Leave it to the MAC to offer college football fans a treat with two games on Halloween night, including Bowling Green taking on Kent State. However, it’s been a rough season for both the Falcons (1-7, 1-3 MAC) and Golden Flashes (2-6, 1-3) as the two teams find themselves near the bottom of the East Division.
Both teams’ lone conference victory thus far came against Miami (Ohio), and a win by Kent State Tuesday night would keep the Golden Flashes’ chances of gaining bowl eligibility alive. With just four games left, Bowling Green is all but assured of sitting out this postseason.
These two schools have plenty of history together with Bowling Green leading the all-time series 59-19-6. That’s the most wins for the Falcons over any other opponent in program history. Bowling Green also has won four in a row over Kent State, outscoring the Golden Flashes 161-49 during that span.
Bowling Green at Kent State
Kickoff: Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Bowling Green -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Bowling Green’s three-headed QB?
James Morgan started the last seven games of the 2016 season at quarterback for Bowling Green and was instrumental in the Falcons’ three-game winning streak to wrap things up. The sophomore was fully expected to take the next step forward this season, but instead he has gone the wrong direction. In seven games, Morgan has completed just 45.3 percent of his passes with nearly as many touchdowns (nine) as interceptions (seven).
As a result, head coach Mike Jinks benched Morgan in favor of freshman Jarrett Doege, the brother of former Texas Tech star Seth Doege. Jarrett came on in relief of Morgan in the 49-7 loss at Northwestern and then made his first start the following week at Middle Tennessee. He showed good accuracy (63.5 percent completion rate) and had some success running the offense but then suffered a back injury in his second start against Akron. Morgan took over and led the Falcons to a 37-29 victory on the road against Miami (Ohio) in the next game, but gave way to another freshman, Grant Loy, in last week’s 48-17 blowout home loss to Northern Illinois.
Although it was initially feared that Doege was lost for the season, he has recovered enough and was available if needed last week. So who will get the call against Kent State? If healthy enough, the safe bet would be Doege since he could be the long-term solution at quarterback, but the depth chart has “or” listed with all three names so don’t be surprised if Jinks has a few “tricks” up his sleeve under center on Tuesday night.
2. Falcons gaining ground
For the season, Bowling Green is averaging 150.3 rushing yards per game. That relatively modest amount is good for sixth in the MAC and tied for 80th overall in the FBS. However, in conference games only the Falcons have been much better, gaining 219.3 yards per game on the ground. That average would place them 26th in the nation just behind defending national champion Clemson.
Senior Josh Cleveland leads the way with 504 rushing yards, but freshman Andrew Clair has been the star recently. He’s posted three straight 100-yard games, averaging 7.7 yards per carry during that span. Kent State is giving up more than 220 rushing yards per game, including 336 (and four touchdowns) to Ohio last week. Look for Bowling Green to try keep things rolling on the ground with Clair and Cleveland getting a lot of carries.
3. Can Kent State “Flash” some offense?
To put it simply, the Golden Flashes have had their issues on offense all season. Out of 129 FBS teams, Kent State ranks 125th or worse in three out of the four major offensive categories – scoring (10.0 ppg, last), total yards (249.6 ypg, second to last), and passing yards (101.0 ypg, 125th). Take away the 38 points the Golden Flashes scored in their win over Howard, an FCS opponent, and they have scored a total of 42 points against seven FBS teams (6.0 ppg).
Injuries have had something to do with this lack of offensive production, as senior quarterback Nick Holley, who also was the team’s leading rusher in 2016, was lost for the season just three games in. However, if there’s a potential silver lining for this game it’s that Kent State is seventh in the MAC in rushing offense (148.6 ypg) while Bowling Green is dead last in the conference (and 125th in the FBS) against the run (258.0 ypg). Moving the ball has been a struggle for Kent State all season, but if the Golden Flashes stay grounded Tuesday night they may able to put a scare into the Falcons.
Even though Kent State still has a mathematical shot at getting to six wins, the reality is that the Golden Flashes won’t go bowling this season. With Bowling Green already sitting at seven losses, a postseason berth isn’t in the Falcons’ future either. But what is at stake is a second MAC win and some positive momentum headed into the final month of the season.
Despite their similar records, the Falcons have clearly been more productive on offense. While the quarterback position is somewhat unsettled, the running game appears to be rounding into form. Bowling Green’s defensive issues should give the Golden Flashes a chance to at least move the ball and go above their scoring average, but the Falcons will score plenty of points of their own.
Prediction: Bowling Green 31, Kent State 20
(Top photo courtesy of www.bgsufalcons.com)