1. Just for Kicks. UB lost its early momentum against Ohio when the Bobcats returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Georgia also took a kick to the house against the Bulls. So how important could special teams play be today? Toledo’s electric wideout Bernard Reedy already has returned two kicks for TDs. And a punt for a TD. He’s averaging 28 yards on kick returns and almost 14 on punt returns and his kick return TD vs. Cincinnati last week brought the Rockets back from their lone deficit. It makes no sense, given its coverage woes, for UB to give Reedy any opportunity to burn them. Look for squib kickoffs from Patrick Clarke and directional rugby punts out of Tyler Grassman. On the flip side, the Bulls are getting little out of their return game. Cordero Dixon has averaged 3 yards on punt returns and Brandon Murie a team-high 22 yards on kicks.
2. What’s the Point? Toledo knocked off No. 21 Cincinnati last Saturday without benefit of an offensive touchdown. The Bulls know no such luxuries. The defense still has recovered just one fumble and produced two INTs, leaving the Bulls 116th in the nation in turnover margin. The return game, hurt on kicks by the injury to James Potts, provides no spark. Meanwhile, the offense continues to run on a treadmill. UB’s been outscored 127-57 the last four games despite running -- get this -- 78 more plays than the opposition. The Bulls haven’t seen the end zone in eight quarters. The statistics look nice but where’s the finish and the big plays? UB went with a short, West Coast-type attack vs. Pitt and still were 2 of 12 on third-down conversions through three quarters. They’ll get Bo Oliver, Alex Neutz and Fred Lee back this week.
3. Triple Threat. Imagine how explosive the Rockets might be had WR Eric Page not declared for the NFL Draft after last season. Reedy on one side and Page on the other? Egad. Toledo alternated QBs with Terrance Owens and Austin Dantin last year but Owens now has a firm grasp on the job and ranks 23rd nationally in total offense. He’s completing 64.6 percent of his throws for a robust 8.14 yards per attempt. Reedy’s 20th nationally at 92.25 receiving yards per game. David Fluellen’s 119 yards per game on the ground ranks 16th in the country. The explosive Rockets have scored at least 27 points in every game except the loss to Arizona.
4. The One to Watch. Toledo’s defense greatly improved over last year, when Rockets won a game 66-63 and lost a game 63-60. Senior ILB Dan Molls is to the lynchpin of the Rockets “D,” having been in on 102 tackles -- 39 more than any teammates. That total leads the nation. Molls is accomplished in coverage too -- five passes defensed, four breakups. Rockets start seven seniors on the defensive side. Safety Jermaine Robinson leads MAC with four INTs.
5. Extra Points. Toledo leads the all-time series 5-3 This is the first meeting since 2007 … Rockets one spot away from their first national ranking since 2001 … Bulls have scored one TD in their last two home games, that on a Hail Mary vs. Kent State, and are without a TD for eight quarters overall … Bulls LB Khalil Mack second in country in tackles for losses.
Outlook: Rockets have the advantage in big-play personnel and the confidence that goes with it. Hope of national ranking erases potential letdown.