The MAC continues on for the second game of their young season, with the 1-0 Toledo Rockets headed to Kalamazoo to take on the 1-0 Western Michigan Broncos Wednesday night at 7:30 PM EST.
Toledo had a convincing opening win over Bowling Green, 38-3. Western Michigan also had a dominating win, 58-13 against Akron.
The Broncos, at home, are 2.5-point favorites in this MAC West battle.
2019 MAC Context
The Western Michigan program is coming off a 7-6 year in 2019 while Toledo was 6-6. For some context on the quality of their Week 1 wins, Akron was 0-12 last year, and Bowling Green was 3-9.
The story of Toledo’s 2019 was a constant barrage of injuries, culminating in missing a bowl game for the first time since 2013.
Western Michigan has had to replace talent at the quarterback, running back, and tight end position, most notably 2019 MAC Offensive Player of the Year, running back LeVante Belamy.
Western Michigan: Strong Offensive Day
New quarterback Kaleb Eleby led the way in Western Michigan’s dismantling of Akron. Eleby completed 12 of 16 passes for 262 yards and three interceptions. His go-to target was senior D’Wayne Eskridge, who displayed his big-play ability, finishing with only three receptions, but going for 114 yards and two scores.
Western Michigan’s strength is in the trenches, with a strong returning cast of offensive linemen paving the way for the Broncos runners.
La’Darius Jefferson, Sean Tyler, and Jaxson Kincaide split the work on the ground, combining for 180 yards on 7.1 average yards per carry. The three backs each found the end zone.
Once Western Michigan established their rushing offense, it allowed Eleby to get going in the passing game and find big plays throughout the field. Wide receiver Jaylen Hall scored a 68-yard touchdown to match Eskridge’s explosiveness.
On defense, freshman defensive end Marshawn Kneeland had two sacks.
Toledo: Getting Everyone Involved
Toledo got going early, scoring 21 points in the first quarter of their 38-3 win over Bowling Green and never looking back.
Quarterback Eli Peters returned as the starter after filling in for injuries last year. Peters shared the wealth through the air, throwing touchdowns to four different receivers.
A balanced aerial attack found pass-catchers Bryce Mitchell, Bryant Koback, Jerjuan Newton, and Devin Maddox each record at least three catches to go along with their touchdowns.
Koback, one of the two main Toledo running backs, is looking to continue on the success he’s had with the Rockets. Last year, the Ohio-product went over 1,200 total yards to go along with 14 touchdowns.
The other side of the rushing attack is senior Shakif Seymour, who took 13 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown.
The defense blanked Bowling Green, holding them to just one field goal. Linebacker Dyontae Johnson paced the unit with seven tackles, while safety Nate Bauer and defensive end Nate Givhan each had an interception.
The defensive line recorded four quarterback hurries but failed to bring him to the ground.
It’s hard to glean too many helpful insights from just one game on the year. Both Toledo and Western Michigan took care of business to set up this pivotal MAC West showdown.
Western Michigan’s strength is their run-game, an attack that became Toledo’s Achilles heel last year when they allowed an average of 218.4 rushing yards per game.
If Toledo’s 2020 unit can be better remains to be seen, but the combination of a strong WMU run-game and the big-play ability they showed in Akron has me leaning on taking the Broncos to cover the 2.5-point spread.