Turnovers may hurt UT’s hopes

Rockets on bubble for postseason game


Four times this season the University of Toledo lost a game in which its offense turned the ball over inside an opponent’s 10-yard line.

One wonders if the Rockets’ failure to break down goal-line barriers will result in another barricade shunning them from the postseason.

The smart guess is no, that Toledo will receive an invitation to play in a bowl for a fourth straight year. As of today there are 78 bowl-eligible teams seeking invitations to 35 games, meaning at least eight teams will be denied. Three five-win teams are seeking eligibility this coming Saturday in regular-season finales.

Most analysts believe Toledo (7-5 overall) is safe and the Mid-American Conference will place as many as six of its seven bowl-eligible teams in the postseason. Not leaving anything to chance, coach Matt Campbell made a plea Friday for one more game after Toledo’s 31-29 upset loss at Akron.

“I sure hope what we’ve done this season — and we’ll get some of our injured guys back for a bowl game — will make us marketable to go play,” Campbell said. “I felt like if we would have won the football game we would have ensured a bowl opportunity for this football team. I think we’re really marketable. I think if you look at our stretch run we’ve got some great wins. I’d love to send our seniors out on the right note. That will be up to somebody other than me, but I know we have a great administration that will fight for us and give us a chance to go play in a football game.”

The MAC, which a year ago placed a league-record seven teams in bowls, has primary agreements with three bowls and secondary agreements with four others. One of the secondary partners, the New Mexico Bowl, will schedule its matchup with primary partners.

The MAC will be pulling for American Athletic members Rutgers and Southern Methodist to lose Saturday to hopefully steal away that league’s bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. Rutgers hosts South Florida, and SMU hosts Central Florida.

Conference USA, in search of bowl homes for its eight eligible teams, also has a secondary agreement with BBVA Compass.

The MAC figures to use secondary agreements with the Poinsettia Bowl and the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.

CBSsports.com’s Jerry Palm predicts Toledo will face East Carolina in the Dec. 23 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. The game is played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., the hometown of Rockets receivers Bernard Reedy and Rodney Adams.

There is one hang-up with that scenario: Running back David Fluellen, Toledo’s most dynamic and most popular player, may still be on the mend with an ankle injury. Toledo administrators may lobby for a game scheduled later in the bowl season. Administrators also may try to avoid the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise because Rocket seniors have been to both.

Bowl selections will be finalized Sunday after the final BCS standings are announced.

Toledo, despite the eyesore loss at 5-7 Akron, should have some bargaining power based on wins over three of the MAC’s bowl-eligible teams, including East division champion Bowling Green.

The Falcons will try to ruin Northern Illinois’ unbeaten season and BCS aspirations this Friday in the MAC championship at Detroit’s Ford Field. An NIU loss could eliminate a bowl opportunity for a MAC team, as the Huskies would secure one of the league’s bids rather than going to a BCS game.

If the unforeseen happens and Toledo is shut out of the postseason, four turnovers will have contributed to the disappointment.

At Missouri’s 3-yard line, Terrance Owens threw an interception trying to throw the ball away on the final play before halftime. Toledo trailed 17-9 and lost 38-23.

At Ball State’s 8, Owens and Fluellen botched a handoff on first down, leaving the third-quarter deficit 17-10. Toledo lost 31-24.

The infamous Kareem Hunt jump pass against Northern Illinois took points off the board when he was intercepted in the second quarter. NIU won the game and the West division title, 35-17.

The latest red zone snafu came at Akron’s 10 when Owens threw behind Alonzo Russell trying to tie the game early in the fourth quarter.

“We can’t have some of the critical errors we had,” Campbell said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.