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BGSU prepares for 'huge' opportunity to host Big Ten team

  • bowling-green-bgsu-football-dino-babers

    Former BGSU head football coach Dino Babers jumps into the fan stands after defeating Indiana at Doyt Perry Stadium in 2014.

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  • bowling-green-bgsu-football-ryan-burbrink

    Ryan Burbrink scores a touchdown in Bowling Green's most recent visit from a Big Ten team, a 2014 victory against Indiana.

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BOWLING GREEN — Mid-American Conference football players tend to have long memories.

Many of them have the same story: as high school prospects, schools from major conferences deemed them not good enough for one reason or another.

Bowling Green’s leading tackler, Brandon Harris, earned a few MAC offers and interest from lower divisions. For BGSU quarterback Jarret Doege and leading receiver Scott Miller, Bowling Green was their only offer in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

When MAC schools play power-conference teams — like BG’s home date with Maryland at 6 p.m. Saturday — it also presents the opportunity to show everyone what they missed.

“A lot of us are under-recruited guys here at Bowling Green,” Miller said this week. “This is my only FBS offer, so teams like Maryland overlooked me, overlooked a lot of guys on this team. We’re just going out there to prove people wrong.”

Bowling Green has long been excited for the home opener this season. The Falcons aim to have their own fan white-out, complete with an all-white uniform on the field and a helmet that coincides with Military Night at the stadium.

For the program at large, the fact a Big Ten team will make a rare visit to Doyt Perry Stadium is not going unnoticed.

“It’s huge for the program, it’s huge for our university, [and] it’s huge for our community,” Falcons coach Mike Jinks said.

Home games against major opponents have been a mixed bag for Bowling Green.

Visits by Minnesota in 2008 and then-No. 4 Boise State in 2009 were long evenings for BG. The Gophers won 42-17; the Broncos 49-14.

Scoring an early-season upset, however, is almost always a sign that a winning season is on the way.

The Falcons beat Indiana 45-42 in 2014, their most recent home date against a Power Five school, and won the MAC East later that season. BG rose as high as No. 20 in the rankings in 2002, in large part because of a blowout victory against Missouri at Doyt Perry Stadium in the second week of that season.

Interim Maryland coach Matt Canada is intimately familiar with what his team will see on Saturday because he has been on the other side. Before stints at several Power Five schools, Canada was a longtime assistant at Northern Illinois.

Canada was offensive coordinator at NIU in 2003 when the Huskies and Falcons met in a collision of ranked teams that drew ESPN’s College GameDay to Bowling Green. The Falcons won 34-18 that night.

Canada — who is filling in for BGSU alum DJ Durkin while Maryland investigates allegations of player mistreatment — said he’s expecting the best from the Falcons on Saturday.

“I know how exciting it is and the tradition of that league, and [I’m] certainly familiar with that program and the job they’ve always done there,” Canada said. “I’m sure it’ll be an electric environment. We’re certainly going to prepare for that and we know they’re going to get their best shot. It’s going to be a very challenging football game.”

And for the players, the chance to play a Power Five school needs no additional motivation.

“We [have] got a chip on our shoulder,” Miller said. “And hopefully we can go out there and compete and get a win Saturday.”

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at npiotrowicz@theblade.com, 419-724-6110 or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz

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