Massachusetts (2-6) at Toledo (4-3) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Glass Bowl (26,248) -- Toledo, Ohio. Television: ESPN3.com, BCSN, ESPN GP. Home Record: Massachusetts 1-3, Toledo 3-1. Away Record: Massachusetts 1-3, Toledo 1-2. Neutral Record: Massachusetts 0-0, Toledo 0-0. Conference Record: Massachusetts 2-2, Toledo 3-0. Series Record: Toledo leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: The Toledo Rockets had a week off to contemplate their most recent loss, which ended a three-game winning streak. Now they'll return to action to host the Massachusetts Minutemen in a Mid-American Conference battle at the Glass Bowl Saturday.
A few weeks ago, UMass ended the then-nation's longest losing streak (12 games) with the team's first victory of the season. Now the Minutemen have won two games in a row, coming off a 36-14 victory over Eastern Michigan, and will seek a third against the last remaining team that is unbeaten in MAC play.
The Rockets have a 3-0 conference record, which they accrued during their three-game win streak. The only two losses Toledo has suffered this season have come against greater competition (Cincinnati and Iowa State), and with a two- game road trip on the horizon the Rockets will attempt to get back in the win column.
Massachusetts and Toledo have met three times on the football field, with the Rockets holding a 3-1 all-time series advantage. These new conference rivals haven't clashed since the 1999 football season.
This is the first time since elevating to the FBS level that UMass has won two games in a season, and both wins in the last two weeks have been dominant. The Minutemen scored 30 points in the first half against Eastern Michigan, and simply walked to victory over the weekend. Typically UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel is at the center of the team's offensive success, but last Saturday it was running back Shadrach Abrokwah who took the reins. He rushed for a game- high 135 yards and a blistering four touchdowns, while Frohnapfel took the afternoon off (by his standards) and threw for 337 yards with no touchdowns.
Running the football has been an increased focus for the Minutemen, who are now averaging 110.8 rushing ypg. Thanks to Abrokwah's four scores and one more from Lorenzo Woodley against EMU, UMass now has 12 rushing scores on the season. Abrokwah leads the team with 67 carries - two more than Woodley - for 331 yards and six scores.
Frohnapfel has started all eight games for the Minutemen, and has increasingly become more efficient and dangerous. The Marshall transfer has thrown for 2,483 yards (fifth in the FBS this season) and has 18 touchdown tosses against six interceptions. His 310.4 passing ypg ranks 11th in the country for an offense that has increased its point production to 30.2 ppg. Receivers Tajae Sharpe (56 receptions, 890 yards) and Jean Sifrin (27 receptions, 359 yards) each have four touchdown catches, while Rodney Mills tops the team with five such receptions.
The Minutemen as a unit struggled earlier in the season, and allowed a winless Miami-Ohio team to come back from a large second-half deficit to take the one- point win. But since then, the UMass defense has stepped it up greatly, but still has work to do. Massachusetts is surrendering 34.1 ppg and 450.6 offensive ypg to opponents through eight games, but has held its last two challengers to a combined 31 points.
Jovan Santos-Knox (84 tackles) and Stanley Andre (79 tackles) are the team's leaders in the category for a unit that has just 10 sacks and one fumble recovery on the year. The Minutemen must start forcing more turnovers in order to be successful against offensive-minded teams like Toledo. Randall Jette (10 pass breakups, three interceptions) will be spying opposing quarterback Logan Woodside.
Toledo's second loss of the season (two weekends ago to Iowa State) was a close one, but the Rockets came up short nonetheless, 37-30. The two strong offensive teams were at it again, each racking up over 450 yards of total offense in the contest. Woodside performed well, completing 22-of-36 pass attempts, but only managed 189 yards through the air with a single touchdown. That's uncharacteristic for a team averaging 261.3 passing ypg.
What was characteristic for the Rockets in the loss was the strong rushing attack the team employed against the Cyclones. Toledo racked up 236 yards on the ground - 124 from running back Terry Swanson - including two scores (both from Swanson). Even though star running back Kareem Hunt has missed the last three games, the Rockets are still managing a 241.7 rushing ypg statistic, and have outscored opponents on the ground, 17 rushing touchdowns to nine.
The only receiver that was effective in any way against Iowa State was Corey Jones, who caught 12 passes for 118 yards. He leads the team this season with 48 receptions for 535 yards, adding a pair of scores to his resume, while Alonzo Russell has a team-best six touchdown grabs. Woodside has been steady since filling in for the injured Phillip Ely, completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 1,264 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
While the Rockets have made a living this season outscoring opponents, the defense has made sure to keep things relatively close. Toledo averages 34 ppg on offense, but gives up 33.4 ppg to opponents through the first six games of the season, and surrenders 443.1 offensive ypg to those challengers as well. Only once this season have the Rockets held a team under 20 points (a 20-19 overtime win against Western Michigan). Going against a strong UMass offense this weekend, the defense may want to start stepping up its game.
Linebacker Junior Sylvestre leads the team in tackles with 63, while fellow linebacker Trent Voss has been a pest in opponents' backfield, racking up nine tackles for loss with four sacks - both team highs. But the Rockets are struggling to create turnovers, having only registered four interceptions and one fumble recovery for four turnovers gained (tied for 119th in the country). Frohnapfel has cut down his interceptions in recent weeks, so Toledo may be in a bit of turnover trouble again this weekend.
Although the Rockets aren't playing as well as they should be on the defensive side of the ball, the team is still pulling off wins - especially in conference play - by using a thunderous offense to find the end zone. UMass hasn't played particularly well on the road, but this has been a different team in the past few weeks. Expect a high-scoring affair, but with the homefield advantage, the edge will go to the conference-leading Rockets.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 35, UMass 27Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 25, 2 p.m. (ET)