Each week we scout Michigan's opponent. We'll start with the basics, and then explore some relevant match-ups. For those that want to know more, we'll sprinkle in a mixture of history, reflection, and philosophy for a comprehensive look.
Michigan (3-0) vs. Bowling Green (1-2)
(W) UCONN 30-10
(W) at Notre Dame 28-24
(W) UMASS 42-37
Bowling Green Schedule
Falcon Players to Watch:
Last Saturday, the Bowling Green athletic department sold alcohol for the first time to the general public during their football game with Marshall. Apparently there's a need for Falcons fans to drink during the game. Before you scoff or condemn, some Michigan fans needed a drink after the game against UMASS. The Michigan defense certainly disappointed a lot of people as they gave up 37 points and over 400 yards of offense.
"I would say (UMASS was) like a mini wakeup call," says Michigan LB Craig Roh (So. #88). I think our defense and our seniors have been doing very well of getting us prepared and getting us ready to play all these games. Obviously, last Saturday, it wasn't good enough. We are going to come even hungry and prepare even better."
The Michigan defense needs a confidence booster yet at the same time need to be tested before heading into Big 10 play. The Wolverine may get both against the Falcons.
On paper the Bowling Green offense should provide very little for Michigan to deal with. Their starting quarterback, Matt Schilz (Fr. #7) will miss Saturday's game with a sprained shoulder on his throwing arm after taking a sack late in the third quarter last week. BG also has only two starters from 2009 season on the depth chart, and they should be reeling from the loss of their most prolific receiver, Freddie Barnes who rewrote the books last season with 155 receptions.
In reality, BG has been productive on offense. Schilz, who replaced Tyler Sheehan and his 4000 yards of passing offense, had looked sharp, especially for a kid who had no prior experience. No one expected anyone to replace Barnes, but Kamar Jorden (Jr. #19) is leading the nation in receptions (34) after redshirting last season. Jorden has more receiving yards (343) than Barnes (336) had after three games. The key according to 2nd Year Head Coach Dave Clawson, who isn't surprised at all that Jorden could produce, but he does question whether he can do it for the entire season.
"From an ability level, I'm not surprised at all that he's doing this. He is very skilled and very talented. His challenge is going to be can he can sustain it? Because the cat's out of the bag. People now see the film. And they see how many catches he's had. What was amazing about Freddie last year is everybody saw that and he still produced. And now that's Kamar's challenge."
As for the entire offense that should be reeling, BG is #2 in the MAC in scoring and #3 in passing. How does a team with only 84 career starts on offense score over 30 pts per game all against FBS teams? The system must be working for Clawson. How else can you explain it? Bowling Green's offense appears to be reloading not rebuilding.
The Season in (short) Review
Bowling Green lost their opener at Troy on a last second field goal in a game they looked like they were going to win. They then got beat 33-20 at Tulsa out of Conference USA. The Falcons were a slight underdog in their home opener against Marshall, but got two touchdowns directly off interceptions from a defense that forced five turnovers in a 44-28 win.
Don't be too concerned that Bowling Green knocked off a team that should have beaten West Virginia in week #2. The Thundering Herd isn't the same team that dominated the MAC a decade ago. Marshall is still looking for their first win and is expected to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Division of Conference USA.
Positional Notes- Offense
QB Aaron Pankratz (So. #14) came in relief of the injured Schilz (pronounced Schiltz) last week, and threw 5-8 for 111 yards with a TD and an interception. He's really the only QB left with any experience, despite having a total of 21 career pass attempts. Everyone else is a redshirt freshman or younger. Trent Hurley (Fr. #16) is also competing for the starting job this week. BG wants to red-shirt him. Depending on the time Schiltz will be out, coach Clawson says it's a luxury they can't afford.
"We've told the two of them they're competing to be the starting quarterback this week. The nature of Matt's injury is I don't know if it's going to be one week, two weeks, three weeks. And so really trying to save a guy's redshirt year is secondary right now to trying to win football games."
The Falcons play a "passing" spread like Purdue under Joe Tiller. It's a shot-gun snap with only one back or an empty backfield. They throw short passes, move the chains and keep the clock running. Obviously Jorden is the target of choice while Tyrone Pronty (Sr. #8) can hold his own in the slot. Pankratz got the credit for throwing the game winning 31 yard TD pass, but it was Pronty that earned the TD with his "yards-after-catch". It's probably been pointed out to the Michigan defense that the Falcons had eight receptions with a "yac" of 10 or more yards with three of them being over 20 yds. Pronty leads the team in ypc and may be more dangerous as a returner having taken two kickoffs just short of 50 yards each.
