We have officially passed the 40-day mark before the start of the 2013 college football season. As the countdown to kickoff rolls along, so to does our look ahead at the 2013 season. Last week we took a look at the first two games of the season. This week we will be breaking down the second half of the Hoosiers non-conference slate. Today we will be setting our sights on Week Three when the Indiana Hoosiers will play host to the Mid-American Conference, Bowling Green Falcons.
Week 3: Bowling Green Falcons
Time & Date: 12 pm, Saturday, Sept. 14th
Venue: Memorial Stadium (Bloomington, IN)
Falcons at a Glance:
Head Coach: Dave Clawson (22-28, 4 years)
Last Season: 8-5 (6-2, MAC)
Returning Team Leaders:
Passing: Matt Schilz (55.2%, 2585 Yds, 14 TD, 12 INT)
Rushing: Jamel Martin (205 Yds, 5.3 Avg, 0 TD)
Receiving: Chris Gallon (54 Rec., 720 Yds, 13.3 Avg, 6 TD)
Preseason Magazine Predictions for Bowling Green:
Athlon: 8-5 (7-1), 1st Place MAC East
Lindy’s: 3rd Place MAC East
Phil Steele: 1st Place MAC East
Why the Falcons could win:
Week Three of the 2013 season will mark the first time that the Hoosiers face off against Bowling Green. In fact it is only the second time in the past five years that the Falcons have faced a Big Ten opponent, something of a draught for a Mid-American Conference team.
However, that does not mean that they have been taking it easy as four of the Falcons’ last five BCS matchups were against ranked opponents. Dave Clawson’s squad should not be overwhelmed by the bigger stage, and in fact should provide a tough challenge for an Indiana team that has shown a propensity to drop games against MAC opponents. In fact the Hoosiers have dropped games against a MAC team in three of the last five years.
As the numbers bear out, the Falcons are quite the experienced group, having 19 of a possible 22 starters returning to play in 2013. They are lead by a three-year starter under center in Matt Schilz. The California native has thrown for nearly eight thousand yards so far in his colligate career. An offensive line that is returning four starters, and is considered by many to be among the best in the MAC, will protect the senior signal caller. In addition his two top receiving threats are returning. In 2012, Chris Gallon and Shaun Joplin combined for 1,359 yards and 10 touchdowns. With another year under their belts expect them to take another step forward in trying to form a more dynamic offense.
The true strength of this Eagles team lies on the defensive side of the ball. All but two starters return to a unit that allowed just 16.8 points per game, good enough for a top-10 national finish in the category. It is not just the starters that return, Bowling Green has returning depth, something that is rare at the college level. This experienced squad held teams to 10 points or less on five different occasions last season.
Why They Won’t Pull it Off:
While Schilz is the returning starter, he took a very obvious step back during his third season at the helm of the Falcons offense. In camp the more athletic Matt Johnson will push him for the starting job. It will be a very interesting storyline to see how the quarterbacks, and even more so, the team around them reacts to the competition. It’s always a dangerous play to question the abilities of a three-year starter heading into his senior campaign.
In addition the Eagles have basically lost their entire running game after leading rusher, Anthon Samuel, decided to take a semester off to deal with personal issues. It is unclear at the moment as to the status of Samuel for the 2013 season. However, based on the assumption that he will not be with the team, that would mean the Falcons would have to find a new lead back to tote the rock.
While statistically Bowling Green had one heck of a defense in 2012, when you break it down game-by-game that is not so much the case. In the Falcons six matchups against Bowl opponents last season, they allowed 28 points per game, and won just one such contest. The 26 points was nearly 10 points more per game than their average for the year.
That being said, an offense such as the Hoosiers, with their explosive nature and variety of options could make for a rough time for Bowling Green. The Hoosiers averaged 30.8 points per game last year, and that number jumped up during the non-conference slate to 34.5.
The Hoosiers might look to some of their lesser used, yet still potent weapons on the offensive side of the ball. With the Falcons returning such a veteran and deep secondary look for the offensive staff to put the ball in Stephen Houston's hands to pace the offense on the ground. When Indiana does opt to air it out, don't be surprised if tight end Ted Bolser sees a heavy dose of balls thrown his way. This is clearly not the conventional plan of attack for IU. It is however a way to take advantage of Bowling Green's weakness, while featuring the lesser utilized, but still talented players on the offensive side of the ball.
While the Hoosiers have had trouble recently with Mid-American Conference opponents of late, the fact is that all three of those loses have come against Ball State. The Cardinals just seem to have Indiana’s number. If you take a step back and look at the history of Indiana against MAC teams they are 35-8-1 overall.
This is the first game on the 2013 schedule for the Hoosiers that isn’t a rematch from last season. In fact these two programs have never faced off before. Heading into Week Three both coaches should have a better read on where they stand as a team. Each of these squads enters the year with nineteen returning starters, so a crisp, well-played affair should be in order.
While on paper this is a game that the Hoosiers should win, it will not be that easy. For one thing, this veteran Bowling Green squad will have their sights set on an upset of a Big Ten team when they enter Memorial Stadium. Then take a look at the Indiana schedule. This is a classic letdown game. Placed right between Navy, a team that beat IU by a single point in 2012, and Missouri, the Hoosiers most anticipated non-conference game of the season. It is also a noon game after back-to-back games under the lights for Indiana. It will be a real test for the Kevin Wilson and the rest of the staff to make sure their team is focused for what could be a very well placed trap.