Ricky’s Mid-American Conference NCAAF pick for 2017 is the Toledo Rockets.
Raise your hand if you knew that QB Logan Woodside had 45 TD passes last season. Crickets. Woodside had a great campaign throwing for over 4,000 yards with only 9 INT. The Rockets will be without their excellent TE Michael Roberts (16 TD in 2016) but return their most dangerous weapon in WR Cody Thompson (1269, 11 TD, 19.8) and will also enjoy having Jon’vea Johnson (773, 10 TD) back in the mix. The Rockets have been truly amazing the past number of years protecting the QB even with inexperienced offensive lines. This year they only return a couple of starters but the smart money is on Woodside having another big year with excellent protection.
The Rockets averaged less than 200 yards per game rushing last year for the first time since 2012. They may find it hard to exceed that target this season without their all-time leading rusher Kareem Hunt on board. Hunt was also an excellent receiver. Terry Swanson is back (583, 4 TD) but it is hard to project increased production in the run game this year.
The Rockets were 4th in the MAC last season in scoring defense (25.7) which was pretty good considering that they were below average in sacks per game (#8 MAC) and only picked off six passes all season. The DL has some nice size but will need to find a way to get more penetration and be stronger against the run. Their best defensive player LB Ja’Wuan Woodley was their 2nd leading tackler in 2016 while also collecting 13 TFL. The starting secondary returns almost entirely intact and they allowed only 55% completions last season. Overall we worry a bit about their ability to but pressure on the QB but still classify them as an above-average MAC defense.
The kicking game does not get us too excited. PK Jameson West made 13/19 FGs last season and they need to break in a new punter. They are going to miss dangerous return man Corey Jones.