Toledo en route to Ohio’s first MAC title since 1968


Toledo (7-5, 5-3 MAC) vs. Ohio (9-3, 7-1) at Ford Field in Detroit, Saturday noon EST (ESPN)


Series record: Toledo leads 32-21-1.

The trip to Detroit is huge for Ohio, which hasn’t won a conference championship since 1968 — one of the longest title streaks in Division I football. The Bobcats are without Kurtis Rourke, the MAC’s top quarterback, who fell in the penultimate game of the season had torn a cruciate ligament. The Bobcats’ passing game won’t be the same without him, but backup CJ Harris rushed for three touchdowns and threw on his start for another result, the division’s 38-14 win over Bowling Green last week. Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn is struggling with an injury and it’s not yet clear how much he will play on Saturday. Toledo last won a conference championship in 2017.

Ohio QB Harris vs. Toledo’s defense. Harris had four passing attempts this season before being put on duty when Rourke was injured against Ball State on Nov. 15. Harris looked confident in his first start but now faces the best defense in the conference.

Toledo: The Rockets will be a different team if Finn can play. He’s struggled with injuries but still rushed for 1,973 yards, rushed for 522 and had 29 touchdowns. The other option for Toledo is newcomer Tucker Gleason, who has seen action in five games and has been playing with a broken right thumb since Week 5.

Ohio: RB Sieh Bangura, who received MAC Freshman of the Year this week, will continue to play an expanded role in the Bobcats’ attack with Rourke absent. He averaged 5 yards per carry in rushing for 884 yards and 11 touchdowns, despite an ongoing turf toe injury.

Toledo lost their last two games but had already won the MAC West title. … The Rockets are 3-3 in MAC championship games since the game was first played in 1997. … Every MAC team has won a conference title since Ohio last won one in 1968. … Former coach Frank Solich led Ohio to four MAC East titles, the most recent in 2016 when the Bobcats lost to Western Michigan in the championship. … Toledo defeated Akron 45-28 for the conference title in coach Jason Candle’s sophomore season in 2017, but only won the West Division again this season. … The Bobcats, led by Rourke, bounced back from a 3-9 aggregate record in 2021, coach Tim Albin’s first season in charge after Solich’s retirement. … Ohio’s defense is statistically the worst in the MAC, allowing for 441.3 yards and just over 29 points per game. … Ohio’s top receiver, Sam Wiglusz, is a transfer from Ohio State. So is Toledo’s top defensive player, LB Dallas Gant.

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