West Virginia looks to get back on stride against a tough MAC team in Bowling Green. The Mountaineers continue to improve under new coach Dana Holgorsen, but how will they react off the first loss of the season? The Falcons are no pushover. Statistically, a very proven team already this year, Bowling Green will give everything they have at the Mountaineers. Will it be enough to hang with the high-flying West Virginia?
West Virginia: The unit continues to make big strides. Geno Smith and the boys ended up gaining more than 500 yards against LSU. The team was 3-for-3 in the redzone, and even ran the ball well against the Tigers. As good as the skilled positional players were, the offensive line was the real story. The boys up front kept Geno on his feet the entire game, and also push around the big boys from Baton Rouge a little bit. Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, and Ivan McCartney continue to create havoc for the secondary, and Tyler Urban may be the new go-to in the redzone. Dustin Garrison may have emerged as the number one running back after his performance last week. Tempo has improved as well. The biggest problem for this unit is the mistakes. The team has to hold onto the football, and just play cleaner.
Bowling Green: The balanced offense has had a lot of success early on. Matt Schilz is one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the nation, having already thrown 14 touchdowns. His top targets, Kamar Jorden and Eugene Cooper will be tough covers for the WVU corners. Anthon Samuel has nearly 500 yards on the ground already, with a very impressive 7.0 average per-carry. The Mountaineers better have learned how to tackle if they want to slow this offense down. The line is good, but has been suseptable to the sack this year, allowing 11 in four games. The Falcons are also nearly 50% on third downs. Efficiency is the word.
West Virginia: No pressure and no technique continue to haunt this unit. It's not a bad group at all. In fact, there's a lot of talent, including guys (Bruce Irvin, Julian Miller, Keith Tandy) who will play at the next level. However, this "unit" has struggled to play as one. In fact, it looks more like three units playing on the same field. That shoudn't come as a big surprise. This is a young group, which had many new parts coming in. Overall, they has been pretty good. They didn't give up a touchdown in the first two games, but struggled the last few weeks. The effort has been there, the technique has not. The line can't get a puss rush, the linebackers are not wrapping up, and the secondary look lost at times. They go up against another good offense on Saturday, so the spotlight will certainly be on.
Defense: The Falcons are allowing less than 20 points per game. This is one of the better numbers in the nation. Now, it's not against stellar opponents, but the bottomline is they're getting the job done. The line has done well to keep teams honest. The Falcons have consistently gotten to the opposing quarterback, and have done well against the run. That pressure has relieved a young linebacking unit. The secondary has done well, but haven't faced a passing attack like West Virginia's. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Falcons play early against the West Virginia offense.
West Virginia: Just a train wreck so far. Yes, Tyler Bitancurt has been fine kicking, and Tavon is a good return man. But everything else needs major work. Net punting is dead last in the country, tackling on coverage is shambolic, and blocking on returns isn't much better. Dana Holgorsen talked about this being potentially the major issue, and changes may be made before tomorrow's game. Mistakes from this unit can be a death sentence.
Bowling Green: The kicking game is strong. All averages are fine, including punter Brian Schmiedebusch's 49 per-kick. The return game has been fine, nothing huge. Look for Steven Dunlap to get most of the opportunities. WVU will have to not make any of these kids household names.
Overall: West Virginia is going to score. So, will the Mountaineer defense step up? Bowling Green will have to take risks to stay in this game, so look for WVU to play aggressivley to force mistakes...something that has eluded this defense so far. Expect a close game early, but just too much Geno and company will ultimately make the difference. Bowling Green will need the perfect game, which won't be the case. The Mountaineers make it big late.
Prediction: 49-24 West Virginia