Running back Willie Geter (Sr. #1) will get plenty of touches. He had 31 carries against Marshall and he effectively killed the clock in the fourth quarter. He averages 81 ypg and will be moving up the team's rushing record books. Geter has 243 of the team's 250 yard rushing total. Last season, Geter rushed for 705 yds and 9 TD's. Those numbers would have led Michigan last season. He's only 5'8", but if the defense makes a mistake he can outrun just about everyone. He's the "toughest guy in the country" for his size according to Clawson. Geter also goes out for passes. He had five catches for 86 yards last week. He's probably going to break some tackles on the linebackers. If Geter doesn't make the back seven look silly occasionally, the Wolverine defense will have improved.
It's amazing the numbers Bowling Green's offense has produced when you look at the offensive line. Only two starters returned to begin the year, but that's been reduced to one as the Falcons lost senior Center Ben Bojicic (Jr. #61) who injured his ankle against Tulsa. A team captain, Bojicic was their best and most experienced lineman and was named to the Rimington Award Watch List at the beginning of the year. Another projected starter in Fall Camp is also out making it necessary for a former defensive lineman Nick Torresso (Sr. #72) and a true freshman Dominic Flewellyn (#52) to start for the Falcons. The weight of the projected line is 305, so despite the lack of experience, Michigan will have to use their speed to get around them without being taken out of the play.
Coach Rich Rodriguez offers this summation.
"They have a lot of good players and they are scoring a lot of points and they are going to present some new and different problems."
Bowling Green will likely be able to move down the field in ways that will be reminiscent of UMASS, but the offensive line is the worst in the MAC in giving up sacks while leading the conference in penalties at nearly 80 ypg. It would be nice to see Michigan's defense look dominant, but if not BG will stop themselves at times. Mike Martin (Jr. #68) and Ryan Van Bergen (Jr. #53) appears likely to be giving each other numerous high-fives.
Positional Notes- Defense
As long as the Michigan offense remains focused (no bobbled snaps, handoffs or penalties) they should have no problems scoring on Bowling Green. The Falcons rank last or near last in the MAC in the major defensive categories.
The defense is playing with only three starters from 2009. All of them come on the front line. Working on the line has become the focal point for Clawson. They gave up nearly 200 yds of rushing per game, which is one of the worst in FBS. They also couldn't rush the passer. They changed the starters all throughout last season trying to find something that worked and Clawson is somewhat satisfied they have the right combination now, but they are still giving up 196 yds of rushing per game.
It says something that the most hyped guy at linebacker is a young man who coming into this season had not started a game, but Dwayne Woods (So. #5) is a playmaker. Woods has two picks with one returned for a touchdown. The other he fell just a yard short of pay dirt. Woods also leads the team in tackles and that's good for 2nd in the MAC.
Forcing five turnovers last week allowed this defense to surrender a season best 376 yards and hold on to the ball for nearly 39 minutes. That's much better than the 1,020 yards yielded over the first two games.
It could be coach-speak but Coach Clawson is more awed with Denard Robinson's (So. #16) throwing ability than with his feet.
"What's most impressive are the throws he's making. You'd like to say he a running quarterback… (but) he makes the NFL throw." It has to be said however, that Robinson's rushing ability is the most difficult challenge.
"It's almost like defending a two back run game out of one back sets."
The Former Wolverine
Former Michigan kicker Bryan Wright (Sr. #81) is now with the Falcons. Wright didn't leave the Wolverines disgruntled. Michigan didn't offer a graduate program in hospitality management, so Wright is working towards his Masters degree and gets to kick and punt for the Falcons. Wright's punting average is nearly 43 ypg and has had a couple of kickoffs go for touchbacks. Kicking field goals have been more difficult as he's 3-6 with a long of 27 yards. At Michigan he just did the kickoffs.
Bowling Green is looking to go 5-5 against the Big 10 since 2001. The Falcons may get to .500 in the future, but the youth, lack of size and experience, should be a confidence builder for Michigan players that need it. That mostly includes the back seven of the Michigan defense as well as the running backs who haven't seen much action.
For Michigan, defensively, this is a good week to work on fundamentals and strive to get better as they head into Big 10.
ENJOY THE GAME!