Midweek MACtion comes to an end tonight with the Battle of I-80 when Akron visits Toledo at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
After ripping off eight straight wins, Matt Campbell's team has now lost two straight games, including last week's 31-24 decision to cede the MAC West to Northern Illinois. A win tonight is imperative for the Rockets to improve their bowl standing, as the MAC bowl picture could be quite crowded with the possibility of producing six eight-win teams. The MAC has three direct bowl tie-ins and two secondary tie-ins, so the Rockets don't want to risk getting lost in the shuffle.
At 1-10, Terry Bowden and Akron haven't had much success this season. The Zips can do one thing exceedingly well - throw the ball. They lead the MAC with over 317 passing yards per game, but with 28 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, the second most in the MAC, Akron drops to seventh in passing efficiency. Akron has thrown the ball a MAC-leading 537 times, and throws the ball on more than 60 percent of its snaps.
Toledo, for its efforts, ranks just 10th in the conference in total defense and ninth in passing efficiency defense. A successful offense (455 yards, 33 points per game) will be buoyed by a defense that allows 450 yards and 36 points per game.
There may not be a whole lot on the line tonight, but, if nothing else, expect Midweek MACtion to go out in style.
There may be a presidential election going on today, but the eyes of the nation will clearly be in Toledo, Ohio, for Toledo's clash with Ball State.
Things are going well right now for Toledo. The Rockets just entered the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2001 and are tied atop the MAC West with Northern Illinois. Ball State has also enjoyed a successful season, riding a three-game winning streak and at 6-3 the Cardinals hope to make their first bowl trip since 2008. Pete Lembo's team also won six games last year but did not play in a bowl game, so a win tonight will go a long way toward Ball State's postseason plans.
Next, both of these squads have played their final Saturday game in the regular season. Each team's next game is on next Wednesday as Toledo will visit Northern Illinois and Ball State hosts Ohio. The Cardinals close the regular season on Friday, Nov. 23, at Miami (Ohio), and Toledo completes its regular season slate on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at home versus Akron. Such is life inside the national phenomenons known as MACtion.
Both teams choose to win with their offense. Each squad ranks in the top third of FBS teams in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense. They also are among the bottom 15 FBS teams in total defense, but Toledo has managed to be a touchdown per game better than Ball State in scoring defense. The Cardinals allow 33.3 points per game, while the Rockets surrender 26.7 points per game.
Each team has been particularly vulnerable through the air (Toledo is 110th in pass defense, Ball State is 98th) but the Rockets' defense has a better touchdown-to-interception ratio, with 18 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, than Ball State's 22-to-6 ratio.
The biggest difference between these two teams is turnover margin. Based on their average margins, Toledo should win this match-up by at least one takeaway. Ball State failed to win the turnover battle in each of its previous three losses.
Like the presidential election, tonight's game should be close. Outside of the loss to Clemson, every one of Ball State's game has been decided by 12 points or less. Toledo's last two games have also been decided by a total of 11 points.
In the coming weeks and months a new crop of assistant coaches should have the opportunity to become first-time head coaches. A group of successful assistant coaches that could graduate to head coaching positions in the not-too-distant future includes Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart (36), Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier (41), Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell (39), Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman (37), Ohio State defensive line coach Mike Vrabel (37), Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris (43), Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich (39), Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin (35), Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury (33) and Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown (31). Jason Gesser (33), the interim head coach at Idaho, is also in close proximity to a full-time head coaching job.
The problem with those names, according to some, is that they're too young. As in "not old enough to run for president" young in some cases.
But the question we have at FootballScoop is, is age really a valid concern?
Over the weekend we took a look at the youngest FBS head coaches, and our results indicate that the 40-and-under crowd is winning in a big way.
Overall, that group is 67-42 (.615) this season. If you consider that Fuente and McGee are in their first seasons in situations where Vince Lombardi would struggle to win, the record improves to a stellar 64-27 (.703).
Expand the criteria to coaches in their early-40's and the youth movement looks even stronger.
As a whole, this group is 49-21 (.700). Coupled with the group above and young head coaches enjoy a composite 116-63 (.648) record.
In college football, winning begins with recruiting better players than your opponent. With that in mind, imagine you are a 16-year-old recruit. Who are you more likely to relate to, a 35-year-old coach or a 65-year-old coach?
The success of young head coaches are having so early in their careers has to be making athletic directors across the country asking themselves if youth is really a bad thing.
Taking a look at the MAC standings earlier today, we couldn't help but notice how strong the top teams in each division look through the first eight weeks of the season.
Ohio (7-0) is the lone undefeated team, while Toledo (7-1), Northern Illinois (7-1) and Kent State (6-1) all have one loss each. MACtion at its finest.
Kent State started off their first seven games last season 1-6 under Darrell Hazell, and Hazell now has the Golden Flashes with that record reversed, sitting at 6-1 (with their only loss coming to Kentucky), and 4-0 in conference play. Their numbers on the offensive side of the ball, particularly running the rock, have made huge strides. Last season Kent State ranked 119th nationally in rushing offense through seven games (75 ypg), this season they rank 27th (210 ypg). Coach Hazell and his staff look like they're in the beginning stages of a turnaround. Dating back to last season, Kent State has won 11 of their past 13 games, with their only losses coming to Temple and Kentucky.
Ohio opened their season up with a big win over Penn State, and has carried that momentum to a 7-0 start, including three conference wins. Frank Solich has his guys playing their best in close games. All but one of their FBS games have been decided by 10 points or less,
After losing their season opener in a thrilling fashion against Arizona in OT, Toledo has come back to rattle off seven straight wins, including their big win last Saturday over a Cincinnati program that had put together 10 win seasons in four of the past five years. Very solid start under first year head coach Matt Campbell.
Northern Illinois is another MAC team off to a great start under second year head coach Dave Doeren. Their only loss of the season also came during their season opener, a disappointing one point (17-18) loss to Wisconsin Iowa. Since that loss, the Huskies have put together four wins of with a margin of 21points or more. Now in his second season, Doeren has led the program to a record of 18-4, and has helped them collect their first MAC title since 1983 and a top five APR rating in the country.
Below is a very well done clip from the Huskies, who are trying to put together three consectutive double digit win seasons for the first time in school history. This one is very well put together.
First year Toledo head coach Matt Campbell has done a terrific job of winning close ball games through the early part of the year, and has the Rockets picking up this season right where they left off in 2011. Their largest margin of victory through the first eight games is 20 points.
After finishing last season 9-4, the Rockets have gotten off to a fast start, currently sitting at 7-1, and 4-0 in MAC play, with their lone loss of the season coming to Arizona in an overtime thriller in the season opener (24-17).
Here's a well done video that highlights the first half of the Rockets season, and one that they hope is the first step in their "Quest for Greatness." Very well produced, and really gets the message across without using more than a few words.
This weekend, Toledo takes on Buffalo on the road, and then comes back to Ohio for a night game against Ball State before rounding out the season with a big test at Northern Illinois and then wrapping up the regular season at home against Akron.