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Opponent preview: hit-or-miss Bowling Green

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OBNUG's game previews are written by reader-turned-contributor Stephen Grettenberg. Because not every article should contain pinings for Marty Tadman.

Boise State vs. Bowling Green

What is with Bowling Green? A team that follows up an away victory over then #25 ranked Pittsburgh 27-17 by getting pasted 42-17 at home by a Minnesota squad that only won one game last year?

Turnovers were a big part of it. Bowling Green lost four out of five fumbles, and QB Tyler Sheehan was intercepted once against Minnesota last week. The Gophers meanwhile recovered their only fumble of the game and finished with zero turnovers. At Pittsburgh, each team had one interception, but Pittsburgh lost all three of their fumbles, and Bowling Green fumbled twice but did not lose any of them. It is hard to win when you are giving the ball away.

Some of that seems to ride on emotion. Bowling Green seemed excited to play Pittsburgh and had a let down against a Minnesota squad that was ridiculed for losing to them last year. Minnesota treated this game like a bowl, a shot at redemption.

Sometimes surprises on paper come from match-ups. Pittsburgh looked great on defense against the run-oriented West Virginia attack to end last year. But Pittsburgh can overpursue and struggle against the run, and offensively, their run-oriented scheme is too one-dimensional.

In both games, Bowling Green was inconsistent, looking great and awful at times. Pittsburgh clearly was overrated, almost losing to Buffalo last week, while Minnesota is getting better.

BGSU on Offense:

Bowling Green has a decent pass-oriented offense. The Falcons like to use multiple quarterbacks and formations. Returning from last year is QB Tyler Sheehan, who had a respectable 3400 yards and 26 TDs. Sheehan will occasionally throw a pick, but he's good at finding his receivers. Anthony Turner is a former quarterback turned running back turned receiver. When lined up behind center, Turner runs at least as much as he throws, and he has a nose for the goal line. I think it is critical for Boise State to keep a linebacker or two at home to watch for the run wherever Turner lines up.

Against both Pittsburgh and Minnesota, a stable of backs ran pretty well, primarily RB Chris Bullock. They have a pretty large receiver rotation, and in each game at least nine people caught the ball. Some of those passes are to the running backs coming out of the backfield.

I think the offense is dynamic and gets the most from coaching, diverse looks, misdirection plays, and some solid skill players. The offensive line is a bit undersized, and Sheehan can be flustered from a solid rush.

BGSU on Defense:

Bowling Green seems to have a better run defense than a passing one. The player of the game for the Falcons at Pittsburgh was CB Antonio Smith who had 12 tackles, two tackles for loss, two pass breakups, a sack, and a forced fumble. While that is impressive, it also tells me something - that Smith was in Pittsburgh's backfield instead of working out against receivers with burner speed downfield like Jeremy Childs and Titus Young. I think it will be interesting to see which BSU receiver the Falcons have Smith cover. Minnesota is a passing team, and they made such gambits pay.

This is a very interesting match-up for Kellen Moore's first start against a Division I-A team. If I am Bowling Green, do I stack against the run, doing my best to contain runners like Johnson, Avery, and Harper and make the unknown freshman quarterback beat me if he can? Bowling Green can come after the quarterback with various stunts including blitzes from the corners and linebackers. Could they shake the young southpaw? Personally, I think Moore could pick them apart if they try that, but it might be Bowling Green's best shot. Unless they stack against the run, I don't see them containing the speed and talent that Boise State's running backs and receivers bring to the plate. The corners need to stay in position on the receivers or Titus Young and Jeremy Childs should be able to burn them deep.

The Game:

I expect Bowling Green to be able to move the ball, but turn it over as well. They are a good team, and they do not want to start the season 1-2. I expect them to be better focused and more consistent than they were against Minnesota. But I don't think the Falcons' defense will be up to the task of containing a balanced attack like Boise State has, unless Kellen Moore gets the jitters. I expect Bowling Green to do its best to make that happen by gambling a bit, and Moore will burn them at least once for a long touchdown.

The Pick:

In a relatively high-scoring game I expect Boise to win by at least two touchdowns.