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Toledo prepares for test in first MAC road game

UT’s Candle says conference has plenty of parity

As the University of Toledo football team heads to Central Michigan on Saturday, the Rockets will be tested in their first conference road game of the season.

With the Mid-American Conference strong from top to bottom this season, especially in the MAC West, Toledo coach Jason Candle knows it will be a battle week-to-week.

“I think there is a lot of parity in our league,” Candle said. “Each and every week, you have to be at your best or you will get beat. That’s just the way it goes. Generally speaking we all recruit the same areas and the same type of players. Now you get to this point of the season and it’s really who can lock into the details and really be the best at their routine from here to the end of it.”

The Rockets (4-1, 1-0 MAC) have already survived a home game against a tough Eastern Michigan team. In the MAC West, Western Michigan sits atop the standings at 2-0 after an epic 71-68, seven-overtime win over Buffalo. Central Michigan is 1-1 after beating reigning MAC East champion Ohio. Northern Illinois is 1-0, and Eastern Michigan and Ball State are 0-2.

“It doesn’t really matter each and every week who the opponent is because you know whoever it’s going to be is going to be a stiff challenge for you and they are going to be good and they are going to compete for 60 minutes,” Candle said. “That’s what makes our conference so special. Anybody can beat anybody on any given Saturday.”

RELATED: Brian Buckey’s MAC West power rankings

Toledo challenged itself in the non-conference schedule this season and the idea was to have some good competition that would help ready the team for conference play. The goal each and every season for the Rockets is to win the MAC.

“The first four games are always great games to get the team going, but these last eight or nine games are what you sweat in the summer and spring for, is to win the championship at the end,” UT junior linebacker Richard Olekanma said. “We don’t see ourselves as 4-1. We see ourselves as 1-0 right now.”

Central Michigan will present a challenge for the Rockets as they hit the road for just the third time this season. 

“To me it’s just another game, whether it be here or somewhere else,” UT senior offensive lineman Elijah Nkansah said. “It’s a really good defense with a lot of veterans. We just have to practice how we do and go play and trust ourselves that it’s just another game and another week and we have to do what we got to do to get a win.”

Coming off a big win against Ohio, Central Michigan coach John Bonamego knows his team will be challenged again this week when it faces Toledo.

“They are an exceptionally well built team and they have recruited really well,” Bonamego said. “They’ve done a great job of developing their players and putting them in a system, on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game, where they can really take advantage of the skill that they have. There’s a reason why their record is what it is. They are a very talented and well-coached football team. The challenges are numerous when you look at Toledo and how that team is built.”

Contact Brian Buckey at bbuckey@theblade.com419-724-6110, or on Twitter @BrianBuckey.

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