Boise State 2009 opponent preview: Bowling Green

The highlight of Bowling Green's 2008 season may very well have been losing 20-7 to the Broncos in Boise last September. It was a loss that felt like a win, or at least vice versa for Bronco fans because that's totally how I felt.

The rest of BG's season didn't exactly go how they had hoped. What began with a win over a ranked Pitt team ended with an up-and-down MAC performance, and once the dust settled, the Falcons sat at a middling 6-6 with no bowl game. Head coach Gregg Brandon was fired. Tennessee OC flameout Dave Clawson was brought in. It was a change made simply for the sake of making a change.

The fact is that the Falcons weren't all that bad, especially when they were playing teams whose offenses couldn't get on track (cough*BoiseState*cough). The numbers don't lie, but then again, neither does the record. Bowling Green will have to find the truth between the two this season.

Wins in 2008: 6
Pythagorean Wins in 2008: 7.2
Translation: Bowling Green underachieved and could be markedly better this year
Returning starters: Offense: 7, Defense: 3
Strength of Schedule: 83
Recruiting ranking 2005-2009: 100, 75, 98, 107, 87 (nat'l ranking from Scout.com)

Five questions

Did Gregg Brandon get a bad rap?

According to the numbers, yes. Yes, he did. Brandon was a solid coach at Bowling Green, going 44-30 in six years, which is typically pretty good job security in the MAC.

I would hate to think that Brandon's firing had tons to do with his 2008. Yes, Bowling Green underachieved, but they weren't all that far from being a bowl team. They lost four games by single digits, including a double overtime loss to Buffalo. At the very least, Brandon leaves a relatively good foundation for new coach Clawson to build on and a winning tradition that apparently wasn't good enough.

What is Freddie Barnes up to?

Some Bronco fans might remember Barnes as that guy everyone was talking about prior to the Boise State game. I choose to remember him as that guy who had 48 yards, six catches, and no touchdowns.

Still, Barnes is the playmaker on the offense at Bowling Green. Senior QB Tyler Sheehan will be looking his way often, and now that Barnes is in the more traditional position to have only one position (Clawson tends toward running the ball with a running back and not BGSU's anarchaic running style), he could have a half-decent year. Expect people to remind you of this again prior to the BSU game.

Is defense going to be a priority for the Falcons?

It's on their to-do list, but they are asking for your patience. The Falcons lost eight starters off of last year's defense. Maybe their newfound running game emphasis will keep opposing offense on the bench and, therefore, out of the end zone.

Is that really a possibility?

Probably not. BGSU graduated its leading rusher.

How was Dave Clawson's 2008?

Let me have a Tennessee fan explain.

Schedule around the Boise State game

@ Missouri, 9/12
@ Marshall, 9/19
Vs. Boise State, 9/26
Vs. Ohio, 10/3, homecoming

By the numbers

5
Number of running backs in Bowling Green's 2009 recruiting class

247-167
Score through first three quarters for Bowling Green, who somehow still managed to finish 6-6 despite the 80-point difference.

Bowling Green has the pieces in place to be a bowl team this season. They are not overtly horrible at a lot of positions. They have a senior quarterback with three years of starting experience.

If only they had a coach who had been with the team for, say, six years or so!

Clawson can be successful with this Bowling Green team, but in order to do so, he's going to have to find consistency late in games and a running back who can churn MAC defenses up. So long as this running back is not Freddie Barnes, the offense will be in good shape.

The defense will be the other big question mark for BGSU, and it could come back to bite them more often than the Falcons would want. For sure, it's not going to help when the Broncos come to town. But so long as BGSU keeps the game within 13, it'll at least feel like another win.

Perfect situation:
Sheehan plays like an all-conference quarterback, the defense stands idly by as opposing offenses roll over in submission, Bowling Green wins the MAC East, Gregg Brandon is posthumously given coach of the year

Reality:
The Falcons hang tight for the majority of their schedule and come out with an above .500 record, play in a bowl game, come back strong in 2010 with a chance of winning the conference

Final record:
7-5, 5-3 conference

Previous previews of 2009 opponents: Oregon. Miami (Ohio). Still to come: Everyone else.

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