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.
There are many similarities between Toledo and Ball State. First, both programs are led by young head coaches. Matt Campbell and Pete Lembo were both used as examples in FootballScoop's study of the success of young head coaches.
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.
Let the MACtion commence.