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Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green Preview: A Potential Trap Game?

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The NIU Huskies travel into Bowling Green for yet another nationally televised game on ESPN2. Now that the NBA is being locked out, all eyes are on these two MAC teams as the the BGSU Falcons hope to knock the Huskies off their standing as the top team in the MAC West. Fresh off a win at Toledo, NIU seems to be riding high. However, this may be a problem as they are heading into their third road game in a row against a somewhat formidable opponent. Heck, in the MAC it seems like every opponent is formidable and everybody is so close together.

Looking at the Bowling Green Falcons on paper, well, it's not too much to look at. They have a coach in David Claweson, that doesn't seem to be progressing in his third year at the program. It doesn't seem like his offense will be forever too complicated to be implemented anywhere in college football. But who knows, this team is loaded with underclassmen and is probably a year away from doing something.

Offense

The Falcons are 4-5 and 2-3 in conference. Their offense is average ranking 5th in the MAC (58th in the nation), it's heavy passing attack ranked 29th on the shoulder of QB Matt Schilz. He is middle-of-the road MAC QB throwing for 2,301 yds with 19 tds and 10 ints. He throws just over 60% and has the 6th best QB rating.

Kamar Jordan and Eugene Cooper seem to almost be equally be getting the ball in their hands in this pass-first offense. Jordan has 776 yds and 7 tds and Cooper has 628 and 6 himself. Both WRs average over 6 receptions per game.

Anthon Samuel anchors a rushing offense that only ranks 86th in the nation. He averages around 100 ypg and has 4 TDs.

Defense

Bowling Green's defense is a little tougher to fully evaluate. They do rank 7th in the conference (63rd) in the nation, but according to last week's F/+ rankings, are actually much less efficient than that on the field. Their defense gave up 27 points to Kent State's offense last week, an offense ranked 120th in all of college football. That's horrible!! NIU only gave up 10 pts to the Golden Flashes.

Just looking at Bowling Green's depth chart, it appears they have been making changes to the lineup all year long, trying younger players or incumbents and whatnot, to no avail.

MLB Dwayne Woods Jr. leads the defense with 75 tackles so far (8.33 pg). He also leads with 11.5 tfl. DT Chris Jones is one of the best players at his position in the league, totalling 11 tfl and 7 sacks (MAC leader) on the season.

Despite all of this, BG's run defense is porous, ranking only 91st in the nation while their pass D ranks 34th.

In terms of special teams, P Brian Schmiedebush has a beast leg averaging 46.6 yds per punt, ranking 5th in the nation.Also, kick returner Jerry BooBoo Gates is one of the elite returners in the league (17th in the nation). Eugene Cooper is dangerous in punt returns as well.

What's especially killed BG this season is turnovers. They rank 115th in the nation in turning the ball over w/ 11 fumbles and 11 ints on the season.

NIU's strategy

Why are we talking about stats, anyways? NIU is by far the more superior team all around. OK, maybe not on defense. That side of the ball is likely going to get torched again on the road, just like what happened against Toledo. But hopefully facing an offense that doesn't include the likes of Eric Page will help with a little confidence.

The NIU offense should run roughshod over this defense. It will be disappointing to see another game like what happened against Buffalo. If the Huskies make a series of errors that put them behind a significant margin early on, things could get a little dicey. This is a tired team, it's third game on the road against a Bowling Green squad that is trying to wipe the egg of it's face after losing to Kent State.

It's a tough situation for the Huskies, but they should come out as victors on paper. This is their toughest test of the season. After this is two easy home games if they succeed against the Falcons. The Huskies just need to hold on to the ball and play smart. The game will come to them if they play sound special teams and capitalize on whatever mistakes BG makes.