College Football Picks: Back Toledo -8 vs. Western Michigan

Jason Lake

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 11:42 PM GMT

It's been over 10 years since the Toledo Rockets played for the MAC title. They'll be a fashionable college football pick this Friday versus the Western Michigan Broncos.

The Mid-American Conference was a special place around the turn of the millennium. The Marshall Thundering Herd were churning out first-round NFL picks like WR Randy Moss (1998), QB Chad Pennington (2000) and QB Byron Leftwich (2003). The Miami-Ohio RedHawks gave us QB Ben Roethlisberger (2004). And the Toledo Rockets beat Miami in the 2004 MAC Championship Game with Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback.

Hmmm. No offense to Gradkowski, who earned 2005 GMAC Bowl MVP honors before getting drafted in the sixth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But things have been pretty quiet around the Great Lakes since “Big Ben” turned pro. The MAC is still churning out tons of quality players, but with far less publicity – especially since Marshall jumped ship in 2005. Now the Rockets (9-1 SU, 8-1-1 ATS) can put themselves back on the map with a win this Friday (12:00 p.m. ET, CBSSN) over the Western Michigan Broncos (6-5 SU and ATS). Toledo is an 8-point home chalk on our college football odds board as we go to press.

 

Toledo Steel
All signs point toward the Rockets as the sharp pick in this matchup. Our consensus reports had 57 percent of early bettors jumping on Toledo at the open, moving up to 60 percent at press time. A quick tour of some popular computer projections shows the Rockets expected to win by 10 points or more. And there's a difference of 7.37 points between the two teams on the Simple Rating System at Sports-Reference, which again works out to roughly a 10-point difference for Toledo on its home turf.

Motivation shouldn't be a problem for the Rockets. They haven't been to the MAC title game since Gradkowski wove his magic in 2004. If they can beat Western Michigan at the Glass Bowl, the Rockets will play the Bowling Green Falcons during Champ Week. Toledo is coming off a 44-28 win over the Falcons (–7.5 at home) in Week 12. That was on a Tuesday; the Broncos played the following day and lost 27-19 to the Northern Illinois Huskies (–3 at home).

 

Slippery When Wet
Having said all that, the projections might be a little too generous toward Toledo. The weather forecast for Friday's game calls for a 90-percent chance of rain over the Glass Bowl, with some light crosswinds thrown in for good measure. This could constrain the offense for both teams and make it that much harder for the Rockets score the points they need to cover the big spread.

Otherwise, we're putting Toledo in our college football picks. This program is even better than its No. 24 ranking on the AP poll would suggest. Toledo is No. 20 on the F/+ Combined Ratings at Football Outsiders; the Broncos are No. 61. The lack of publicity surrounding the Rockets only adds to their betting value. Never forget, the mid-majors is where the money is when you bet on college football.

College Football Picks: Take the Rockets –8 (–105) at Heritage

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