This week the Irish match up for the first time in their history against Toledo, one of the favorites to this year win the Mid-American Conference. ND is 5-0 in its history against MAC teams. Their most recent MAC match-up was in 2019 against Bowling Green, the Irish prevailed that day, 52-0.
Now in his 6th season at the helm, last week Jason Candle’s Toledo Rockets dominated FCS Norfolk State 49-10, and they stand at 1-0.
4-2 a year ago, including their kicker and punter the Rockets have returned an incredible 22 out of 24 starters from their 2020 squad. One of those who didn’t come back is their QB, but 6-3, 215 Sophomore Carter Bradley, who had seen significant action as a back-up has stepped right in. Against Norfolk last week, Carter was 8-11 for 183 yards and 1 TD.
On the ground, Junior Bryant Koback has led Toledo in rushing the last two seasons with over 2,600 yards and 30 TDs. Last week he posted 52 yards on 9 carries and scored 2 TDs.
6-3 Junior Isiah Winstead is Toledo’s top returning receiver, but last week, 5-9 sophomore Devin Maddoz made a splash with 2 catches for 91 yards. One of those catches was a 84 yard TD toss from Bradley.
If the Rockets need a change of pace offensively, expect them to look to a Freshman QB, Dequan Finn. In extended duty last week, Finn was 4-5 on his passing but more significantly rushed 9 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. Think McKenzie Milton, but in reverse.
Defensively the Rockets are deep and experienced. Amazingly, not only do they return all their starters from last season, but every player from their 2020 2-deep is back. All- conference players are at every level. The best may be edge rusher Jamal Hines, a two time all-conference selection who has 22 career tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Last week Hines paced the Rockets with 7 tackles.
A year ago in a 6 game season Toledo ranked a respectable 21st in the nation in scoring offense at 35 points per game and 36th in scoring defense at 34.3 ppg. They did however turn the ball over a lot and were one of most penalized teams in the nation.
Live stream TV coverage of the game is on Peacock Premium and starts at 2:30 PM South Bend time. The Peacock service is free to many Xfinity and Cox Cable customers, and Peacock is offering a special trial subscription rate for the game. If interested go to peacocktv.com/ndoffer .
Toledo is stepping up a class this week in competition but they have has had the best recruiting classes in the MAC for 5 straight years. They are experienced, explosive and they have a winning tradition. The short week for Notre Dame is a concern, but home cooking and fans in the stands who will quiet down while the Irish are running their offense will help and will be a nice contrast to the atmosphere last week in Tallahassee.
Over/under is 55 and the Irish are favored by 16.5.
The Fighting Irish Preview Pick: ND 40 Toledo 20