Bowling Green Falcons (5-3) at Miami RedHawks (0-8)
Yager Stadium -- Oxford, Ohio
Tuesday, November 5th -- 8:00 p.m. ET -- TV: ESPNU
Mid-week #MACtion makes its glorious return this week with three games that will each bear some importance toward who will end up in Detroit for the Mid-American Conference championship game.
Bowling Green travels to Miami for one of the two contests on Tuesday night, and you really have to worry about just how competitive this game will be. The Falcons will likely be in a salty mood after spending ten days boiling over what slipped through their fingers against Toledo. Meanwhile, the RedHawks, whose offense was already rather inept before, now has to deal with losing a player that accounted for nearly two-thirds of their offense to date -- Austin Boucher. Boucher's replacements at quarterback have all of 16 career pass attempts.
Of course, football can be strange -- especially when it comes to mid-week #MACtion. Assumptions that we make about games, based on what's on paper, can turn out to be very wrong. If you'll remember, Miami's last victory over Bowling Green came in 2010. In that contest, then-redshirt-freshman Boucher came in for an injured Zac Dysert and led Miami to a three-point victory. Boucher then started in Dysert's place for the remainder of the season and didn't lose a single game.
Now, I'm not saying that Miami backups Austin Gearing and Drew Kummer are going to lead Miami to a win over BGSU, much less win the last four games on Miami's schedule -- but sometimes, young players can catch lightning in a bottle. This is also important to know in light of the fact that Bowling Green will be missing perhaps their most important player on defense for the rest of the season.
Falcon linebacker Gabe Martin tore an ACL against Toledo and is lost for the season. BGSU's offense also has some injury issues, as well. Jared Cohen, who was taking the place of Chris Gallon at wide receiver (Gallon was also lost for the year due to injury) is now injured himself. Heath Jackson filled in nicely against Toledo by having a career-best game, but depth is definitely becoming an issue at wide receiver. One positive injury note for the Falcons: it appears as if Josh Pettus will return to the defensive backfield on Tuesday night. That will certainly help.
On paper, at least, this is one of the bigger mismatches of the MAC season. BGSU is sixth in scoring offense, while Miami is ninth in scoring defense. On the opposite end, you have the league's number one scoring defense in BGSU (18.5 ppg) goiing up against the league's worst scoring offense in Miami (10.9 ppg). The RedHawks have managed just 11 touchdowns in eight games.
In terms of total offense vs total defense, BGSU's offense is 3rd compared to Miami's 12th-ranked defense. Flip that around, and again, Miami is last in offense while BGSU is first in defense. Honestly, it's pretty much like this across the board.
So, how can Miami win this game? It is going to have to win the little battles. Surprisingly enough, Miami is actually one of the better teams in the MAC in turnover margin with a +5 mark (15 takeaways, just 10 giveaways). If they can avoid turning over the ball on Tuesday and manage to get a few turnovers of their own from the Falcons, that will go a long way to keeping this game close.
Another advantage Miami has is in the punting game. Zac Murphy leads the MAC with a 48.1 average per punt, and that's eight more yards per punt that the Falcons' Brian Schmiedebusch. The net difference, after returns, is somewhat less, but it would be big for Miami if they can control field position. Forcing BGSU to continuously go on long drives in order to score will again help keep this game close.
Penalties are also an area in which Miami can help itself. The RedHawks are third in the conference with just 37.2 yards per game in penalties. Bowling Green is not a heavily-penalized team itself, but this could be a point of advantage for a lesser team. And BGSU suffered greatly against Toledo because of self-inflicted penalties.
Now, Bowling Green is a 23-point favorite in this game, and it's not unreasonable to expect them to cover that spread. Miami is 0-8 for a reason, and one must assume that BGSU will come into this game angry. However, the Falcons have been notorious for slow starts in 2013, and if it happens again and Miami takes advantage, you just never know what could happen on a November weeknight in the Mid-American Conference.