Saturday's 2017 Marathon MAC Championship game at Ford Field in Detroit is a matchup of two teams that took very different journeys to the title tilt.
The Toledo Rockets were prohibitive favorites to win both the MAC West and MAC Championship, according to the coaches and the media pre-season polls.
They did not disappoint, impressing with a high-powered offense and stumbling just once -- against Ohio -- in MAC play, UT nailed down an elusive MAC West title last week and is one win away from a long-awaited goal.
Standing in the Rockets way is . . .
UA came into this season projected as a distant fourth in the Eastern Division. However, the Zips got off to their best start since joining the conference, winning their first three MAC outings.
There was a stretch in the middle of the season where they lost two of three, but the Zips finished strong with two straight home wins. The Zips biggest victory of 2017 was during the homestand as they bumped off East favorite Ohio to set up their first division crown since 2005.
Saturday afternoon’s battle is the 20th lifetime meeting between the two schools with the Rockets holding an 11-9 edge, including a 48-21 victory over UA on October 21st in Toledo. This is their first-ever meeting in the MAC Championship game…UT as won the last two and three of the last four in the series
Here's more on the two teams.
This is the Rockets sixth trip to the MAC Championship game. They have a 2-3 record (beating Marshall at home in 2001 and Miami in 2004 in Detroit). The three losses all came to the Thundering Herd in Huntington
Akron, meanwhile, is making just its second trip to the MAC title game. The Zips only other visit came in 2005 in Ford Field, defeating Northern Illinois 31-30
► The 2017 Rockets won their first outright MAC Western Division title since 1998 and 11th overall when they defeated Western Michigan in the regular season finale Friday at the Glass Bowl 37-10. It marked the ninth time a Toledo team has won at least 10 games in a season
► In the regular season, UT’s offense averaged 38.7 points and 505.7 yards per game. The Rockets were second and first, respectively, in those categories.
► Senior quarterback Logan Woodside is at the controls. He completed 65.2 percent of his passes (225-of-345) fir 3,451 yards with 24 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
► Woodside is Toledo’s all-time career leader in passing yards (10,083), touchdowns (89), and 300-yard games (16). He is 28-8 as the starting quarterback (second best in UT history).
► Senior Terry Swanson leads the running game with 1,139 yards. His 12 touchdowns is tied with freshman Shakif Seymour for the team lead. In his career, Swanson has rushed for 3,377 yards -- fifth on the Rockets all-time list.
► The receivers are led by sophomore Dionte Johnson who stepped up after an injury to senior Cody Thompson in the MAC opener against Eastern Michigan on October 7. Johnson has 63 receptions for 1,139 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also returned a kickoff for a score in the season opener against Elon.
► The offensive line has been a banged up and patched up crew all season long. However, it has given Woodson time to throw and allowed 18 sacks on the season. That is tied for fourth among MAC teams.
► The Toledo defense has given up 25.4 points and 378 yards in 12 games -- both stats in the middle of the conference. The Rockets have collected 18 sacks, intercepted 14 passes and own a turnover margin of +8. That’s tied with Central Michigan and Western Michigan for number one.
► Junior LB Jack Linch led the defense with 62 total tackles (26 solo). Fellow junior, DL Olasunkan Adeniyi, leads with 6.5 sacks for 43 yards and 16.5 tackle for losses, amounting to 74 yards. Sophomore DB Khalil Robinson registered four interceptions.
► UT has one of the best place kickers in the MAC in junior Jameson Vest. He led the conference in kick scoring with 122 points, going 24-of-28 on field goals and 50-of-52 on extra points.
► In their regular season finale, the Zips clinched their first East title since 2005 (second overall) when they defeated arch rival Kent State 24-14 at InfoCision Stadium.
► In the regular season 323.5 yards per game UA averaged offensively 23.2 points.
► For most of the season, senior Thomas Woodson was the quarterback. He was suspended before the Miami game and redshirt freshman Cato Nelson took over. Nelson led the Zips to their two biggest wins of the season against Ohio and KSU.
► Woodson completed 58.3 percent of his passes (154-of-264) for 1,742 Yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2017. Nelson in his eight games (three starts) completed 49.5 percent of his throws (53-of-107) for 732 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions
► In his career, Woodson has passed for 6,829 yards and 53 touchdowns -- second to Charlie Frye in both categories
► The running game is missing two big contributors. Graduate student Warren Ball broke his leg in the MAC opener at Bowling Green and sophomore Deltron Sands was also lost for the season with a lower body injury at Miami. Senior Manny Morgan leads with 342 yards and three touchdowns.
► The receivers are led by converted QB Tra’Von Chapman. He moved to the position in the spring when Jerome Lane left for the NFL Draft. Chapman has 48 receptions for 448 yards and two touchdowns.
► The offensive line who had just nine combined starts at the start of the 2016 season has been a cohesive group in 2017. The offensive front has given up 29 sacks. Twelve of those came in two games (six each against Toledo and Kent State)
► The Zips defense has allowed 24.8 points and 421.4 yards in their 12 games. UA has sacked the quarterback 21 times and pulled down 17 interceptions (second to Central Michigan 19), returning three of them. Akron has a turnover margin of +7.
► Junior Ulysses Gilbert is the leader. The reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year had another solid season with 118 total tackles (57 solo) second to Buffalo’s Khalil Hodge. He also leads with five sacks.
Gilbert had 8.5 tackles for losses and two interceptions (one for a touchdown against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and one of three off Toledo’s Logan Woodside). In the win over KSU, he returned a fumble 40 yards for a score
► Redshirt junior DL Jamal Davis II leads with 10.5 tackles for losses for 33 yards, while junior CB Jordan George leads with four interceptions -- tied for fourth in the MAC -- including a pick in each of the last three games. Another junior CB, Kyron Brown, is tied for third in passes defended with 13.
► The punting game is in the hands of junior Nick Gasser. he is averaging 41.8 yards per punt, with 11 of them going 50 yards or more and has placed 22 of them inside the opposition’s 20-yard line.
► Gasser took over the place kicking duties for the slumping Tom O’ Leary against Miami and has gone two-of-three on field goals, including a career-best 45-yarder against the Golden Flashes and 9-of-10 on extra points in those three games.