Bowling Green (5-1) at Mississippi State (2-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Davis Wade Stadium (55,082) -- Starkville, Mississippi. Television: FSN. Home Record: BGSU 4-0, MSU 2-1. Away Record: BGSU 1-1, MSU 0-1. Neutral Record: BGSU 0-0, MSU 0-1. Conference Record: BGSU 3-0, MSU 0-2. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Mississippi State Bulldogs will host a dangerous opponent as the Bowling Green Falcons invade Davis Wade Stadium for a non-conference matchup.
Bowling Green coasted to a 28-7 decision over Massachusetts last week to improve to 5-1 overall, including a perfect 3-0 mark versus Mid-American Conference rivals. Dave Clawson's Falcons have played strong enough to indicate they intend on making a run at the 2013 MAC Championship. Although they were handed a lopsided, 42-10, loss by the Hoosiers at Indiana, the Falcons have also notched impressive wins over Tulsa (34-7) and Kent State (41-22).
The Bulldogs are one game below the .500 mark after their 59-26 home loss to LSU last week. The setback lowered MSU to a 2-3 overall record and a disheartening 0-2 Southeastern Conference standing. Although he is only in his fifth season in command of the program, Dan Mullen has already become the fourth-winningest coach in school history with a 31-25 record.
This will be the first meeting in history between these non-conference foes. BGSU is 0-2 versus current members of the SEC. Under Mullen, the Bulldogs are 13-2 at home against non-conference foes and currently own a 12-game winning streak in such contests.
Bowling Green did not have a high-powered attack last season during its 8-5 campaign. Due to the strong play of the defense, Clawson ran a conservative offense that stressed ball control. The Falcons have developed some offensive firepower to become a very balanced team. They are the second most productive squad in the MAC with 480.8 yards of total offense per game and rank third in the 13-team conference in scoring at 32.0 ppg. The renovations to the BGSU attack has come courtesy of the Falcons' newest stars, QB Matt Johnson and RB Travis Greene.
Johnson earned the starting job after igniting the offense off the bench in the season opener. The redshirt sophomore wasted no time validated his coach's decision as he was named the MAC East Offensive Player of the Week a few days after his first career start. In a conference filled with talented signal callers, Johnson ranks second in passing average (232.5 ypg) and has completed a league-best 65.1 percent of his attempts with nine touchdowns to only three interceptions. Shaun Joplin is the primary weapon in the passing attack. The senior wide receiver has made 25 receptions for 413 yards through six games. Johnson has done a great job of keeping opposing defenses guessing as eight different players have contributed to the team's total of 10 touchdown receptions.
BGSU was expected to have trouble establishing its ground attack this season after it lost its star halfback over the offseason when Anthon Samuel elected to transfer to FIU. The Falcons have not missed a beat thanks to the sophomore Greene, who is having a breakout season as the team's new primary tailback. Greene continued to shine as he tallied a career-high 160 yards on 22 carries to record his third consecutive game with at least 100 yards rushing. The Falcons' newest workhorse ranks second in the MAC and 13th nationally with 118.5 yards rushing per game. Freshman running back William Houston is the go- to-guy around the goal line which has led to seven rushing touchdowns just six games into his career.
The Falcons are still one of the elite teams in the nation on the defensive side of the ball. They lead the MAC in nine different team statistical categories, including scoring defense (16.5 ppg), total defense (344.0 ypg) and red zone defense at 47.1, which ranks second nationally. BGSU watched opposing quarterbacks attempt 261 consecutive passes this season before Ryland Ward registered the team's first interception of the campaign at UMass last week. BGSU held the Minutemen to only 280 yards of total offense and only 15 first downs. D.J. Lynch has made 35 total tackles to lead the team that has seven other players with at least 20 stops through six games.
BGSU has a tough test awaiting for it in Starkville. MSU held its own against the nationally ranked Tigers through three quarters last week before allowing 31 consecutive points late in the 33-point loss. Sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott showed is he much more valuable as a running threat than a passer as he completed 9-of-20 pass attempts for just 106 yards and an interception while gaining 103 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Prescott split snaps under center with Tyler Russell, who went an efficient 7-of-11 from the pocket for 146 yards. Russell also completed two touchdown passes to become the program's all-time leader with 39 for his career.
Despite the losing record, the Bulldogs have put up decent numbers, amassing 32.4 ppg and 464.6 ypg. However, those averages were significantly bolstered by MSU's overwhelmingly lopsided victories of Alcorn State (51-7) and Troy (62-7). The Bulldogs have been held to only 16.3 ppg in their losses. The unit received strong performances from three of its skill position players last week against LSU. Jameon Lewis had a career-best performance with seven receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown. De'Runnya Wilson came through with a big play as he reeled in a 59-yard touchdown catch in the first half. LaDarius Perkins rushed for 81 yards on only 10 carries.
MSU's defense played well through its first four games with only 14.8 points allowed and 310 yards of total offense surrendered per game. It took a step back last week as LSU compiled 563 yards of offense and scored more than four times MSU's previous scoring defense average. Benardrick McKinney leads the Bulldogs with 28 tackles and also has a fumble recovery to his credit.
Members of the MAC have been pulling off upsets of BCS conference schools at a much higher frequency in recent years. BGSU is absolutely capable of defeating MSU, but it will need to limit turnovers as field position could end up being a huge factor. This is a very important game for the Bulldogs, who are well aware of how difficult digging themselves out of a 2-4 hole will be against SEC schools.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Mississippi State 34, Bowling Green 24
10/09 10:36:36 ET