One way to crush the dreams of an upstart 3-1 team is to play their hardest game of the season in a hostile environment against a ranked team who just lost a huge game on national television. Bowling Green faces "equally" 3-1 West Virginia on Saturday in what we'll call the Nehlen Bowl.
"Country Roads" from the SBN West Virginia blog The Smoking Musket agreed to put down their antiquated firearms and answer some questions I had about this harrowing challenge for the Falcons.
1. Can't be fun losing a game with ESPN in town. They're ... they're going to take their anger out on the next opponent, aren't they?
I wouldn't be so sure about that. There's such a thing as a "letdown game" and if anything qualifies, this would probably be it. The LSU game, with ESPN College Gameday on campus, was one of the most-hyped regular season games in recent WVU history. It's going to be hard to come out and play with the same type of intensity, and the coaching staff will be judged on its ability to get the guys ready to play. That being said, piling up over 500 yards of offense on LSU has to give our guys tons of confidence. So if they don't take BGSU lightly and they take care of the ball...they should be just fine.
2. It's no LSU defense, but BG is allowing 16.8 points per game (minus TDs caused by turnovers). Are WV fans still expecting a high-scoring game?
I think WVU fans are expecting a high scoring game every time out. I mean, it's not like LSU completely shut us down and we still scored 21 points despite a -4 turnover differential. I admittedly have not watched BG this year, but from what I've read, they're no pushover. In fact, I think WVU fans will be surprised by how good BG is and won't be thrilled if they give the Mountaineers a tough game. Unlike the last couple years, though, Dana Holgorsen has given WVU the ability to take a "if you want to beat us, you'll have to outscore us" approach to most games. (Yes, I realize that ALL games are won by scoring more points than your opponent, but you know what I mean.)
3. BG relies on two main receivers, along with a consortium of skill players and a couple of decent running backs. How is WV going to contain this approach, and what might cause them trouble?
WVU's 3-3-5 defense has been very good over the years with a bend-but-don't-break philosophy. To be more effective, they need to create some turnovers, which they have not done so far this year. The two offensive schemes that scare me, at least this year, are mauling rushing attacks with huge lines and big backs who will pound it up the middle against our smallish front. [Ed note: find a cure for whatever Anthon Samuel has] The other is an accurate quarterback with receivers and a quality tight end who can consistently get open over the middle on short to intermediate routes and methodically march down the field. The thought is that if you contain the big play, college teams will make a mistake or throw a couple incomplete passes before they can put together a 12-play drive. Usually, that's a recipe for success.
4. The way to avoid upsets like this is basically to avoid turnovers or big plays to the opposition. Without that, no chance BG goes toe to toe with them. Can WV avoid silly mistakes?
You mean silly mistakes like allowing a 99 yard kickoff return for a TD (LSU)? Or an 87 yard punt return for a TD (Marshall)? Or a near pick-6 off a screen pass (LSU, again)? Or letting a pass bounce off a receiver straight to an opposing safety (Maryland)? That's one thing WVU has been bad at so far this year, and it's going to have to improve if WVU wants to meet expectations. I'm hopeful we will get that corrected, but you never know, especially if players aren't totally focused.
5. If the Big East dissolves, wanna join the MAC?
Given our all-time record against MAC teams and natural rivalries with Ohio, Temple, Akron and Bowling Green? Where do we sign up?
6. Hey, if nothing else, we can both agree on the greatness of Don Nehlen, right?
Wait, is he really that highly thought of among BGSU faithful? I never realized that. And to be honest, not all WVU fans love Nehlen, which I find to be surprising. Considering where the program was when he got there, his ability to have 2 undefeated regular seasons, play for the national championship against Notre Dame in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, and elevate WVU to a national program should have earned him universal adoration from Mountaineer faithful. Short of agreeing on that, I'm willing to attest to the greatness of Urban Meyer and Josh Harris (who, coincidentally, I graduated high school with). Also, my mother is a BG alum. So you have that going for you, which is nice.
7. Score prediction for Saturday.
First blush? 55-17. Upon further thought? 42-20.