College Football Odds & Picks for Bowling Green vs. Toledo: Bet the Rockets or Nothing
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images. Pictured: Bryson Denley (12).
- The MAC is back, and Bowling Green will open its season with Toledo on Wednesday night.
- Stuckey believes the Falcons could play a role similar to the 2019 Akron Zips — the worst team in the conference by a significant margin.
- Stuckey explains why he's riding with the Rockets or nothing below.
Bowling Green Falcons vs. Toledo Rockets
|Bowling Green Odds||+24.5 [BET NOW]|
|Toledo Odds||-24.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+1100/-2500 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||62.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET|
Bowling Green Falcons
Head coach Scot Loeffler hopes things turn out a little better in his second season. Loeffler, who came from Boston College as a highly-regarded quarterback whisperer, prefers a run-first offensive attack and an aggressive blitzing defense.
However, nothing worked in 2019, with the offense and defense finishing 128th and 124th in the final S&P ratings, respectively. The special teams were even worse, ranking 130th of 130 squads.
Despite being the youngest team in the MAC last season, Bowling Green still lost over 50% of its offensive and defensive production. The only other teams dealing with that much lost production are Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan. Amazingly, Bowling Green’s 2020 roster consists of over 60% freshmen.
Loeffler hopes Matt McDonald can provide a boost to an offense that lost both quarterbacks who started games last year. With the graduation of Darius Wade and transfer of Grant Loy to Auburn, it’s all up to McDonald with no proven depth. McDonald has at least been in Loeffler’s system for four years between Boston College and Bowling Green.
McDonald does have one very reliable target coming back in 6’4 tight end Quintin Morris — an NFL prospect who converted to tight end from wide receiver — who Loeffler will feature in the passing game. He was the only offensive player to receiver any All-MAC honors.
The entire wide receiver corps is extremely inexperienced. There just wasn’t any reliable threat last year, and the Falcons will need to change that to open up the offense.
Bowling Green should benefit from the return of a healthy Andrew Clair at running back. Clair, who missed most of last year due to injury, ran for over 700 yards in both 2017 and 2018 at a clip of over five yards per carry. Expect him to be the focal point of the offense.
The offensive line actually played pretty well from an advanced metrics standpoint in 2019, allowing the fewest sacks in the MAC. However, it will need to replace its two top offensive linemen after center Jack Kramer graduated and left tackle Caleb Bright retired. It looks as if guard Tim Tanner-Blair will be the only player to play the same position as last year. Sam Neverov will apparently move from guard to right tackle, while reserve senior guard Joe Ware will move to left tackle. The Falcons will also likely have a new starter at center in sophomore Cameron Stage.
Loeffler has also mentioned potentially having to use a number of freshmen up front. If the extremely inexperienced offensive line can’t figure it out, we may not see any improvement from an offense that averaged only 16.0 points per game — third-worst in the country.
Bowling Green has been a dumpster fire on defense for the past four seasons. If you want to take an optimistic view, this will mark the first time in four seasons that the Falcons will run the same defensive system in back-to-back years. That continuity can only help, but I’m personally just not a fan of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
Plus, four of the top six tacklers have departed. The only defender who received All-MAC honors in 2019, outside linebacker Kholbe Coleman, does return to lead a unit that should be the strength of the defense.
The secondary simply couldn’t cover anybody in 2019. Bowling Green was one of only three teams to allow at least 7.0 yards per pass, along with UMass and UConn. There are serious questions in the secondary outside of one corner spot (Caleb Biggers) and one safety (Jordan Anderson).
The defensive line was awful in the running game and may get pushed around once again. The one strength of this defense was getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, as its heavy blitzing defense finished 26th in Sack Rate. Defensive end Karl Brooks is the player who can cause the most disruption from the line.
A healthy Clair should help the rushing attack if the Bowling Green offensive line can come together. However, the offense will go as McDonald goes at quarterback. It would help if a few receivers elevate their play to provide reliable options other than Morris at tight end.
