AF: Few Hog fans probably realize that Toledo has been a leader in the MAC over the last five years. What have been the reasons that the Rockets have been able to average almost nine wins a season since 2010?
HB: Matt Campbell is a damn good coach. He's in a good position where Toledo has the fan base and necessary resources to bring in good talents and build a roster. He also knows how to get guys to play in daring situations, which is essentially what you'd want out of a football team in the first place. He lost damn near 30 players last year to injury and were still four points away from going to the conference championship. Preparation and talent is a good blend.
AF: Unfortunately, Toledo's season opener versus Stony Brook was cancelled. While Toledo wasn't going to do anything ground breaking in that game, are they at a disadvantage they didn't get to have their glorified scrimmage in week one like the Hogs did? Or will the eagerness to finally to be able to bump pads with a non-teammate be a bigger motivator?
HB: They'd probably tell you that they'd be treating this game just like any other and blah blah blah, you know how that goes. But I'd be pumped up and ready to make a statement against a ranked Arkansas squad. People don't remember that their second quarter was much more manageable and got up to a 16-7 lead, people just remember a little bit of sloppy offense and Stony Brook holding a 3-hour-plus lead. They shouldn't be worried about you or I criticizing them, but that's got to be a motivator for them too.
AF: Last time we saw Toledo play, they hung nine touchdowns on First District Agricultural and Mechanical College (what we call Arkansas State) in the GoDaddy Bowl last season. The Rockets scored over 40 points five times last season. What makes their offense so potent?
HB: That's one hell of a nick name. Seriously. But their offense against Arkansas State was noteworthy because of two things: 1) Kareem Hunt has unicorn blood 2) offensive line knew what they were doing, created great running lanes. Unfortunately, Hunt is suspended for this game and all five starters from last year are graduated. On the plus side, the offensive line looked fine against Stony Brook and there's still great (by MAC terms*) depth at the skilled positions.
AF: Give us two guys to looks out for during the game. One on offense and one defense.
HB: On offense I'm going to give you wide receiver Alonzo Russell. Big target, great hands and is a legitimate playmaker. While he's not the only one Phillip Ely (Alabama transfer, quarterback) will be aiming for on third and long situations, Russell is his first and second option on most occasions.
Defensively, Chaz Whittaker. Before the game was cancelled last week, he was able to come away with a pair of interceptions: something he's done once before in 2013. He was out last season, but a safety that's a good ball hawk like he is to put the offense on the field is ideal for the way this team operates.
AF: To be blunt, us Hog fans don't really know a whole lot about Toledo. Give us an interesting/fact/tidbit/story about Toledo folks may not know about.
HB: I mentioned being four points away from a MAC Championship appearance last year. Last year: Phillip Ely was out for the season by the second game so second string QB Logan Woodside had to step in. Woodside definitely stepped in and performed fantastically. Well they eventually had to go to NIU last year and third-string QB Michael Julian had to start because of an ankle injury (if I'm remembering this right) from Woodside. Woodside lasted all of one drive in that game; Julian had to come out before halftime because of a concussion. So what do they do? They take senior Dwight Macon, who came in as a QB but ended up playing WR for basically his entire college career take snaps under center for the Rockets in the most important regular season game of the year in a position he basically hasn't played in since high school and went 8-for-11 for 140 yards with 97 rushing yards.
The Huskies and Rockets both went 7-1 in MAC play, but NIU's loss was to CMU and Toledo's was to NIU, so the H2H tiebreaker sent NIU to Detroit.
HB: Arkansas wins 37-27