13 Teams/13 Days Countdown: Toledo Rockets

Updated 8/27/2013

2013 TEAM OVERVIEW
Conference: MAC, West Division
Location: Toledo, Ohio
Nickname: Rockets
Returning starters: 12 (9 offense, 3 defense)
2012 record: 9-4 (6-2 MAC)
 
Aug. 31 -- at Florida, 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network/ESPN3)
Sept. 7 -- at Missouri, 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Sept. 14 -- Eastern Washington, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Sept. 21 -- at Central Michigan, Noon (ESPN Regional)
Sept. 28 -- at Ball State, 3 p.m.
Oct. 5 -- Western Michigan, 3 p.m.
Oct. 19 -- Navy, 7p.m.
Oct. 26 -- at Bowling Green, TBD
Nov. 2 -- Eastern Michigan, 7 p.m.
Nov. 12 -- Buffalo, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU/ESPN3)
Nov. 20 -- Northern Illinois, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Nov. 29 -- at Akron, TBD (ESPNU/ESPN3)

SOCIAL MEDIA (Accounts to FOLLOW on Twitter if you are a Toledo Fan)
University Accounts: @ToledoRockets; @ToledoFB; @UTMattCampbell; @UTPaulHelgren
Media Coverage: @AutuloBlade; @IC_Sports
Fan Accounts: @LetsGoRockets
 
In a nutshell: To have a truly successful season – one that finally puts Toledo on the map outside the MAC – the Rockets must beat Northern Illinois in November. For one more year, I think NIU continues to control the MAC. Where does that leave Toledo? Once again, this is a terrific football team that will fly in under the radar, winning eight or nine games in the regular season but finishing in a familiar spot: second in the West Division. To me, this is more a statement about the Huskies' talented corps returning in 2013, the program's first full season under Rod Carey, than an indictment of any flaws on Toledo's behalf. Simply put, the Rockets are a tremendous team with the misfortune of spending the past three seasons in a division with one of the top non-automatically qualifying programs in the country.
 
This year's team will have its opportunities to shine, however, and not just on a weekday night against the Huskies. In a way, early dates at Florida and Missouri are equally vital: Toledo is starving for a chance to strut its stuff against the best; beating either one of these teams would provide a huge confidence boost heading into MAC play. In fact, winning one of the two games could lead to a 10-win season, something the Rockets haven't achieved since 2001. Possible? Absolutely. But not likely, in my mind: I think Toledo wins eight or nine games during the regular season, dropping this pair on the road and losing to NIU and either Ball State or Bowling Green before heading back into the postseason. The end result should be either an 8-4 or a 9-3 mark during the regular season.
 
The issue is the defense, obviously. Although the offense is superb – Owens, Reedy, Fluellen, this line – the Rockets' defense has its fair share of concerns, from the lack of experience at linebacker to the shuffling pieces in the secondary. To me, a defense this unproven can't be expected to hold down the fort against the stronger opponents on this schedule. But the good news is that the Rockets have more than enough firepower to handle most opponents, if not enough to battle teams like NIU, Ball State and others and come out one point ahead on the other side. Come 2014, Toledo will be viewed as the best program in the MAC. But the league remains NIU's playground for one more season.
 
READ MORE of the USA Today's Preview (courtesy of Paul Myerberg) by CLICKING HERE