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Northwestern vs. Bowling Green: Three things to know

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A matchup with the Falcons gives Northwestern a chance to regain some momentum.

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Usually, the first two weeks of the college football season don’t reveal enough about any team to draw serious conclusions. Bowling Green has tried its best to disprove that truism in 2017. The Falcons opened the season with a solid quarter of football against Michigan State in East Lansing, before struggling to amass 200 total yards of offense in a 35-10 loss. In their home opener, Bowling Green fell behind South Dakota (a FCS school) 21-3 in the first quarter, and couldn’t come back, losing 35-27 to fall to 0-2. With that being said, Bowling Green is only two years removed from a 10-4 campaign with wins over Maryland and Purdue, and the Falcons recruit very well for a MAC school, so they don’t want for talent. Here are three things to know about Bowling Green before Saturday.

The Falcons are going to run a lot.

Bowling Green’s rushing attack ranked 66th in the country last year, a solid performance for a program like BGSU. All indicators point to the Falcons handing the ball off 35+ times on Saturday in Evanston. The Falcons return seniors Josh Cleveland and Donovan Wilson, who both carried over 100 times last season. The backfield duo get plenty of carries behind a solid offensive line that features all-MAC center Tim McAuliffe. Northwestern’s defensive front will have plenty of opportunities to prove itself in stymying what could be a problematic Falcon rushing game. Sophomore James Morgan is Bowling Green’s quarterback, but the second-year starter has completed only 31 of 81 passes through the first two games. Bowling Green has plenty of talent at receiver, but if Morgan struggles to get them the ball, the Falcons will likely try to slow the game down by running the ball.

A experienced but unproven secondary means Thorson could have a bounce-back day.

Injuries and attrition forced several young Falcons to play significant snaps in the secondary last season, which led to a pass defense that was ranked 119th in the country last season. Seniors Ben Hale and Clint Stephens both return after missing the 2016 season, along with three of Bowling Green’s top defensive backs from last season. 6’2” corner Jamari Bozeman led the team in interceptions last season and could cause problems for Wildcat receivers because of his size. Nevertheless, Michigan State and South Dakota passed the ball easily and efficiently against Bowling Green’s secondary, and Clayton Thorson and Northwestern’s air attack should be able to do the same.

If nothing else, BGSU should win the punting battle.

The Falcon’s hidden gem is two-time all-MAC punter Joseph Davidson. Bowling Green ranked 8th in the country in punting efficiency in 2016 thanks to Davidson, who averaged almost 46 yards per punt and downed 22 of his 61 boots inside the 20-yard-line. Standing 6-foot-7, Davidson is off to another productive start this season, with an average of over 46 yards per punt and a long of 64. Getting the Falcon offense off the field shouldn’t be too difficult for Northwestern, but the Wildcats will likely have to work with a long field to get into the end zone.