Biggest, Baddest Game Preview: Indiana Hoosiers at Bowling Green


Disclaimer: This preview is not intended for the casual fan looking to kill a few minutes at work. It is intended for the well-educated fan with plenty of time to kill at work. Read deeply and digest.

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Last year, the Hoosiers somewhat shockingly were able to manhandle Bowling Green 42-10 at Memorial Stadium. However, it was the the Falcons who would have the last laugh as they would go on to win their conference and participate in bowl season, while the Hoosiers (as has become custom) sat at home and watched. BGSU opened as the favorites in this week’s matchup, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a non-biased fan who would consider it an upset if the Hoosiers lost this one on the road. At the same time, if the Hoosiers want to finally reach a bowl game, this weekend’s contest is almost a “must-win” given the difficultly of Indiana’s remaining schedule. Before I get sick, here’s an in-depth look at this week’s game that will have you feeling like you’ve been watching film on the Falcons all week:

Keys to Victory

1. Get the Passing Game Going:

It’s no secret. The biggest storyline coming out of the Hoosier camp after week one was Nate Sudfeld’s apparent struggles against Indiana State. To put things lightly, it was not the explosive Indiana passing attack that Hoosier fans have grown accustomed to seeing.

Sep 14, 2013; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) under center against the Bowling Green Falcons at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not going to belabor what went wrong or Nate’s woeful historical performance on the road here as they’ve been discussed ad nausium throughout the week. And really, none of that matters anymore. What does matter is that Sudfeld and his receiving corps take advantage of a terrific opportunity this week to convince fans that not all is lost after the departures of veteran pass-catchers Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes and Ted Bolser.

Bowling Green’s pass defense is…bad. As in, 126th out of 127 college teams bad. In week one of this season, they allowed Western Kentucky QB Brandon Doughty to throw for a gaudy 569 yards and 6 TDS without an interception. As stated previously, not good. This is the perfect opportunity for Sudfeld to build confidence in his ability to sling it on the road before we get too far into the season.

Also of note, other than struggling to defend the pass, Bowling Green has struggled mightily tackling opponents in space this year. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to get another Hoosier who is off to a slow start going – the elusive-in-space Shane Wynn.

So to summarize: bad pass defense + inability to tackle ball carriers in space = Sudfeld to Wynn till the cows come home.

2. Exploit the Inexperience:

While the Bowling Green offense isn’t short on talent, its lack of experience could be a deciding factor in this weekend’s game.

First, and most obvious, is the fact that sophomore QB James Knapke has had to take over for All-MAC QB Matt Johnson, who suffered a season-ending injury in week one. Bowling Green fans were impressed with Knapke in his first start last week, but that was against Virginia Military Institute – an FCS opponent who hasn’t had a winning season since 1981. Indiana needs to pressure Knapke early and often and give him a proper Division-1 welcome.

Second, true freshman WR Roger Lewis has been dynamite thus far. Lewis is the Falcons’ leading receiver through two games and ranks in the top 20 nationally in terms of yards per game. You should know, Lewis isn’t just your average overachieving MAC freshman. We’re talking about a 4-star, stud prospect who had offers from the likes of Ohio State coming out of high school (Paul George taught me not to get involved with controversial topics, so I’ll let you read about why this phenom ended up at a MAC program on your own). So, although the Indiana defense has a history of gifting opponent receivers with career days, Lewis hasn’t been hit in the mouth by a B1G DB yet. Look for corners Tim Bennett and Michael Hunter to get in Lewis’s face early.

Lewis was a 4-star stud coming out of high school with offers from the likes of Ohio State

Last but not least, the entire Falcon offense is running a new system under first-year head coach Dino Babers. Babers runs a Baylor-style (consequently, Indiana-style) fast-tempo offense. They’re two games into their first year running the offense, and injured QB Matt Johnson is the guy who took most of the snaps and had practice learning the offense in camp. As Hoosier fans know, a fast-tempo offense seeks to throw defenses out of whack, but quick three and outs are also possible, especially if the players are as new to the system as Bowling Green’s are at the moment.

