Bowling Green (2-1) at (19) Wisconsin (1-1) (ET)
GAME NOTES: The 19th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers will continue their three-game homestand at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as they welcome the Bowling Green Falcons to Madison for a non-conference affair.
BGSU is off to a promising 2-1 start to the year, rebounding nicely from a season-opening loss at Western Kentucky (59-31) with back-to-back wins over VMI (48-7) and Indiana (45-42), the latter in come-from-behind fashion as it orchestrated a 12-play, 88-yard touchdown drive in the game's final two minutes.
Wisconsin was put to the test right out of the shoot this season with a neutral-field contest versus nationally-ranked LSU in the opener, but after building a 17-point lead, it collapsed on its way to a 28-24 loss. The Badgers took their frustration out on Western Illinois on Sept. 6 with a 37-3 win before enjoying a bye last weekend.
"We used the rest week to get some guys healthy," Wisconsin head coach Bo Pelini said. "I think we got a lot done mentally, and hopefully physically we are right back where we need to be."
The Badgers have beaten the Falcons on all three previous occasions, most recently in 2006, 35-14.
The Falcons' offensive attack has been outstanding in the early going this season, as they are putting up 41.3 ppg and 520.7 ypg, while scoring touchdowns on 64 percent of their red zone drives.
James Knapke wowed in his first-career start last week, setting school records for completions (46) and attempts (73), while piling up 395 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Roger Lewis with nine seconds left. Knapke appears to have a firm handle on the starting gig going forward now that Matt Johnson (25-of-36, 313 yards, TD) will miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury.
Lewis and Knapke built a great rapport last week, as the receiver hauled in 16 catches for 149 yards to up his season totals to 30 receptions, 366 yards and two scores. Heath Jackson (19 receptions, 165 yards) and Ronnie Moore (11 receptions, 147 yards, two TDs) also contribute to a talented receiving corps.
Travis Greene is a work horse in the backfield, turning 60 carries into 343 yards and four touchdowns.
BGSU's prolific offense is just barely good enough to mask its porous defense, which allows 36.0 ppg and 569.3 ypg.
Brian Sutton (29 tackles, 2.0 TFL), Gabe Martin (26 tackles, 2.5 TFL), Gus Schwieterman (4.0 TFL, sack, FF) and Ryland Ward (15 tackles, INT) anchor the underwhelming unit, although Ward is questionable with an undisclosed injury.
After Wisconsin's offense stalled in the second half against LSU in the opener, it rebounded nicely in the WIU win with 456 yards of offense and five touchdowns.
Melvin Gordon, one of the preseason favorites for the Heisman Trophy, has been slowed by a lingering hip injury and thus far has put up modest totals (33 carries, 178 yards, TD) a year after rushing for 1,609 yards. Corey Clement (102 yards, TD) has cut into Gordon's workload but averages just 4.2 yards per carry.
"We want to run the ball better," Pelini said. "That's everybody involved in the run game, including myself. I'm sure Bowling Green is going to load up the box and challenge us to run the ball effectively."
Tanner McEvoy, while an effective runner (95 yards, TD), has been inconsistent throwing the ball. He's completing less than 60 percent of his passes for 333 yards with three touchdowns and three picks.
Alex Erickson (13 receptions, 155 yards, TD) is the clear go-to receiving option for McEvoy with more than twice as many catches than anyone else on the team.
Wisconsin's historically stout defense has lived up to its reputation early in 2014 by allowing just 15.5 ppg and 263.5 ypg.
Marcus Trotter has a team-best 18 tackles to go with 2.5 TFL and a half a sack. Michael Caputo (17 tackles) has been integral in the turnover battle with an interception and a fumble recovery. Joe Schobert has 3.0 TFL, a sack and a forced fumble.
BGSU is certainly no pushover and should be able to find a way to put up some points, even against a strong Wisconsin defense, but the Falcons' defense has played so poorly that they have little chance to keep pace in this difficult road game. Figure for the Badgers' running game to get on track en route to an easy win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 52, Bowling Green 20