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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 1st, 10:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Arizona Stadium (57,803) -- Tucson, Arizona. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Toledo 0-0, Arizona 0-0. Away Record: Toledo 0-0, Arizona 0-0. Neutral Record: Toledo 0-0, Arizona 0-0. Conference Record: Toledo 0-0, Arizona 0-0. Series Record: Arizona leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: Rich Rodriguez will make his return to the college football coaching ranks on Saturday when the Arizona Wildcats take on the Toledo Rockets in a non-conference brawl at Arizona Stadium.
Toledo will also be breaking in a new head coach after Tim Beckman left for Illinois last season. Beckman was only in Toledo for three seasons but improved the squad each year including a 9-4 mark and a win in the Military Bowl last season. Taking his place now will be Matt Campbell who coached the team in its bowl game win last season.
Rodriguez is obviously a much more high-profile hire. The former West Virginia and Michigan head coach will take the reins of an Arizona program that has had potential in recent years but failed to live up to it. Last season, the eighth under Mike Stoops, Arizona went 4-8 ending a three-year streak of winning records. Stoops was fired after a 1-5 start to the season after bringing to the team as high as ninth in the national rankings the previous season.
Arizona has never lost to Toledo in three previous meetings. The last meeting came during the 2010 season when Arizona routed the Rockets 41-2 at Toledo.
Toledo is a unique team on offense in that it employs a platoon at quarterback. That will again be the case this year with the team looking to keep its high level of play. The Rockets were eighth in the nation in scoring offense (42.6 ppg) last season and ninth in total offense (481.3).
Both senior Austin Dantin and junior Terrence Owens are the co-starters at quarterback. The two combined to throw for 3,426 yards and 33 touchdowns last season with only seven interceptions.
David Fluellen was the backup during the last few seasons for Toledo but in his junior campaign will be called upon to carry the load in the running game. Fluellen rushed for 493 yards and a 5.1 yards-per-carry average last season.
Even though the Rockets use two quarterbacks there still wasn't room for Dwight Macon who has been moved to wide receiver where he will team with returning starter Bernard Reed and James Green as starters. Reedy caught 39 passes for 762 yards and nine scores and is the best option to replace 1,000- yard receiver Eric Page.
The line has two returning starters in center Zac Kerin and right guard Greg Mancz.
The Rockets may have been able to put together even more wins if their defense had more success last season. The team was not strong on that side of the ball, especially against the pass allowing 268.8 yards per game through the air which ranked 105th nationally.
Dan Molls and Robert Bell are both senior linebackers and two of the returning starters. Bell had 78 tackles last season and Molls had 70, good enough for second and third on the team.
Senior defensive end T.J. Fatinukun is the team's most experienced defensive lineman. He is coming off a 2011 campaign when he recorded 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
The secondary also has one holdover in strong safety Jermaine Robinson. The senior had 55 tackles last season and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. Byron Best and Mark Singer are also seniors who add stability to the unit.
After years in the spread offense Rodriguez will be instilling the read-option offense at Arizona, the one he developed at Glenville State and then perfected at West Virginia.
The key factor in Rodriguez's offensive gameplan is quarterback play. Filling in at that spot will be Matt Scott. The redshirt senior is the type of dual threat quarterback that can excel in Rodriguez's system, though with only five career starts, he does not have a great deal of experience.
Also important to the scheme's success is the production out of the backfield. Taimi Tutogi and Ka'Deem Carey will be the two backs with that responsibility. Carey had the superior season last year, rushing for 425 yards on 92 carries with a team-high six rushing touchdowns. Tutogi is more of a bruising back and rushed for 73 yards on 25 carries but did score four touchdowns.
The Wildcats will have a number of young receivers vying to replace the production of Juron Criner, David Douglas and Gino Crump. Dan Buckner is the best option, after ranking fourth on the team with 42 receptions, 606 yards and a pair of scores.
Rodriguez will also have four returning starters on the line. That experience should help the team adjust to the blocking patterns of the read-option.
Just like when he was at West Virginia, Rodriguez will have Jeff Casteel at defensive coordinator, which means a shift in scheme on defense as well. Casteel employs a 3-3-5 stack strategy which needs skill in the secondary.
Luckily for Arizona they have plenty of that with three returning starters in the secondary. Safety Marquis Flowers and cornerback Shaquille Richardson are the headliner among the defensive backs. Flowers is the lead returning tackler (68) and Richardson snagged a team-high four interceptions last season.
The rest of the defense is short on starting experience with defensive tackle Sione Tuihalamaka the only returning starter. The addition of former Akron standout Brian Wagner at linebacker should help.
This game promises to have no shortage of offensive fireworks. Toledo has much of the team that scored at will last season back and Rodriguez has always been able to pile on the points. Arizona might have some growing pains while adjusting to Rodriguez's system this season, but Toledo doesn't have the defense to exploit that.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona 34, Toledo 24
08/31 10:33:13 ET
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