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Talking Maryland-Bowling Green football with Hustle Belt

We talked with SBNation's Mid-American Conference blog The Hustle Belt to preview the first ever match-up between Maryland and Bowling Green.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Thank you to Hustle Belt's Randy Carpenter for taking the time to answer some questions about Maryland's next opponent, the Bowling Green Falcons. You can follow The Hustle Belt on Twitter @HustleBelt

Testudo Times: Despite both schools having a combined 200+ year football history, Saturday will mark the first meeting between the programs. Give us a little background about Bowling Green State University and their football program.

Hustle Belt: Bowling Green was founded in 1910 as Bowling Green Normal School as a place to train teachers.  They started playing football in 1919 and actually won National Championships in 1928, 1948, 1956, and 1959 playing in the NCAA College Division.  They joined the Mid-American Conference in 1952 and eventually move to the NCAA Division I level along with other members of the conference.

Bowling Green has had a pretty impressive coaching tree with many former coaches moving on to bigger iggs, including Don Nehlen (West Virginia), Denny Stolz (San Diego), Urban Meyer (Utah, Florida, Ohio State), and most recently Dave Ca]Lawson (Wake Forest).

The Falcons have also had many former players make the jump to the NFL.  Currently, Korey Lichtensteiger (Washington), Chris Jones (New England), Shaun Suisham (Pittsburgh), Alex Bayer (San Diego), Gabe Martin (Arizona), and Jude (Tampa Bay) are currently on NFL rosters.

The Falcons won their first MAC championship in 20 years in 2013.  Even though Clawson moved on, the majority of the current roster was part of that championship, especially on offense.  New head coach Dino Babers has come in and installed his version of the spread offense, which he learned while working for Art Biles at Baylor.  His offense this year will scare any defense, but the defense...well that's another story.

TT: Bowling Green has some very talented players on offense at some key positions. Who are the play makers Maryland fans need to worry about on Saturday?

HB: Where do I start?  I guess like any team, you start at quarterback.  Matt Johnson had a monster game at Tennessee last week, throwing for 424 yards against an SEC defense.  Johnson got hurt in the opener last year and missed the rest of the season.  He had an incredible year in 2013, his first year as a starter, with 30 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.  If Johnson is as good as, or better, than he was in 2013 this offense could be historically good from a numbers perspective.

The Falcons run the ball effectively enough to complement the passing game.  Starting running back Travis Greene is a converted wide receiver who ran for over 1,600 yards in 2013.  He isn't a big guy, but he has the great ability to make people miss.  Greene's back-up is Fred Coppet, who ran for nearly 800 yards last year, and is more of a power runner.  Both Greene and Coppet are nursing injuries from the Tennessee game and it will be interesting to see how they will play against the Terrapins.

Johnson has plenty of options when throwing the ball because the falcons are loaded at wide receiver.  Gehrig Dieter had 133 yards on seven catches against the Volunteers last week and he is the third or fourth option on this team.  Roger Lewis had a breakout year as a true freshman last year with over 1,000 yards receiving.  He was originally signed by Ohio State out of high school but ended up at Bowling Green.  Ronnie Moore is a Florida speedster that had a big game himself last week after having to sit out the first half due to a suspension for "targeting" while playing on special teams in the Falcon's bowl game last December.  Ryan Burbrink is a DeMatha grad who's making a homecoming of sorts on Saturday.  He's a tough, over-the-middle type of possession receiver that makes plays and keeps the chains moving.  And, I haven't even mentioned Robby Rhodes who transferred in from Baylor.  He was the #1 recruit in Texas coming out of high school but he hasn't seen the field much because this unit is so deep.

TT: While they lost to Tennessee 59-30 last week, the Falcons and their uptempo offense were still able to put up some points against the Volunteers. What's the best way to contain and slow down Bowling Green's offense?

HB: That can be tough as Tennessee found out last week.  If you load the box to stop the running game, Johnson will pick you apart.  He also has the ability to find the right match-up to go to when throwing the ball.  The Volunteers obviously were focused on stopping Lewis and that enabled Johnson to find Dieter often.

Putting pressure on Johnson would be the best recipe for success for Maryland, but that is easier said than done.   Johnson had some mobility and is adept as moving in the pocket.  Plus, he's working behind a veteran offensive line.  All five starters return from last year.  Tennessee wasn't able to apply any consistent pressure on Johnson.

TT: While their offense did some good things last week, the Falcon's defense struggled, especially against the run, allowing 399 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Is their run defense really that bad and do you think Maryland will be able to do the same this week?

HB: Yes, this defense is very young and inexperienced.  To be fair, the defense was put in some bad situations last week.  Our special teams were horrible, allowing one big punt or kickoff return after another.  I think the Vols scored four touchdowns on drives under 30 yard last week.  So it wasn't all on the defense last week.

Having said that, the Falcons defense didn't come close to stopping Tennessee last week.  When the Volunteers did turn it over on downs, it was more of their own doing than anything the Falcons did.  Bowling Green had trouble stopping the run and I wondered why Tennessee even tried to throw a pass.  I am sure Maryland coaches have seen the tape and will pound on the Falcons defense.  I would if I were them.

TT:  Prediction time. Complete this sentence:___________ will win because __________________.

HB: Maryland will win because the Bowling Green offense will come close but won't be able to outscore them.