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2018 Week 8 MAC Preview: Bowling Green Falcons @ Ohio Bobcats

The Carl Pelini era begins at Bowling Green

Florida Atlantic v Georgia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

CAAARRLLLLLL.

College football Twitter often recognizes Carl Pelini as a recurring punchline from the hilarious Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) Twitter account. But Pelini, Bowling Green’s defensive coordinator, is now back in the spotlight as a college football head coach, serving as Bowling Green’s interim.

Pelini will make his coaching debut at Peden Stadium this Saturday, as Bowling Green (1-6) pays a visit to Ohio (3-3)

Meet the Falcons

Bowling Green fired Mike Jinks on Sunday afternoon before the former Texas Tech running backs coach could even finish his third year with the program. The Falcons, off to a 1-6 start, have shown no signs of improvements during Jinks’ reign — only signs of regression. The coach who inherited a MAC champion Falcons squad went from 4-8 to 2-10 to 1-6, totaling 7-24 before Bowling Green pulled the plug.

Jinks’ former team is fresh off a 42-35 shootout loss to Western Michigan. Although the Broncos entered as heavy favorites, Bowling Green is still lamenting on a 14-point blown lead, which could have been extended if not for untimely turnovers and sustained defensive lapses. Although the team’s new coach was their defensive coordinator, defense has been quite the issue for the Falcons.

Bowling Green boasts the worst run defense in the nation, yielding 325.1 yards per contest. The Falcons, yet to defeat an FBS team this season, allow the second most points per game in the nation with only Connecticut underneath them.

The Falcons have proven against a pair of MAC West contenders that they can move the ball offensively and score at a rapid pace. The team forced 36 points on Toledo and 35 on Western Michigan behind the masterful quarterbacking of sophomore Jarret Doege.

Doege, along with his favorite target Scott Miller, have created a strong passing game in the Falcons’ air raid heavy offense. In the past three weeks, Doege has shattered his career high in passing yards twice, launching the pigskin for 379 in the narrow loss to Western Michigan.

The running game at Bowling Green isn’t too shabby either. Sophomore Andrew Clair has accumulated 198 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in the past two weeks. He’s been a viable receiving threat as well, corralling five passes for 74 yards and a score against Toledo.

If Bowling Green can fix its egregious defensive issues, this could be a solid team. But that’s a big if.

Meet the Bobcats

It’s been an underwhelming year in Ohio, too.

Pinned as MAC favorites with the possibility of 10-12 regular season wins, Ohio is sitting at a dreary 3-3 after a blown fourth quarter lead at Northern Illinois last Saturday.

If not for an inspired fourth quarter comeback against Kent State, the Bobcats could find themselves at 2-4 and far behind in the MAC East race. But most of Ohio’s issues also stem from the defensive side of the ball.

Quarterback Nathan Rourke has done a solid job at guiding the offense in his second year under center. He’s been rushing the ball a lot less this season and focusing on his passing. He’s a decent passer and has posted extraordinary performances such as his 18-of-20 day at Kent State. But Ohio’s offense is best when the quarterback is displaying his mobility.

For instance, when Rourke ran for 189 yards on UMass’ defense, the Bobcats managed to score 58 points. However, they allowed 42 in that victory.

Ohio’s defense checks in at 105th in the nation by allowing 33.8 points per game. Despite returning an experienced secondary while replacing most of the defensive line and linebackers, Ohio struggles most at defending the pass. The 327.2 passing yards that Ohio allows per contest are the third worst in the nation. Facing Doege, Miller, and a potent passing offense in Bowling Green shouldn’t help those numbers improve by much.

Game Notes

  • Time and Date: Saturday, October 20 — 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Peden Stadium — Athens, OH
  • Network: ESPN3
  • Spread: Ohio (-17)
  • ESPN FPI Predictor: Ohio has 86.5% chance to win
  • All-time series: Bowling Green leads 40-27-2

Ohio may have claimed the last two matchups in this annual series, but Bowling Green still controls the series and will for decades to come. In their MAC championship years, the Falcons memorably destroyed the Bobcats with scores of 49-0 and 62-24. Last year’s matchup was another offensive shootout with Ohio on top, 48-30.

The MAC East rivals have met every season since 2004 after first duking it out in 1945.

Prediction

It’s going to be a tough game for Bowling Green.

The Falcons are adjusting to a new head coach in Carl Pelini, who will have to shift focus from the defense to managing the entire game. Bowling Green will serve as the road team, and the Falcons haven’t won a road game in nearly an entire calendar year.

Both defenses are porous, exposable units, so both talented offenses should have no problem registering points on the Peden Stadium scoreboard.

Ohio will have the edge in coaching with longtime head coach Frank Solich. Ohio will also be advantaged with Nathan Rourke and his mobility on the team’s sideline, and Rourke should be poised for a great rushing day against Bowling Green’s defense.

A highly-motivated Bowling Green team will cover the spread, but Ohio’s offense will prove to be too much to handle in Athens.

Prediction: Ohio 48, Bowling Green 35