Bowling Green at Michigan
KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
SERIES: Michigan leads 1-0. Last meeting (2000, Michigan, 42-7).
RECORDS: Michigan 3-0, Bowling Green 1-2.
POLLS: Michigan (21 AP, 22 USA Today).
PREDICTION: Michigan 37-20
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- Bowling Green put up 40-plus points on Marshall last weekend, so the Falcons can score, and after the shaky performance by the Michigan defense against UMass, Bowling Green will be looking for vulnerabilities. Michigan's best approach is to give its defense a break, sustain its drives and not let the Falcons build any confidence. Michigan's tailbacks need to take more of the load off QB Denard Robinson and give Bowling Green more to worry about.
-- The quarterback play on both sides is the key to the game. Because of a shoulder sprain to Matt Schilz, the starter for the first three games this season, the Falcons will probably have to go with an unproven starter. The top candidates to replace Schilz are redshirt sophomore Aaron Pankratz, who has played in two games in his college career, walk-on Kellen Pagel or true freshman Trent Hurley. Meanwhile, Bowling Green's defense must contain UM's Denard Robinson, who is averaging 223.7 yards through the air and another 186.3 on the ground. He leads the country with 410.0 yards total offense per game. BG head coach Dave Clawson said preparing for the option game is difficult, because none of the five QBs on Bowling Green's roster are option quarterbacks. "It's not like our defense sees it a ton because we don't ask our quarterbacks to do that, that much," Clawson said.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Michigan has been humming along offensively, gaining in excess of 500 yards of total offense in its past two games. The Wolverines have more than 1,530 yards of offense just three games into the season. The key is to keep the offense evolving, and not be too predictable. QB Denard Robinson has carried too much of the workload to date, so the tailbacks and receivers need to be more productive. Bowling Green probably can't stop Michigan if it keeps things simple, but the Wolverines need to develop more diversity for coming dates.
The Wolverines opened the season against UConn looking like it had spent the winter patching up a rather flimsy defense. In the second game against Notre Dame, the Wolverines wobbled more, and last week against UMass, they looked like they could not stop anyone -- again. After giving up 439 yards and 37 points to the Minutemen, Michigan needs to be much stronger against the run, slow the Bowling Green spread and regain some confidence before plunging into the Big Ten schedule.
Bowling Green has shown improvement on offense since the start of the season, but without Schilz the Falcons could take a step back against the Wolverines. The key will be their ability to control the ball; look for RB Willie Geter to get looks, both running the ball and in the screen game. The Falcons might have some hope after Massachusetts scored 37 points against Michigan on Sept. 18. Michigan took a 35-13 lead into the fourth quarter against UMass before giving up 20 points in the last 15 minutes.
In each of Bowling Green's last four games, dating back to the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl, the Falcons have given up a late score, either at the end of the first half or at the end of the game. The most recent was Marshall's 54-second scoring drive in the final minute of the first half. The touchdown cut Bowling Green's lead to 28-14 and took away some of the Falcons' momentum heading into the locker room. Marshall came out and scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to tie the score at 28 heading into the fourth quarter. "Our two-minute defense right now is not very good," BG head coach Dave Clawson said. "That's troublesome. We've got to look at what we're doing in those situations. We can't give up scores with short clocks."
Wolverines: Michigan is back in action after a closer-than-expected 42-37 victory over FCS power Massachusetts last week ... Michigan has rushed for over 280 yards in each of its first three games: 287 vs. UConn, 288 at ND and 284 vs. UMass ... The Wolverines defense has forced six turnovers (two fumbles, four interceptions). QB Denard Robinson leads the nation in rushing and total offense ... Robinson has three of the top 10 single-game offensive productions in Michigan history ... S Jordan Kovacs has back-to-back double-digit tackle efforts (10 at Notre Dame and 11 vs. UMass) ... G Stephen Schilling will be making his team-leading 40th career start ... Michigan is 26-1 in school history against MAC teams. All of the games have been played at Michigan Stadium. TheWolverines only loss to a MAC team came against Toledo in 2008 ... Michigan leads the nation with 880 victories in school history ... Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is 8-3 in non-conference games with the Wolverines ... QB Denard Robinson has 18 runs this season over 10 yards, including five over 20 yards. In the fourth quarter of Michigan's three games this season, Robinson has completed 17 of 22 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown ... The Wolverines rank second nationally in fewest sacks allowed, sixth in rushing and 10th in total offense ... Michigan is the nation's worst team in returning punts. The Wolverines also are tied for 112th in fewest sacks, 106th in net punting, 102nd in pass defense and 100th in total defense. Robinson leads the nation in rushing and total offense and is seventh in all-purpose yardage.
Falcons: Bowling Green has been the most effective team from the MAC in games against Big Ten foes. Since 2000, the Falcons have won four of their nine games against Big Ten teams, including a 32-31 overtime triumph at Minnesota ... Since 2001, BGSU is 11-9 against teams from BCS conferences ... Junior WR Kamar Jorden leads the nation with 34 receptions ... Bowling Green's defense came up with big plays in the Falcons' victory over Marshall last week, producing four interceptions and returning two of the picks for touchdowns.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Tate Forcier -- The sophomore is potentially a ticking time bomb, with no one quite certain how long he will hang around and watch his eligibility disappear while Robinson continues to lead the team. Forcier is not happy with the situation, and hasn't made much effort to hide his discontent.
WR Martavious Odoms -- With teams focusing more and more on slowing the running of Robinson, the Wolverines have to open up more and more of the passing game. Odoms has 81 receptions for 845 yards and one touchdown in his Michigan career.
OL David Molk -- The two-time Rimington Trophy candidate has made 19 starts at center in his career, and after missing eight games in 2009 with knee and foot injuries, appears to be back as the leader up front. Michigan owes a lot of its offensive success to Molk and his comrades.
RB Willie Geter -- A senior, Geter had one of his better games in the win over Marshall, finishing with 100 rushing yards on 31 carries, catching five passes for 86 yards, and picking up the blitz while in pass protection. With five minutes remaining in the game and the Falcons looking to run out the clock against Marshall, Geter got 10 carries for 45 yards, helping to take the game clock down to zero. Marshall was also getting to QB Matt Schilz with some pressure and the Falcons went to the screen pass three times, with Geter making three receptions for 74 yards. Geter had a key 47-yard gain on a screen which set up the go-ahead field goal for the Falcons in the fourth quarter. Geter needs 72 yards to move into the No. 15 all-time spot on BG's career rushing list.
K/P Bryan Wright -- The transfer graduate student is returning to the University of Michigan, where he earned three letters mainly as a kickoff specialist. For the Falcons, Wright has done it all -- PATs, field goals, kickoffs and punting. He has been inconsistent through the first three games, but has shown at different times that he can handle every area of the kicking. Wright will need to be perfect against Michigan, because one bad kick of any sort could be the difference-maker.
LB/S Jerry Gates -- Nicknamed "Boo Boo," the true freshman has worked himself into a significant role on defense, playing the rover spot. He returned an interception 29 yards for a TD against Marshall and finished with four tackles. The coaches like Gates' athleticism and size and he should be more of a factor as the season progresses.
OL John Ferrara (hand, out), LB Brandon Herron (ankle, out), S Mike Williams (concussion, out), LB Mike Jones (leg, out for season), DB Carvin Johnson (knee, out).
QB Matt Schilz (shoulder, out), C Ben Bojicic (ankle, questionable), OL Scott Lewis (undisclosed, out).
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