Ohio will try to win its first conference championship since 1968 when the Bobcats face Toledo in the Mid-American Conference Championship on Saturday.
Ohio will have to do it without the MAC’s best quarterback, Kurtis Rourke, who tore an ACL in the team’s penultimate game and subsequently needed surgery.
The Bobcats’ passing game won’t be the same without him, but backup CJ Harris rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another score in his start, the 38-14 division clinching win over Bowling Green.
Dynamic Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn is also injured and his status is unclear.
Toledo (7-5, 5-3 MAC) vs. Ohio (9-3, 7-1) at Ford Field in Detroit, Saturday, noon EST (ESPN)
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK COLLEGE LINE: Toledo by 2 1/2.
Series record: Toledo leads 32-21-1.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
The trip to Detroit is huge for Ohio, which hasn’t won a conference championship since 1968 — one of the longest title droughts in Division I football. The Bobcats will have to do it without the MAC’s best quarterback, Kurtis Rourke, who tore an ACL in the season’s penultimate game. The Bobcats’ passing game won’t be the same without him, but backup CJ Harris rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another score in his start, the 38-14 division clinching win over Bowling Green last week. Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn is battling an injury and it’s not clear yet how much he will play on Saturday. Toledo last won a conference championship in 2017.
Ohio QB Harris vs. Toledo’s defense. Harris had four pass attempts this season before he was pushed into service when Rourke was injured against Ball State Nov. 15. Harris looked confident in his first start but now has to face the best defense in the conference.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Toledo: The Rockets will be a different team if Finn is able to play. He has battled injuries but still passed for 1,973 yards, rushed for 522 and accounted for 29 touchdowns. The other option for Toledo is freshman Tucker Gleason, who saw action in five games and has been playing with a broken right thumb since Week 5.
Ohio: RB Sieh Bangura, who picked up MAC freshman of the year honors this week, will continue to have an expanded role in the Bobcats’ attack with Rourke sidelined. He averaged 5 yards per carry in rushing for 884 yards and 11 touchdowns, despite a lingering turf toe injury.
FACTS & FIGURES
Toledo lost its last two games but had already clinched the MAC West title. … The Rockets are 3-3 in MAC championship games since the game was first played in 1997. … Every MAC team has won a conference title since Ohio last won one in 1968. … Former coach Frank Solich led Ohio to four MAC East titles, the last one in 2016 when the Bobcats lost to Western Michigan in the championship. … Toledo beat Akron 45-28 for the conference title in coach Jason Candle’s second season in 2017 but didn’t win the West division again until this season. … The Bobcats, led by Rourke, rebounded from a 3-9 overall finish in 2021, coach Tim Albin’s first season in charge after Solich’s retirement. … Ohio’s defense is statistically the worst in the MAC, allowing an average of 441.3 yards and just over 29 points per game. … Ohio’s top receiver, Sam Wiglusz is an Ohio State transfer. So is Toledo’s top defensive player, LB Dallas Gant.