The Toledo Rockets are a dark horse to make the College Football Playoff, have been predicted to win the MAC West and the Mid-American Conference Championship, and have a lot of talent at the skill positions returning on offense. Nothing could possibly stop them, right?
Well, a suspension of the team’s best player (and in my opinion, the conference’s hottest prospect) would most certainly put a dent into all of those plans. In what the team is calling “a violation of team rules”, Hunt and senior defensive end Allen Covington have been suspended for the next two games by the team.
That’s a 5’11”, 215-pound, burner-back-sized hole that the Rockets will have to fill now that Hunt is unavailable.
Earlier on Monday, Dan Cummins of WTOL and WUPW in Toledo hit social media with the news.
Kareem Hunt and Allen Pearson suspended by @ToledoRockets football for two games.. Broke team rules
— Dan Cummins (@DanCummins11) August 31, 2015
So just what does that mean in the bigger picture?
I already mentioned that the Rockets’ hopes to sneak into the College Football Playoff has taken a serious hit with the suspension of Hunt. Toledo was going to have to win every game, plus the championship to have even a remote chance of cracking the top 4, although they could make one of the “New Year Six” bowls.
CFB Playoff? Unlikely. But yeah. Maybe.
Without Hunt, those chances are pretty much nonexistent. The Rockets will probably get the win versus the FCS Stony Brook Seawolves at home. However, the game where they would need Kareem Hunt the most, versus the Arkansas Razorbacks on the road, is second on the schedule.
The Arkansas game prior to the suspension was cutting pretty close, but with Hunt out, Toledo is all but assured a loss, which would be a major hit to Toledo’s national prestige hopes. Of course, they could salvage those with an “upset” win over Iowa State at the Glass Bowl, but taking out a sleeper in the SEC West looks better than taking a victory from a bottom-dweller in the XII.
In terms of the conference outlook, this wouldn’t affect the race for the MAC West at all, but it could certainly have some sort of impact in the case of a tiebreaker. While Terry Swanson (113 rush, 732 yards, six touchdowns) and Damion Jones-Moore (80 rushes, 460 yards, six touchdowns) are well-valued assets for the Rockets, they simply just aren’t at the same playing level as Hunt.
The true impact that this has is the nuclear option for Kareem Hunt’s chase for individual achievements. Stony Brook would have been a great start for Hunt, who could easily run for 200+ yards and a couple touchdowns against a weak FCS defense. A great performance against Arkansas’ stout defense would put Hunt on the national map and score him recognition for a variety of national awards, including the Doak Walker Award, the Maxwell Award, and potentially even the Heisman Trophy.
Hunt is also chasing the 2,000 yard mark for the season this year, and it will be difficult to catch that number with two less games to play.
Assuming that Toledo plays in 12 games, plus the MAC Championship and a bowl game, Hunt would have to run 167 yards per game just to keep that pace once he comes back in Week 3.
That’s a lot of yardage to average.
Without the MAC Championship, that number balloons to 182 yards per game. The MAC is known for really weak rushing defenses, and Toledo plays six schools that rank 99th or below in that category, but that pace is pretty ridiculous for any back to keep up, even one that has the talent that Kareem Hunt has.
Toledo will have to play nearly perfect while Kareem Hunt is out, and if Hunt comes back rusty, it could spell trouble for his legacy–not to mention his NFL prospects.
For the sake of #MACtion, I certainly hope that this suspension doesn’t affect Toledo in an overly negative manner.