BOWLING GREEN - When Dave Clawson accepted the job offer nearly a year ago to coach Bowling Green State University, he circled the date on his calendar when the Falcons would play the University of Toledo.
The Mid-American Conference matchup between the two programs located in northwest Ohio also led to placing a star on the date to highlight the magnitude of the contest.
Finally, that day arrives on Black Friday when BG hosts UT at 2 p.m. at Doyt Perry Stadium.
Yet Clawson, whose team became bowl eligible by earning its sixth win with a 36-20 defeat of Akron last Friday, has cautioned his team all season about looking too far ahead and getting too excited about any matchup.
That applies especially this week for BG, taking on the Rockets in a rivalry contest.
"I think it's riding a fine line in your preparation during rivalry week," Clawson said. "You anticipate players will have a little more energy and juice, but you try to keep your weekly preparation the same."
This is Clawson's first season involved in the BG-UT battle between two MAC schools located roughly a half-hour away from each other.
But it's not the first intense rivalry the longtime coach has been involved in during his 20 years in college football. He's been in the mix on a few legendary rivalries.
For instance, he coached at Lehigh, which has a rivalry with Lafayette that is considered the oldest in the nation. During his time at Villanova, he looked forward to the annual meeting with Delaware. While at Fordham it was the matchup with Holy Cross. At Richmond, it was William and Mary.
His short stint coaching at Tennessee allowed him to experience the Southeastern Conference rivalry with Alabama.
Clawson possesses plenty of fond memories regarding each of the rivalries, but don't ask him to identify which is the best rivalry matchup.
"They're all the biggest [rivalries] in the world when you were there," Clawson said. "And during that [particular] year that game is the biggest game to you."
The Falcons (6-5, 5-2 MAC) and Rockets (5-6, 3-4) look ahead to the regular season finale with plenty to play for besides defeating a revered rival. A victory for the Falcons would guarantee an overall winning record in Clawson's first season overseeing the program. A win also would improve their position as a candidate for a bowl game.
Clawson considers the game the Falcons' "Super Bowl.".
For the Rockets, knocking off their No. 1 rival would give them an opportunity to close out their season under first-year coach Tim Beckman with a .500 overall record, as well as a .500 record in MAC play.
"There's a real sense that we probably need to win this game to go to a bowl," Clawson said. "At six [wins] you probably put yourself in a position to get snubbed. At seven you're hard to turn down, especially since we've played pretty good football lately."
The Falcons face the Rockets having already been involved in a rivalry game this season. They defeated longtime conference rival Miami 35-14 two weeks ago. If anything, the meeting with the RedHawks at least allowed Clawson to experience a rivalry week in the MAC.
Knowing the Falcons have two main rivals, the BG coach said he never placed more emphasis on either of the matchups.
"They're both very important games," Clawson said. "It's a little bit unique that fan bases and alumni feel so strong about both games."
However, all Falcons fans like nothing better than a season with a win over both rivals.
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