Cincy-Toledo great under-the-radar matchup
TOLEDO, Ohio - The weekend's best college football game no one outside of Toledo or Cincinnati is talking about just might be Saturday night at the Glass Bowl.
The stakes are high but different for No. 21 Cincinnati and Toledo in a game both want badly, and not just for the attention the winner will earn. Cincinnati comes in at 5-0 and in a bit of a dangerous spot. The Bearcats play at unbeaten Louisville next Friday night in a game that could determine the Big East title and an eventual BCS bowl berth.
Toledo lost in overtime at Arizona in the season opener but hasn't been defeated since, putting up points by the boatload en route to a 6-1 start and bowl eligibility. Its biggest Mid-American Conference games are ahead, but the Rockets know they have a bigger stage than they usually get in October against an unbeaten BCS opponent.
Toledo is averaging 44 points per game over its last four games and scored 28 just in the third quarter of what became a too-close-for-comfort win over Eastern Michigan last weekend. The quality of competition increases greatly Saturday, and the Rockets certainly have Cincinnati's attention.
Bearcats coach Butch Jones said Toledo is "hands down" the best offense Cincinnati has faced.
Cincinnati stayed unbeaten in its only close game by getting a late touchdown pass to beat Virginia Tech. The Bearcats have since cruised past Miami-Ohio and FCS opponent Fordham, but Jones knows his secondary will have to be on its A-game against Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens and his talented receiving corps.
"Their collection of skilled athletes may be in the top two or three teams we face all year long," Jones said.
Owens' go-to-guy is junior Bernard Reedy, who ranks seventh nationally in all-purpose yardage. Reedy's 666 receiving yards are the 12th most nationally, and teammate Alonzo Russell's 615 rank 19th.
New Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux has some weapons of his own, and the Bearcats have shown both explosion and balance in their first five games en route to averages of 37 points and 465 yards per game.
"Just looking back at their body of work scoring points we come in with a mindset that obviously we are going to have to score some points, too," Jones said. "This game is going to really challenge our overall discipline as a football team and how we respond. They are going to get their points and get their yards because that is the nature of their offense and it will ultimately come down to how we respond.
"We talk about the foundation of our football program...it starts first and foremost with discipline and being a disciplined football team and that is going to be on display Saturday night."
The points and big plays make the splashes, but this is a big game for both programs -- both present and future. They often recruit the same players and certainly focus on the same areas. Cincinnati has a real chance to make a BCS game for the third time in five years and doesn't want a loss to a MAC school on its resume. Toledo sees it as a measuring stick game.
"When you look at the Cincinnati program as a whole and what they've done, starting with coach (Brian) Kelly and now morphing into coach Jones bringing one of the better progams in the country, you see they've got a good thing going," Toledo coach Matt Campbell said. "You see how well they've recruited, and in a way I look at it as the blueprint that you hope you can build here.
"Our kids know it's tremendous opportunity. At Toledo we've been fortunate to play on some great stages, in some great venues and have some very good teams come into the Glass Bowl. This game Saturday night is a terrific thing for our program."
Last September, Toledo lost a tight game at Ohio State and six days later hosted Boise State. The Rockets ended the season by beating Air Force -- in Campbell's first game as head coach -- in the Military Bowl. A win Saturday night could again, eventually, help Toledo land in a buzz-worthy bowl game.
"We respect Cincinnati so much," Campbell said. "They have a great coaching staff, great evaluators of talent and great recruiters that have made them an annual BCS contender. At the end of the day it's great for our team and our program take the next step here and compete on that level."