At 35, Toledo head coach Matt Campbell is the second-youngest coach in the FBS. He’s also led the No. 19 Rockets to a 6-0 start and a top-20 national ranking.
What’s been the key to having so much success at such a young age?
“Well, for me, I think it’s being around great people coming up through the early part of the coaching process,” Campbell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “And being around guys like Larry Kehres at Mount Union and obviously the tremendous success they had. Even guys like Gregg Brandon who was the offensive coordinator for Coach Meyer down at Bowling Green. That experience there was tremendous – a great coaching staff with a lot of great people. So I think I’ve been really fortunate to be around a lot of really good people at a young age.”
Toledo put itself on the map with a 16-12 win at then-No. 18 Arkansas on Sept. 12. The Rockets have since won five games by an average of 25 points.
Obviously Campbell was hoping to beat the Razorbacks, but did he expect it?
“It’s been really interesting,” he said. “This will be the fourth year as the head coach in this program, and we’ve been really close in those games the last couple of years. We played Missouri, who obviously the last two years had won the SEC-West and had been really close. We played down at The Swamp my first year, so we’ve had the ability to play in some of those games, but just not finish. A lot of those games, as we had looked back, those were the games where we either turned the ball over or (had) some self-inflicted wounds. I think what it has given our kids and our program is the belief that No. 1, we can play with anybody, but No. 2, to win those games, you’ve got to execute and you got to out-execute those people. I think you look back to the Arkansas game – and really all the way through the season – I think the one thing this team has understood is execution and the ability to not have those self-inflicted wounds that obviously lose you close ball games. I thought that really helped us through the early part of the season.”
Toledo, which plays at UMass (1-5) this Saturday, will be favored in each of its final five games of the regular season. Even if the Rockets run the table, though, they almost certainly wouldn’t get a spot in the College Football Playoff. That’s unfortunate, especially given the underdog stories we’ve seen in March Madness with teams such as George Mason and Butler.
Campbell, however, is only focused on what he can control.
“You’re talking to a guy that played Division III football and obviously coached in it – where there was a tournament and there was the ability to find out who the No. 1 team is in the country – and I think we’re getting close to that in the Division I football world,” Campbell said. “I think the world of the bowl games and the bowl system and what it can bring to a campus and a university, but I’m also excited about where we’re going. I do know for some of the non-Power Five schools, the opportunity to play a major university in a major bowl game, those opportunities exist. And I think what that can do for a school like Toledo or especially what Boise State has been able to capitalize on is create a culture of elite success. I think that’s something we’ve been able to look at, watch from a distance and say, ‘Man, that’s something we can really work to attain and create in our own environment in the University of Toledo.”