College Football Odds & Pick for Toledo vs. Notre Dame: Betting Value on Rockets in Week 2 (September 11)
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan.
College Football Week 2 Odds
-105o / -115u
|Notre Dame Odds|
-105o / -115u
Notre Dame holds a perfect 8-0 record all-time against MAC teams, but this will mark its first-ever meeting with Toledo.
If you’re thinking upset, Brian Kelly has actually been pretty reliable throughout his career as a 14-plus point favorite. He owns a 62-2 straight up record (24-0 run) and is the most profitable coach of 327 in that scenario since 2005, per Action Labs. Here are the only two losses:
- 2016: Duke (+20.5) won 38-35 at ND
- 2014: Northwestern (+17) won 43-40 at ND
Both the Irish and Rockets come into this game at 1-0 but got there in drastically different ways. Toledo took care of business with ease over an FCS school, while Notre Dame pulled out a victory against Florida State in overtime.
Can the Rockets keep this within 17? Let’s take a closer look.
Toledo came into the season with the highest returning production of any team in the nation. It also ranks in the top five in the country in upperclassmen percentage. There’s no shortage of experience on this roster.
As a result, oddsmakers made the Rockets preseason favorites to win the MAC. Last year, in a MAC-only schedule, Toledo finished 4-2 but came agonizingly close to a perfect 6-0 record as both losses came by a field goal margin.
It kicked off this season with a tune-up 49-10 victory over Norfolk State, which played its first game since 2019. There’s not much to take from that glorified scrimmage.
Toledo’s offense only had one question coming into the season: Who would take over at quarterback after Eli Peters medically retired?
The favorite to take over as new QB1, Carter Bradley — who has previous starting experience — ultimately won a three-way competition against redshirt freshman Dequan Finn and Georgia Tech transfer Tucker Gleason.
The rest of the offense is loaded. Star running back Bryant Koback returns in the backfield in addition to the entire offensive line two-deep and the top-six wide receivers. It’s an explosive unit that can put up points in a hurry.
And don’t be surprised if you see the dual-threat Dequan Finn take some snaps under center to keep the defense on its heels.
Toledo hasn’t been known for its defense in recent years, but it might have its best unit on that side of the ball in quite some time.
Not only did the Rockets return every starter from last year (before losing linebacker Dan Bolden to injury), they should benefit from a full offseason under second-year defensive coordinator Vince Kehres, who came over after a successful stint as head coach at D-III powerhouse Mount Union.
Kehres implemented a new scheme and made some position changes last year that Toledo should be much more comfortable with this year.
Despite those changes, the Rockets finished third nationally in third-down defense and only allowed 5.4 yards per play (38th) — down from 6.6 in 2019 (120th). That marked the largest year-over-year improvement in all of FBS — albeit against a MAC-only schedule.
The defensive front is very strong for a MAC team, led by tackle Desjuan Johnson, edge rusher Jamal Hines, and 2020 leading-tackler linebacker Dyontae Johnson. Toledo also has a very good secondary with two All-MAC safeties and lockdown corner Samuel Womack, who has finished in the top five in the country in pass breakups each of the past two seasons.
However, it’s worth noting that safety Tycen Anderson, a pro prospect, may not suit up due to an injury. That could hurt against Jack Coan and company.
In addition to returning every defensive player from last year’s two-deep, it brought in Penn State transfer Judge Culpepper. He will immediately provide some much-needed bulk at nose tackle to pair with the quickness of Johnson — one of 90 players on the preseason watch list for the Nagurski Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best defensive player.
While Toledo returned more production than any team in FBS, the opposite holds true for Notre Dame. The Irish ranked in the bottom 10 in returning production and only brought back nine starters from the 2020 College Football Playoff team.
Notre Dame escaped with an overtime victory in Week 1 after blowing an 18-point, second-half lead to Florida State. There were both positive (Jack Coan, Kyle Hamilton) and negative (both lines, defense) takeaways from that opener for a fairly inexperienced team, especially relative to most other teams this year.
Fighting Irish Offense
In order to replace Ian Book, the Irish brought in transfer Jack Coan, who started for Wisconsin in 2019. Coan did look very strong in his debut for the Golden Domers, throwing for 366 yards and four touchdowns.
