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2016 Week 3 Preview: Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs Bowling Green Falcons

Will the real 2016 Bowling Green Falcons please stand up.

David Konowalski
Bowling Green Athletic Department

It will be like looking in the mirror in some respects for both teams when the Bowling Green Falcons take on the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders on Saturday afternoon at Doyt Perry Stadium.  Both teams are from conferences outside the Power 5, with the Falcons from the Mid-American Conference and the Raiders from Conference-USA.

Both teams are 1-1 on the young season, with a win against a FCS school and a loss against a Power 5 school.  Both teams run a spread offense that likes to play fast, and both also seem to subscribe to the theory of "hang on for dear life" when it comes to playing defense.

The Falcons have gotten off to a very disappointing start.  They were rocked in the opener in Columbus against powerful Ohio State.  I don’t think anyone expected the Falcons to win that game, but I also don’t think people expected them to be embarrassed, 77-10.  Last week, the Falcons survived a last second two-point conversion attempt to hang on and win, 27-26 over North Dakota.

The Bowling Green offense, under new head coach Mike Jinks, has experienced some growing pains.  With an experienced quarterback in James Knapke, a veteran offensive line, and running back Fred Coppet, the Falcons had hoped to keep their offense humming like it had been doing the last few years.  That hasn’t materialized so far this year.  The young receiving core for the Falcons are still learning and the running game has been non-existent.

The Blue Raiders offense is also breaking in a new receiving core.  However, the lone returning starter is a good one in Richie James.  He was named a Freshman All-American last year, and already has 22 catches for 256 yards and two touchdowns this season. Small at 5’ 9" and 171 pounds, James is a playmaker that the Falcons defense will have to contain.

The real leader of the Raiders’ offense is quarterback Brent Stockstill.  The sophomore has thrown eight touchdowns so far this year and is averaging 364 yards passing a game, while completing over 67% of his attempts.  Stockstill will remind Falcon fans of their former quarterback Matt Johnson, in both his stature and the way he plays.

Stockstill was originally committed to Cincinnati before he changed his mind and signed with the Raiders, where he now plays for his dad, head coach Rick Stockstill.

Middle Tennessee is 10-10 all-time versus MAC opponents, and lost 45-31 to Western Michigan in last year’s Bahamas Bowl.

Nobody seems to have a good read on the reigning MAC champs right now.  This should be a good game to tell us a lot about the fortunes of the Falcons in the MAC east division this year.

Quick Game Info

Game Time, Date: This game is on Saturday, September 17, 2016; kickoff is scheduled for 12 pm (EST).

Location: The two will meet up at Doyt Perry Stadium (24,000) in Bowling Green, Ohio.

TV: This game will be available on the American Sports Network/ESPN3. (Jeff McCarragher and Michael Young)

Radio: Available on the Falcon Radio Network. Click HERE to listen online at BGSUFalcons.com.

Online Streaming: Streaming on ESPN3.

Players to Watch

James Morgan (QB, BGSU) – If the Falcon offense continues to struggle, don’t be surprised to see Jinks make a move to the redshirt freshman, Morgan.  He got a series last week in the second quarter but had an interception that was returned for a touchdown on a tipped ball. Morgan appears to be the future for Bowling Green at the quarterback position, and new head coaches usually aren’t shy about moving on from a fifth-year senior when the offense is struggling.

Gus Schwieterman (DL, BGSU) – After a breakout year in 2014. Schwieterman missed all of 2015 with an injury.  Last week, he had three tackles-for-loss and two sacks against North Dakota.   If Schwieterman can regain the form from his freshman year, it will be a big boon for the Falcon defense.  They’ll need every playmaker they can get on defense if the offense continues to struggle.

Scott Miller (WR, BGSU) – With senior wide out Ronnie Moore getting most of the attention from opposing defenses, sophomore Miller has become the Falcons main target.  He leads the team with nine catches, 188 yards receiving and three touchdowns on the year.  His scoring plays last week were from 71, 51 and 11 yards out.  He’s also dangerous as a return man on both kick-offs and punts.

Brent Stockstill (QB, MTSU) – Named to the Davey O’Brien Watch List for 2016, Stockstill threw for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns last year as a redshirt freshman. He fell just 53 yards shy of breaking Jameis Winston’s NCAA freshman passing record (4,057).  Stockstill put the ball in the air 65 times last week against Vanderbilt. The Falcon secondary better be ready.

I'Tavius Mathers (RB, MTSU) –Played three years at Ole Miss before transferring to MTSU.  Mathers had to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules.  He earned Tennessee Class AAA Mr. Football honors and was rated the #20 running back in the nation and the #7 player in Tennessee by Rivals.com coming out of high school. He only has 20 carries through two games.

Darrius Liggins (DL, MTSU) – The Blue Raiders defense has recorded six sacks so far this year, and Liggins is the team leader.  He has only four tackles so far this season but half of them have been sacks.  If Liggins and his teammates can put pressure on the quarterback on Saturday, it might be a long day for the Falcons.

Prediction

The Falcons scare me right now.  They would have dominated a team like North Dakota a year ago, but struggled mightily last week.  Middle Tennessee has a legit offense and I don’t think Bowling Green has their offense in a place yet where they can score with them.

Bowling Green 28
Middle Tennessee 42