2023 Arizona Bowl Preview: Wyoming vs. Toledo

It's the most wonderful time of the year! The MAC and Mountain West bowl slates conclude in the Arizona Bowl as Toledo and Wyoming face off.

This year’s Arizona Bowl closes out the MAC and Mountain West bowls schedules as the Toledo Rockets (11-2, 8-1 MAC) and Wyoming Cowboys (8-4, 5-3 MWC) face off.

Wyoming returns to the Arizona Bowl yet again as they look to avenge their 30-27 loss to Ohio in the game last year. This season, the Cowboys kicked off their year winning five of their first six games. That lone loss was at eventual CFP participant, Texas. Then, Wyoming slipped up by losing three of the next four on the schedule. To finish the year, they won the final two. In total, the Cowboys ended up 3-4 against bowl-bound teams with six wins by more than one score.

Toledo, on the other hand, is coming off of another MAC West division title. The Rockets were not able to successfully defend their MAC championship, however, as they fell to Miami (OH). However, the 11 wins for Toledo in 2023 were the most in a year since 2017. The Rockets kicked off the year with a last-minute loss at Illinois before rattling off 11 consecutive wins and mowing through the MAC. By all intents and purposes, Toledo was the best team in the MAC with its 14 All-MAC honorees. Ultimately, Miami (OH) prevailed in Detroit and Toledo ended up in Arizona.

This will be the third time Toledo and Wyoming face off with the all-time series tied at 1-1. Wyoming is making its second consecutive Arizona Bowl appearance and second all-time. This will be the first time Toledo plays in the Arizona Bowl and owns an 11-9 record in postseason play.

It’s Wyoming vs. Toledo for the 2023 Arizona Bowl

Date: December 30th, 2023

Time: 4:30 P.M. EST

Venue: Arizona Stadium, Tuscon, Arizona

How to Watch: The CW Network

Monitoring Transfers and Opt-Outs

Wyoming will be at mostly full strength on the field. Starting cornerback Kolbey Taylor, who did not play in the final two games, has transferred out to Vanderbilt. The Cowboys will also be without starting right tackle, Caden Barnett, due to injury.

This will be the final game for head coach Craig Bohl. He announced that he would be retiring following the bowl game.

Toledo was hit hard, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Long-time starting quarterback and 2023 MAC MVP Dequan Finn has transferred to Baylor. Stud running back and Maryland transfer, Peny Boone, took his 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns to the Portal. On the offensive line, stalwart guard Vinny Sciury is on his way out.

When Wyoming Has the Ball

All in all, the Wyoming offense was nothing to write home about in 2023. If there’s one thing that defines the Wyoming offense heading into the Arizona Bowl, it’s the rushing attack. There were two players with over 100 rushing attempts, led by running back and Northern Illinois transfer, Harrison Waylee. He led the way with 856 yards and five scores off of 146 attempts in just nine games.

The second-leading rusher was quarterback Andrew Peasley. His seven touchdowns led the way and he added 403 yards off of 101 carries. In addition to his abilities on the ground, Peasley completed 60.6% of his passes for 1,823 yards and 20 touchdowns. Overall, this Cowboys offense was 109th in FBS in yardage (119th in passing, 65th in rushing) and 76th in scoring.

Toledo has a top-25 defense and is led by eventual NFL Draft pick, Quinyon Mitchell. A two-time All-American, Mitchell has been a star for the Rockets by locking down opposing receivers all year. His interception tally was not as high as last year (one in 2023, five in 2022) but he was targeted less. He still broke the program record with 18 passes defended. That secondary only allowed over 300 yards passing once.

The front seven for Toledo is led by a couple of studs in Dallas Gant and Judge Culpepper. The pair of one-time transfers have found a home with the Rockets. Gant posted his second consecutive 100+ tackle season after defecting from Ohio State while Culpepper, the former Penn State product, added 10.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Toledo gave up a handful of yardage this year (330.1 yards, 29th in FBS) but only allowed 20.6 points per game, good for 25th.

When Toledo Has the Ball

This Toledo offense will look quite a bit different as Finn and Boon represent about 83% of the offensive productivity on this team. However, Tucker Gleason gets to step in yet again at quarterback. Last year, Gleason started three games and threw for 767 yards and seven touchdowns while adding 165 yards and three scores on the ground. Toledo ended up going 1-2 in his three starts.

Out wide, the likes of Jerjuan Newton and Junior Vandeross III will be leaned on to make Gleason’s job that much easier. Finally, stepping in for Boone, last year’s leading rusher Jacquez Stuart can carry the load for the Rockets in this one. The offense will likely look similar with Gleason. This year, Toledo is running the ball 38.8 times per game and throwing it 26.4 times. Last year with Finn, the offense ran about 41.8 times and threw 28.4. Compare that to the three-game Gleason-led offense of 42.3 rush attempts and 40.3 passes. He, himself, may not take off as much as Finn but this offense will still lean on Stuart on the ground.

Overall, the Wyoming defense was nothing special but they did one thing well: they force turnovers and make teams pay. On the year, they forced 21 turnovers. Of those 21, the Cowboys scored touchdowns off of 13. Keeping the ball away from Wrook Brown will likely be the strategy for the Rockets in this one so as to not add to his three interceptions on the year.

2023 Arizona Bowl Prediction

At full strength, this game likely would not be as competitive as it will be now. Losing two of the best that the MAC has to offer will hurt Toledo. However, there are worse emergency quarterbacks than Gleason. The Toledo defense is as solid as it can be from the MAC and will be up to the challenge.

Toledo wins, 27-17

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