Breakdown/Prediction: Bowling Green

BadgerNation breaks down No.19 Wisconsin matchup with Bowling Green at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday morning, including looking at the story of a wide receiver who twice tried to commit to the Badgers, and offer our prediction.

Bowling Green (2-1, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) vs. No.19 Wisconsin (1-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, September 20 at 11:01 a.m. CT

Stadium –ESPN2 (Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway, Paul Carcaterra)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series –Wisconsin leads 3-0 (Wisconsin leads 2-0 in Madison)

Last Meeting –Wisconsin won, 35-14, on Sept.2, 2006 in Madison

Series Notes

The Badgers are 3-0 all-time against Bowling Green, including a 2-0 mark in Madison. The teams last met in a neutral-site game in Cleveland, a 35-14 Wisconsin win on Sept. 2, 2006.

Wisconsin owns a 29-2 all-time record against teams currently in the Mid-American Conference — with both losses coming at Camp Randall Stadium in 1988. UW fell to Western Michigan, 24-14, in its season opener and dropped a 19-17 decision to Northern Illinois a week later. Wisconsin went on to finish 1-10 that season.

The back-to-back games against Big Ten foes marks the first time since 2007 that Bowling Green has played opponents from the Big Ten Conference in consecutive weeks. In 2007, the Falcons defeated Minnesota to open the season before losing to Michigan State.

All time, the Falcons have a 6-16 record against Big Ten opponents. Bowling Green has defeated Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern (twice), and Purdue (twice).

Wisconsin Notes

A total of 18 players have made their Wisconsin debuts this season, while eight players have picked up their first career starts.

Junior WR Alex Erickson became the 11th player in Wisconsin history to make atleast 10 catches in a game when he hauled in 10 receptions for a career-high 122yards vs. Western Illinois. He was UW’s first 100-yard receiver other than Jared Abbrederis since Nick Toon had 104 yards in the 2012 Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin has won its last six games following a bye week by a combined score of 255-49, for an average margin of victory of 34.3 points per game. UW scored a 35-6 win over Northwestern and a 62-14 victory over Indiana following idle weeks last season.

The Badgers have allowed just 17.6 yards per kickoff return this season, ranking second in the Big Ten to Northwestern’s average of 15.2.

The Badgers join Florida as the only teams in the nation to not allow a red-zone touchdown this season. Three opponent drives have entered the red zone this season, with UW allowing only just two field goals. Only Florida (2) and TCU (2) have allowed opponents fewer trips to the red zone than the Badgers (3).

Bowling Green Notes

Through the first three games of the season, Bowling Green’s offensive line has cleared the way for the Falcons to average more than 500 yards of offense per game. The Falcons also lead the MAC in passing offense and first down offense. They are also second in scoring offense, averaging 41.3 points per game.

Quarterback James Knapke has taken over the offense following a season-ending injury to opening game starter Matt Johnson. Knapke has been nothing short of outstanding, completing 68-of-104 passes for 632 yards in two games, In Saturday’s win over Indiana, Knapke completed 46 passes on 73 attempts for 395 yards and three touchdowns – all career highs.

Travis Greene surpassed 100 yards rushing for the 11th time in his career on Saturday against Indiana. Greene has 1,947 rushing yards in his career following his 123-yard performance against the Hoosiers. Greene set a school record in 2013 with 1,594 rushing yards.

While the Falcons return a lot of experience in 2014, they are still fairly young. 63 percent of the roster enters the year with at least three years of eligibility remaining. Forty-three players enter the season with four years of eligibility remaining.

Bowling Green will look to become the first team in the Mid-American Conference to repeat as champion since Miami University in 2003 and 2004.

Breakdown

Coming out of high school, Gehrig Dieter was one of the best wide receivers in the Midwest and certainly one of the most underrated. Named the Indiana 4A Player of the year and a first-team All-American, Dieter holds the national record for receiving yards in a game (437), in a 4A state playoff content (168) and career touchdown receptions (49).

And he wanted to play at Wisconsin … twice.

“Wisconsin is my dream school,” Dieter told BadgerNation in a previously unpublished interview. “They have a great tradition, I love their coaching staff and I think I could really thrive in their offense.”

Dieter – a member of the Class of 2012 - received a handful of non-major scholarship offers, but the school he really wanted to go to was Wisconsin. Dieter performed at such a high level during Wisconsin’s high school summer camp that then-head coach Bret Bielema reportedly told Dieter that he was going to get him a scholarship. That’s when the problems started.

