BOWLING GREEN - The Bowling Green football team doesn't have to do much research to learn about its season-opening opponent.
Oklahoma has won seven national titles, the most recent coming in 2000, and the Sooners enter the current season ranked second nationally. They also have had 138 All-Americans and four Heisman Trophy winners, including last year's winner in quarterback Jason White.
But Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon said his team isn't playing the ghosts of seasons past when they travel to Memorial Stadium to take on the Sooners this Saturday. Kickoff is at noon, Toledo time.
"Mystique is what you make of it," Brandon said. "It's the same thing I told our guys when we went to Purdue and Ohio State: The game is played between the lines. It's going to be won and lost on the field. Not in the stands, not in the crowd, and not with all the hype. If we get caught up in that, it will be a distraction.
"This is a veteran team. It's not as if we haven't played in hostile environments with big crowds and a lot of noise before."
Senior linebacker Jovon Burkes feels the Falcons will be motivated by playing against a national power that might have snubbed them in recruiting.
"You want to play against the best, and you want to be a part of the best," he said. "They have a lot of All-Americans, but this is our opportunity to prove we belong with them."
Senior center Scott Mruczkowski said BG will need to have a little bit of attitude to play against Oklahoma.
"You have to come in with a mind-set of being physical, of being nasty," he said. "You can't take plays off against this team. You have to play every single snap as if it's your last, because there's no way you'll win if you don't."
But Brandon said the most important thing his team needs to remember is that the contest with the Sooners doesn't make for a one-game season.
"It [Oklahoma] is a big game, but it's not a season-maker or a season-breaker," he said. "That game doesn't have anything to do with where we want to be in December. Our guys will go down there and play hard and play well because they know it's an opportunity of a lifetime.
"Our objective is to win the [MAC] West [Division], get into the MAC Championship Game and play in a bowl game. This game doesn't have anything to do with that."
PRO AND CON: Brandon had mixed feelings about the idea of opening with an easier opponent than the Sooners.
"Yes, I'd like to get Omar some experience before he goes into that situation," Brandon said, referring to new starting quarterback Omar Jacobs. "But I don't know if one game would be any big deal. I think it might be more to our advantage that they haven't seen us play and they haven't seen Omar and seen the things he can do."
Last season the Falcons opened with Division I-AA Eastern Kentucky, and Brandon said that first contest helped his team upset 16th-ranked Purdue in week two.
"I think we had a leg up last year at Purdue because they hadn't played a game," Brandon said.
"We had a game under our belt, and we were in better shape at that time of the season, and it showed up in the fourth quarter."
BIG MONEY: The Falcons certainly will look to pull the upset in Norman, Okla., Saturday. But there still be a reward if they don't: Oklahoma will pay Bowling Green $500,000 to play the contest.
LINEUP SET: Brandon said the Falcons' two-deep heading into the Oklahoma contest is almost set. The only position still up for grabs is free safety, where redshirt freshman Deaudre Perry holds a slim edge over senior T.J. Carswell.
"Deaudre Perry has earned the starting spot if we're playing today," Brandon said. "But we're not playing today."
POPE HONORED: Junior tailback P.J. Pope was one of 42 players announced yesterday as candidates for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the top running back in college football.
As a sophomore, Pope was named first-team all-MAC after rushing for 1,005 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 48 passes for 433 yards last season.
Pope is one of only three MAC backs listed for the honor.
The others are seniors Earl Charles of Marshall and Alex Haynes of Central Florida.
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