He doesn’t have the most proven group of wideouts, but Kevin Austin really flashed his potential last Sunday. And he can lean on one of the best tight ends in the country in Michael Mayer.
The strength of the offense lies in the backfield with Kyren Williams (and Chris Tyree), but Williams could only muster 2.3 yards per carry on 18 attempts against Florida State. A lot of that blame can be placed on a brand new offensive line, which struggled to generate a push last week.
That’s understandable since four offensive linemen from last year’s team moved on to the NFL, leaving Notre Dame with a number of holes to fill up front.
Additionally, starting left tackle Blake Fisher suffered an injury in Week 1 and won’t play against Toledo.
Bringing in former All-American Marshall transfer Cain Madden helped bulk up the interior, and he’s one of three senior starters, but this unit still needs time to gel. To illustrate this point, Notre Dame only allowed a Stuff Rate of 14% last year. Against Florida State, that number was a staggering 48%.
Coan showed he’s more than a game manager last week, but this offense might be held back at times early on in the season by an offensive line that needs to build chemistry and continuity.
Fighting Irish Defense
The big news in the offseason was the departure of defensive coordinator Clark Lea, who left for the head coach position at Vanderbilt. Brian Kelly did bring in the highly sought after Marcus Freeman, who left his post as the DC for Cincy to take over the same role in South Bend.
While I’m a big fan of Freeman and fully believe he will have this defense humming by the end of the season, there’s certainly going to be a transition period as we saw against FSU, which ran for 264 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per play.
In addition to a new scheme, ND lost plenty of defensive production The front seven must replace second-round draft pick Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at linebacker and a pair of defensive linemen, Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji.
Linebacker depth also took another hit last Sunday when both Paul Moala and Shayne Simon suffered season-ending injuries after already losing Marist Liufau prior to the season.
There are still plenty of playmakers, including Vyper Isaiah Foskey, who will be a havoc machine. But again, more growing pains can be expected.
The secondary does feature one of the best safeties in all of college football in future NFLer Kyle Hamilton, who had two interceptions last week. However, it did lose some experience at cornerback in Shaun Crawford and nickel Nick McCloud.
Toledo vs. Notre Dame Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Toledo and Notre Dame match up statistically:
Toledo Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
Notre Dame Offense vs. Toledo Defense
Pace of Play / Other
I really need to stress how much more difficult it is this year to project MAC teams after playing a MAC-only regular-season schedule in 2020. You just have to take Toledo’s statistical profile from last season with a grain of salt.
Throw in the fact that Notre Dame lost so much production from last year, and the 2020 profiles become even murkier.
The biggest thing to watch will be how Toledo can compete in the trenches. By nature, MAC teams will have a size disadvantage against teams like Notre Dame, but Toledo does at least boast strong lines for a MAC team.
Toledo vs. Notre Dame Betting Pick
This is a fascinating matchup considering it features two teams on opposite ends of the returning production spectrum. Toledo returns as much experience as any team in the country, while Notre Dame ranks in the bottom 10 in that department.
Toledo will also have a rest and preparation advantage. The Rockets played at home on Saturday in a blowout win where starters got plenty of rest, while Notre Dame had to fight tooth and nail for an overtime win on Sunday night in Tallahassee.
This game reminds me some of Notre Dame’s 2018 Week 2 matchup against another MAC team. After pulling out a close victory over Michigan to open the season, Notre Dame only beat Ball State by eight as 34-point favorites at home the following week. And that victory over Michigan came at home on a Saturday, so this is even a trickier situation against a more talented MAC team.
In regards to special teams, MAC teams generally struggle in that area. However, Toledo has one of the league’s better units in the often under-appreciated third phase. The Rockets, who scored two special teams touchdowns last week, won’t be completely overmatched against a Notre Dame special teams unit that finished 122nd last year, per SP+.
Ultimately, I make this spread closer to 10 than 17, so I gladly scooped up +18 earlier in the week and would feel comfortable betting the Rockets down to +14.5.
The experience and situational advantages for Toledo matter here, and Jason Candle’s bunch has the offensive firepower and enough defensive playmakers to keep this from getting out of hand against a Notre Dame team that is still working out some kinks defensively and along the offensive line.