite: Michigan by 18 1/2

Notable: If the Wolverines' high-powered offense can keep from turning the ball over, this one should be over early. The fewest points the Illini have given up to a Div. I-A team this season is 24, and in three of their six games they've given up 35 or more. Still, it's a Big Ten road game for Michigan freshman QB Chad Henne, so anything is possible.

Time: 3:30 p.m.

TV/radio: Ch. 13/1470

Records: OSU is 3-2, 0-2 in Big Ten; Iowa is 3-2, 1-1.

Last game: OSU lost to Wisconsin 24-13; Iowa d. Michigan State 38-16 (on Oct. 2).

Favorite: OSU by 1 1/2

Notable: Let's see now, the Buckeyes have lost two in a row, their offense is reeling, they're on the road - and are a 1 1/2-point favorite? Apparently the odds-makers think they'll get an early safety, then turn it over to the defense. But seriously ... the OSU coaches say they're going to simplify their offense, running fewer plays but trying to do them better. And speaking of running, OSU has not done that well this season, and Iowa is down to its fourth-string RB, so we may see the ball in the air a lot today.

Time: 4 p.m.

Radio: 1230

Records: BS is 1-5, 1-2 in MAC West; BG is 3-2, 1-1.

Last game: BSU lost to Eastern Michigan 31-24; BG d. Central Michigan 38-14.

Favorite: BG by 28

Notable: Someone should make sure the Falcons have directions to Perry Stadium, since this is just their second home game this season. BG coach Gregg Brandon expects good things from his squad at home. "When you're in your own environment you have a greater comfort level, and that's something you have to create on the road." A noisy home crowd also might affect a Ball State team led by a true freshman at QB, Cole Stinson, and RB, Adell Givens. "We've got to harass [Stinson], put pressure on him and mix our coverages," Brandon said. The key for the defense is to control Ball State wide receiver Dante Ridgeway, who ranks among the national leaders in catches (8.33) and receiving yards (117.67) per game.

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