On the heels of a successful season opener, the Missouri Tigers—freshly ranked the No. 25 team in the country—return to Columbia to face Bowling Green in their 2009 debut at Memorial Stadium.
This week's gracious guest on Enemy Intel is Jack Carle, the sports editor at Bowling Green's Sentinel Tribune:
RF: Head coach Dave Clawson didn't exactly have a fair chance to excel at Tennessee as offensive coordinator before being dismissed with the rest of the Phillip Fulmer regime at the end of last season. With just a handful of games worth of FBS experience under Clawson's belt, what exactly did the Bowling Green brass see that made him an enticing candidate to replace Gregg Brandon after the 2008 season?
JC: Clawson's success at Richmond [29-29 record in six seasons] and Fordham [29-20 in four seasons] were major factors in the decision to hire him.
RF: Just curious: How, if at all, has the program evolved since Urban Meyer left upon restoring some luster to the BSU program after a handful of down years?
JC: Urban Meyer was here only two years [2001-02]. He had an impact in recruiting, installing the spread offense, and helping get a new facility for strength and conditioning, training area and football offices started. Gregg Brandon took the team to three bowl games (2-1) in his six years.
Neither Meyer nor Brandon won a conference title. This decade has been better than the final five years of [former head coach] Gary Blackney, but Meyer has been gone for almost seven years.
RF: Over the last seven seasons, MAC teams have a 5-16 record against the Big 12; yet Bowling Green is 2-1, including back-to-back wins in 2002 against Missouri and Kansas. To boot, the Falcons outscored the Tigers and Jayhawks 90-44 in those two games. Interestingly enough though, Bowling Green hasn't played a Big 12 opponent since 2004, when it opened the season in Oklahoma. Do you see the Falcons attempting to schedule more games with Big 12 foes as a means to increase the MAC's credentials?
JC: Looking at the projected non-conference schedules for Bowling Green, there are no games against Big 12 teams in the next three years. Of course that could change. Bowling Green has payday games at Michigan in 2010 and at Ohio State in 2011.
Other games in 2010 are Troy, Maryland, and Marshall. In 2011, Idaho and Maryland are scheduled and in 2012, Idaho, Virginia Tech, and Rhode Island are scheduled. Indiana is expected to be added in the next three years. When the NCAA went to 12 regular season games, it was natural for the MAC to schedule games with the Big Ten.
RF: Bowling Green beat a very good Troy team by 14 last weekend, but the Falcons managed only 50 yards rushing on 28 carries. Will Clawson put an extra emphasis on running the ball this week, especially if a successful ground game means Blaine Gabbert and the MU offense will spend more time on the sideline?
JC: Clawson is working on a better running attack. However, I'm not sure the quality is there to get the job done.
RF: On the other hand, quarterback Tyler Sheehan was brilliant against Troy, completing over 72 percent of his passes and throwing for 339 yards. If the running game starts to sputter, particularly early in the game, will Sheehan be entrusted to air it out often once again?
JC: Sheehan is a senior who has started 26 games in the last three years. With some veteran receivers, Sheehan will be full-go if there's a limited running attack.
RF: Three of the five Bowling Green receivers who caught at least 20 passes in 2008 return for this season. With so much firepower available to Sheehan, is there a clear leader at wideout that should give opposing defenses something to worry about? How about at running back?
JC: Senior Freddie Barnes is the top wide receiver. He had 15 receptions for 157 yards and two scores against Troy. Barnes has 157 receptions for 1,677 yards in his career. Junior Willie Geter is the top running back, but he has been inconsistent in his career. He does have the ability to break off a long run, but those have been few and far between.
(Side note: For his effort against Troy, Barnes earned MAC Offensive Player of the Week honors.)
RF: In your opinion, what does the Bowling Green defense have to do to rattle a Mizzou offense that's young, but apparently has the potential to score plenty of points under the leadership of Gabbert?
JC: Bowling Green will have to change its looks defensively, looking to bring pressure from different areas each time. That was effective against Troy, especially in the second half as the Falcons showed a two, three, and four-man rush at different times from upfront and also used four linebackers at times and five defensive backs at other times.
Bowling Green will roll eight players through the defensive line and that should keep them fresh for the fourth quarter. The three starting linebackers and the two safeties are seniors. The corners are both going to start the second game of their careers against Missouri.
RF: The Falcons have won each of the last two meetings, including a 20-13 road win in Gary Pinkel's Missouri debut in 2001. How do you see this one playing out?
JC: I'll be a homer and pick the Falcons, 31-30.
Jack Carle is the sports editor at the Sentinel-Tribune, the foremost source for information on Bowling Green University athletics.