It's more exciting than the news of opening up 2009 against the YSU Penguins, its the 2008 opener vs the Fightin' Omar Jacobs.........wait.........................I mean the Bowling Green Falcons.
Just looking at this one on the outside and I don't think anyone will pick the Panthers to fall except for maybe the Hoopie fans. We have typically done well against MAC teams (except for the only two losses in the last couple of years). Fear not however as I will cover the Falcons just as if they were the Cards, Huskies, or Bulls.
On offense here is what you need to know. BG runs the spread offense, which up until Navy of last season we were not prepared to handle. Luckily Wanny took control of the defense, changed some planning, and brought in Phil Bennett who has seen more defenses than almost any other D-Coordinator in the Big East. Tyler Sheehan (Jr.) leads the Falcons as their qb. Last year he had a respectable 63% completion rating while piling up over 3000 yards passing. Despite this, the true threat came from running back Willie Geter. However just this past week, Geter and a couple of teammates found a credit card in a parking lot and did what any normal person would do. They used it to go on a little shopping spree. What this means is that Geter and the other two players will be suspended for at least this game. Replacing Geter will be Eric Ransom. Despite losing Geter, Ransom may be more dangerous. The key to his game is his speed and his pass catching ability. He didn't play much last year after going down with a knee injury in the 2nd game of the season.
At WR, the Falcons are pretty unimpressive other than WR Freddie Barnes who caught 83 passes for over 900 yards and 9 td's last year. Unfortunately for Mr. Barney, he will be introduced to Aaron Berry so that he knows what a shut down corner looks like.
The O-line is questionable after losing 3 starters last year. None of the guys coming in are highly recruited and given the "expected" talent level of the MAC, I kind of feel bad for what our dline is going to put them through on saturday.
Defense was the real strong point of the Falcons last year, and by strong point I mean terrible weakness. Think about this, against mostly MAC teams, the BG defense gave up almost yards per carry and over 200 yards rushing per game. Against Tulsa in the GMAC bowl, the Falcon's defense gave up 63 points (damn!). However, the weak defense did not stop the MAC news media from picking them to win the MAC.
The DLine for BG will be a nice cupcake for the Panthers to start with. I'm not just trashing them because they are Bowling Green, I'm trashing them because they have little depth on the DLine. They lost two projected starters to suspension and one of the few guys they have to plug in to the gap is a 5th year senior returning from knee surgery on both knees. This guy (Nick Davis) has not played a down since 2006.
At linebacker, the Falcons are taking a page from our book by moving safety Jerett Sanderson to linebacker. The other projected starters are Erique Dozier at MLB and John Haneline at WLB. Have you ever heard of them? I have not. I can just imagine what they will be thinking when they see Dorin or Nate coming trucking at them full speed with the ball or looking to make a down field block.
Lastly if there was one strong point of this defense it would be the secondary, specifically the safetys. Antonio Smith and Kenny Lewis are the CB's and I'm sure they'll think they are getting off easy covering two possession guys in Kinder and Turner. That is until Baldwin and the speedy "hidden weapons" get their chance in the game. Jahmal Brown and P.J. Mahone are the safeties and their great play has allowed for Sanderson to move to LB to help out in a much needed area. I have a feeling we will see these guys pinch up to help stop the run quite a bit during the game. I just hope that Cavvy has the guts to throw Baldwin, Wright, or Porter out there and have Billy air one out to keep them honest.
While the spread may cause us trouble, I think our overall speed will be enough to stop their offense (we're running faster!). We may not blitz much in this game only because we may use our linebackers to key on certain position players throughout the game or to stay in a zone D to break up the spread much like last year against WVU. If there was one thing I would say we may see that we haven't seen in a long time is some safety blitz packages. Aaron and Jovanni are good enough to keep their guys in check 1 on 1 which will free up Dom and Eric.
My prediction is a 34 to 13 win for our Panthers. I'll let Jones do the specific player predictions since he tends to get within 5 yards of Shady's actual amount.