Joe Tiller was 13-2 against the MAC. His only two losses were to Toledo, on the road in his first game (And Toledo went on to go 9-3) and to Bowling Green by a point in 2003 (and Bowling green went on to go 11-3). Even Danny hope, much-maligned as he was, was 3-2 against the MAC, losing to Northern Illinois by 7 in 2009 and Toledo by 11 in 2010 when EVERYONE got hurt.
If you're a Big Ten team you are supposed to beat the MAC. That is just the order of things. Sure, the top of the MAC is often as good if not better than the bottom of the Big Ten, but the conference overlap and consistent scheduling between the two leagues still projects an image of superiority for Big Ten teams. Almost everyone has at least one MAC game, and it is supposed to win. A few MAC teams can pull off a home-and-home or a two-for-one to get a game at home, but if you are a good team these are the guarantee games.
Unfortunately for Purdue, there are no guarantees. The Boilers are 0-2 all-time against bowling Green, losing 17-14 in 1972 and 27-26 in 2002. (Inexplicably, that 1972 team damn near won the Big Ten despite going 0-3 in the non-conference. Purdue was still 6-2 vs. the B1G with a 10 point loss to Michigan State and 3 point loss at Michigan). Even worse, Darrell Hazell, a coach who did well against the MAC in 2012 with Kent State (the historical IU of the MAC) is a paltry 1-2 against that conference at Purdue:
2013: Northern Illinois 55, Purdue 24
2014: Purdue 43, Western Michigan 34
2014: Central Michigan 38, Purdue 17
The loss to Northern Illinois was a triple fail, as it was the most points given up to a visiting team at Ross-Ade (broken a few weeks later when Ohio State hung 56), The most points a Big Ten team has ever given up to a MAC team, and tied for the largest B1G loss ever to a MAC team by margin. It doesn't get much better when Western Michigan is still Hazell's best win and Central Michigan was a marginal 7-6 team last year that blew out Purdue, but lost to the likes of 3-9 Syracuse by 37 and Kansas by 14. At least that Northern Illinois team was one of the best MAC teams ever.
This is a full-fledged Defcon-1 danger game. The Falcons have a fast-paced offense capable of dropping 60 on anyone. Yes, their defense is questionable, but Purdue is giving a redshirt freshman his first start and first serious game action of his career. The Boilers are in serious danger of getting run off their field for a third straight season by a MAC team if the defense cannot get some stops and the offense continues to stall out.
Who to Watch on Offense
Matt Johnson - QB - Meet the nation's leading passer through three games. His numbers would make Drew Brees' early years look like he was an option quarterback. Johnson has already thrown for 1,358 yards with 91 completions and a 61% completion rate. He also has 12 touchdowns against a single interception, and this is against an SEC team (Tennessee) and a Big Ten team (Maryland). He does have a rushing TD as well, so he can run a bit if needed. Johnson was injured most of last season, but in 2013 he threw for 3,467 yards and 25 TDs against 7 picks. Oh, and if he has to leave the games James Knapke is more than capable of taking over. In playing for Johnson last season Knapke threw for 3,173 yards and 15 TDs. They are going to spread the field, go no huddle, and quickly throw the ball around. Can Purdue at least slow it down some? This is pretty much the opposite of the offense that Purdue just got carved up by in Virginia Tech.
Roger Lewis - WR - They have three receivers that have at least 15 receptions so far, but Lewis has, by far, been the top target. The 6-foot sophomore was an all-MAC selection last season and already has 24 receptions for 510 yards and 5 touchdowns. Like Isaiah Ford last week, this is the player that will maddeningly be wide open on every critical down because we're surprised a team would throw to their top receiver. He absolutely torched Maryland for 15-200-2 and last week only had 7 catches, but they were for 261 yards and three scores. His game against Maryland is better than our best receiver's three games so far.
Ronnie Moore - WR - Another prolific receiver, Moore has 20 receptions for 238 yards on the season.
Ryan Burbrink - WR - Burbrink is like Moore in that he is a very speedy undersized receiver. He already has 16 catches for 186 yards and a score.
Gehrig Dieter - WR - In case you already weren't worried about the Purdue secondary, Dieter is a fourth very capable receiver with nine catches for 160 yards and twos cores so far. He originally committed to SMU before transferring to Bowling green after a season. Oh, and we let him get away too after he set state receiving records at South Bend Washington, including a national record 437 receiving yards in one game, because why would we need a reliable 6'3" 200 pounds receiver who was a First Team All-American by MaxPreps.
Fred Coppet - RB - Every once in awhile the Falcons run the ball. Coppet has 202 yards on the season, while Travis Greene has 162 yards and a TD.
Who to Watch on Defense
Austin Valdez - LB - Valdez leads Bowling Green with 38 tackles so far including 2.5 for loss, but that is not saying much. This is not a good defense by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, they often serve as merely a conduit to get off the field as fast as possible to let the warp speed offense get off the field.
No One Else - There is no one else that stands out at all. This is not a defense that brings pressure (three sacks in three games) or does anything particularly well. Trent Greene has 30 tackles and Dernard Turner has two interceptions, but this is a defense whose statistics are inflated because their offense scores so often and so quickly.
Just look at some of the overall numbers. The offense averages 39.7 points per game, but the defense gives it right back at 43.3 points per game. Where we should be scared is points off of turnovers. Bowling Green has 42 of them, and Purdue is not exactly the most sound in holding on to the football. The Falcons were tied entering the fourth quarter at Maryland, but won going away mostly because of turnovers.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Burbrink - He is dangerous on punt returns and has a nice 8.4 yards per return average. The Falcons have given up a punt return for a score, however.
Joe Davidson - Punter - Yes, Bowling Green has a punter, and he has a hell of a leg. He averages 49.1 yards per kick on nine kicks with a long of 59.
Purdue needs to run the ball. I cannot make this any simpler for John Shoop. Run the ball. The Falcons have given up 774 yards and 8 TDs on the ground. That is 236.7 yards per game, good for 116th out of 127 FBS teams. If Markell Jones and D.J. Knox to not get the rock for a combined 40 times in this game then there needs to be a line of angry Purdue fans blocking John Shoop from setting foot in the locker room after the game.
Running the ball serves two purposes: First, it is blatantly obvious that we should be able to do it with ease, thus moving a stagnant offense. Second, it keeps the clock moving and the Bowling Green offense safely on the sidelines. This is an offense that plays at a ridiculously fast clip. They only need seconds to score (seriously, as Lewis has a 94 yard TD reception). The best way to stop them is to not let them on the field at all. If Purdue can generate 5 yards per carry (which is what they give up) then it needs to run the ball all day long. If that means a 7 minute TD drive, then so be it. That is 7 minutes where Bowling Green can't score, and in 7 minutes they could easily score three times.
That is the only way Purdue wins this game. If it tries to get into a passing shootout it will lose, and probably badly. Johnson is not going to turn it over, so it is up to the defense to get some stops and the offense to take advantage of said stops with their offense on the sideline.