Toledo vs Ohio Odds & Predictions: Offenses to Shine in MAC Title Game
Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Toledo Rockets’ offensive line.
Toledo vs Ohio Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
This matchup may be the most difficult to predict of the nine championship games taking place this week.
Ohio's heart-and-soul leader, Kurtis Rourke, suffered a torn ACL and meniscus and has been lost for the season. The Maple Missile, as he's known in MACtion circles, played a massive role in reversing the Bobcats' fortunes from a 3-9 mark in 2021 to their sterling 9-3 record of 2022.
In terms of raw QBR, Rourke had the second-highest rating of all Group of Five quarterbacks at 81.
CJ Harris now steps in for Rourke, adding a rushing element that will be useful against a Toledo run defense that gives up lots of big plays on the ground (117th in explosive runs allowed).
Toledo, while not quite as disadvantaged as Ohio, still has a quarterback issue to sort out before kickoff.
Dequan Finn was enjoying a dominant run in MAC play (15 TDs, 5 INTs) before a pair of upper body and ankle injuries turned the Rockets' sophomore passer into a shell of himself.
Battling through the pain he was pulled against Western Michigan after throwing a pair of interceptions.
His replacement, Tucker Gleason, was more effective, but he's also nursing an injury to his non-throwing hand. Either way, questions remain as to which quarterback will lead the Rockets on Saturday at Ford Field.
Toledo regularly puts its opponents behind the sticks by living in their backfield (7.33 TFLs, 10th). And when the ball is in the air, there may not be a more disruptive secondary in the country than UT's, which averages 5.75 passes defensed per game (8th).
Ohio doesn't have Rourke, so Toledo will be able to focus on Sieh Bangura and CJ Harris in the backfield.
With Bangura as their focal point, the Bobs have won going away in their last two games. Bangura, the MAC Freshman of the Year, has faced little resistance on the ground in his last four games with those defenses averaging a national ranking of 84th against the run. Toledo will be far and away Bangura and offensive coordinator Scott Isphording's toughest test of the season.
Offensively, Toledo is in a bit of a bind.
The Rockets finished the season 20th in points per opportunity and regularly hit the big play through the air (21st in explosiveness). But that stat profile goes out the window if Finn is limited due to injuries or if they turn to Gleason, who averaged just 5.3 yards per attempt in their loss to WMU.
In Gleason's previous start, he was more dynamic through the air against Bowling Green, but the big mistakes — two interceptions and four sacks — were noticeable.
What Gleason can bring, should he start, is a running element that Finn previously brought to the table pre-injury.
Gleason ran for 106 yards and a pair of scores against Bowling Green, and Ohio has struggled to stop mobile quarterbacks this season. When facing mobile quarterbacks in the first six games of the season, Ohio surrendered five rushing scores to opposing signal-callers.
The Maple Missile's absence will be felt, but there's a reason this spread is so short. In the six quarters that Harris has played in Rourke's stead, the Bobcats have scored 53 points.
Harris, a former three-star recruit, posted an 81.8 QBR score against Bowling Green while chipping in 65 yards on the ground and three scores. He was a defensive coordinator's nightmare on the Bobs' speed option plays, in particular.
Isphording has already adjusted his play-calling, putting defenses at a disadvantage by setting Harris up on more designed runs, speed options and RPOs. I foresee more passing plays off of the option looks given that one went for a touchdown against Bowling Green when Harris found a wide-open Sam Wiglusz for six.
Defense is where things get dicey for Ohio. While there are schematic adjustments to be made on offense with Harris, there's not a lot Ohio can do to improve a lackluster unit.
Its front seven held up decently well against the run and actually finished first in run defense during conference play.
But when opponents put the ball in orbit, all hell breaks loose for the Bobcats. Ohio finished with the 129th-ranked passing defense, allowing opposing quarterbacks to pick it apart (64.6%, 110th).
The Bobs have a serviceable pass rush (48th in Sack Rate) and finished fourth in MAC play with 2.75 sacks per game. If Finn ends up starting, they'll need to test his ankle with their pass rush right away.
The Bobcats were the team of the decade in the MAC…in the 1960s. Bill Hess led them to four conference titles and a pair of 10-0 regular seasons. Since then, Ohio has been a college football afterthought. It's appeared in four MAC title games ('06,'09, '11, '16) but it has lost by an average of 10 points per game.
What I know for sure is the fanbase is itching for a title and will be well-represented at Ford Field.
Toledo vs Ohio Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Toledo and Ohio match up statistically:
Toledo Offense vs Ohio Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off) vs Pass Rush (Def)
Ohio Offense vs Toledo Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off) vs Pass Rush (Def)
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams
|Seconds per Play
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Toledo vs Ohio Betting Pick
This total opened at 60.5 and rose to 61.5 before plummeting down to its current number of 54.5.
Quarterback play is a concern for Toledo, but Ohio's pass defense is absolutely atrocious. As long as the Rockets don't trot out a wounded Finn, I foresee at least 35 points from the Toledo offense.
On the other side of things, Harris and Bangura could give a strong Toledo run defense some problems. Bangura has scored five times and averaged 139 total yards per game in his last three, and Harris was far more effective in his first start once his staff had time to craft a game plan suited to his skill set.
With 11 days to work with here, I believe Tim Albin's offense will surprise in this one and keep Ohio in it for four quarters. At this number, I'm confident in an over play and would play it up to 56.
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