Friday, September 01, 2006

Getting to know the Bowling Green Falcons

It's time! Kickoff is in juuuuuuust under 30 hours. I can't focus here at the office. FOOTBALL!!! So here's what you need to know about Bowling Green:

The School

A public school with an enrollment of 20,000, Bowling Green State has been around for a shade under a century. In that time, they've managed to shake the foundations of higher education, establishing the nation's first Popular Culture Department, which resides in a house purchased from a Montgomery Ward catalog. Somehow, this remains the nation's only Popular Culture Department, as most schools haven't yet bought into the notion that watching four years of "The Facts of Life" doesn't actually, you know, educate you.

Fittingly, it seems that BGSU's big-deal alumni work in the entertainment industry. Notable among them are the guy who played Dorf and the T-1000.

Are you sure you want to go for it on 4th and 2 from your own 40?

History of the Series

Bowling Green and UW have clashed twice before. Both games were in Madison, and both were won by the Badgers. Last year's tilt got the year off to a bang, with the teams trading touchdowns and shredding turf. By afternoon's end, 98 points had been scored; 56 belonged to the Badgers. Wisconsin finished the season 10-3, vastly exceeding expectations; the Falcons only managed to go 6-5 despite their offensive weaponry.

The other matchup came in 1992, when Wisconsin (which would go 5-6) whipped Bowling Green (which would go 10-2 with a bowl win) by three touchdowns. The 39 points the Badgers scored that day would be the most they'd put up all season.

The Offense

Slated to be, how you say, not so good. They return three offensive linemen and a couple of receivers, but that is it. Fortunately, the guys they bring back on the line are solid performers (center Lichtensteiger and right guard Markray were all-MAC selections last season), which should provide some running lanes for junior tailback Dan Macon and some protection for quarterback Anthony Turner, a sophomore. Whether these guys are up to the task of keeping their backs off of the turf against Wisconsin's monstrous defensive unit remains to be seen, especially in their first games as starters in what could be considered a road game.

The Defense

Was not good last year, will not be good this year. They gave up over 30 points five times, 44 or more four times (including an inexplicable 45 to Western Michigan). To their credit, they also had five games where they allowed 14 points or fewer ... but the only competent opponent that suffered this fate was Miami of Ohio; the other four teams combined to go 6-38 on the season (and 4 of those wins belonged to the Ohio Bobcats).

They return five starters from last season, and all they can do is hope that the guys who came back have improved and the guys who left are being replaced by people who know how to stop the run.

The Prediction

Given the genuinely green character of most of the UW offense and the hiccups that are inevitable when a new coach takes over, the Falcons aren't destined for the walloping of a lifetime. However, they won't come close to winning this game. Last night we saw MAC schools assert themselves a couple times -- Central Michigan was a boneheaded playcall from potentially tying Boston College, and Toledo couldn't punch in a two-point conversion, costing them the game against Iowa State in triple overtime -- but the Badgers are better than that. They'll go into Cleveland, score a couple times early, then put the game away late in the third or early in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin 28, Bowling Green 3.

Look for:

* Stocco to start, and play well
* Most of the running backs to share the duty, with Lance Smith excelling
* Xavier Harris to pull in a couple nice catches
* The offensive line to protect Stocco well
* Ikegwonu, Langford, and the safeties to be damn shaky
* Everyone else on defense to crunch the poor little Falcons

In other Big Ten action:

Northwestern and Minnesota have already unceremoniously torn their overmatched opponents asunder, so that leaves us with eight games to talk about:

Vanderbilt at Michigan: SEC power Vanderbilt visits the Big House, home of LLLLLoyd Carr and the Underachievers. Still, UM wins by four touchdowns. Michigan 38, Vanderbilt 10

Idaho at Michigan State: If you watch this on TV, make sure to count how many meaningless ways they try to work in John L. Smith's connections to both schools. Also, keep an ear out for the phrase "hot seat." MSU 60, Idaho 13

Montana at Iowa
Indiana State at Purdue
Eastern Illinois at Illinois

These games are all embarrassments. They will not be close. They should not have been scheduled.

Akron at Penn State: It'll be interesting to see how Anthony Morelli performs in his debut as starter, and although it'll be too early to really draw any conclusions, we might get an indicator of whether the stable of sophomores is super or slumping. Penn State 24, Akron 10

Northern Illinois at Ohio State: Won't be as close as people are making it out to be. OSU 38, NIU 17

Western Michigan at Indiana: Don't let the fact that this is Indiana mislead you; there will be no MAC upset today. IU 27, WMU 15