Days after making that proclamation, however, a source said that Bielema reconsidered his decision to offer a scholarship after talking with then-receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander. In the 2012 recruiting cycle, the Badgers had less than a dozen scholarships available and likely room for only one wide receiver. With Wisconsin focused at the time on Leonte Caroo and Amarah Darboh, the Badgers decided to wait.

That waiting game began to frustrate Dieter and his family. Communication started to dwindle between the staff and Dieter, who said he tried calling them 15-to-20. But as one coach pointed out after the fact, Dieter was calling during a dead period and Wisconsin wasn’t permitted to talk to recruits. The Badgers also reportedly uncovered things that weren’t to their liking and decided to pass.

Dieter eventually jumped on an offer from SMU, excited about the opportunity to play in a high-powered offense.

"I like the way [June Jones] spreads the ball around his offense,” Dieter told Scout.com following the decision. “They always have two or three receivers with 50 catches in that offense."

Those good thoughts didn’t last long after enrolling early. Shortly after arriving, his position coach left and Dieter decided he had enough after not getting enough playing time in the offense as a true freshmen. He finished with 10 catches for 168 yards and one touchdown but reportedly saw his playing time drop after dropping a pass against TCU, according to an article in the Dallas Morning News.

After that decision, a family source said Dieter reached out to the Wisconsin coaching staff and expressed his interest in transferring to Madison; interest that was reciprocated by Bielema. All set to take a visit to the campus and, in all likelihood sign the paperwork, Dieter found out that Bielema was leaving for Arkansas, once again closing the door on his opportunity to play for the Badgers.

It evidently still is a sore topic. Dieter declined to be interview and his father, Derek, also declined to comment.

Dieter ended up at Bowling Green, citing his long-time relationship with the coaching staff. After sitting out last season per NCAA rules, Dieter is starting to become a part of the Falcons offense.

Bowling Green’s offense has delivered on quick scoring drives and up-tempo play thus far. Fifteen of the Falcons’ 19 scoring drives have been under three minutes this year. The Falcons also have eight scoring drives of 10.

Against Indiana, nine different receivers caught passes with Roger Lewis leading the way with 16 receptions, while Heath Jackson, Ryan Burbrink, and Ronnie Moore all had six-or-more.

It’s still early to tell if Wisconsin’s past two coaching staffs made a mistake. Reggie Love ended up being the lone receiver in the 2012 class and has registered three touches for 66 total yards. Dieter is still growing into the offense, having caught 12 passes for 89 yards.

Described as somewhere between a big play receiver and a possession receiver, Dieter will get the chance Saturday to show the Badgers coaches exactly what they are missing Saturday.

Prediction

Wisconsin opened as a 17-point favorite but that has ballooned to being a 27-point favorite over the last week. That should be a sign of how things are going to go. Bowling Green Dino Babers said many telling things during the week, namely that the Falcons are battling through many injuries on the defensive side of the ball and better resemble a Mash unit, but was blunt (we think) about his team’s chances this weekend.

“I don’t know if we can give a team like Wisconsin trouble,” he said. “I watch them play LSU on TV, two of the finest football teams I’ve seen in a long time. This is a different situation. Wisconsin and Indiana are two different teams. We’re going to go up there and we’re going give it our best. We understand how good they are. We understand they have a very good opportunity to win their side of the Big Ten division. This is a different football team than the one we played Saturday.”

One of Wisconsin's biggest concerns entering the game is the ability to substitute its defensive players quickly enough. The Badgers operate out of several sub-packages within their scheme, but the Falcons move so quickly that Wisconsin will only likely be able to rotate personnel successfully if the Falcons do.

The Falcons ran plenty of multiple receiver sets against Indiana, forcing the Hoosiers into a lot of nickel formations that created gaps in the secondary and will split out junior running back Travis Green to create an empty backfield, putting more pressure on the secondary. Bowling Green also executed zone runs with bubble screens options against Indiana, much like what Wisconsin did against Western Illinois two weeks ago.

Even so, Wisconsin’s defense should make enough plays against the up-tempo offense to disrupt their rhythm, much like they did against BYU and Indiana a year ago. I think the Badgers’ running game also finally gains some traction, which in turn will open up the play-action pass and downfield attack. Camp Randall with jump around at the end of the third quarter and then the fans will start to head home with the game already decided.

Wisconsin 42, Bowling Green 14

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 2-0

Against the Spread: 0-1

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