Breaking down Ohio State’s non-conference opponents: Toledo
I recently enjoyed a visit from my brother – an avid and passionate Buckeye fan and never optimistic unless the Bucks are up 50. As we were talking about the 2022 schedule he said he was worried for Toledo. A “trap game”, he said. “No way,” I replied. “The talent gap is just too big.”
Additionally, a trap usually sits between two tougher opponents, providing the chance to overlook the weaker enemy. Toledo sits between the state of Arkansas (September 10) and Wisconsin (September 24). Certainly, the Badgers could provide fierce competition. But forget Toledo? I do not think so. They’ll use it as prep for Wisconsin, a chance to try some things. The Buckeyes are on a mission this year.
The talent gap
Toledo have never had a five-star recruit. Four stars? They successfully recruited two of them – ever. On this year’s team, for example, the highest-ranked player coming out of high school is Dallas Gant, who transferred from Ohio State after being buried on the Buckeye bench in 2021. He will play for the Rockets and will probably want to put it down. on his old team. However, it’s hard to really worry about Dallas Gant.
247Sports ranked the 2022 Rocket class 100th, after being ranked 77the in 2021 and 76e in 2020. Most players are three stars, with a few more two stars. Most are from Ohio or the upper Midwest. They are playing tough, however, and have done quite well under head coach Jason Candle, who, after playing several different coaching roles at Toledo, has been at the helm of the program since the 2016 season. His teams have gone 45-27, including 7-6 last year.
The Rockets in 2021
Toledo almost had a great season last year. Of their six losses, four of them were by three points or less, and one by seven. Only Colorado State really beat them, 22-6. It should be noted that one of those three-point losses was against Notre Dame in South Bend. It is such games that worry my brother. On the other hand, the Rockets’ wins were pretty one-sided. They could not win the relatives.
Nevertheless, Toledo was good on both sides of the ball. The offense averaged 33.4 points per game on 6.6 yards per play. Not Ohio State’s offensive numbers, but the good ones. And the offense was balanced: they rushed for 196.5 yards per game and passed for 239.1. On defense, the Rockets averaged just 21.8 points and gave up 4.8 yards per play. Solid.
What does Toledo look like this year?
Generally, football magazines pick Toledo to finish the 2022 season in the top tier of the MAC conference. Athlon Sports places the Rockets second, just behind Northern Illinois, in the MAC’s West Division. College Football News ranks them fourth in the conference, behind Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois and Central Michigan.
Offense: The Rockets have the core of the offense back for 2022, but will need to find replacements for a few key positions. Quarterback Dequan Finn had a great season last year and he’s back. He completed 57.6% of his passes for over 2,000 yards, 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Finn also rushed for 688 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per sack. Finn should have good protection in his pocket, as four of the five starting linemen return from last year.
The position of the wide receiver seems a little fragile to me. Senior receiver Devin Maddox is back for his junior year, and he put up some good numbers last year, catching 41 passes for 567 yards (13.8 receiving average) and four touchdowns. The next three main receivers are gone, however. Thus, Finn will only have a few games (against Long Island University and UMass) to integrate a new receiving body before facing the Buckeyes.
Likewise, the running game lost its best player in Bryant Koback. Koback could run inside or outside and averaged 6.7 yards per carry in 2021, hauling in for nearly 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns. They will miss him. Both Micah Kelly and Jacquez Stuart played last year as running backs, and one of them will become the first running back. Of course, look for Finn to continue as a dual-threat QB.
Defense: Top tackle Jonathan Jones has moved on, but Toledo is returning several true defensive stars from last year that the Buckeyes will have to deal with. Lineman Desjuan Johnson had 70 total tackles last year, including 12.5 for a loss. Linebacker Jamal Hines topped those numbers, with 88 tackles, 15 TFLs and 10 sacks. The other linebacker, Dyontae Johnson, made 86 saves and eight TFLs.
Security was also there. Maxon Hook recorded 95 tackles and teammate Nate Bauer had 55. While those totals are impressive, they also suggest that Toledo didn’t get very far, that these top players were involved in most of the snaps. Look for the Buckeyes to wear them down fairly quickly.
At the end of the line
Toledo will fight more than Arkansas State, but I don’t think the Buckeyes’ 100-year State winning streak is in jeopardy. The Rockets haven’t seen the team speed Ohio State will bring to the game. No, not even Notre Dame last season. Therefore, they will have a hard time covering receivers and getting to CJ Stroud. TreVeyon Henderson should be able to break a long one or two.
OSU leads the head-to-head series, 3-0, winning in 1998 (49-0), 2009 (38-0) and 2011 (27-22). Don’t expect a repeat of the close game in 2011. That was the year the Buckeyes went 6-7 with Luke Fickell as interim head coach. I see the Bucks returning to previous form, with Finn leading the Rockets by a few points.
Final score: Ohio State 55, Toledo 16.