No. 23 Toledo puts 10-game winning streak, New Year's bowl hopes on line vs. Central Michigan

Wed, Nov 22, 2023
NCAAF News (AP)

No. 23 Toledo puts 10-game winning streak, New Year's bowl hopes on line vs. Central Michigan

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (AP) - There's more than one Ohio school traveling into Michigan this week with major bowl implications and conference superiority on the line.

No. 23 Toledo, ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time since 2015, will visit Central Michigan on Friday with a chance to accomplish some rarities for a Mid-American Conference team.

With a win over the Chippewas in the regular-season finale, the Rockets (10-1, 7-0 MAC) can become the first school to go 8-0 in the MAC since 2016 and keep themselves in the conversation to earn a possible berth in the New Year's Six bowl lineup.

Of course, they'll also need to win the MAC title game on Dec. 2 against Miami, which is why Toledo coach Jason Candle isn't looking anywhere but at what's directly in front of his team.

Other news No. 19 K-State hopes it is playing Iowa State for spot in Big 12 title game Saturday night No. 7 Texas Longhorns will make Big 12 title game on their way out with win over Texas Tech No. 11 Penn State has plenty to play for in regular-season finale against Michigan State

That's a full plate - post Thanksgiving.

"This is a massive football game for us," Candle said. "We'll have a lot of eyes on us here, and we've drawn a lot of attention by getting into the Top 25."

Toledo has been creeping its way into the national picture since losing its season opener 30-28 at Illinois on Sept. 2, when the Fighting Illini kicked a game-winning field goal with five seconds left.

The Rockets have been perfect while being imperfect since, winning five times by seven points or less and rallying last week to edge rival Bowling Green 32-31 in the annual Battle of I-75.

Faced with a 4th-and-2 late in the fourth quarter, quarterback Dequan Finn connected with running back Jacquez Stuart for a 59-yard TD pass with 1:45 left, and Toledo's defense came up with a final stop to keep the Rockets' season soaring.

On Friday, they'll face a Central Michigan team with plenty to play for as well.

The Chippewas (5-6, 3-4 MAC) need a win to become bowl eligible and will have extra motivation on senior day and playing in front of a holiday weekend crowd at home, where they are 4-0 this season.

Toledo has lost its last two games at Central Michigan.

"We've just got to understand we've got to play well," Candle said. "Nothing is going to be given to us or handed to us."

And while the 10-game winning streak has raised the Rockets' profile, it has also made Candle a hot commodity.

For the second straight year, Candle has been linked to several coaching vacancies, particularly Michigan State and Syracuse.

There's an easy connection to make between Candle and the Spartans given the proximity to East Lansing. Candle wouldn't address specific reports about his future, but acknowledged the inevitability of the rumors at this time of the season.

"When any organization has success, whether that's players, coaches, or whatever, that's this time of year, right?" Candle said at his weekly news conference. "It happens all over the country. Teams that are winning, internet things start. That's how it goes. It ain't no different for me, though, than it is for our players.

"Don't pay attention to what we've done in the rearview mirror. Look out the front of the window and continue to press on. None of that is any of my focus right now. This is about trying to win a championship for these guys and going to Central Michigan and playing a very capable football team that's playing for a lot."

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