A month ago this looked like it could be a tough game, but most Gopher fans assumed if we were improved this would be a win. Well, after a close win over Northern Illinois and Bowling Green's upset of #25 Pitt, we are now the underdog.
In a game that is being highly anticipated by the Falcons, the Gophers are going to get a good road test which should really help us gauge where this team is in comparison to last year.
General Bowling Green Thoughts
The Falcons used an eight win season, 2007 bowl appearance and an experienced roster to jump start the 2008 season with a significant road win over a ranked team. They have their sights set on a MAC Championship. I was able to exert my BCS blogging influence over BJ from Falcon Nation and required him to respond to some of my questions on the Bowling Green Falcons. He was kind enough to respond as I was to him.
1. What a win for the Falcons in week one. What is going on here? Is Bowling Green underrated or was Pittsburgh vastly overrate living off their West Virginia upset from 2007?
Well, a little of both. I actually posted that I thought Pitt was making too much of the West Virginia upset, and a couple fans come onboard to dispute me. I didn't remember it as some momentous victory and I had a moment of ironic satisfaction on my way back to the car when I saw a T-shirt for sale that had the score of the game. Pitt has some players, but lots of problems, and we out-coached them big time. Wannstedt is back on the hot seat there. We also made plays on defense, and took care of the ball, both of which helped us win, despite a statistical inferority. So, far, I think we were underrated to start the season, but that's still a work in progress.
No, Tyler did not have big numbers against Pitt. He did get some plays when we needed it, and we were good on third down. His accuracy was somewhat low. He did have some drops, but there are always drops. I think you can expect BG to throw the ball a lot more than we did against Pitt, (more along the lines of what you saw last year), and perhaps a little more upfield, too.
Yes, we will. Willie Geter will be back for the game, and we must run the ball for our attack to succeed. In fact, its amazing to us we won the game against Minnestoa last year with as little running as we did, and I don't think we'd be able to pull it off again. A couple notes on running. First, don't forget that we have two WRs (Anthony Turner and Freddie Barnes) who we direct snap to for some variety, and you can expect to see that again. And second, when the passing game is wokring, it opens up big holes for the running backs, so we will run, even if its a change of pace run.
A couple things about this year's D. First, we're very experienced. We have lots back from last year, and we expect to be better than we were last season. At least against Pitt, we tackled better, and we eventually started staying home on the weakside, and that kept their run game bottled up. The defensive backfield is chock full of playmakers. We were worried about the D-Line, but they seemed to rally against Pitt, but that's a week-to-week thing. One other change is that we seemed to be much more aggressive against Pitt, but they were using a West Coast Offense, which I believe gives more blitzing opportunities than a quick-fire spread.
There is huge anticipation for this game. Check here for proof. While other BCS teams have played here, there has never been a Big 10 team play in our stadium. As someone who has been attending games there for 35 years, its a day I often thought would never come. We expect a very big or sell-out crowd, and I think Falcon fans will be really keyed up. We play everyday in the shadow of the Big 10, and having a Big 10 team in our stadium is huge.
When Bowling Green has the ball...
Despite what BJ says expect them to throw, then throw, then throw and then throw again. Maybe they'll sprinkle in a draw or two. But they were able to throw on the Gopher secondary all day in 2007 so I would expect more of the same.
If you want some encouragement, in 2007 the Gopher defense made great second half adjustments and staged an impressive comeback. After giving up 289 yards in the first half they limited the Falcons to just 148 in the second. Overall the numbers were brutal but maybe we figured something out.
But that was 2007 and this is 2008. Personally I think this will be a great test for the new Gopher defense. We are on the road against a good team with a strong passing attack. If they want to show us they are improved this would be the perfect opportunity of which to take advantage. Watch for a lot of formations, direct snaps to others in the backfield and an overall creative gameplan by the Falcons. They should be fun to watch, especially if we can stop them!
When Minnesota has the ball...
The Falcon defense is pretty strong, but I am still confident that we'll be able to move the ball. I'll dip into the 2007 well again and point out that we rushed for 265 yards in the double OT loss. I don't think we'll approach that number again but I also think Weber will improve upon his 188 yards throwing the ball. I liked how in game one Dunbar found different ways to get Decker the ball, used Bennett on pass plays and utilized the TE. I'd like to see Spry get involved along with some of the young guys like Pittman or Green.
I don't know many specifics of the Bowling Green defense but I think we should be able to move the ball and get into the endzone.
What to expect
Bowling Green is coming off a big win and they are pretty excited to host a Big Ten school. They feel they have a great shot to win back to back games against a BCS opponent and put themselves on the map. I expect they'll come out jacked up for what may be a sold out stadium.
The Gophers are underdogs and some think by a lot. This will be a great test for the rebuilt defense and I think they do just enough to pull it out. We shut down their running game and a late Tramaine Brock interception is the difference as we win a close one.
Minnesota - 35
Bowling Green - 34
I tend to drink the kool-aid during the week leading up to games. PJS is not so optimistic and is often more accurate because of it.
Minnesota - 24
Bowling Green - 31