Akron vs. Toledo


What: Mid-American Conference championship game

Favorite: Toledo by 21

Records: Akron 7-5, 6-2 East Division; Toledo 10-2, 7-1 West Division

Last meeting: Toledo won 48-21 on Oct. 21 in Toledo. Toledo leads series 11-9.

Ford Field is so close to the University of Toledo campus that the drive is no more than 60 minutes when the traffic is light on northbound I-75.

Yet the immense aircraft hangar-like building might as well have been in Montreal with the Rockets not having made a Mid-American Conference championship game since 2004.

The feeling was much the same at Akron, with the Zips not having played there since ’05, when they won the championship. Directions to the stadium have a separate page on the team’s athletic website.

Second-year Toledo coach Jason Candle also thinks that it has been a long time since his team ran Akron off the field in a 48-21 victory on Oct. 21 in the Glass Bowl. He said that game will have little bearing on this one, particularly since redshirt freshman Kato Nelson has started the last two games at quarterback for the Zips.

“That does seem like ancient history — forever ago,” Candle said. “Akron has changed its philosophy a little bit and the quarterback change has injected life into their offense. I told our football team that how many weeks ago that game was, (it) has no bearing on this game. You are talking about 18- to 22-year-olds, and they change weekly. This is a whole different situation — a whole different scenario.”

What never seems to change for Toledo is quarterback Logan Woodside putting up large numbers. He was voted MAC offensive player of the year after completing 225 of 345 passes for 3,451 yards and 24 touchdowns, with only three interceptions.

Toledo has been one of the first names in MAC football since the ’60s, but not having won a championship for so long has eaten away at the players.

“That was one of our goals coming into the season,” Woodside said. “It’s something we hadn’t done in a long time. We’re not done. We have to go up there and finish this thing off. It would be everything to me. The main reason I came here was to bring Toledo a championship.”

The Rockets have made it this far despite losing three offensive linemen and leading receiver Cody Thompson, an NFL prospect, to injury.

“We have guys who prepare like starters,” running back Terry Swanson said. “That O-line has had a lot of adversity, but hats off to (offensive line) coach (Mike) Hallett. Those guys have stepped right in.”

Akron appeared to be on the way to a runner-up finish in the East Division until coach Terry Bowden replaced quarterback Thomas Woodson with Nelson in the 11th game against Ohio University. Nelson threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-34 upset.

This is the second winning season in three years for Bowden since he took over a team that had back-to-back 1-11 seasons under Rob Ianello in 2010 and ’11.

“We were ranked 127 out of 127 teams in Division I,” Bowden said.

The Zips defeated Western Michigan and Buffalo by one point and Ohio by three.

“The best thing our team does is win,” Bowden said. “This team is very special. They have come out here and maximized their abilities, and it’s going to take our best against Toledo.”

Frostburg State

at Mount Union


At-large team Frostburg State (11-1) has defeated Wittenberg 35-7 and Washington & Jefferson 46-23 while making its first appearance in the Division III playoffs since 1993. Mount Union (12-0) claimed one of the 25 at-large bids in the 32-team field by winning its 28th Ohio Athetic Conference title. The Purple Raiders are seeking a 13th national championship.

— Mark Znidar