Bowling Green will host Akron on Friday, Nov. 20 at 5:30 p.m.
2008 recap: Without two upset losses, Bowling Green would have enjoyed a memorable season. The Falcons began the fall with a
27-17 win at No. 25 Pitt. By the end of the year, however, the team was 6-6 and without a bowl invitation, mostly because of home losses to basement dwellers Miami and Eastern Michigan. Sandwiched between those games was the Falcons'
37-33 win at Akron. Bowling Green scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a large deficit. The Falcons' strength was in its pass defense. You can attribute that to a combination of strong pressure on the quarterback (defensive end
Diyral Briggs led
the MAC with 9.5 sacks) and solid coverage (four Falcons ranked among the top 11 in the MAC in passes defended). After the season, the school
fired sixth-year head coach
Gregg Brandon, who had amassed a 31-17 record and taken his team to three bowl games.
What they lost: Briggs is the biggest loss. He was a two-time first-team
All-MAC player. The Falcons lost seven players total on defense, including three linemen, two linebackers, and two members of the successful secondary:
Antonio Smith (the MAC's leader in passes defended) and
Kenny Lewis (third in conference in interceptions). ... On offense, the Falcons lost leading receiver
Corey Partridge, leading rusher
Anthony Turner and two linemen.
2009 outlook: New coach
Dave Clawson was considered to be a rising star in the coaching ranks until last season. He was
Phillip Fulmer's offensive coordinator at Tennessee. The Vols ranked 115th in the nation in total offense, so Fulmer was fired and new coach
Lane Kiffin did not retain Clawson. Clawson will have a seasoned quarterback at Bowling Green, however.
Tyler Sheehan, a senior, was one of the better quarterbacks in the conference last season. His top target will be
Freddie Barnes, who missed three games to injury last year but still racked up 364 yards. Junior
Chris Bullock is an experienced running back, who will take pressure off the passing game. On defense, Bowling Green will rely on youth to replace the seven departed seniors.
How the Falcons will test the Zips: Bowling Green has won its last two matchups with Akron. You know you have a winning program when you're canning your coach after a 6-6 season. ...
Chris Jacquemain passed for more yards than Sheehan last year. But Sheehan's 20:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio is more enviable. Jacquemain was 20:14. ... The Zips were able to build a lead against Bowling Green last year because of
Dennis Kennedy (182 yards, 2 TD). If Akron cannot find a successful rusher, then the Falcons can play the pass and keep the Zips from moving the ball.
How the Zips will test the Falcons: Akron's passing game has improved with more talent and more experience. Bowling Green's pass defense lost three main cogs. Jacquemain,
Andre Jones and the crew should put up points quickly.
Way-too-early prediction: It's a road game late in the season. You need a winning attitude for these games -- particularly when they mean something. Until I see a few practices or games, I'm not convinced this squad has one. It all depends on how well the Zips' defense is playing this time of the year.
Akron 28, Bowling Green 31