For the most diehard fans of college football, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) is truly the lifeblood of the sport. Though it’s generally the weakest conference in terms of talent, the salt-of-the-earth makeup of these teams – and constant lack of gap in talent between the top and bottom of the league – make it endearing. The MAC also struck a TV deal with ESPN to broadcast their games on Tuesday and Wednesday in November since 2000. The product, which showcased teams previously unknown to a large chunk of the sports world, became a hit and eventually titled, “MACtion.”
Over the years, MACtion became appointment television for those diehards. With all MAC teams situated somewhere in the Midwest, November nights are a total roulette table of weather. Wind, frigid temperatures, and… snow! are commonplace. And snow is what we got for the debut of MACtion in 2023.
Despite going to school at Bowling Green and living in northern Ohio for most of my life, I never made it to a Toledo football game day. It took until the seventh year of Road to CFB until I finally hit the road for Glass Bowl Stadium. And, boy, was it the game to go to.
Winter Visits Midweek MACtion!
The Glass Bowl Snow Globe
Cut and dry: Unless you have a tailgate to attend, showing up too early to MAC games just isn’t necessary. To really soak in the game day atmosphere, I’m a habitual 4+ hour early arriver. Aside from wanting my pick of parking and avoiding traffic, showing up far too early to campus logistically makes sense to me. But for midweek MAC games, I’d recommend 90 minutes prior to kickoff (again, barring tailgate plans). I find that just enough time to lap the stadium a couple times, view campus, and get inside early.
Many fans choose to get there closer to kickoff. Those that did missed out on one of the most spectacular experiences I’ve ever had at a stadium – a blinding swath of snow. In 20 minutes, an inch of snow fell. Should that squall have kept up, drivers could have been in real trouble. Fortunately for them, it let up in about a half hour.
The field disappeared. The opposite grand stand may well have not existed. As a native Ohioan and snow enthusiast, it was glorious.
By kickoff, the whiteout subsided and the field was eventually cleared. Temperatures were fortunate to crack freezing, but that’s the fun in MACtion. At least for some.
The Crown Jewel Of MAC Football
As a BG grad, this hurts me to say. Toledo puts on the best game day I’ve seen in the MAC yet, even on a Tuesday. Through wind and cold and snow, tailgaters were there early. Perhaps that’s a foregone conclusion for fans of large programs, but that’s exceedingly rare for schools in Conference USA and the MAC. The student-org led tailgate across the street – aptly named “The Launch Pad” was jam-packed long before I arrived.
Toledo isn’t just a rival – the vitriol really is there. Even at this game, one in which my Falcons weren’t a part of, Toledo’s student section included a hearty “F– BG!” after every first down. Every first down.
Glass Bowl Stadium is one of the premier facilities in the conference, too. The south gates are surrounded by a rock-build wall with spines, almost like a medieval castle. The press box towers over the rest of the stadium and, overall, the structure is just impressive. The fan turnout was solid; a reported 14,400 (although that’s the ticket sale number and I can’t imagine 75% of that was there).
The Toledo Rocket football program is also premier. Though the regular MAC championships aren’t quite there, the talent level is.
Better yet, game day is seriously wallet friendly. I paid $12 for the ticket, zero for parking (Lot 19 is really convenient for in/out), and all concessions in the stadium are $5 or less (except alcohol, which is still far below typical stadium pricing). Show up early for $2 off most concession items, including alcohol.
Toledo Football Game Day: Inside The Stadium
The Rockets’ Week 10 matchup landed on Halloween night and Glass Bowl Stadium was prepared. The above photo op was really well thought out and I wish more stadiums had this going on. There’s no bad vantage points in the stadium, either.
Toledo’s anonymous Blue Crew is one of the most well-known fan groups in the country. They don gold masks, wigs, and blue jumpers. Their sole purpose is to spread school spirit and get laughs out of fans, sometimes at your own expense. This day, the Blue Crew decided to start a snowball fight in the student section.
Glass Bowl Stadium also features one of the most strategically-placed student sections in college football. In the south end zone, the stands go right down to field-level. Front-row students are sometimes 20 yards from the players, as was the case tonight when Toledo pinned Buffalo inside the five-yard line a few times. The students are aptly menacing, although the officials had to threaten a 15-yard unsportsmanlike for a dozen snowballs thrown at the players and refs.
An added bonus this game? I ran into Rodger Sherman – a former writer for The Ringer who quit his job to travel the college football landscape this year. His journey picked up a ton of traction thanks to his notoriety in the sports media landscape. (Check out Road Rodge!)
Toledo 31, Buffalo 13
Those who dragged their butts to their seats thanks to a last-minute bathroom break or snack run missed out on a quarter of the fun. Toledo ran back the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to set the tone of the game early. A quick three-and-out and the Rockets got the ball right back. Phenom back Peny Boone then took his first carry of the game 71 yards to the house.
It was a true hellstorm of points scored by Toledo in the first three minutes of play and Buffalo couldn’t recover. Even though Toledo would score just 17 more points the rest of the contest, the Bulls had no chance.
Buffalo QB Cole Snyder threw a pair of interceptions and, as a team, Buffalo turned the ball over four times. The Rockets’ athletic defense flexed their muscles.
Toledo Football Game Day Grades
Stadium: B-. Compared to just the MAC, this one would get an A, rivaled only by Akron. In the grad scheme of stadiums, Glass Bowl Stadium still holds up really well. The castle wall aesthetic is a welcome change. The student section being down on the field practically is a great touch. The stadium is easily navigable, you don’t have to sacrifice eyesight of the field if you don’t want, and there’s no bad seats in the house.
Tradition: C. I could have put this anywhere, but here felt most appropriate. There’s not much in way of different traditions at Toledo. But their two main ones are the Blue Crew and a decommissioned rocket in the north end zone. While a cool visual touch to the grounds, the engineering department aligned it in such a way that, if fired, would land directly at the 50-yard line of rival BG’s Doyt Perry Stadium. It’s truly an unbelievable detail in college football unrivaled by anything else.
Atmosphere: B. For it being a cold Tuesday night, Halloween, snowing, and sparsely filled, the crowd did a really nice job staying loud. Right in front of the student section is a dunk tank that drops a student every time Toledo scores – even in the snow. The game day experience is pretty engaging and the PA announcer is quite good.
Tailgating: C-. I’m judging what I saw on a curved scale, knowing that it was a Tuesday and snowing. Folks showed up. Those that did had some good spreads, although I wasn’t blown away by the quantity. Most tailgating is reserved to one parking lot. Toledo fares much better than most MAC schools, but I’ve seen much more impressive.
Fans: B. Toledo fans are midwesterners through and through and that touches my heart. The fans at UT are kind and conversational. Unrelated note: I didn’t share that I’m a BG grad.
Extracurriculars: D. Maybe I’m biased, but there may not be a city this size with less to do in the city itself. Campus is situated in a part of town you don’t want to wander off into, even if the campus itself is nice. Cities you’re better off visiting include Perrysburg, which is 25 minutes down the interstate. In my time at Bowling Green, more Toledo students came to our bars than anywhere else. If you do like the casino, though, that’s located in Toledo.