UT has only itself to blame for bowl slight


The next time you hear someone refer to a game or a loss as meaningless, remember this score:

Akron 31, Toledo 29.

That final on Nov. 29 seemed harmless at the time, not affecting bowl-eligible UT’s finish in the Mid-American Conference standings one whit. But someone is always watching.

It became very meaningful on Sunday as UT officials tried to sell the 7-5 Rocket brand to a couple bowl games, one in particular, and were told, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

A Toledo defense that surrendered 107 points in its final 10 quarters of action and a Rocket offense likely to be without its star weapon, injured running back David Fluellen, became a hard sell.

The loss at Akron, the lack of an eighth win, must have made it an impossible sell considering which team was picked over UT.

Ohio University got the last at-large bid, also with seven wins after beating sad-sack Massachusetts in the final regular-season game. Before that, the Bobcats had absorbed three straight lopsided losses and seemed to have played themselves out of serious consideration.

Word on the street was that Toledo was in line for an at-large spot in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla. But when the invitations were tendered Sunday, the pairing revealed Ohio U vs. East Carolina on Dec. 27.

Last impressions are lasting. Maybe OU’s 43-3 romp at Akron mattered in the final comparison too, although the Zips were an improved team at the end of the year. You can never tell by often-bogus announced attendance figures in the MAC, but maybe Ohio’s fan base is more highly regarded by bowl committees than is Toledo’s.

Or maybe, just maybe, a rumored strained relationship between the MAC office and Toledo athletic administrators is more than idle chat. The conference office certainly plays a role in brokering bowl deals.

Nobody ever whispers about UT’s pull in the conference without winks and nods and shoulder shrugs, but maybe there’s indeed something to talk about. After all, the Rockets competed pretty well against a brutal nonleague schedule and went 5-3 in league play to Ohio’s 4-4 mark. OU plays in the MAC East and was humiliated by champion Bowling Green and runner-up Buffalo. Toledo beat both. Go figure.

If there are bad feelings, this oversight won’t improve them.

But, bottom line is the Rockets probably have no one to blame but themselves.

Akron 31, Toledo 29. It is meaningless no more.

■ More college football, over lightly:

The MAC landed spots for five of its seven bowl-eligible teams as six-win Central Michigan joined UT on the outside looking in…

Northern Illinois, the league’s best-known brand and the team with the best-known player in quarterback Jordan Lynch, was steered to a nice at-large slot in San Diego. Such exposure is a justifiable reward for consecutive one-loss seasons…

Bowling Green will head back to Detroit, where it won the league title game this past weekend, for the final Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. To a northwest Ohio fan dreaming of a warm-weather trip, Detroit is a lousy bowl destination on the day after Christmas, but the pairing against Pitt of the ACC is actually a tribute to the Falcons. That’s a MAC-affiliated bowl and the conference tries hard to put its best foot forward in those…

The trickle-down effect of BG’s win over Northern Illinois, which knocked the Huskies out of a BCS bowl game and into the MAC’s bowl rotation, was likely as costly to rival Toledo’s postseason hopes as the loss to Akron. I doubt Falcon fans feel too bad about that “bonus”…

The old saying, “offense wins games, defense wins championships” may be little more than a bromide. Ask Auburn. But BG and Michigan State both proved in their respective conference title games that with a good defense, just about anything is possible...

But both of those teams have made huge strides on offense too…

When Ohio State’s Urban Meyer walked away from the head coaching job at Florida for health reasons, he could not have looked any worse than he did after Saturday night’s loss to MSU in the Big Ten championship game…

That loss provided a clear “I told you so” for OSU’s critics. In the 24 games, all wins, that preceded the meeting with Michigan State, the Buckeyes never faced any opponent ranked in the top 15 at the time they played. That changed when OSU tackled the Spartans, of course, and so did the outcome.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: or 419-724-6398.