“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Rockets coach Jason Candle said early in the week. “I say this often to donors and public, that the games we have that are mid-week ‘MACtion’ games that are across the country and nationwide, it’s an opportunity for us to be a window to our university.
“I think athletics is a unique platform to do that. This is no different. This is a major opportunity for us, one that we don’t take lightly and one that we’re certainly looking forward to.”
Here are five things to know about the prime-time matchup:
1. Toledo has a dangerous quarterback.
Dequan Finn is a 6-foot-2, 198-pound dual threat for the Rockets. A three-star recruit from Detroit in the class of 2019, he is completing 61.9 percent of his passes and leads Toledo with 393 yards passing and 138 yards rushing.
“I think he can run it anytime he wants to,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “Not as much designed quarterback run. I think we have to be ready for that. He makes a lot of plays with his feet in scrambling situations. That’s when we really need to be aware of what he can do, but he has all the tools. Makes all the throws. Very, very capable.”
2. The Rockets’ leading tackler is a familiar face for the Buckeyes.
Dallas Gant is a Glass City native, but the fifth-year linebacker started his career at Ohio State.
He made 54 tackles for the Buckeyes but had a hard time fighting his way to the top of a the depth chart before ultimately deciding to transfer early last season.
He has 20 stops for UT in two games, and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day discussed the unique circumstance of his presence on the opposite sideline Saturday night.
“Throughout the whole recruiting process, Dallas and his family were excellent. While he was here, same thing,” Day said. “It’s great to see him playing. I wish he was playing for us, but yeah, it’s tough. It’s not great when you get have to go play somebody that was in your program already, but he comes from a great family, a great (high school) program, and I guess we’re all kind of getting used to a little bit of this, this transfer portal and how it works. I guess this is the real positive side of the transfer portal, an opportunity for someone to go play.”
3. History is not on Toledo’s side.
Ohio State is 192-50-1 against other schools from Ohio. Thirty-eight of those losses occurred in the 19th Century, and none happened in the past 100 years. Oberlin is the last Ohio team to top Ohio State, turning the trick Oct. 8, 1921 by a final of 7-6.
The Buckeyes are 46-0-1 against in-state teams at Ohio Stadium, which opened in 1922, and Ohio State’s only loss to a current member of the MAC came in 1894 when Akron, then known as Buchtel College and coached by John Heisman, beat the Buckeyes 12-6 at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.
Toledo did not face Ohio State until 1998, a 49-0 blanking at the hands of the nation’s top-ranked team. The Rockets were shut out again 11 years later 38-0 in a game played in Cleveland, but they nearly pulled an upset in 2011 at Ohio Stadium, falling 27-22.
“There’s a lot of great football in the state of Ohio, and we all take a lot of great pride in that,” Day said. “So when you play somebody from from your own state, you know, it’s a strange feeling, but Jason does an unbelievable job. Toledo is as a very proud program.”
4. Day hopes to have his receiving corps at full strength.
Ohio State played its first two games of the season without Julian Fleming or Kamryn Babb, and star Jaxon Smith-Njigba missed most of the opener after suffering a hamstring injury.
Day said Thursday he expects all three to be in uniform on Saturday night, when it will be determined if they can go or not.
Smith-Njigba is expected to be one of the best receivers in the country while Fleming and Babb are veterans who were highly-rated recruits but have had a hard time getting on the field because of injuries throughout their careers.
5. Penalties are still a concern for the Buckeyes.
One way to get upset is to make mistakes, and Ohio State has been flagged frequently in its first eight quarters of the season.
The Buckeyes are 98th in the nation in penalties per game (eight) and 117th in penalties yards per game (80).
“We have to get that fixed, but across the board, it’s everybody and everything,” Day said. “I don’t think it is one thing that is glaring. We could sit down and probably identify three or four things, but I think everyone has got to improve. The coaching has to get better, the execution has to get better, the pad level has to get better.
“The only way to do that is to practice, and then you are tested on Saturday every weekend. And that is regardless of the opponent.”