Previewing Nevada’s week two contest against Toledo.
The Wolf Pack will play their season opener this Saturday against Toledo, of the MAC.
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Who are the Toledo Rockets?
Toledo will be rolling into Reno on Saturday in high spirits, as they defeated Elon Phoenix of the FCS 47-13. It’s hard to discern much from a blowout victory against a lesser team, but what can be picked out is how well their offense performed as a whole.
Since Nevada and Mountain West fans likely aren’t too well versed in their knowledge of Toledo, we brought in two experts on the Rockets, Brian Buckey of the Toledo Blade and Alan Rucker of Hustle Belt and asked them five questions pertaining to this week’s game:
1. Toledo crushed Elon Phoenix 47-13 last Saturday. Although Elon is a clearly overmatched FCS team, Toledo’s offense still shined, led by sophomore quarterback Logan Woodside, who threw for a staggering 314 yards, while 553 yards of total offense was generated. Do you envision Toledo continuing this offensive production next week against Nevada?
Brian Buckey: I think Toledo will continue where they left off in the Elon game. They have just too many weapons with Logan Woodside orchestrating the offense. Cody Thompson is one of the best receivers in the country and when you add in Jon’Vea Johnson and Diontae Johnson, the passing attack is tough to slow down. They may not be able to rack up 553 yards of total offense but they should still be very good.
Alan Rucker: Toledo has a very good offense and it will likely be successful even when they aren’t playing an FCS squad. So the offense for the Rockets will definitely get theirs. It’s a matter of whether or not Toledo can capitalize when something bad happens (stalled drive, turnover) and keep pace when it doesn’t. It’s a tall order. Toledo is the presumptive favorite for the MAC and fans are expecting double-digit wins this year. However, MAC squads that play on the road out of conference usually struggle. So something has to break.
2. In addition to their passing game, the Rockets’ running game also exploded with Shakif Seymour and Art Thompkins combining for 201 yards on 26 carries, with Terry Swanson having a quieter day, rushing for 36 yards on 11 carries but scoring two touchdowns. What facet of Toledo’s offense should Wolf Pack fans be more worried about?
BB: The run game was impressive against Elon. I think Terry Swanson could have a larger role against Nevada. Art Thompkins is an explosive back who provides a bit of a contrast from Swanson. Shakif Seymour topped 100 yards in mop-up duty so I don’t know what his role will be in this game. All that being said, the pass game is Toledo’s greatest strength and I’m guessing that will cause the most concern for the Nevada coaching staff.
AR: It’s a pick your poison kind of offense. With Logan Woodside, he is capable of absolutely carving up a defense. The rush attack keeps the defense on its toes and hopefully slows down the pass rush. If it were me, I would do everything in my power to create chaos in the box to hopefully disrupt the timing of the Rockets offense. If Woodside has time and no pressure then it might be a very long night. If you can shut the run down totally and make it one dimensional that may help.
3. Nevada struggled last week to successfully integrate their new Air Raid offense into the game against Northwestern, in which they lost 31-20. I would blame it on a variety of reasons, including it being the first game of the season and it being a road game against a Big Ten team, playing with a second-year starting quarterback, and having a new coaching staff. If Nevada comes back firing with the kinks of their offense worked out, do you think the Toledo secondary can disrupt the passing game and shut down Ty Gangi and his receivers this weekend?
BB: If the Nevada Air Raid is clicking I think it could definitely cause some problems for Toledo. Elon played two freshman quarterbacks and didn’t provide much of a test in the passing for the Toledo secondary. Toledo has talent in the defensive backfield, but they are young at safety and will need to be sound in their assignments.
AR: I have always said there is the max improvement for a team from week one to week two and it is almost entirely based on the offense getting their kinks worked out. So I expect to Nevada to perform well offensively. I also expect Toledo to use a bend but don’t break philosophy defensively since that’s basically what we do in the MAC. If it comes down to a no defense shootout, Toledo is prepared well for that. They have a strong offense that is ready and able for that kind of game given how the MAC is week in and week out.
4. If Toledo were to win this game, and the potential victory being on the road against a formidable Group of Five team, how much would it help their strength of schedule and bowl opportunities down the road?
BB: I think a win over Nevada would certainly help Toledo’s resume. It is also the first of three straight non-conference games that could define the Rockets’ season. Nevada will be tough, then Toledo hosts Tulsa and the next week they are at Miami (Fla.). So if they manage to somehow when all three starting with Nevada, they could set themselves up as one of the top Group 5 teams.
AR: I think Toledo is in a weird spot in that their best case is a MAC Championship and one of the tie-in bowls. It would be a stretch for them to make it to the heights of WMU last year no matter what happens in this game. Could it? Perhaps. But realistically, I don’t see their future dictated by anything other than whether or not they win the MAC.
5. How would you predict the game will play out this Saturday in Reno?
BB: I think both offenses will have success and I would predict that Toledo wins in a shootout. I’ll say 44-37 [Toledo].
AR: I think most MAC fans, myself included expect Toledo to win, but I do think it’s close and likely a shootout. At last check Vegas had the number at 9.5. That seems high to me. Sign my up for a who has the ball last type game, with Toledo getting a late TD to win 42-35. Should be a good game. Unless you like defense. This ain’t the game for that.
Nevada 34, Toledo 27