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Bowling Green Falcons vs. Maryland Terrapins Preview and Prediction

William Likely

William Likely

Moving forward, Maryland opponents would be wise to refrain from kicking to punt return man/cornerback William Likely. The junior tallied a Big Ten-record 233 punt return yards and a touchdown to help lead the Terrapins to a 50-21 win over the Spiders last Saturday.

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Hailing from the Mid-American Conference (MAC), Bowling Green makes the trek to College Park, Md., in search of its first win of the season. The Falcons dropped a 59-30 contest to Tennessee last week in Nashville. Despite the loss, Bowling Green's quick-strike offense was able to generate 557 total yards against an SEC defense.

Saturday’s meeting will be the first between the two schools.

Bowling Green at Maryland

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Television: ESPNU

Spread: Maryland -7.5

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Three Things to Watch

1. Can Bowling Green slow Maryland’s running game?

Likely wasn’t the only Terrapin to bust out Saturday afternoon. Maryland’s ground game, considered to be this year’s team’s strength on offense, was effective. Running back Brandon Ross paved the way, leading all Terrapins with 150 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries. Fellow backs Ty Johnson and Wes Brown ran for 83 and 74 yards, respectively, and both found the end zone once. On the other side, Bowling Green's defense failed miserably against the run, as Tennessee's Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara combined for 267 yards and five touchdowns. Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs added 89 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown of his own, with 205 yards passing and two scores. Maryland’s trio of running backs could be in store for a big afternoon.

2. The rest of the Maryland secondary

Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers is a member of the Art Briles coaching tree. Babers cut his teeth at Baylor in the late 2000s before taking the head coaching job at Eastern Illinois, where he coached current New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Babers’ offense typically nets 85-plus plays per game and can be overwhelming. Against Tennessee, Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson threw 49 passes for 424 yards and two touchdowns. Maryland’s secondary will be tested early and often. Johnson hooked up with wide receiver Gehrig Dieter seven times for 133 yards and a touchdown. While the Terrapins did not allow a passing score against Richmond last week, the defense gave up 220 yards through the air. That could be problematic against Bowling Green’s pass-happy offense.

3. Perry Hills’ progression

Last Saturday’s start was Hills’ first in nearly three seasons, so it’s difficult to be too critical of his performance. But, simply put, he underwhelmed. The redshirt junior tossed two touchdowns and passed for 138 yards while going 12-of-21 on his attempts. But he was off on several passes that could have resulted in interceptions against stiffer competition. Maryland head coach Randy Edsall gave Hills the majority of the snaps under center, so his starting job for appears to be safe for the foreseeable future. If the Terrapins are to compete in the talent-heavy Big Ten East, they’re going to need solid, consistent play from their quarterback. It’s too early to panic, but fans should expect a more-polished performance from Hills on Saturday.

Final Analysis

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Bowling Green is a good team that will give Maryland’s defense all it can handle. The Falcons hung with Tennessee before faltering, in large part, due to their lack of depth. This isn’t a game for Maryland to take lightly, as the Terrapins could find themselves on the wrong end if Babers’ Falcons jump out to a quick start, forcing Maryland to play catch up.

Prediction:Maryland 30, Bowling Green 27

— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A Washington, D.C.-based sports writer, Hayes is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and he also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12