After a bye week, the Bowling Green Falcons will enter the stretch run of their season starting with a mid-week trip to Oxford to face the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks. The Falcons have yet to win a game on the road this season — sitting at 3-6 overall — but things aren't looking any easier with the MAC East-leading RedHawks (5-4, 4-1 MAC) next up on the docket.
If Bowling Green is able to upset Miami, the focus will then turn to their final games versus Ohio and at Buffalo, the two teams directly behind Miami in the standings. A bowl game may be unlikely, but Bowling Green has an opportunity to impact the final outcome of the MAC this season.
Miami is coming off an emotionally satisfying 24-21 win at Ohio on Nov. 6. Already in the driver's seat, Miami is just a few wins away from clinching the MAC East and a ticket to Detroit for the MAC Championship Game on Dec. 7.
While Miami controls its own destiny, the RedHawks cannot afford to become complacent. Bowling Green has been steadily improving through the course of the 2019 season, and this is the kind of game and opponent that could ruin Miami's hopes of earning a bowl berth, after missing out on one last season. The Falcons have also taken four of the last six matchups dating back to 2011.
Bowling Green at Miami (Ohio)
Kickoff: Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Miami -18
When Bowling Green Has the Ball
Bowling Green has struggled to put points on the board; the Falcons have the ninth-worst scoring offense in the nation at 17.6 points per game. The Bowling Green offense had its most productive day in the recent 35-6 win over Akron, as Falcons quarterback Grant Loy threw for one touchdown while running for another. Loy is the focal point of the Falcons' offense as both the starting quarterback and the Falcons' leading rusher.
Look for Miami to key on Grant Loy in much the same way that they did against Ohio's Nathan Rourke. Last Wednesday, they held Rourke to 15-of-27 passing for 133 yards and 16 carries for 89 yards on the ground. Bowling Green will need to control the ball, as Miami forced two turnovers that helped spell the difference in the RedHawks' win over Ohio.
Look for plenty of carries from running backs Bryson Denley and Andrew Clair, as the RedHawks are much stronger against the pass (202.6 ypg, 37th nationally) than they are against the run (190.3 ypg, 93rd). The duo combined for 148 yards on 49 carries last week with three total touchdowns.
When Miami (Ohio) Has the Ball
Miami's Brett Gabbert is playing well as a true freshman starting quarterback with a solid 10-of-18 passing last week for 149 yards in the big win over Ohio. He also added a touchdown pass — which Jack Sorenson caught in spectacular fashion — without throwing an interception for the third straight game. However, he doesn't stretch the field much with a 53.3 percent completion rate and 7.1 yards per attempt.
Ball control has been the RedHawks' focus with Gabbert, and they rely heavily upon the running of Tyre Shelton and Jaylon Bester. Bowling Green has given up 214.4 yards per game on the ground, ranking 121st in the nation, and the RedHawks may try to duplicate what has been a solid, if not sizzling, style of play that has led them to five victories this season.
Miami suffered through a challenging non-conference schedule with games at Iowa, Cincinnati, and Ohio State, but the RedHawks have still positioned themselves to win their division. Bowling Green may be headed in the right direction under first-year head coach Scot Loeffler, but the Falcons have not won on the road this season, and the program suffers from a lack of depth. Miami cleared a big mental hurdle with the win at Ohio, so look for the RedHawks to continue towards winning the MAC East with a home win over the Falcons.
Prediction: Miami 31, Bowling Green 17
(Top photo by Jeff Sabo)