Toledo and Ohio State have met twice previously with the Buckeyes winning both games in decisive fashion. In 1998 Ohio State shut the Rockets out 49-0, and in 2009 they did it again with a 38-0 win.
Toledo is 6-14 all-time against the Big Ten, but they are 2-1when playing on the Big Ten Network, which they'll be doing on Saturday.
The Rockets are an impressive 6-8 all-time against ranked opponents, but just 1-7 in those games on the road. They also have a win over a BCS opponent in each of the last five seasons.
Ohio State enters this game with 55-consecutive home wins against unranked non-conference opponents.
When Toledo Has The Ball
The Rockets get talked about for their quarterback rotation, but they rotate in very similar quarterbacks. Both starter Austin Dantin and backup Terrance Owens are mobile and accurate. In fact, the rotation isn't for the sake of a change of pace, but rather because coaches feel both quarterbacks are too good to sit.
Dantin will carry the ball more than Owens, and if there is a crease to find, he's good at finding it. Last year he had a long run of 58 yards. Given some of the success that Akron quarterback Clayton Moore had on scrambles last week, Dantin could pose a problem on third down scrambles.
The passing offense is predicated on short, quick passes that require receivers to follow blocks and make tacklers miss. Fortunately for the Rockets, they are well-equipped with the best receivers in the MAC.
Eric Page gets the most recognition because he has caught 181 passes in his first two years as a Rocket. He doesn't get many big gainers, but he's reliable and always knows where the chains are. He's shifty like a running back, which makes him an ideal candidate for Toledo's screen game with their receivers.
In last week's 58-22 win over New Hampshire, who was ranked #10 in the FCS, receiver Bernard Reedy pulled in five passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Clearly, it's not just about Eric Page. There are several receivers to worry about.
The Buckeyes get cornerback Travis Howard back this week, and considering how much spread the Rockets will play, expect the cornerbacks to rotate in order to stay fresh.
Dominic Clarke and Bradley Roby started at cornerback last week for Ohio State and performed well, but they will be playing against BCS-level receivers this week, which they certainly weren't doing against Akron.
While Toledo does enjoy throwing the football, their running game can't be overlooked. Starting running back Adonis Thomas rushed for 1,098 yards last year, and got his 2011 off to a good start as well with a 115-yard performance on just nine carries against New Hampshire.
While many expect the Buckeyes to spend the majority of their time in nickel packages, the defense will actually have to mix and match depending on Toledo's personnel, because the Rockets aren't strictly a passing team.
That being said, this is a game that will weigh heavily on the Buckeyes' ability to cover ground and tackle in space, which sounds like the ideal setting for nickel back Tyler Moeller.
Ohio State may not be able to manage much of a pass rush simply because of Toledo's three-step drops, but pressure will still be very important for defensive success. Even if defensive ends John Simon and Nathan Williams aren't getting to the quarterback, as long as they can disrupt the timing, they'll be doing well.
The Rockets' special teams are a huge concern for the Buckeyes. The kicking is solid, but that's not what concerns Ohio State. It's the return game. Last season Eric Page returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, and he had a 43-yard kickoff return and a 29-yard punt return last week. He is adept at setting up his blocks and maintaining the same balance that makes him effective between the hashes as a receiver.
The Buckeyes did a pretty good job defending returns last week. Nate Ebner found himself in the middle of most of the special teams action last week, and it's going to be a tremendous battle between him and Page this week.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
The Buckeyes utilized a very effective two quarterback system as well last week. Joe Bauserman got his first career start and ended up with a passing efficiency rating (222.45) that bettered any rating that Troy Smith received during his Heisman-winning season in 2006.
Freshman Braxton Miller made his debut and played well when given the chance. Both will obviously play against the Rockets.
The Buckeyes stuck to mostly short and intermediate routes last week, as they wanted their six six freshmen and sophomore receivers to find their comfort zones with the two new quarterbacks, which it looks like they did.
Toledo has a veteran secondary led by safeties Jermaine Robinson and Diauntae Morrow. Both capable of playing close to the line of scrimmage and shooting into the backfield to make plays.
Ohio State tight end Jake Stoneburner caught three touchdown passes last week, proving that linebackers have difficulty staying with the junior. Don't be surprised if Robinson and Morrow get their cracks at covering Stoneburner here and there in an attempt to keep him from setting another Ohio State record.
Toledo will essentially play a base nickel as they employ a "star" much like the Buckeyes do, so that will also be another defensive possibility against Stoneburner.
Toledo had eight tackles for loss last week and two sacks. Clearly, the same amount of pressure won't happen this week, but the Rockets defensive linemen have a history of getting into the backfield.
Defensive end Malcolm Riley (6-3 281) had ten tackles for loss last season and 5.5 sacks. Buckeye offensive tackles Andrew Norwell and J.B. Shugarts will find him to be a crafty matchup. He's not the undersized speed rusher that smaller schools tend to rely on.
The Rockets have a very active defense, but they should be able to be run on. They did, however, hold New Hampshire in check last week until they gave up an 87-yard touchdown run late in the game.
Sophomore tailback Carlos Hyde got his first ever start last week and rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries. He will get the start again this week, though his carries may drop a bit because of the return of running backs Jordan Hall (suspension) and Jaamal Berry (hamstring injury).
With four healthy options to run the ball, the Buckeyes will give each of them opportunities to make plays.
Ohio State's special teams performed well last week, save for placekicker Drew Basil's field goal miss from 40 yards out.
Philly Brown did a very nice job in the return game against Akron, returning a punt for 17 yards and a kickoff for 44 yards. With Berry and Hall back this week, however, they may be the ones doing the returning on Saturday.
How It Will End Up
As is usually the case against offenses like this, the Ohio State defense will bend. And as is usually NOT the case against the Rockets, the Buckeyes will actually give up some scores this week.
Toledo has some very talented individuals on their offense, and they execute their system well. Even the best defenses in the nation would have a very difficult time shutting them down.
We don't really know how good Ohio State's defense is right now, but we'll have a pretty good idea after Saturday. The Buckeyes' young secondary will be tested, and we'll know a lot more about them soon enough.
But there is the small matter of Toledo's defense, and the Buckeyes are going to end up running the ball very well on them.
The Ohio State running game could have been much better last week, but they were a bit hamstrung by having just two options--and both of those options were admittedly nervous for the game. Things will be much calmer this week.
In the end, the Rockets will score some points, but a few three and outs in a row will wear Toledo's defense down and the Rockets won't be able to recover.
Ohio State 38 - Toledo 20
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