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Published: Tuesday, 11/11/2008

BG has to get by Buffalo to have shot at East title

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Call it a subliminal message, although it was probably just a simple act of carelessness.

A wristwatch commemorating Buffalo's share of last year's Mid-American Conference East championship was left in the visiting locker room at Ohio University's Peden Stadium two weeks ago.

The idea that a team that finished third in the East - after a three-way tiebreaker was conducted - should be rewarded with watches isn't the issue. Rather what's interesting is the next team to step foot in that room was none other than Bowling Green State University. Was Buffalo trying to suggest that time is running out on the Falcons?

It's true that BG has procrastinated, but the list of scenarios in which the Falcons can capture the East is lengthy.

Provided BG (5-5, 3-3) wins its two remaining games against Buffalo and Toledo, it will need minimal help to win the East and play in the MAC championship game. The Falcons are off this week and won't play again until Nov. 21 in what will be a monumental home game against Buffalo.

At 3-2 in the East, both Akron and Buffalo control their own fortunes in the division. They play each other Thursday in Akron, and the Falcons will be pulling for Buffalo to win because they can personally give the Bulls a much needed third loss and because they own a tiebreaker with Akron based on a head-to-head win earlier this season.

"I'll definitely watch it," offensive tackle Jeff Fink said. "But the bottom line is we win out and we pray and hope."

It would not be entirely damaging to BG's title hopes if Akron was to win. The Zips end the regular season with road games at Ohio and at Temple, and should they lose any of their remaining three games it could place them in the aforementioned tiebreaker scenario with BG.

"But we might as well stick a fork in them right now," BG coach Gregg Brandon said, laughing.

There is yet another scenario in which Temple (2-3 in the MAC) can win the division. That would happen only if both BG and Temple finish 5-3 and Miami finishes ahead of Buffalo in the standings. Since Temple beat Miami, and BG lost to Miami, the Owls would get the nod based on a complicated tiebreaker system.

"I challenged the seniors and said don't wait until the last minute, which is what we're doing," Brandon said. "But we're in it. We're halfway home and we have to finish."

BARNES TO PRACTICE: Junior receiver Freddie Barnes is expected to participate in practice this week. Barnes has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury but could be available to play against Buffalo. Brandon said running back Chris Bullock suffered a concussion Saturday but is OK.

REDSHIRTS: With two regular season games remaining, it appears that just two freshmen will play this season. Of an 18-member recruiting class, only defensive backs Adrien Spencer and Keith Morgan and junior college quarterback Andrew Beam have burned their redshirt years.

Morgan has played in six games, registering eight tackles, and Spencer has two tackles in two games. The list of newcomers sitting out includes junior college transfer Casey McHugh, an offensive tackle who was expected to play and possibly contend for a starting spot.

"I think it's worked out well, particularly on the offensive line," Brandon said. "We didn't have to play some of those guys, and we have some good young linebackers that we're redshirting. It's good to get through with just two."

DOZIER HONORED: Senior linebacker Erique Dozier was named the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week after picking off a pass and accounting for 1.5 sacks and seven tackles in Saturday's 28-3 win at Ohio. It was the first time since the 2004 season that BG did not allow a touchdown.

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com



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