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Bowling Green at No. 2 Michigan Preview: Prime-time stage for a less-than-prime-time matchup

The Wolverines are heavy favorites again, but the stars should be out at night.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 13 Wisconsin at Michigan

No one is accusing the Bowling Green Falcons of being anything but a formality on the 2023 schedule for the national championship-seeking Michigan Wolverines. In fact, per SP+, Saturday night’s guest is ranked even lower (113th) than both ECU (99th) and UNLV (97th), making this feel like an exact replicate of last season’s non-conference gauntlet.

Add in the fact that the only reason this game was selected for prime time was to satisfy tv contracts, and on the surface there seems to be little to be gained from this affair. However, I contest that even the lowest hurdles on the schedule offer something to be had, and certainly this year’s team is completely focused on each individual week.

Good teams take their wins and move on against overmatched competition, but elite teams show no mercy. Exhibit A would be J.J. McCarthy, who has been on a tear through two games and shows no interest in slowing down, irrespective of who lines up against him. The same could be said for the defensive line, who has dominated the opposing starting five and punished quarterbacks, regardless of sack numbers.

So no, this game will not draw any sort of national attention, but there is still value in this contest for the home side. If Michigan is going to finally get to the championship game, it cannot happen by coasting into November. Every single game matters, and unfortunately for Bowling Green, this squad is sprinting towards its goal.

Bowling Green Falcons (1-1) at No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (2-0)

Date & Time: Saturday, Sep. 16, 7:30 pm ET
Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TV/Streaming: BTN

Offense: A little too modern

This will sound similar to last week, as in many ways Week 2 was a repeat of Week 1 on offense. It is undeniable that Michigan’s ceiling has risen with McCarthy’s ascension, thanks to his ridiculous 87.3 percent completion rate (best in the country among passers with over 15 attempts) and ability to run. This is unlike anything the Wolverines have featured in a long time — RIP Speed in Space.

If Michigan looks more balanced (and lethal) than ever before, then what is there to complain about? Against all odds, it happens to be the running game. While we are still miles away from panic, it has been strange to see this offensive line and explosive rushing duo fail to overpower inferior defensive fronts, even if they are playing extremely aggressive. As a result, Michigan’s offense is sliding down the SP+ ranks, now falling to 14th.

Again: too early to be truly concerned, as the Wolverines have been keeping the scheme simple, while defenses are selling out against the run. However, Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards still should be able to dominate against teams like Bowling Green (who sits 121st in SP+ defense), which has yet to be the case this season. Great teams simply overpower inferior opponents, and this is the time for the Michigan run game to finally get back to its old self.

Defense: Pitch that shutout

The Falcons look slightly better on offense, but still are nowhere near threatening. Indiana transfer Connor Bazelak takes over after a mediocre 2022 in Bloomington and he will probably look to replicate ECU’s strategy of getting the ball out as quickly as possible and keeping it in the short-to-medium range when asked to throw.

Despite the Michigan defensive line’s impressive start to the season, expect Bowling Green to try to stay to the ground as much as possible. With Bazelak’s limitations, former Wolverine Scot Loeffler will be trying to establish the run game behind Terion Stewart and Ta’ron Keith, who have both put up decent numbers on limited touches so far.

No matter which direction the offense goes, however, this is a good chance for Michigan to finally get that elusive shutout. There is no area on the field where the visitors are even closing to matching the Wolverines in terms of talent, and with some of the defensive backs getting healthier, there is likely to be a whole lot of nothing from the Falcons offense. It probably again comes down to garbage time, but it is hard to see the competitive portion of the game being all that competitive.


Bowling Green is arguably the worst of Michigan’s three non-conference opponents, which is saying something given the dearth of September challenges once again. Though Rutgers is not exactly the strongest foe, the Scarlet Knights will definitely be a step up once Big Ten play starts next week, so this the true end of the pseudo preseason.

Neither side of the ball is too impressive for the Falcons, meaning this is really about Michigan measuring against its past two weeks. If McCarthy maintains the headlines, that can only be a good thing, but it would be a little head-scratching to see the run game go 0-for-3 in terms of solid outings. I think that likely changes this week, but will definitely be something to watch either way.

The defense went from zero sacks against ECU to five against UNLV, and that number probably lands somewhere in the middle on Saturday. There are likely to be some turnovers, though, as the Falcons ranked near the bottom of the country last year in giving the ball away and already have thrown five interceptions through two games this season. It this game is going to be under the lights, Michigan might as well put on a show.