3. Bring the Backs Back Down to Earth:

Bowling Green’s offense has be led by two solid running backs: Travis Greene and Fred Coppet. Greene was dubbed the fourth best overall player in the MAC prior to the start of the season and is off to an OKAY but not earth-shattering start to the season. His 220 yards and 3 touchdowns through two games appear respectable, but 91 of those yards came against an FBS opponent. His counterpart, Coppet, may pose a greater threat to Indiana Saturday afternoon. A quick side-by-side comparison of the two backs thus far makes it clear that Greene’s statistical superiority is purely a result of the number of carries he gets, but Coppet is a more efficient, explosive runner (adjusted stat line for Coppet is as follows: 36 attempts, 330 yards, 5 TD).

Shutting down the duo will be key on Saturday, but shouldn’t be a problem for the defensive unit ranked one spot ahead of Alabama and second in the country in run defense…how fun have IU’s grossly skewed statistics been to play around with for the past two weeks? I’m going to miss this.

4. Don’t Underestimate Special Teams:

If you ask current Indiana punter Erich Toth, he’ll tell you that BGSU’s special teams are generally solid…

Don’t expect anything different this year. In fact, Bowling Green has already blocked a punt and returned it for a TD. On top of that, junior return man Ryan Burbrink has already returned one punt for a TD and should have another, but he slipped in the open field on his way to the end zone. Considering Bowling Green’s special teams prowess and the fact the Indiana fumbled a punt and missed a chip shot field goal in their week one win, you can see a potential story line start to take shape: “Special Teams the Difference as Falcons Beat Hoosiers.” If this game is going to be close, the Hoosiers are going to have to take the special teams battle seriously.

5. Who’s Got the Biggest Chip on their Shoulder? 

“Boy, I’ll tell ya. Our guys are real fired up for this week. This team didn’t offer our guys a scholarship coming out of high school, so they’re ready to show them what they’re missing!” – every MAC coach before facing a B1G team.

Kevin Wilson was quick to negate the typical “chip on our shoulder” motivation cited by MAC teams facing a B1G opponent heading into this week’s game. As Wilson pointed out, IU had actually offered several of the players currently on the BGSU roster, who instead simply chose the MAC route (including running back Fred Coppet). He added that the Hoosiers should always be the team with a chip on their shoulder:

"“I don’t want to hear that stuff about it’s a chip-on-the-shoulder week (because) trust me, when you’re playing here trying to earn your respect, there needs to be a big chip on our shoulder every week.” -Kevin Wilson"

Amen, brother. This week’s game will come down to this, who has a bigger chip on their shoulder? On one hand, you have a BGSU team that is trying to prove they still deserve their preseason designation as the favorites to win the MAC, despite their rocky start. Additionally, the Falcons are still bitter after last year’s 42-10 defeat at Indiana.

"“Honestly it was an embarrassing feeling to go down there and have all the hype. We thought we were the better team and that’s what cost us.” -BGSU guard Alex Huettel"

On the other hand, there’s Indiana. Poor, poor Indiana. Aside from the chip the team should always carry  as mentioned above, the Hoosiers were embarrassed this week when the opening line for the game favored their MAC opponent. Although Vegas changed their line to favor the Hoosiers, major news outlets still favor BGSU in the match-up.

Who wants it more?

Nonessential Knowledge

  • Bowling Green will be without with defensive leader and senior linebacker D.J. Lynch this weekend after he sustained an injury against VMI last weekend.
  • Bowling Green’s Doyt Perry Stadium has earned the nickname “Blowing Green” as gusty conditions are common the field. This could impact the kicking and passing game significantly Saturday.
  • Bobby Richardson is a little upset other B1G defenders had a chance to catch up to his conference leading 3 sacks last week. Here he outlines his plan for this week: “I’m going to try my best to stay in front of [other B1G sack masters] and separate myself just so Indiana can be known for the way we work.” Nice.
  • True story: BGSU coach Dino Barbers is a really big fan of Tevin Coleman. “I’m watching [Coleman] on tape and I’m like, ‘That guy is pretty.‘”
  • As first reported by Kick Sewly over at Crimson Quarry, BGSU’s mascot is NOT in fact a green falcon who enjoys bowling; although Indiana fans should generally refrain from critiquing opponent mascots.