Sept. 23, 2021: Minnesota welcomes a Bowling Green coming off its first victory since Nov. 2019 to Huntington Bank Stadium in the Gophers’ final non-conference game of 2021.
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- Date: Sat., Sept. 25
- TV channel: ESPNU
- Time of kickoff: 11:00 a.m. (CST)
- Broadcast team: Mike Couzens (play-by-play) & Dustin Fox (color analyst)
- Betting line: Minnesota (-31) v. Bowling Green, o/u: 51
Opponent Information (Bowling Green):
- 2020 record: 0-5
- 2021 record: 1-2 (last week: 27-10 W vs. Murray State)
- Head Coach: Scot Loeffler (3rd year)
- Returning starters: 12
- Players to watch: Matt McDonald (QB), Austin Osborne (WR) and Darren Anders (LB)
The Golden Gophers are slated to host Bowling Green in a week four contest kicking off at 11:00 a.m. local time. The Falcons will be riding high off their 27-10 victory over Murray State (FCS), their first since Nov. 2019. Minnesota will be looking to put a stamp on their 2021 non-conference slate, as Big Ten play officially kicks off next week, in a road battle with Purdue. P.J. Fleck and the Gophers will be looking to earn their first victory over a G5 team by more than seven points since Sept. 2018 when they defeated Miami (OH) 26-3. Facing a Bowling Green team with a serious talent gap will be a great opportunity to extend their nation’s best non-conference winning streak to 22 games.
Bowling Green season storylines:
- 27-10 W vs. Murray State; first win since Nov. 2019:
Bowling Green will be coming to Dinkytown following a 27-10 victory over FCS foe Murray State in week three. The win is the Falcons first since a Nov. 2, 2019 victory over Akron, and only their fourth under head coach Scot Loeffler who is now three games into his third season with the program. Senior quarterback Matt McDonald is now coming off of the two best starts of his career. His 149.5 passer rating against the Racers was the second-highest mark of his career after earning a career-best of 163 the previous week against South Alabama.
As a team, Bowling Green outgained Murray State 339 total yards to 201 and it won the turnover battle 2-1. The all-around Falcons’ victory for the first time 686 days has given the program some momentum; relatively speaking. After a 22 to 19 last-second loss against South Alabama in week two, Bowling Green is beginning to take baby steps, pulling itself out of the dumpster of FBS college football.
- HC Scot Loeffler’s third season:
46-year-old Scot Loeffler is now three games into his third season as head coach for Bowling Green. Before he took over the program, he previously had stops as a QB coach at Central Michigan, Michigan (QB coach of Tom Brady), the Detriot Lions and Florida (QB coach of Tim Tebow) until being an offensive coordinator at Temple, Auburn, Virginia Tech and Boston College. It has taken Loeffler some time to get the Bowling Green program going, with only a record of 4-16 thus far. He is clearly an offensive coach, who would like to focus on his passing attack, but he hasn’t really had any evidence of showing that. After such a slow start, I am not sure how much longer his leash will be with the program, so 2021 could be vital for the Falcons to show any sense of improvement.
- How bad is Bowling Green?:
In 2020, Bowling Green was a bottom-three team in college football. With UConn, New Mexico State and UMass all opting to not play “full” schedules I would argue that Bowling Green was the worst team in America. Ranking last in rushing yards allowed per game at 310.2, 126th out of 127 FBS teams in scoring at 11.4 points per game and allowing the second-most point-per-game in the country at 45 is just a handful of the statistics that prove how uninspiring the Falcons 2021 campaign truly was.
This season they’ve “improved” to 93rd worst in rushing yards per game at 169.7, 67th worst in points allowed at 23.3 and 62nd worst in total yards allowed at only 347.7. An early-season schedule of Tennessee, South Alabama and Murray State is far from anything to write home about, but this team is better than last season. The question is, “How much better?” In my humble opinion, this is still at least a bottom 10 team in college football, but that is far from where they were last season.
Gophers’ path to victory:
I am going to go out on a limb and guarantee a Gophers victory on Saturday. Bowling Green is a much different opponent than Miami (OH). The Redhawks were less than two years removed from a conference championship, while Bowling is six years removed from a winning record. The game plan for a convincing victory still should be similar to that it was against Miami.
Minnesota needs to start out fast. A first possession touchdown will both send a message to the Falcons, and the doubters of P.J. in games against far inferior opponents. I fully expect another dominant day from the Minnesota running game, as Bowling Green is still in the bottom fourth of teams in rushing yards allowed. I would expect both Bucky Irving and Ky Thomas‘ roles to expand after showing their talent in last week’s shellacking of Colorado. I still would imagine that P.J. and Mike Sanford Jr. will likely call the game very conservative and anything less than a 75/25 split between runs and passes would shock me. If the Gophers limit turnovers, and come out fast both to begin the game and this time to begin the second half, they should have no issue covering the 31 point spread.
In my eyes, anything less than a 31 point victory would be disappointing. Fleck has certainly been labeled as a very conservative coach in these situations, and he could quickly lose that was a dominant showing. I believe Bowling Green is a much different team than Miami (OH) and Gophers’ fans will be looking forward to Big Ten play officially kicking off after a dominant showing from the Maroon & Gold on Saturday.