Bowling Green Preview

James Hale previews and predicts Saturday's season opener between the Sooners (0-0) and Falcons (0-0). Kickoff is set 11:10 a.m. and will be broadcast regionally on ABC. Senior receiver Mark Clayton (pictured left) begins the 2004 season just 15 catches shy of the all-time reception mark at Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Jerry Laizure)

NORMAN, Okla. — This will be an opening game for the Sooners where they will be tested. I know that Bowling Green doesn't come in with the name that scares many OU fans, but make no mistake it the Falcons are a good football team.

The Falcons are one of the best teams in the under-apprecated MAC conference and finished 11-3 with a victory over Purdue and a lights out performance against Ohio State.

Bowling Green returns 20 different players who have starting experience headed by running back P.J Pope on offense and middle linebacker Jovon Burkes on defense. Pope earned first team All-MAC honors last year after rushing for 1,005 yards and 10 touchdowns, while catching 48 passes for 433 yards as well. Burkes heads an experienced linebacker core with 16 starts.

Bowling Green runs an offense that will keep the Sooners on their toes.

"Bowling Green likes to spread you out with multiple formations much like our offense," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. "They will run two-back, one-back and empty backfields, and they will throw a number of screens, short passes, flat passes and crossing routes. They have a solid runnig game and they like to use the quarterback run game as well."

"Pope is a very good running back. And we think that their new quarterback — Omar Jacobs — is a big-time talent who actually has a better arm than the quarterback they used last year. Our job is going to be to try to force their hand and make them change their call at the line of scrimmage. If we can make them change a play into the strength of our defense, then we are winning half the battle."

On defense, the Falcons are very similiar to OU. Falcon Head Coach Gregg Brandon knows a number of coaches on the OU staff and believes in a number of the same coaching principles.

"Bowling Green is a very agressive, blitzing defense that tries to confuse you at the line of scrimmage," said OU Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long. "They stunt a lot up front and they try to out-number you at the line of scrimmage. Their secondary is a little inexperienced. They have had to move some players around back there and that is where we feel we have a shot to make some things happen."

"We are a very confident offensive unit going into the game," Long continuted. "We had a great camp and Jason (White) has looked fantastic. We feel our offensive line is improved as well as our running game. And despite the fact our wide receivers were very good last year, we feel we are better this year. You will also see that our tight ends have improved a great deal as well. We look forward to the game to see if all of these pieces can really come together."

Senior quarterback Jason White is back for his sixth year, and despite his objections back to defend his Heisman Trophy. I totally believe White when he says he would rather have two rings instead of another Heisman, but why can't he have all three?

All eyes will be on the Sooners running backs as KeJuan Jones gets his first starting assignment. But as much as he his looking forward to that role, he knows in the back of his mind that he will be playing to hold off freshmen running backs Adrian Peterson and D.J. Wolfe. How running back coach Cale Gundy gets all three into the game will be interesting to watch.

Bowling Green is a good, solid football team, but they are not in OU's league. The fact they have played well against quality teams in the past makes this a tough game to pick.

While Bowling Green has played well against teams up North they have not faced a team with the Sooners team speed. I think Bowling Green will play some solid football, but they will give up a number of big plays and the Sooner defense will hold the Falcon offense in check.

I have been thinking all week that the Sooners wouldn't cover, then I came up with my score and it was better than the 32-point spread. So, here goes with week one ... I think Sooners are going to roll 42-7.

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