Rockets set to play CincinnatiWritten by Nate Pentecost | | email@example.com
It’s an interesting practice in psychology, juxtaposing the mindset of a favorite and an underdog.
No. 21 Cincinnati enters Saturday’s clash at the Glass Bowl a touchdown favorite, but the way Bearcats head coach Butch Jones talked up the University of Toledo, you would hardly know it.
“They have a high-caliber team and traditionally they perform very well at their home stadium,” Jones said. “They do have a home field advantage there. It’s a very, very difficult place to play.”
Granted, a Toledo victory this Saturday against undefeated Cincinnati is well within reason and a long list of evidence substantiating that fact has not eluded the former Central Michigan (2007-09) head coach.
“Going to Toledo, having coached in the MAC for three years, I understand exactly what we’re in for,” Jones said. “They’re a great home team. They’re 4-1 against ranked opponents. They’ve also beat at least one opponent from a BCS conference in five consecutive seasons, they have three consecutive wins against Big 12 opponents and they’ve beat four Big Ten opponents. So make no mistake about it, we understand it’s going to be a great test for us.”
Since 2000 the Rockets (6-1, 4-0 Mid-American Conference) have knocked off BCS conference foes No. 9 Pittsburgh, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue. In the 2012 season opener Toledo came just short of counting Arizona among its major conference victims, falling 24-17 in overtime.
This weekend the otherwise lossless Rockets will face UC (5-0, 1-0 Big East) for the seventh time. The Rockets trail Cincinnati 2-4 in the all-time series, though Toledo bested the Bearcats 23-16 in their most recent meeting, the 2001 Motor City Bowl.
Cincinnati’s first road game of the season marks the sixth time UT has matched up with a ranked opponent at the Glass Bowl and the 18th time overall. The Rockets are 6-11 against the Top 25.
“One of the things that we’ve always sold here is we’ve got a great non-conference schedule,” said Toledo head coach Matt Campbell. “I give a lot of credit to our athletic director to be able to get some of these teams to come in and have a chance to play some great teams.”
Campbell was Toledo’s offensive coordinator when No. 4 Boise State visited the Glass City last Sept. 16 to hand the Rockets a 40-15 drubbing in their most recent meeting with a ranked team. A week prior, the Rockets had No. 15 Ohio State against the ropes until the closing seconds of a 27-22 loss.
Surely the first-year head coach understands the implications of the upcoming showdown with Cincinnati, but by-and-large Campbell has downplayed what could be his first signature win at the helm for Toledo.
As he often has this season, Campbell cited the live-in-the-moment mantra which has fueled the Rockets to their best start since 2005.
“It goes back to our philosophy of taking it one game at a time,” Campbell said. “This team gets a tremendous amount of respect but so does every team we play.”
A number of Toledo players echoed that sentiment. Among them is quarterback Terrance Owens, who has amassed 1,900 yards on 148-of-225 passing (66 percent) with 12 touchdowns against three interceptions this season.
“Playing a BCS school is not really that different,” Owen said. “It’s just the next game on the schedule. We have to prepare for it just like any other game.”
Toledo has an opportunity to take a tremendous leap as a program come Saturday. But don’t tell them it isn’t just another game.