Toledo coach Jason Candle will be in his first Battle of I-75 as a head coach. BLADE PHOTO
For the first time since 2009, the Battle of I-75 game will feature first-year head coaches for both the University of Toledo and Bowling Green.
As UT’s Jason Candle and BG’s Mike Jinks are set to pace the sidelines today at the Glass Bowl, the coaches have varying degrees of familiarity with the rivalry.
Candle has been an assistant at Toledo since 2009, when UT head coach Tim Beckman faced a fellow first-year head coach in BG's Dave Clawson, and has seen what the rivalry means to the community.
“It’s certainly a huge game,” Candle said. “It’s a big game for our community here in Toledo and it’s a big game for northwest Ohio and our region. It’s not just an extra game, or another game, or another week. It’s different. The trick is you have to maintain your routine, you have to maintain your locker room focus that you had the previous week and that you’ll have next week. It’s a big game around here and it certainly will be treated that way.”
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For Jinks, who has spent most of his football career as a high school coach, this is his first taste of the I-75 rivalry game.
Jinks, who spent 2013-15 as running backs coach at Texas Tech, admitted that the Red Raiders don’t really have a natural rival and he has never been part of a true rivalry game at the college level.
Other matchups between first-year head coaches in the series include UT’s Tom Amstutz vs. BG’s Urban Meyer in 2001, UT’s Gary Pinkel vs. BG’s Gary Blackney in 1991, and UT’s Chuck Stobart vs. BG’s Denny Stolz in 1977.
Coincidentally BG won all four of the previous matchups between first-year head coaches in the series.
Aside from having different levels experience with this rivalry game, both Candle and Jinks are in the midst of seasons on very different trajectories.
Toledo has cruised to a 4-1 record and won 35-20 at Eastern Michigan in its Mid-American Conference opener.
Bowling Green, meanwhile, has struggled to a 1-5 start and with a 30-24 loss at Ohio last week is now 0-2 in the conference.
“In a rivalry game, there are some times you can throw the records out,” Jinks said. “That’s the kind of game we need right now. Winning a game like this could do a ton for our season moving forward. Not just because it's our rival, but because it’s one of the better teams in the MAC.”
The Toledo offense, led by junior quarterback Logan Woodside and senior running back Kareem Hunt, has been sensational to start the season, averaging 43.2 points per game and 570 yards of total offense per game.
Bowling Green’s defense has struggled thus far, giving up 46.5 points per game, including 77 points in games against Ohio State and Memphis. They allow 515.5 yards of total offense per game.
“Toledo has some older guys, some skill position guys who can really make a difference,” Jinks said. “They are as explosive as anybody in the conference offensively. They can run it, they can throw it, and they’re big up front.”
On offense, Bowling Green is averaging just 18.3 points per game and 368.2 yards of total offense. Redshirt freshman James Morgan has taken over as the starting quarterback for the last two games. He passed for 250 yards and a touchdown at home against Eastern Michigan and 253 yards and two scores at Ohio.
Toledo’s defense is allowing 21.0 points per game, despite surrendering 55 points in a loss at Brigham Young. The Rockets are giving up 331.6 total yards per game.
“Defensively they are doing a good job of putting pressure on people,” Jinks said. “Their front four is the key. They have some guys up front who are hard to handle.”
Despite winning the last six games in the series and coming in as a 31-point favorite at home, Candle said Toledo expects to get a test from a Bowling Green team that is improving since a tough start.
“They’ve settled into their personnel and I think as a staff they know their football team a little better than they did probably at the beginning of the year,” Candle said. “They’re playing competitive football due to that reason. The other reason is that it is a proud program and a proud tradition. A lot of guys in that locker room have played for a lot the last few years and they expect to play well. I think when you have that, you have a chance. We’ll get their best punch and their best effort and we know this is a very important game to them as well.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.
Bowling Green at Toledo
■ Time: 3:30 p.m.
■ Records: Toledo is 4-1, 1-0 MAC; Bowling Green is 1-5, 0-2
■ TV: American Sports Network, ESPN3
■ Radio: 1370 AM, 100.7, and 99.1
■ Series: Bowling Green leads 39-37-4
■ Favorite: Toledo by 31
■ Notes: Toledo is 17-1 against MAC East opponents since 2010, with the last loss coming against Akron on Nov. 29, 2013. ... Toledo leads the nation in third-down conversion percentage at 56.8 percent (42-of-74). ... The Rockets are holding opponents to a third-down conversion percentage of 19.4 percent (13-of-67), which is third in the nation. ... UT quarterback Logan Woodside is second in the country in passing efficiency at 204.0. ... Woodside leads the country in yards per attempt (11.2) and is tied for third in TD passes (20). ... Receiver Cody Thompson is second in the nation with 28.2 yards per catch. ... Bowling Green ranks fifth nationally by running a play every 19.9 seconds. ... The Falcons also rank 11th nationally by running 80.5 plays per game. ... Joseph Davidson ranks fourth among FBS punters with 48.1 yards per punt. ... As a team the Falcons rank third nationally with a net punting average of 45.57 yards per punt. ... BG linebacker Trent Greene ranks 15th in the country with his average of 10.0 tackles per game.
Bowling Green head coach Mike Jinks, seen speaking at Friday's FCA breakfast, will be coaching in the rivalry game for the first time. BLADE PHOTO