Bahamas Bowl: Toledo Rockets at vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

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College football bowl season officially gets underway Friday at high noon with the Bahamas Bowl between the Toledo Rockets of the MAC and the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders of Conference USA. Neither team is a stranger to bowl season, although this will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs. The Rockets are currently listed as 10-point favorites with an over/under of 50 points.

The Blue Raiders were fortunate to become bowl eligible this season. Middle Tennessee began the season 2-4, albeit with losses against Virginia Tech, UTSA, and Liberty. But the Blue Raiders picked it up down the stretch, beating Florida Atlantic in the regular-season finale to clinch a bowl spot.

Toledo also had a somewhat disappointing season. The Rockets struggled against some of the better teams in the MAC, leaving them 4-5 coming down the stretch. But in November, Toledo took care of business against some of its in-state rivals, closing the season on a three-game winning streak to finish 7-5.


Light the Spark

As usual, scoring points wasn’t much of an issue for the Rockets in 2021, especially late in the season. The Rockets were 4-1 to close out the year, averaging 43.2 points per game during that stretch. Versatile quarterback Dequan Finn finished the season with 16 passing and eight rushing touchdowns, while running back Bryant Koback was the perfect complement with over 1,200 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns.

At the same time, playing solid defense was rarely an issue for Toledo outside of a few games. The Rockets held nine of their 12 opponents to 23 points or less, although they did lose a few games early in the season despite holding teams under that total. While the Toledo defense can bend at times, the Rockets did average over three sacks per game, so they can create trouble for opposing quarterbacks.


Finding a Path

This was a year of transition for the Middle Tennessee offense, which used four different quarterbacks this season. Bailey Hockman transferred early in the season, and Chase Cunningham got hurt in early November. 

As a result, Nick Vattiato and Mike DiLello shared duties late in the season. On top of that, the Blue Raiders averaged just 3.5 yards per carry on the ground, struggling to find a consistent answer at running back.

On the bright side, the Blue Raiders were excellent at forcing turnovers this year, as the MTSU defense racked up 34 takeaways in 12 games. Middle Tennessee also features an aggressive defense that likes to get after opposing quarterbacks. 

That approach paid off late in the season, with the Blue Raiders giving up 20.3 points per game over their final six games, a total that would have been lower if you forgive a 48-21 loss to Western Kentucky.


Light It Up

While the Middle Tennessee defense should offer some resistance, the Toledo offense is too balanced and too explosive to keep under wraps for four quarters. The Blue Raiders simply don’t have the offensive prowess to keep pace if the scoring gets out of control. Bet on Toledo to win and cover the 10-point spread in the Bahamas Bowl.

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