This is the story of two teams from non-major conferences that went on the road in week one looking for an upset over their bigger and richer foe. Unfortunately both teams came away empty handed despite some bright points. It is a story that we are all too familar with. Now these teams meet in week two looking for the first win of 2012. In a perfect world Mountain West and MAC schools could all go undefeated in their non-conferences games and stick it to the BCS and the system that is agains them.
After Saturday one team will feel optimistic with a 1-1 record while the other will be looking at a 0-2 hole. The Wyoming Cowboys and Toledo Rockets are squaring off in Laramie and you can check out the action at War Memorial or a radio near you. This contest between two highpowered spread offenses will not be televised, so I suggest dusting off your collection of "action figures" and reanacting the plays as you listen to the game. Bobbleheads will also work. Make sure you join us in the game thread as well on Saturday.
The Rockets may be jetlegged after back to back western road trips. However if the Cowboys are still worrying about their loss to Texas, then there could be trouble. We take a closer look at the Rockets after the jump.
The site Let's Go Rockets asked me three questions about the Cowboys. Check out my answers.
We got some help from folks over at Hustle Belt
to help get a feel for the Rockets. HB is a SB Nation site that is dedicated to covering the MAC. We talked to Matt Sussman who manages the site and also Matt Clubreath who is their main Toledo writer. They split up my questions to them and that is why the numbering is off.
Check them out below.
Answers from Matt Sussman
2. The Rockets lost some big star power from last year. Who will replace them? Is the QB Rotation here to stay?
They had to replace seven starters on offense last year: three O-linemen, two receivers, the tight end and the running back -- their second-string RB too. Wide receiver Eric Page is the big loss, who left early for the NFL then tore his ACL in Broncos training camp. Replacing him is Bernard Reedy, a legitimate No. 1 receiver, and we saw that by virtue of his Military Bowl performance last year. They also lost seven starters on defense. There's more turnover on this team than you think, but they're still very talented.
As for the two-QB system ... it feels like "The Switch" in Seinfeld where countless people have tried in vain, but I think this menage a deux is here to stay for a while. If Austin Dantin or Terrance Owens could establish himself as a do-it-all passer then he would, but their strengths and weaknesses just complement each other so well.
4. The defense gave up 624 yards to Arizona. How was Toledo able to keep that game so close? Is the defense that terrible?
Almost 700 yards if you count penalties! I've said all this summer that I thought UT's defense was only perceived as bad last year because of all the injuries, and felt they would be better in 2012. Then I look at 600+ yards allowed and think, ew, maybe I don't know anything. It was close because UT was +2 on turnover margin, and Arizona missed two field goals from inside 30 yards.
Prediction: Wyoming 31, Toledo 30 (OT). Always bet on UT overtime. It's like rock in RPS. Nothing beats rock.
Here are the answers from Matt Culbreath.
1. Toledo had a bunch of changes happen in the off season. Tell us about the new coaches and what key players left.
Yes, the team has a new coach, but it's all the same system. Matt Campbell was the offensive coordinator under Tim Beckman for the past 3 years, and when Beck left for Illinois, and in his introductory press conference, Beckman very explicitly mentioned Campbell as one of the guys he wanted to bring to Champagne. He's not the only one who wanted him in their system: your very own Dave Christensen mentioned how he tried to woo Campbell over when he first got to Wyoming. Toledo moved quickly to keep the young guy in the Glass City, not just because he's a Wunderkind; the players flat out love the guy. I'm not expecting any player to say "Nah, I'm not too thrilled with that guy as coach," but ask any returning player, from the QBs, the receivers, the rushers, and even the guys on D, and they get a big smile when they talk about Coach Campbell.
As for the holes they did need to fill, there's a lot of excitement surrounding Defensive Coordinator Tom Matukewicz coming over from Northern Illinois. He helped build a defense that was one of the tops in the conference for the past 4 years (let's ignore that 63-60 tilt).
3. This is Toledo's second straight road trip out west. Does all that travel give you any concerns?
I'm not so concerned about the travel this week as I was last week. Yes, that thin Laramie air is an issue, but so was the heat at Arizona. Last week was not only 3 hours behind God's Chosen Time Zone, but it was late enough at night that those bodies on the field were still thinking it was 2am when they hit overtime. This week's kickoff is at a more reasonable hour.
5. Wyoming beat Toledo in 2009 and has won four of five against MAC schools. Why would that trend change this week?
I'm not exactly certain that the trend does change this week. Wyoming hung tough with Texas, and the Longhorns are one hell of a better opponent than the Wildcats. Robert Herron is the real deal, and I expect that running game to kick into gear now that they won't be running up against Longhorns. That being said, if Toledo's QBs can knock the cobwebs out of their head (honestly, Dantin was brutal last week), they might be able to take advantage of some of the holes in the Pokes' D. Putting a true freshman in to replace Devyn Harris is a weak spot that you know Campbell is keying in on.
I'll also throw in a prediction: Toledo 27, Wyoming 24. Game ball to Jeremiah Detmer, Placekicker Savant.
THANKS TO BOTH MATT AND MATT FOR HELPING ME OUT. AND HAVING A GREAT NAME.