Gators game preview: Bowling Green

ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays, we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN's GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. First up is the Sept. 1 season opener against Bowling Green.


2011 record: 5-7 (3-5 Mid-American).

Coach: Dave Clawson, fourth season (14-23); 13th season overall (72-72).

Series record: First meeting.

Top returners: QB Matt Schilz (3,024 yards, 28 TDs, 13 INTs); RB Anthon Samuel (844 yards, 5 TDs); MLB Dwayne Woods (111 tackles); DT Chris Jones (47 tackles, 8.5 sacks).

Did you know? Bowling Green has beaten Missouri, Purdue, Minnesota and Pitt in season openers.

Scouting the offense: Schilz is a dangerous quarterback who can make plays with his feet as well as his arm. Samuel was named the MAC’s Freshman of the Year. Had he not missed two of the Falcons’ final four games he likely would have surpassed 1,000 yards. Bowling Green is experienced at tight end but inexperienced at receiver.

Scouting the defense: Ten starters return, including Jones, who led the MAC in sacks. The line and linebackers are the strength of the unit.

Three things to watch

  1. Jones (6-foot-1, 295 pounds) will be a good test for the interior of UF’s offensive line. We’ll see if the Gators have indeed gotten tougher and stronger. It’s not SEC-caliber competition, but if the Gators falter against Bowling Green then we’ll know nothing has changed.

  2. Florida quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett struggled to throw the ball down the field, but the two seemed to make a little progress in that area in the spring. They’ll try and stretch the field against Bowling Green.

  3. The Gators were hurt last season by mobile quarterbacks (Connor Shaw, Jordan Rodgers), and Schilz kept plays alive by moving around last year after not doing that well in 2010. The Florida defense will need to show it can do a better job keeping QBs contained.