Saturday, October 12th was a weird day for MAC games. We learned a lot about some teams and got more questions than answers about others. Kent State showed they are ahead of Akron in the rebuild cycle, Central Michigan beat a down and out New Mexico State and are two wins from bowl eligibility, Western has not fixed their consistency issues in a weird win over Miami, Ball State rallied to beat Eastern Michigan on the road, and Northern Illinois won with offense in Athens.
The game that far and away creates the most questions is Toledo at Bowling Green. Toledo, the MAC West favorite and my MAC Champion favorite, lost to Bowling Green.
This Bowling Green? They got beat by Kent State, who is firmly in a rebuild, by 42 points. They won three games and fired Mike Jinks mid-season last season. The AD hired Scot Loeffler, who was largely an uninspiring hire given his results as an offensive coordinator. The Falcons had only scored 4 touchdowns against FBS opponents while surrendering 27. THAT Bowling Green.
1. Bowling Green outgained Toledo on a per play basis.
Bowling Green ran 62 plays and averaged 6.9 yards per play. Toledo ran 74 plays and averaged 5.3 yards per play. A yard and a half advantage in per play yardage is significant. It suggests that Bowling Green had control of the game.
2. Bowling Green controlled the game.
Bowling Green scored first, opened a 10-0 lead and never trailed. If you told me that Bowling Green would win this game and I had to guess how I would never guess a wire to wire win.
3. Bowling Green won with defense. Seriously.
The Falcons had five sacks and nine tackles for loss. On top of that, they had one interception and five passes deflected. Toledo fumbled the ball 4 times and gave it away once. All of that is very disruptive. That’s 14 negative plays. Maybe negative doesn’t describe a pass deflection but it’s close enough.
Some of the plays were well-timed, like a 3-yard loss on a 4th and 1 try, or a safety blitz for a sack on a 3rd down in the red zone (That play ultimately lead to a missed field goal).
4. Grant Loy used big plays to score early.
On the first play from scrimmage, Grant Loy ran 56 yards to the Toledo red zone. The second drive went to the house on a 66-yard pass to Bryson Denley. The only other touchdown drive had plays of 13, 15, 22 and 15 yards.
Bowling Green quarterbacks usually run but not as heavily or as successfully as Grant Loy did Saturday. Loy had a running back stat line: 19 carries, 137 yards, and a touchdown. There were a lot of designed runs.
Is Scot Loeffler a better coach than Jason Candle?
No. He at least needs more games to prove it one way or the other. This game does raise a few questions right to the top of the list.
How did BGSU stop the Toledo offense?
Toledo uses two running backs and their quarterback in their offense to run the ball. This season, that is the base of this offense. Mitchell Guadagni is a capable passer but he’s not on the level of Logan Woodside, so the offense had to change from the 2017 version.
The Falcon defense stopped the run. Toledo has used it to kill their opponents and Bowling Green took it away. Toledo ran the ball better at SEC opponent Kentucky.
It forced the ball into the air more than any other game this season. In obvious passing situations, the Falcons pinned their ears back and sacked Guadagni five times. Guadagni did leave the game for brief stints late when Toledo needed to go to the air due to the game situation. That should definitely be at least acknowledged here.
What happened on third downs for Toledo?
One of the most telling things in this game was Toledo starting 4 of 6 on third down and went 1 of 10 the rest of the game. That’s rough. The average distance to go wasn’t lopsided either.
When they converted, the average distance to go was 4.6 yards. When they failed it was only 6.3 yards. There’s a difference there, but not a huge one especially for small sample sizes.
Can the Bowling Green gameplan be recreated?
I can say with confidence that most defenses in the MAC have personnel on par with Bowling Green. Can other defenses shut down the run? Can they get to the quarterback after they force the pass?
I have a feeling that some incredibly well-timed defensive play calls were made on Saturday. I also think playing as aggressive as Bowling Green did could go the other way. Without five passes deflected does the passing game take off and produce more points? Does the defensive coordinator change scheme to slow down the passing game and Bryant Koback gets loose?
We’ll never know. We do know that in this game the perfect plan was executed perfectly.
Is Toledo vulnerable in the rest of the MAC schedule?
Maybe. They have Ball State, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois, Buffalo, and Central Michigan left on the schedule. Ball State looks improved but I’m not sure how much stock I put into them. Eastern is a tough out lately despite the 0-2 start. Northern Illinois can score points this year.
Saturday was a bad day for Toledo, but unless the quarterback injury is a recurring issue they should still win most of their games. Does that get them to Detroit? It can. Western Michigan starts every game slowly and another loss wouldn’t surprise me and they already lost to Toledo. Between Western Michigan and Toledo being who they are, the other teams are going to earn the MAC West title if they want it.