BOWLING GREEN - When Bowling Green State University last played in the Mid-American Conference's East Division in 2001, Ohio University was not a team to worry about. That year, the Bobcats finished 1-10.
In the Falcons' return to the East this season, they have had to toss previous assessments of the Bobcats out the window. Largely because of new coach Frank Solich, Ohio has a new and improved reputation. The Bobcats have taken strides to back it up.
"Coach Solich is doing a great job with them so far, has them believing in themselves, that they're going to be contenders in the East," BGSU linebacker Teddy Piepkow said. "The attitude, the swagger, those guys think they can play with anybody. So far they have proven that they can."
BGSU and Ohio meet Saturday at 6 p.m. at Perry Stadium with identical 2-2 records, each with a win in conference play. The winner will emerge the division leader.
It takes a lot to forget just 10 winning seasons in 40 years, two in the past 20, but Solich's energy, gathered from sitting out a year from coaching after being fired from Nebraska in 2003, helps his team focus on upcoming records instead.
"We've really not talked about what's really happened here in the past, we're really focused on what we want to happen in the immediate and in the future," Solich said. "That leads your players to talk about things down the road and not worry about what's transpired in the past."
Ohio's offensive statistics have not been eye-popping, but its two victories have both been noticeable. The first was on ESPN against Pitt, the school's first win against a team from a BCS conference. It also served as the home debut of Solich, who was wearing something other than red for the first time.
In the second win, their conference opener against Kent State, the Bobcats forced six turnovers in their 35-32 victory.
"They're playing a little bit harder, that I've noticed, just the games that I've studied," BGSU coach Gregg Brandon said. "They're trying to play sound and create some things that way. They're a well-coached football team."
Long a proponent of the I-back offense at Nebraska, Solich installed the same scheme at Ohio, but with a few shotgun sets, perhaps because he wanted to fit in in the MAC. The different style of play in the conference has been one of the biggest adjustments for Solich, he said.
"I think it's going to take a while for me to get a real good feel for the conference and what it's going to take for us to win conference games," Solich said. "You go into every game with almost a concern because I'm used to having some strong defensive games and not have it be 35-32. I know this, it wears a coach out with all that scoring."
Although the nation has been watching Solich's return with interest, he knows he still has work to do to contend with the top teams in the MAC.
"We're not going to get too excited about wins, we're not going to get excited if we don't play well," Solich said. "At some point in time I think we're going to get this program where we want to get it, but we're a ways off from that."
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