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Published: Friday, 11/3/2006

UT, BGSU rivalry dulled by lousy play

For a month now, people have been going gaga about the highly anticipated Nov. 18 matchup between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan.

There's barely been a whisper about the Bowling Green-Toledo game, which occurs three days later at the Glass Bowl.

It's understandable.

Nearly every television set in Ohio and Michigan will be tuned in to the Buckeyes-Wolverines bash.

As for UT and BG, wish ESPN2 good luck in trying to hype the game.

The Rockets and Falcons have spoiled us.

Since 2001, we have come to expect bowl games, division titles, Mid-American Conference championship game appearances, and Top 25 rankings. They have been two of the MAC's elite teams, combining for an 88-35 record.

But this year, both teams have stumbled and fumbled.

The Rockets (3-6) have been getting rocked regularly; the Falcons (4-5) flogged frequently.

It's rare when BG and Toledo square off and there's nothing for either team to look forward to except each other.

But that's what is staring us in the face Nov. 21.

BG still may be mathematically alive in the East Division race at 3-2, but any team that loses to lowly Temple, as the Falcons did 28-14 last Saturday, doesn't deserve to be rewarded with any kind of championship slice.

Losing to the Owls, 1-8 and in the midst of their 16th consecutive losing season, was a black eye for coach Gregg Brandon's program.

It ranks right up there as one of the ugliest losses in school history. But it's still not as bad as what happened in 2000, when the Falcons did the unthinkable, losing back-to-back road games to Temple and Buffalo. The loss to Buffalo cost Gary Blackney his job.

Buffalo, 11-79 since rejoining the MAC in 1999, gave the Falcons a run for their money this season before falling 48-40 in three overtimes.

Brandon's job is safe - for now.

You can only wonder where BG might be if quarterback Omar Jacobs would have returned for his senior season, instead of going to the NFL, where he flopped with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As for Toledo, it's obvious that coach Tom Amstutz's Rockets have not been able to replace record-setting quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) or offensive coordinator Rob Spence (Clemson).

Spence left in January, 2005, but Gradkowski was able to cover up for his absence last year with his superb play. However, UT's three-headed quarterback monster - Clint Cochran, Aaron Opelt and Brandon Summers - has not been able to fill Gradkowski's shoes, combining for 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.

Spence's Clemson offense ranks fourth in the country in rushing and 13th in total offense, while Toledo is 63rd and 72nd.

The Rockets suffered an embarrassing 17-13 loss two weeks ago to Eastern Michigan, which is 30-79 since its last winning season in 1995.

Toledo, tied for last in the West at 1-4, needs to win its final three games to avoid its first losing season since 1993.

If the Rockets lose at Northern Illinois Tuesday, they would finish 0-6 on the road for the first time in 30 years.

As it stands now, there's a good chance both Toledo and Bowling Green could limp into their rivalry game with losing records.

That hasn't happened since 1989. The Rockets and Falcons have been rewriting the record books with one bad performance after another.



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