Date: Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Location: Boca Raton, Florida | FAU Stadium
Best moment: Road wins against SEC teams are a prized commodity in any league and for any team, so the Mid-American Conference and the Rockets celebrated after an eye-opening victory at Arkansas early in September in Little Rock. If Toledo coach Matt Campbell wasn’t already on the radar of Power 5 programs before this season, edging the physical Razorbacks for a 16-12 victory certainly solidified his case as one of the up-and-coming stars in the profession. The victory also put the Rockets in line to earn a ranking from the College Football Playoff committee, another historic achievement for the program.
Lowest moment: The Rockets can take their pick between two disappointing options, but odds are blowing their second chance to win the conference and potentially crash the New Year’s Six party as the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion will get the nod. Hours after appearing in the initial rankings, Toledo dropped a 32-27 decision to its tormentor, Northern Illinois. But it was the regular-season finale that will really sting down the road, as the Rockets clawed back into position in both the league and the poll only to fall 35-30 at home to Western Michigan and miss out on a truly special opportunity.
Key player: The workload is split in the backfield between two talented options, and the yardage is almost as even as the carries for Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson. The 1-2 punch has proved quite effective for the Rockets and helps keep both guys fresh, which has led to more than 870 yards each and 17 total touchdowns for the tandem. When quarterback Phillip Ely is able to get the offense rolling through the air, the Rockets are extremely dangerous -- but it’s Hunt and Swanson who do most of the work.
Motivation level: Below average. The Rockets have blown a pair of golden opportunities to win a title and reach one of the biggest stages in college football, and that disappointment would be tough enough to deal with on its own. But now the program is also preparing for life without Campbell as he moves on to Iowa State, and while that might inspire Toledo to prove it will be just fine down the road, in the short term it might also be a distraction for a team already licking some wounds. -- Austin Ward
Best moment: Sept. 5 vs. Penn State. If you ask coach Matt Rhule, he will say the best moment came a week after this game, when the Owls avoided a letdown and beat preseason league favorite Cincinnati on the road. Or the week before the Notre Dame game, when Temple avoided looking ahead to the bells and whistles of College GameDay and won at East Carolina behind a strong fourth quarter. But there’s no getting around the significance of a 27-10 season-opening win over Rhule’s alma mater, the in-state Big Ten program that had repeatedly ripped the Owls’ hearts out. The victory set the tone for the season to come.
Lowest moment: Nov. 14 at USF. It is hard to describe the kind of roll that USF was on going into this game, but Temple’s dominant defense sure did not look the part in this game against the Bulls, a 44-23 loss. This, of course, is a more excusable loss than the Notre Dame game — and more meaningful, since it was a league game. Fortunately for the Owls, they bounced back to win their next two games and clinch the East division.
Key player: LB Tyler Matakevich. It might not be a stretch to say Matakevich has emerged as one of the best players in program history. He was a unanimous all-league selection in addition to being the conference’s defensive player of the year. He was the only FBS player to lead his team in tackles in each regular-season game, and he broke the 100-tackle mark in each of his four seasons. Matakevich is also a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy.
Motivation level: High. For Temple football, each big game remains an opportunity to make a national statement. The Owls delivered in Week 1 by beating Penn State. They had nothing to hang their heads about after losing to Notre Dame in the final minutes on Oct. 31. But the league title game simply did not go their way. This will be a chance to atone for it, as Temple aims for its first 11-win season in program history. Moreover, this is just the school's fifth bowl appearance, and they will not take it for granted after being left at home during the postseason last year despite going 6-6. -- Matt Fortuna