Liberty (8-4) and Toledo (8-5) will meet Tuesday night in the 2022 Boca Raton Bowl in South Florida. The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kick from FAU Stadium as the Flames look to win a fourth straight bowl game.

“They started off really hot,” said Liberty interim head coach Josh Aldridge. “They easily could be a 10-win football team. They lost their last two going into the championship game. You’re talking about a team that could have easily had 10, 11 wins. A really well coached football team. Not your typical MAC school, per se. When you think of the MAC, you typically think of a Group of Five Big Ten, big, powerful, strong, not as much going to test you all blades of grass on the field. These guys are not that way. They’ve got a lot of speed on the outside especially and at quarterback. It will be based on a lot of the teams we’ve faced.””

The Rockets won their fourth Mid-American Conference Championship in their seventh conference championship game appearance since 1997 earlier this month.  Toledo began the year with a 2-0 record after defeating Long Island and UMass by a combined score of 92-10.

After setbacks to Ohio State and San Diego State, Toledo raced out to a 5-1 mark in conference play, clinching a MAC West title and clinching a spot in the conference championship game for the first time since 2017. The Rockets would drop two straight games to end the regular season before rebounding with a win over Ohio in the MAC title game. Similar to Liberty, of Toledo’s five losses, four of them came by one score or fewer.

Jason Candle is in his 7th season as the head coach at Toledo, leading them to five bowl games during that time. That doesn’t include the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl when he was the interim head coach. Candle is 53-32 in his tenure at Toledo after serving as an assistant coach for the Rockets beginning in 2009.

Quarterback Dequan Finn has led one of the top offenses in the conference this season. He has completed 59.11% of his passes for 2,127 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He’s a dual threat option, having rushed for 608 yards and 8 touchdowns this year while fighting through injuries throughout the season.

Jerjuan Newton is an explosive playmaker on the perimeter for Finn and the Rockets. He has caught 48 passes for 788 yards and 9 touchdowns. Four other receivers have at least 22 receptions and 3 touchdowns during the season. Jacquez Stuart has led Toledo in rushing, averaging 5.9 yards per carry while rushing for 659 yards and 4 touchdowns this year.

Toledo also features on of the MAC’s top defenses, holding opponents to just over 25 points per contest during conference play. The front seven is highlighted by defensive tackle Desjuan Johnson and Jamal Hines. The two veterans have combined for 92 tackles for loss and 37 sacks during their careers.

“Yeah, I think they are really good in the back end,” Aldridge said of the Toledo defensive secondary. “They are much faster at the skill position than you would expect most MAC teams. Really impressed with how they’ve recruited. We’ll have to make sure we play really fundamentally sound at wide receiver if we want to get off any press look by that guy.”

Linebackers Dallas Gant and Dyontae Johnson each earned All-MAC honors following the 2022 regular season. The dynamic combo each went over 100 tackles on the season with Gant leading the way with 113. Quinyon Mitchell tied for the MAC lead with 5 interceptions while leading the league with 17 pass breakups.

“I just want to see us compete and have fun. I think if we do that, we will probably win. If we will go out there and play with high energy and effort, we’re talented enough to go out there and compete with a lot of people. We are playing a good football team, but I think we can be hungry and go out there and play with energy and effort, I think we will like what the scoreboard says at the end.”


Liberty 28, Toledo 24

Line: Liberty +4.5

Picks results this year:
Straight-up: 8-4
ATS: 8-4