Toledo v. Arkansas State
Ladd-Peebles Stadium — Mobile, AL
January 4, 2015 — 9:00 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
For the next eight days after this game, you will be without a single opportunity to watch college football until the national championship game. And after that, it’s all over for the season. Your penultimate chance to see student-athletes playing for pride and less-than-lucrative glory comes on a Sunday night, a rare opportunity for the college game to trump the NFL on the last day of the weekend. It’s one more random matchup of mid-majors, something you’ll surely be missing once spring scrimmages offer their annual tease and you realize there are still three months until meaningful games resume. So sure, it’s just a battle between MAC and Sun Belt middleweights… but it’s right there for you to enjoy now. Stock up while you can.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
This was the third time in the past four years that Toledo finished the regular season 8-4. It was a good thing, too, because anything less than eight wins would have put the Rockets at risk of missing the postseason for the second straight year despite being eligible. Toledo lost its biggest games, falling in a home game versus Missouri and on the road at Cincinnati and Iowa State. The team finished in the top 20 in rushing, racking up over 240 yards per game thanks in large part to the efforts of sophomore tailback Kareem Hunt, who averaged 7.9 yards per carry in piling up 1360 yards and 13 scores. Junior receiver Alonzo Russell led the team with eight receiving scores, providing a deep threat for Logan Woodside to keep defenses honest. The Toledo defense was its downfall, allowing more than four touchdowns and over 400 yards per game. The Rockets were also one of the eight worst teams in the country at generating turnovers, forcing just two fumbles while nabbing 10 interceptions. But the bright spot for their defense was against the run, where the front seven ranked in the top 20 nationally by allowing just 120 yards per game.
For the first time since the start of its four-season bowl eligibility streak, Arkansas State will not have an interim coach leading it into the postseason. Blake Anderson, the Red Wolves’ fifth coach of the past five seasons, will be back for a second year in 2015 after guiding the team to a 7-5 record over the past three months. Their extended run atop the Sun Belt Conference ended this year, with the team finishing 5-3 in league play. Losses at Tennessee and Miami weren’t unexpected; falling to Louisiana-Lafayette was always a possibility; but defeats to Appalachian State and Texas State were upsets by any measure. Fredi Knighton led a good-but-not-great passing attack, which was right on the edge of the top 50 in the country. The junior ended his first year as the starter with 2800 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. Michael Gordon went for over a thousand yards on the ground and 13 scores, Knighten chipped in nearly 800 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, and the Red Wolves finished in the top 25 with 229 yards running per game. The defense coughed up 28 points per game but held teams under 220 passing yards and 411 total yards per game.
What is Likely to Happen
Arkansas State scored more points and allowed fewer per game than Toledo, and that trend will continue in both teams’ first game of 2015. But the Red Wolves allow 70 more rushing yards per game than the Rockets, and for two teams that lean heavily on the run that statistic will play a key role. Hunt is the best tailback on the field, and his presence will tip the scales in favor of the MAC representative. He’ll likely push his season total over 1500 yards, getting a couple of critical scores to seal the victory for the Rockets in Mobile.
Toledo 38, Arkansas State 24