For the second-straight week, Murray State football gets the privilege of being another FBS team's home-opening opponent, when the Racers hit the road this Saturday for a matchup in the Glass Bowl against the Mid-American Conference-based Toledo Rockets.
It's the second and final pay-game for the season, this time bringing in $350,000 to a program looking for a jump start in capital funds.
But just like last week in Athens against No. 3 Georgia, this game means more than just money.
It's another chance to create brand recognition, another chance to garner national exposure ... and another critical opportunity to compete against a top-tier FBS opponent.
Fifth-year MSU coach Mitch Stewart and his team will be up against a Rocket squad that's been building under the direction of fourth-year coach Jason Candle. He's led Toledo to a 28-14 record over the span, three-straight bowl appearances and scrounged up three-straight top recruiting classes in the MAC (according to 247sports.com).
His first collegiate win came as Toledo's interim in 2015, when former Rockets skipper Matt Campbell accepted the job at Iowa State. The Rockets would go on to beat No. 24 Temple in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl, 32-17.
"This is another really, really good opponent," Stewart said. "And kind of shockingly. And I say that: they were picked to win their side of the (MAC). They're picked to win their division. Their skill players are tremendous. Their team speed offensively and defensively, and their returners? Their skill players are some of the best, most dynamic skill players I've seen. They're really, really good.
"Their defensive front is pretty good, and they've got one dude who can go. He's probably going to be a Sunday player. Offensively, their offensive line isn't going to be as big as what we just faced ... which was the biggest offensive line in the NFL, let alone in college football. They won't be as big. But they're very physical. They do some nice things schematically offensively."
Translation: this ain't your grandma's normal "MAC-and-cheese."
Stewart and his staff have some familiar tape to work with, too. Toledo opened its season two weeks ago with a gritty 38-24 road loss to the University of Kentucky, in which the Rockets either held the lead or were tied with the Wildcats well into the third quarter until a late concussion to dynamic starting quarterback Mitchell Guadagni (7-for-12, 122 yards passing; 14 carries, 73 yards rushing, one touchdown) forced backup quarterback Carter Bradley (4-for-13, 44 yards, one interception; five carries, 3 yards, one touchdown) into action.
"They've got a quarterback that can run," Stewart added. "And when I say run, he's a true dual-threat guy. He got a concussion against Kentucky, so I think we're kind of waiting to see who will play that quarterback spot, because from what I've understood, it's his third concussion in five games or something like that. They're trying to figure out where he's at. But if he shows up on the field, and you let that dude outside your contain? You're in trouble. Because he's like a receiver back there running around.
"They gave Kentucky all they wanted, now. That was a good game. They were either tied, led or down just a little bit other than about five minutes of that football game. They were rolling. They did some good things against the University of Kentucky."
Earlier this week on the MAC teleconference, Candle spoke on Guadagni's health, and noted that if Saturday's game had been played earlier in the week -- say, Thursday or Friday -- his star quarterback would be sitting on the sidelines.
If it's not Guadagni, then Toledo will almost certainly roll with its freshman quarterback in Bradley, who came to the Rockets as a 3-star, top-20 pro-style quarterback from Jacksonville, Florida, in the Class of 2018.
"We'll continue to evaluate Mitch's health this week, and we hope to have him for this game," Candle said. "If we played today, it'd probably be a 'no-go.' He was questionable going into this week. But we'll see how this week goes and hopefully we get a chance to him back.
"But as far as Carter's experience, obviously that's invaluable. You're going on the road against an SEC opponent (in Kentucky), and it's not the stage that you can replicate in preseason practice, that's for sure. But to get him in there, get some live bullets flying at him ... At times he made some really good plays, and at times he made some mistakes. They weren't plays you expect a young player to make, but you understand why a young player would make them.
"Now, the real work begins. It's not the fool that makes the mistake, but the one that never learns from it."
If the Racers somehow contain the Guadagni-Bradley combination and deal with Toledo's skill-position players, they'll still have to find a way to stop Rockets sophomore running back Bryant Koback.
Against Kentucky, he ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries, and he's fresh off of rookie season that wasn't rookie-like at all: 153 carries, 917 yards, a hefty 6.0 yards per carry and 14 rushing touchdowns.
Did you know?
• Current Alabama coach Nick Saban was the lead man at Toledo in 1990, when the Rockets finished 9-2 and as co-champions of the MAC. He left there in 1991 to become the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator under famed New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
• This is the first time since 2015 in which the Racers will have played two FBS opponents in the same season.
• MSU is 3-30-1 all-time against FBS opponents; its last win against the FBS came in 1984 (against Louisville).
• The Racers have scored in 156 consecutive games, which is two games away from the Top 10 streaks in FCS history.
Murray State vs. Toledo
Time: 6 p.m. Saturday
Location: Toledo, Ohio
Venue: Glass Bowl (26,038)
MSU Head Coach: Mitch Stewart (16-30, 5th year)
UT Head Coach: Jason Candle (28-14, 4th year)
All-Time Series: First Meeting
Listen Live: Froggy 103.7 FM (PxP: Neal Bradley, Color: Aaron Clayton)
Follow Live: ESPN+, @alwillmansports, @dreamarlowe85, @PgriffithMSU, @RacersFootball
By the Numbers
PPG 38.0 24.0
PA 41.5 38.0
YPG 374.5 347.0
RYPG 136.0 181.0
PYPG 238.5 166.0
DYPG 403.0 422.0
RYA 157.5 176.0
PYA 245.5 246.0
TO Diff. plus-3 even