Bowling Green will make the short trip south to Oxford, Ohio, to take on their long-time MAC rival Miami on Tuesday night for some MACtion to help kick off Week 12 of the college football season. The host RedHawks (5-5, 4-2) are battling Kent State for the MAC East title and are a win away from becoming bowl eligible while the Falcons (3-7, 1-5) are looking to snap their losing streak to their in-state brethren.
Miami is tied with Kent State for the top spot in the East with two games remaining. These two teams will meet on Nov. 27, a potential winner-take-all season finale. After losing to Ohio in the Battle of the Bricks on Nov. 2, the RedHawks rebounded nicely with a convincing 45-18 home win over Buffalo last Tuesday.
Bowling Green defeated those same Bulls 56-44 on Oct. 30 for its first conference win but got blasted by Toledo 49-17 last Wednesday.
This will be the 75th meeting between the two Ohio-based schools that are separated by less than 180 miles. Miami leads 45-24-5 and has won the past two meetings (2018, '19) by a combined score of 82-26.
Bowling Green at Miami (Ohio)
Kickoff: Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Miami (Ohio) -15.5
When Bowling Green Has the Ball
With the exception of the win over Buffalo, generating offense has been a problem all season for the Falcons. In MAC play, Bowling Green is averaging 27.2 points per game (11th in the conference), and that number is helped quite a bit by the 56 scored against the Bulls. The Falcons are last in total offense at 355.3 yards per game vs. MAC foes and only managed 196 in last week's blowout loss courtesy of Toledo.
Running back Terion Stewart needs to be the focal point of the Falcons' game plan. He leads the team with 324 rushing yards and four touchdowns in just seven games, including 170 yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo a couple of weeks ago. It won't be easy gaining ground against a Miami defense that is second in the MAC in rushing defense (135.5 ypg allowed), but Bowling Green has to try to open up things for the passing game.
Quarterback Matt McDonald threw for four touchdowns in the win over the Bulls but has a total of seven with as many interceptions in his nine other games. Tyrone Broden has been the Falcons' big-play weapon, averaging 17.5 yards per reception (31 catches) with a team-high five touchdowns.
The RedHawks are holding teams to a conference-low 20.2 points per game, which would be even lower if not for the uncharacteristic 35 surrendered to Ohio a couple of weeks ago. Last Tuesday, Buffalo totaled 361 yards but managed only 18 points, thanks in part to four turnovers (3 fumbles lost, interception). The RedHawks also recorded two sacks and eight tackles for a loss. They are tied with Central Michigan for the most TFLs per game (7.6).
Linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. and defensive back Matthew Salopek are second and third, respectively, in the MAC in tackles with both approaching 100. Additionally, defensive lineman Lonnie Phelps is tied for second with 6.5 sacks.
When Miami (Ohio) Has the Ball
The RedHawks offense revolves around the arm of quarterback Brett Gabbert. Even though he's only played in seven games, Gabbert is second in the MAC with 18 touchdown passes. Half of those have come in the last two games. Gabbert also is averaging 255 passing yards per game and has thrown just three interceptions.
His favorite target is Jack Sorenson, a senior who leads the conference with 1,098 receiving yards (on 60 rec.) and eight touchdowns (tied for the lead). Fellow wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer (40 rec., 15.8 ypr, 4 TDs) and tight end Andrew Homer (5 TDs in 8 GP) also have played prominent roles this season.
Gabbert's presence is essential to Miami's offense because of an inconsistent running game. A freshmen-led backfield of Keyon Mozee, Kevin Davis, and Kevin Tracy has combined for 856 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. But in conference games, the RedHawks are averaging just 4.5 yards per carry and have five rushing touchdowns in six contests.
Bowling Green has given up the essentially same number of yards on the ground (1,319) as through the air (1,312) in its MAC games. The problem for the Falcons is the 40.7 points per game allowed in those same contests. Only Kent State (41.7 ppg) has fared worse, but the Golden Flashes have a much more potent offense.
As can be expected, the Falcons' defense spends a lot of time on the field, and that's one of the reasons why linebacker Darren Anders leads the conference with 103 tackles. Karl Brooks has been the most effective pass rusher (5.0 sacks, 9.5 TFLs) for BGSU, but the defense has had some issues generating consistent pressure against MAC opponents (11 sacks in six games).
Miami has squandered opportunities this season, most notably on the road against Eastern Michigan (13-12 loss) and at Ohio (35-33 loss). But the RedHawks are very much alive in the MAC East and can earn a shot at winning a second MAC title in three seasons with two more wins. Bowling Green pulled off one of the upsets of the season earlier at Minnesota but the Falcons haven't been able to replicate that success in conference play. Miami simply has too much to play for and too much firepower with Gabbert and Sorenson leading the way. The RedHawks become bowl eligible and set up a huge Nov. 27 showdown with Kent State with a comfortable win at home on Tuesday night.
Prediction: Miami (Ohio) 35, Bowling Green 20
Podcast: Recapping Week 11, Washington Coaching Search and Previewing the CFB Playoff Top 25 Rankings Release