Two seasons and two coaches ago during the last matchup between Western Michigan and the Toledo Rockets at the Glass Bowl, the two Mid-American Conference rivals combined for a league record 129 points and over 1400 yards off offense. Fast forward to now and the Broncos are trying to avoid starting the season 0-6 for the first time since 1996 under 32-year old rookie head coach P.J. Fleck. In his 2nd year at the helm for the Rockets, Matt Campbell, 33, once again has Toledo (2-3, 1-1) in prime position to compete for a MAC Championship. The two head coaches are currently the two youngest in FBS. Toledo has won three straight games against WMU and own the overall series lead 40-28.
1. Pound the ball – Over the last four games, Brian Fields has started to find a groove. The senior is averaging 5.2 yards per carry during that span, with two games of more than 100 yards rushing. The Broncos D is spending more than five minutes a game longer on the field than their opponents and the defense is showing fatigue late in games. A successful day on the ground should give the Broncos’ defense more time to rest late in the game. Coach Fleck has also addressed that the offense needs to get more creative. Mixing in some trick plays, fakes, reverses, etc. will keep the Toledo defense on their toes and can hopefully result in some big plays for an offense that has gained 20 yards or more on an offensive play just 12 times.
2. Apply pressure on Terrance Owen – Toledo’s senior quarterback has been sacked only three times this season and has taken advantage of the extra time the Rocket’s front five has provided him. Owen’s and fellow senior Bernard Reedy have paired together to form one of the most dynamic duos in the MAC. Reedy leads the conference with 7.8 receptions per game.
3. TVT needs to be better – Coach Fleck has stated that Tyler VanTubbergen is his quarterback. But TVT has underperformed. And while not all the blame can be put on #2, he is the QB of a 0-5 team and blame is going to be put him. It goes with the territory of playing quarterback. Completing well below half his passes, along with nine interceptions and only three touchdowns is unacceptable.
4. Win the field possession battle – J Schroeder ranks ninth in the MAC in punt average, but is tops in number of punts attempted and will most likely remain in the #1 spot for at least another week. Against Kent St. he had two poor boots in the first quarter, one of which resulted in a touchdown. The powerful Toledo offense doesn’t need any help of starting drives with a short field. In addition to his receiving skills, Bernard Reedy has been just as dangerous as a return guy. Last season he took three kick offs for six and is a touchdown return waiting to happen. Avoid kicking to Reedy at all costs.
5. Stop David Fluellen – The 2012 First-team All-MAC running back is on pace to break his 2012 rushing numbers after posting four straight 100 yard games. He currently is third in the nation with 626 rushing yards and is in a favorable matchup against a Broncos’ defense that’s allowing over 250 yards on the ground, including 157 last week to Trayion Durham of Kent St. Fluellen had 213 yards and three touchdowns in the Rockets 37-13 victory over the Broncos last season.
Prediction: Toledo 41 WMU 17