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Bowling Green Falcons vs. Northwestern Wildcats Preview and Prediction

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Bowling Green and Northwestern will meet up in Evansville on Saturday night, with both teams looking for positives to build on as they head into their respective conference slates.

Northwestern Wildcats RB Justin Jackson

The Falcons are winless through two contests and are having a tough time keeping opponents out of the end zone. The Wildcats, on the other hand, have not been moving the ball as well as many expected them to heading into the 2017 campaign. 

Bowling Green at Northwestern

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Northwestern -22

Three Things to Watch

1. Can Northwestern find its groove early on offense?

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The Wildcats finished their disaster of a loss to Duke with 191 yards of total offense. That wasn't close to good enough against the Blue Devils, and judging by some of what we've seen out of the Big Ten West, it won't be good enough during conference play, either. Bowling Green is a team that Northwestern should be able to move the ball against with relative ease. Look for the Wildcats to establish the run early on with a healthy dose of Justin Jackson before turning things over to quarterback Clayton Thorson. Both facets of the offense need work, and this is the week to put that work in. If they struggle to move the ball in this game, it's going to be a long year in Evansville.

2. Can Bowling Green show any signs of life on defense?

The Falcons have given up 70 points and nearly 1,000 yards through just two games so far in 2017. One of those two games was an embarassing loss to FCS foe South Dakota. That doesn't bode well for a Bowling Green squad getting ready to face a MAC slate full of dynamic offenses that hang video game-like numbers on the scoreboard. The Falcons really have nothing to lose against Northwestern, so look for them to pull out all the stops in hopes of shutting down a few Northwestern drives and boosting their confidence. If they don't appear motivated and ready for that test, it's tough to imagine this team winning a game this season.

3. Bowling Green wide receiver Datrin Guyton

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound receiver is an intriguing player for NFL draft geeks to follow. His has the size and skill set to excel at the next level. Dismissed from Oregon State midway through his redshirt freshman campaign, he seems to have revived his career at Bowling Green and will likely be highly motived to face a secondary with a couple of NFL prospects roaming around. Guyton against Northwestern safety Godwin Igwebuike should be a fun matchup in the red zone.

Final Analysis

Northwestern took it on the chin a week ago, but it doesn't feel like the Duke loss reflected who they really are. I like the Wildcats to use this game to get right, get their confidence back on defense and find some rhythm in the passing game. There's nothing we've seen from Bowling Green defensively that says that Northwestern won't be able to do that, although I won't be shocked if the Falcons are able to strike with some big plays of their own through the air. In the end, Northwestern's size, strength and depth are going to be too much for Bowling Green to handle.

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Prediction: Northwestern 38, Bowling Green 17

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, Bleacher Report and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.