Elon at Toledo


2016 records: Elon 2-9, Toledo 9-4

Last meeting: First meeting

Toledo teammates know the opener is fast approaching when receiver Cody Thompson places a bag of Gummy Bears in his locker stall. Devouring a handful before kickoff has been a ritual.

“It’s weird, I know, but that’s what I do to get ready,’’ he said, laughing.

No one wants the season to begin more than the players because they have been practicing against one another in the heat and humidity for five weeks.

The Rockets, who open against FCS team Elon, are determined to win their first Mid-American Conference championship since 2004.

“The energy does increase in the final weeks of practice,’’ said Thompson, who caught 64 passes for 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016 and is on the Biletnikoff Award watch list entering this season. “Game week is coming up and guys are excited and anxious. Every week is a one-week playoff, and now it’s starting. Our goal is a championship, and we don’t look that far out.’’

Toledo has won at least nine games in five of the previous six seasons, but second-year coach Jason Candle said the opener unveils a brand new team with a lot of unknowns hovering over its head.

Candle is interested to see how, for example, the offense runs without game-changing running back Kareem Hunt.

“No matter who you are playing, the opener is a measuring stick for where you are at as a football program,’’ he said. “We’re a lot of hype right now. We’ve heard about a lot of preseason accolades and guys on watch lists and etc., etc. etc.

“The reality of it is we lost our last two games last year and we haven’t played this year. We have a hungry team and guys are ready to go out as a one unit and put our product on the field.’’

It’s important not to sleepwalk against Elon with two of the next three nonconference games being on the road, including Nevada next week and the University of Miami on Sept. 23.

“It’s all about getting everyone on the team to buy in to what you are doing,’’ Thompson said. “You want everyone to play fast and physical and to stay with it when you get hurt and worn down.’’

Best of the rest

Hampton at Ohio


Matchups against FCS teams have been mismatches for Ohio since 2006. The larger questions for the Bobcats will be how quarterback Quinton Maxwell handles being the clear-cut starter and whether tailback A.J. Ouellette is back from a foot injury that limited him to one game last season.

Miami at Marshall


In 2016, Miami became the first Division I team in history to lose its first six games and win its last six. The Thundering Herd has won the last three games in the series. Each of Marshall's three wins last season came at home.

Wisconsin-Oshkosh at John Carroll


John Carroll’s only losses last season came at Wisconson-Oshkosh in the opener (33-14) and against the Titans a Division III national semifinal (10-3), so playing at Don Shula Stadium should be an advantage. Quarterback Anthony Moeglin is back, but the Blue Streaks have a new coach in former Michigan assistant Rick Finotti.

— Mark Znidar