By Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
ATHENS, Ohio -- It hasn't felt like this around Peden Stadium in a while.
On Wednesday night, Ohio will celebrate its senior night before kickoff, but that's barely been mentioned to media members or talked about around Athens much this week.
Instead, the talk is on the game, a showdown with Mid-American Conference West Division leader Toledo (8-1, 5-0 MAC) on national television set for a primetime. Last season the two met at the Glass Bowl, a 31-26 win for Ohio, which was sparked by a career-high rushing day for Dorian Brown with 212 yards.
But this season, for the first time in program history, Ohio will host a MAC West Division leader on its own field while also leading the MAC East during the month of November.
"You've got to prepare to win every single ball game, that's always been our approach," head coach Frank Solich said. "If you don't approach it that way as a coach, that soon becomes apparent to your players and if that ever becomes apparent to your players, then you're on your way to losing them. I don't think there are many coaches out there that have 12 to 13 to 14 opportunities, you don't want to waste those opportunities."
Not only is it a clash of the MAC East and the MAC West, it will feature the two best quarterbacks in the conference—Logan Woodside and Nathan Rourke. Woodside, a senior quarterback for the Rockets, is 26-7 all-time as a starter. He's led the Rockets to the verge of a MAC Championship berth for the first time since 2004.
But, unlike last year, Woodside will face an Ohio team that won't have a problem putting points on the board, mostly in part to Rourke. The sophomore, in his rookie year with the Bobcats, has totaled 29 touchdowns this season, best for second in program history in a single season next to Tyler Tettleton's 38. He's second in the country in rushing touchdowns with 16, just three off from Kalvin McRae's mark of 19.
It's the biggest MAC game yet this season; Toledo is on fringe of bursting into the AP Top 25; Wednesday night may be a preview of the MAC Championship in Detroit.
"I think we were a big underdog last year, right, and that didn't really mean anything," Rourke said. "We feel like we're in a good place right now. This is a big stage where we can prove to a national audience that we're a very good team."
For redshirt senior defensive end Trent Smart, he's not sure how the senior day part of the night, but he's got an idea of how he would like the game to go. He said it's unrealistic that Ohio will shutout the Rockets, but the goal is to keep the potent offense in check.
But, all that Smart really wants is a win to put them a step further to a chance at ending the title drought, dating back to 1968.
The last time Ohio beat Toledo in back-to-back years? 1967-68 and the Bobcats went on to win the MAC Championship.
"Obviously, I want to beat them really bad," Smart said. "It's my last game on this turf. It would be awesome, especially with them leading the MAC West. If we took them down, I think that would put us with a clear advantage at the top of the MAC."