Meanwhile, the defense will in all likelihood be a sieve once again. It’s hard to envision Bowling Green doing much in 2020 after shortened preparation with a roster that consists of an insane 60% freshmen. The recruiting class ranked as the second-best in the MAC, so Loeffler may have things headed in the right direction. However, this will likely be another long year.
Toledo is poised for a rebound after a disappointing 6-6 season filled with bad injury luck. With over 70% of returning production on both offense and defense, Toledo was actually picked as the preseason favorite to win the MAC West in the preseason coach’s poll.
The offense wasn’t a total disaster, especially on the ground, where the Rockets averaged 5.2 yards per carry (19th nationally). Overall, it was a fairly average unit when the passing game is factored in. The offense will have a new coordinator after Brian Wright left for the head coaching gig at Pittsburgh State.
Bryant Koback and Shakif Seymour highlight one of the league’s best running back groups Also, 2019 All-MAC wide receiver Bryce Mitchell returns on the outside.
Guard Nick Rosi and center Luke Doerger lead an offensive line with four returning starters who mauled teams in the ground game, ranking in the top 15 in almost every advanced run-blocking metric. However, the pass blocking needs to improve.
Speaking of which, we still don’t know who the offensive line will need to protect. There’s a three-man quarterback competition between Eli Peters (the favorite), Carter Bradley and Dequan Finn. Peters and Bradley are the experienced options with 17 and 10 starts, respectively. However, head coach Jason Candle has said dual-threat redshirt freshman Finn, who won Michigan’s Mr. Football in 2018, will get a fair shot. Finn could provide the mobility that Toledo lacked at quarterback after Mitchell Guadagni went down with an injury last year after a 4-2 start.
In stark contrast, the defense was among the worst in the MAC. Toledo ranked outside the top 100 in Success Rate and allowed over 475 yards per game (123rd in FBS). Consequently, Candle brought in two new co-defensive coordinators, who will surely make changes from a scheme perspective. They will at least have seven returning starters to work with, including All-MAC defensive linemen Jamal Hines.
The run defense has to get better after allowing 5.4 yards per rush in 2019 (122nd). The tackling was abysmal, and the defensive line got pushed around. The defensive front also couldn’t generate any pass rush, ranking dead last in FBS in Passing Downs Sack Rate. That certainly didn’t help a secondary that still remains the strength of the defense, led by a pair of very good cornerbacks in Sam Womack and Justin Clark (who missed most of last year with an injury) — and a solid safety in Tycen Anderson.
After nine straight winning seasons, Toledo failed to finish above .500 in 2019. The Rockets also ended a nine-year winning streak over Bowling Green when they were upset in stunning fashion as 28-point favorites. The Rockets should be in the running for a MAC title and will be out for blood in their opener, looking to avenge that embarrassing loss to its close rival. The rushing attack will be unstoppable, and the secondary will be formidable. If the defense can just figure out how to stop the run — or at least stop missing so many tackles or force more takeaways — Toledo might be the best team in the MAC.
Akron is still Akron, but Bowling Green might actually be the new Akron in 2020 and end up as almost unbettable this season.
I actually have Bowling Green rated as the worst team in the conference just behind the Zips. Having a roster with over 60% freshmen will always present a tough situation for any college team, but that’s especially true after a shortened spring and summer.
There’s no reason to believe that Toledo shouldn’t be able to run wild all over the Falcons. The advantage in the trenches will be significant, and the Rockets may keep their foot on the gas, as I’m sure they’d like to beat down their rival 20 miles down the road after suffering a shocking 20-7 loss last year as huge favorites. Toledo just came out sleepwalking for that one and Loy — who’s now with Auburn — went bonkers on the ground (137 yards rushing) and through the air (187 yards passing) in his first start.
Bet to Watch: I make this line Toledo -25, so I do lean that way at -22. It’s Rockets or nothing here.