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Maryland vs. Bowling Green preview: Terps face terrifying up-tempo Falcons offense

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But can the Falcons stop the run?

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

After a season-opening win against Richmond, Maryland plays game two of a three-game homestand Saturday in College Park against Bowling Green. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET, with television coverage on Big Ten Network and streaming on BTN2Go.

The Falcons opened the season with a 59-30 loss at No. 25 Tennessee, and bring one of college football's most explosive offensive attacks to College Park. The Falcons stretch the field vertically and horizontally better than most power schools, and have one of the fastest offensive tempos in the nation.

Second-year head coach Dino Babers brought this system with him from Eastern Illinois, where he coached current Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo to a 12-2 senior season and a Walter Payton Award. In his first year, Bowling Green wasn't very good, but did manage to win a MAC East title. The defense is a major question mark, but the offense is downright clinical.

Bowling Green's most-used running play is the read option, which worked well to move the ball against Tennessee and will test Maryland's new starting linebackers. The option play was even more successful in setting up Bowling Green's lethal passing game, able to punish defenses deep in man-coverage or shallow in the zone. Tennessee, a top-25 program filled with blue-chip talent, looked helpless at times against the Bowling Green attack.

Here are three plays in a row from the second quarter. Bowling Green goes for it on fourth-and-three from their own 13, and scores two plays later.

How do you even stop that?

There may be one way: the left side of the Falcons' line looked particularly leaky against Tennessee's powerful front seven. Bowling Green allowed three sacks and eight tackles for a loss in the game, and if Maryland has any hope of stopping the Falcons, it's going to need Yannick Ngakoue and Jesse Aniebonam to carry over strong Week 1 performances.

There's also the other way of beating Bowling Green, which appears to just be running the ball. The Falcons gave up 399 yards on the ground to Tennessee at 6.2 yards per carry. If Maryland's offensive line can open up running lanes in the way it did against Richmond, the Terrapins' backfield of Brandon Ross, Wes Brown and Ty Johnson should be able to move down the field with or without the aid of the passing game.

Bowling Green Falcons (0-1)

2014 record: 8-6 (5-3 MAC)

Head coach: Dino Babers (8-7, 27-14 career)

All-time record vs. Maryland: 0-0

Returning starters: 14 (10 offense, 4 defense)

F/+ ranking: 82 (Maryland is 75)

5-year recruiting ranking: 96

Players to know

Matt Johnson, QB, senior (RS), 6'0 219, No. 11. Johnson helped pull off an upset of Northern Illinois in the 2013 MAC Championship game, earning the game's MVP honors. After head coach Dave Clawson left for Wake Forest and Babers took over, Johnson looked like a potential MAC Player of the Year candidate if he meshed right with Babers's explosive system. Then Johnson got hurt in the season opener against Western Kentucky and missed the rest of the year.

If his performance against Tennessee is any indication, Johnson's turning into the fit Bowling Green hoped for. He passed for 424 yards on 49 attempts with two touchdowns and zero interceptions, and showcased a lethal deep ball that stretched Tennessee's defense.

Just look at this throw, from the third play of the game after two option plays set up third and short.

Now go again and look at that video from earlier. Maryland's secondary has an absolute rock in Will Likely, but against FCS Richmond they allowed three completions on six attempts for 99 yards on passes over 20 yards. That could spell trouble against the Falcons' vertical game.

Roger Lewis, WR, sophomore, 6'0 199, No. 1. Lewis is the guy catching the ball in the clip up there. Last year he was the first freshman receiver in Bowling Green history to have a 1,000-yard season, and was the first true freshman All-MAC wide receiver since 1982.

Lewis helps Johnson stretch the field, and is going to be the most frequently targeted receiver on the team. Don't be surprised if Will Likely spends a lot of time opposite him.

Travis Greene, RB, senior (RS), 5'10, 189, No. 8. Greene set the school record for rushing yards in 2013 under Dave Clawson, but his role was changed in the new offense. He was still effective, running for 5.3 yards per carry, but he didn't receive quite as many touches. Even with a lower carry number, Greene is an important part of the offense, due to his ability to reliably get positive yardage and occasionally break out for longer gains.

Gehrig Dieter, WR, junior (RS), 6'3, 207, No. 4. While Tennessee shut down Lewis for the most part (two receptions, 49 yards), Dieter roamed pretty freely. He's the one catching those back-to-back deep routes in the first video, and he led all receivers with seven receptions and 133 yards.

Strengths:

Explosive plays. Bowling Green tied with Baylor for the national lead in explosive plays (20+ yards) in Week 1, recording 11 against Tennessee. They can do it on the ground with Greene (or Johnson, for that matter) or through the air to one of their many targets (Johnson completed passes to 11 Saturday).

Passing game: Bowling Green has weapons in the backfield, but the offense really thrives on Johnson's game. He's one of the best non-power players in the country, and if he's healthy the Falcons could do some fun MACtion things this year.

Weaknesses:

Run defense. The Falcons' front seven was nearly wiped out by graduation, leaving Bowling Green with an inexperienced, undersized unit up front that looked overmatched against the Volunteers' offensive line.

Return coverage. Remember Will Likely, on pace to break the FBS single-season punt record record in 3.5 games? This week he goes up against a Bowling Green team that gave up 43 yards per kick return and 34 yards per punt return against Tennessee.

Predictions:

F/+ prediction: Maryland 41.9, Bowling Green 32.3. 71.1% chance of a Terps win.

My prediction: Maryland 48, Bowling Green 38. Maryland's edge in the trenches should be enough to overcome Bowling Green's aerial advantage.