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Michigan 2023 opponent preview: Bowling Green brings familiar faces at QB and HC into matchup

A homecoming for Scot Loeffler with his new QB at Bowling Green.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 10 Toledo at Bowling Green Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Wrapping up the non-conference play for Michigan to open up the 2023 season is a Bowling Green squad that was bowl-eligible last season. The Falcons went 5-3 in the MAC in 2022, but were blown out by two Power 5 programs — UCLA and Mississippi State — leading to a 6-6 regular season record.

They traveled to Detroit for the Quick Lane Bowl, where a terrible first half led to a 24-19 loss against the New Mexico State Aggies. The Falcons finished 2022 with a disappointing 6-7 record that could have been much different if the ball bounced a different way in some contests.

The game against the Michigan Wolverines in Week 3 will be tough to overcome with some of the turnover they have on their roster as they look to build upon a last season.

Week 3 - Bowling Green Falcons

  • 2022 Record: 6-7 overall, 5-3 in MAC (T-2nd in the East)
  • Head Coach: Scot Loeffler, 5th year: 13-29
  • Key Losses: QB Matt McDonald, WR Tyrone Broden, DE Karl Brooks, DL Walter Haire
  • Key Additions: QB Connor Bazelak

There is a lot of talk about a potential National Championship run for Michigan in 2023. Bowling Green head coach Scot Loeffler was a member of the program the last time that it happened. Loeffler played quarterback for the Wolverines from 1993-96. After an injury to his shoulder ended his career, Loeffler joined Lloyd Carr’s coaching staff as a graduate assistant and was a part of the 1997 team. He then was the quarterback’s coach from 2002-07 before taking the same position for the Detroit Lions in 2008.

Fast forward a decade and a half and he’s on his first head coaching stint at Bowling Green. In 2022, he took the Falcons to a bowl game for the first time in his five seasons as head coach. Now, he’ll return to his alma mater and former employer with the hopes of an upset.

At quarterback, Loeffler will likely turn to Connor Bazelak, who started nearly every game for the Indiana Hoosiers in 2022. Tom Allen let him chuck the ball down the field — a lot. At Bowling Green, he likely won’t be unleashed the way he was in Bloomington as Loeffler tries to rein him in a bit.

Bazelak has Power 5 experience — which should give him a clear edge in his battle with 2022 backup Camden Orth — but Bazelak’s biggest knock is going to be taking care of the football. The Indiana transfer threw 10 interceptions last season and has been riddled with giveaways since his days at Missouri.

Meanwhile, Orth was thrust into the spotlight of the Quick Lane Bowl after an injury to senior quarterback Matt McDonald. He proved he could run the offense effectively, going 14-of-22 for 191 yards and a score. The offense scored 12 points in the fourth quarter under his care and nearly came back to beat New Mexico State. If Bazelak can’t take care of the football early in the season, Orth could get the nod in Week 3 against Michigan.

A major concern for Bowling Green is consistency in its offense. The Falcons finished 102nd in scoring last season by averaging just 20.7 points per game. A lot of that falls on a weak offensive line and a broken running game. As a team, they averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and scored just eight rushing touchdowns. Four of them came from a freshman tight end on the goal line. Needless to say, it will have to go through astronomical improvements over the offseason to keep things close against Michigan.

As always, the way this game could go south for the maize and blue if they don’t take care of the football. The Falcons were 4-0 last season when they had three or more takeaways.

They also had a great pass rush in 2022, leading the MAC in sacks. Karl Brooks, who had double-digit sacks, is in the NFL. Walter Haire, another talented defensive lineman, also has moved on from the program. That leaves edge rusher Demetrius Hardamon needing to improve upon his six sacks from last season.

If not for the relentless pass rush and turnovers, Bowling Green would have had one of the worst defenses in college football last year. The Falcons allowed 417.8 yards per game in 2022, finishing 90th in both passing and rushing yards per game. Michigan’s offensive attack should have no problem poking holes on the ground or carving up the secondary in this contest.

Nothing would make Loeffler happier than coming home to the Big House and pulling off an upset, but a lot would have to go wrong for the Wolverines or that to happen. Michigan has the weapons on offense to put up big points in this game while the defense puts the clamps on. A blowout should be in order when these two teams meet up in Week 3.