Middle Tennessee and Toledo clash in an early bowl game. Here’s betting advice for the contest. The top sportsbooks have released their NCAAF odds for Friday’s upcoming Bahama Bowl between Middle Tennessee and Toledo. Middle Tennessee suffered an awful start to its season, going 1-3. But after accomplishing an impressive comeback at Florida Atlantic, the Blue Raiders have done just enough to become bowl eligible.
As for Toledo, the Rockets early in the season most famously gave Notre Dame quite a scare. Most recently, they are constructing a three-game win streak. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs. Toledo Rockets
Friday, December 17, 2021 -12:00 PM EST at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium
Run, Run, Run
With the nation's leader in rushing yards, the MAC is well-known for having teams with great rush attacks.
The Rockets do like to be balanced offensively and they will be aided by quarterback Dequan Finn with his 16-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
But Toledo is also a typical MAC team in the sense that it boasts the nation's 11th-leading rusher in Bryant Koback, who has amassed 1,274 rushing yards on 6.7 YPC. Koback hasn't simply beat up cupcake opponents, either. When Toledo gave Notre Dame a scare in Week 2, Koback earned 114 rushing yards on 20 carries.
Given Koback's prominent role in Toledo's offense, it must be unsurprising that the Rocket offense and the team in general both tend to struggle in games where Koback is less impressive. In all of Toledo's losses, except the narrow one at Notre Dame and the shootout one against Eastern Michigan, Koback failed to reach 100 yards on the ground.
Middle Tennessee's Run Defense
The Rockets' reliance on Koback makes it very important to know about the Blue Raider run defense. Limiting Koback would be crucial to Middle Tennessee's hopes of covering the spread. On the surface, it might seem that Middle Tennessee has a strong run defense. Nationally, the Blue Raiders rank 33rd in limiting opposing rushing yards per game.
There are strong running teams in the Conference USA, but most of the top ones are not in Middle Tennessee's division. To be exact, three of the conference's top four running backs and the conference's three leading teams in rushing yards are in the West. The Blue Raiders have largely lucked out, therefore, by being in the East.
Middle Tennessee has had to deal with C-USA's second-leading rusher, Rasheen Ali, and it did not go well. Against the Blue Raider defense, Ali amassed 119 rushing yards on 5.9 YPC and three rushing touchdowns and he was an effective pass-catcher.
One may conclude, therefore, that the Blue Raider run defense is not nearly as good as the stats suggest. This is rather untested run defense, worth doubting against strong competition. With one's best bets in mind, one may not rely on this team to limit a stud like Koback.
Middle Tennessee's Tragic Quarterback Situation
Middle Tennessee's quarterback situation has been one consistent tale of tragedy this season. The tragedy is a product of two realities: one, the Blue Raiders primarily want to pass. They own the nation's 34th-highest pass-play percentage. Two, they have had awful luck with quarterbacks. First, Asher O'Hara transferred to Sacramento State. Next, NC State transfer Bailey Hockman left the team. Most recently, Chase Cunningham suffered a season-ending leg injury.
Nick Vattiato is now the team's starting quarterback. This is clearly not the guy who Middle Tennessee wants in this position. Vattiato is a freshman who struggles to be productive or efficient. In his limited experience, he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.
Toledo Pass Defense
Know for your sports betting that the quality of Toledo's pass defense is highly relevant given Middle Tennessee's proclivity to pass. While we obviously can't blindly trust all stats, we can trust this one: the Rockets rank 19th in limiting the opponent's passer rating.
With the exception of a shootout-type game against Eastern Michigan where the Rocket defense was so unrested because of how quickly the Rocket offense kept scoring, Toledo's pass defense has been well-tested and successful. The Rockets faced two of the conference's top-five leaders in quarterback rating, Northern Illinois' Rocky Lombardi, the former Michigan State Spartan, and Central Michigan's Daniel Richardson.
They limited each player to a passer rating well below his respective season average. Toledo is more than equipped to handle Middle Tennessee's emaciated quarterback group.
Toledo will be able to do what it wants offensively -- be balanced-ride Koback to a productive output -- while Middle Tennessee won't be given its unlucky problems at quarterback and the Rockets' strong pass defense. For the above reasons, invest in Toledo with your NCAAF picks.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.