The Toledo Rockets are aimed to strike in Columbus this week, with a team that is considerably more dangerous than their recent record(s) would have you believe. They lost six games in 2021, all but one of which were decided by seven points or less (including a 29-32 heartbreaker to Notre Dame). And they dropped two out of six during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season by a total of six points! Think of Toledo as the MAC’s version of Nebraska, except they find a way to win more games than they lose... no offense to vomit enthusiast and now-former Cornhuskers head coach, Scott Frost.
The Rockets are 2-0 thus far in 2022, and not a team Ohio State should take lightly. Led by seventh-year coach Jason Candle – who became the youngest head coach in FBS in 2015, and reportedly turned down Miami’s offensive coordinator position this summer – Toledo has found balance since 2019, finishing in or around the top-30 in both scoring offense and scoring defense.
But generally speaking, and due in part to Candle’s background, the Rockets’ offense had been their calling card (perhaps not anymore). Under this current regime, the team enjoyed an impressive three-year run from 2016-2018, in which they finished as a top-20 scoring offense, highlighted by a 40.4 PPG output in 2018. The past two seasons have seen only a small step back, as they finished 21st and 27th respectively.
Whether by design or out of necessity, Candle’s high-powered offense is often steered or directed by multiple quarterbacks and/or a solid rushing attack. That was made easier in 2021 by the presence of running back Bryant Koback, who finished his career as Toledo’s fourth all-time leading rusher. But he exhausted his eligibility, leaving a sizable hole in the Rockets’ backfield.
I am sure the Buckeyes will not complain, given the fact that they are still adjusting to a new defensive scheme with new personnel. However, the MAC contender may solved their QB quandary and adequately replaced Koback with one individual named DeQuan Finn. He is not only the signal caller, but also the team’s new leading rusher, earning the distinction of this week’s Offensive Player to Watch.
Finn is an incredibly efficient, inefficient QB, if you get my drift. However, if you are not picking up what I’m putting down, please allow me to explain. He is completing 61.1 percent of his passes in 2022, and that would be a career best. Last season, he completed just 57.6 percent. And in seven games prior (2019-2020), Finn had gone 6-of-13, leaving him with a 57.7 career mark. For comparison purposes, I would point out that of the 110 players who qualified in 2021, the Toledo QB finished 94th in completion percentage. Not great, Bob.
Side note: The Big Ten West had six QBs ranked in the bottom 30... Big yikes.
Yet, despite Finn’s occasional struggles as a passer, he rarely turns the ball over. He has been picked off just three times, on 317 career attempts. His 18:2 TD:INT ratio in 2021 was one of the best in the country, for those who threw double-digit TD (high volume). And on top of all that, he averaged 14.35 yards per completion last year — good for ninth in FBS. So while he might not get mistaken for Aaron Rodgers or Pat Mahomes anytime soon, Finn’s completions matter. They go for big plays and/or TD, helping the Rockets put up points in bunches.
When not making big plays through the air, Finn is a real threat as a runner. He racked up 502 yards on the ground in 2021 to go with nine rushing TD. Through two games of the 2022 season, he has added 138 yards and three TDs. Not necessarily a blazer, it is still easy to tell that Finn possesses natural skill as a runner and is unafraid to tuck it when called upon. Mobile, dual-threat QB’s have given Ohio State issues in the past, and for that reason, I would not be surprised to see the Toledo signal caller pop a big run or two against the Buckeyes.
As far as weapons in his arsenal, Finn should have DeMeer Blankumsee, Jerjuan Newton, Devin Maddox all available. Maddox was the QB’s top target last year, but has been pretty quiet thus far in 2022. He has breakout potential, while Blankumsee and Newton have hauled in 21 receptions combined. Not an air raid attack by any means, but the pass catchers are experienced, and their star under center is usually in complete control of this potent offense.
Finn is a dangerous QB who can give the Buckeyes fits on defense — with his right arm or both legs. He also happens to be a former Mr. Football in the state of Michigan (2018), although I don’t know if he grew up rooting against Ohio State. If he is holding onto any childhood animosity, perhaps it will give him an extra boost in The Shoe. Either way, the deck will be stacked against Finn and the Rockets. Because even if they are able to score, they will need to keep up with and match the home team’s output. I just don’t love their chances of doing both. But I do expect Finn to make a real name for himself on Saturday.