The Nassau, Bahamas, hosts the opening of the College Football Bowl season in 2021, hosting this C-USA vs MAC matchup on December 17th, 2021. The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders will play the Toledo Rockets in a match to be aired at 12:00 ET on ESPN.
MTSU (6-6, 4-4 vs C-USA) has played hot and cold this season. The Blue Raiders played a tough out of conference schedule including road games to Virginia Tech and Liberty. In conference play, MTSU upset Marshall and Florida Atlantic, while taking care of business against Southern Mississippi and Florida International.
Toledo (7-5, 5-3 vs MAC) enters the game on a three game win streak. The Rockets played a tougher out of conference schedule than most schools in the MAC, taking on Notre Dame, Colorado State, and UMass. The results speak for themselves, as Toledo was able to bounce back despite in-conference losses to Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, and Eastern Michigan.
Bahamas Bowl – The Marquee attraction: S Tycen Anderson, Toledo
The Senior Bowl recently extended their invitation to safety Tycen Anderson and, assuming that he does not opt out of the bowl game, will be the player to watch in this match-up. A rangy safety who can be utilized all over the field, Anderson is a professional prospect because of his ability to impact multiple levels of the field. He’s been used effectively in deep coverage, as a ROVER-style nickel back, and even been asked to play contain against heavy run teams.
The issue (and what’s unknown) about Anderson right now is the fact that his tackling technique isn’t great and he tends to be passive, especially when around a fellow teammate who is attempting a tackle. Anderson needs to be more assertive and more physical at times, but he is still a talented safety prospect.
MSTU talent to watch
Reed Blankenship is the star player that everyone will be watching for the Blue Raiders in this game. He’s the best NFL prospect on the field for the Blue Raiders. He’s a back end safety with limited effectiveness the closer he is to the line of scrimmage. He’s shown good tackling technique and has the ability to make big plays, but his real question is how he will mesh with his teammates at the next level.
- On Ball LB DQ Thomas
- Slot WR Jarrin Pierce
- S Gregory Grate
Linebacker DQ Thomas (6’1″ 216 lbs) is not quite a draftable prospect, but possesses upside as a potential high-end backup if he can develop properly on a practice squad. He’s a decent tackler but still has room to grow with his intelligence.
Slot wide receiver Jarrin Pierce (5’9″ 195 lbs) has the ability to play as a slot receiver in the NFL, but doesn’t have outstanding physical traits. His run after the catch is very limited and his hands were at times inconsistent.
Safety Gregory Grate (5’11” 197 lbs) has the intelligence to play the strong safety position in a heavy zone-based defensive scheme, but lacks the size and strength to be as an effective tackler as he needs to be. He’s potentially a PFA that a team picks up for the practice squad after the draft.
Toledo talent to watch
- G/C Bryce Harris
- RB Bryant Koback
- Slot CB Sam Womack
Bryant Koback (5’11” 210 lbs) is the most intriguing prospect on this short list. His body build isn’t impressive upon first glance, awkwardly proportioned, but Koback can play. He reminds me of former Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay, who has seen some success in the NFL. Koback can do it all – a capable receiver, a good pass protector, and his run style translates to the next level extremely well. He has tremendous field vision and is so dangerous in the open field.
Bryce Harris (6’2″ 300 lbs) has spent his career bouncing between the interior of the offensive line, collecting starts at left guard, right guard, and center. While he doesn’t particularly look like an NFL center (lack of quickness), he has the strength to be an effective backup guard in the league.
Sam Womack (5’9″ 182 lbs) has played on the boundary at Toledo, but due to his lack of size and hesitancy tackling, I project him playing inside as a slot cornerback. He’s not a starter, either. While physical at the catch point, Womack is mostly a zone coverage corner and spent most of his career reading the play in front of him before attacking downhill. It’s not the style that many NFL teams are looking to put in the slot.