Preview: No. 21 Miami expecting something wild against upset-minded Toledo
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — There was honesty from both Toledo and Miami this week.
The Rockets aren't pretending otherwise: Having the 21st-ranked Hurricanes come into their home Glass Bowl stadium in Toledo, Ohio on Saturday represents one of the biggest events in the 101 years of Toledo football, maybe even the one that'll sit atop the list.
"The game's not just another game," Toledo coach Jason Candle said.
The Hurricanes know the Rockets feel that way, and don't sound worried.
"We're built to crush dreams," Hurricanes running back DeeJay Dallas said.
It's pretty clear that both teams understand the magnitude what can happen on Saturday afternoon. Toledo (1-0) gave Miami (1-1) plenty of problems last season on the Hurricanes' home field and will be upset-minded yet again this time around. This is a game in which the Rockets have basically everything to gain and very little to lose.
"We've had major opponents here in the past in the Glass Bowl ... some major players here," Candle said. "But probably none of the magnitude of the Miami Hurricanes. Yeah, I think it's a huge deal for our city and a great opportunity for our kids."
Toledo led Miami 16-10 midway through the third quarter of the teams' game last season at Hard Rock Stadium before falling 52-30 . That got the Hurricanes' attention, as do the facts that the Rockets won the Mid-American Conference title a year ago, have posted eight consecutive winning records and have a senior class that, on average, has been part of 10 wins per season.
Further complicating matters for Miami is this: The Rockets are coming off an unusual early bye week, meaning they've had two weeks to get curveballs ready to throw at the Hurricanes. But on the plus side for Miami, the Hurricanes went through something similar two years ago when they went to an amped-up Appalachian State for another game where upset fears were real.
Miami won that game 45-10, handling the raucous atmosphere with ease.
"It'll be wild," Miami coach Mark Richt said, when asked what he expects to see on Saturday. "We'll get everything they've got. I'm sure they'll have every single seat sold and they'll be standing room only. Their fans are going to be ready for a great battle. They've been excited about this for a while."
Here's what Toledo athletic director Mike O'Brien said when he took Miami's offer for this home-and-home series, back in 2010: "Miami is arguably the highest-profile opponent ever to play in the Glass Bowl." He's right. It's somewhat strange for a school like Miami to initiate a 1-for-1 deal against a non-Power 5 opponent, and the reasoning then-Miami AD Kirby Hocutt used at the time remains unclear. "Tell me who we play, and we'll play," Richt said.
Ahmmon Richards came into this season expected to be Miami's best receiver, and he'll have one catch for nine yards after three games. Richards is not playing on Saturday, missing his second straight game with what the Hurricanes have called a bone bruise in his knee. He has been listed as day-to-day, and it is unknown if he'll play next week against FIU.
Toledo's offense will spread Miami out all over the field, and the Rockets have three wideouts who gave the Hurricanes problems last season. Cody Thompson, Jon'Vea Johnson and Diontae Johnson — all of whom had a TD catch in Toledo's Week 1 win over VMI — combined to make 18 catches for 259 yards and three touchdowns against Miami a year ago.
Officially, Toledo's stadium can hold 26,038 fans. But this week, Rockets officials wouldn't be surprised to see the crowd reach 30,000. The last time that happened at the Glass Bowl was 2016, when Toledo-Bowling Green drew 30,147.
Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem loves the Hurricanes; the Miami native went to Florida, played for the Gators, but is a diehard Hurricanes football fan. That's on hold this week, for a very good reason. His son, Kedonis Haslem, is an offensive tackle for the Rockets. So when asked for a pick , family ties won out over fandom. "I've gotta ride with Toledo," the Heat captain said. "That's my son. I'm going to ride with my son and my kids. That's a no-brainer."