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Published: Friday, 11/9/2012

UT, BG just might meet at Ford Field

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Some fans were happy, some were not when the Bowl­ing Green-Toledo game was moved from the last game of the reg­u­lar sea­son to a much ear­lier slot in the 2012 foot­ball sched­ule.

The game was played on Sept. 15, you may re­call, and the Rock­ets scored a 27-15 win at the Glass Bowl. It drew a ca­pac­ity-plus 28,115 fans, and on that ba­sis the move was ap­plauded.

BG lost the fol­low­ing week, as well, at Vir­ginia Tech to drop to 1-3, the lone win be­ing of the lack­lus­ter va­ri­ety at home to a bad Idaho team.

You may have stopped pay­ing at­ten­tion to the Fal­cons at that point. Yours truly may have been guilty of the same.

On Wed­nes­day, BG won its sixth game in a row with a rous­ing per­for­mance by spe­cial teams — the punt-re­turn/block unit, in par­tic­u­lar — and an­other re­sil­ient ef­fort by a de­fense that has emerged as the very best in the Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence. The Fal­cons won a big­gie on the road, 26-14, at Ohio.

Guess what?

The Fal­cons and the Rock­ets could close the sea­son against one an­other af­ter all.

Despite Toledo hav­ing its eight-game win streak snapped by Ball State, the Rock­ets and the Fal­cons con­trol their league ti­tle des­ti­nies.

With two games to go, if both win they will win their MAC di­vi­sions and meet again in the con­fer­ence cham­pi­on­ship game at Ford Field in Detroit on Nov. 30.

It won’t be easy. UT has to go on the road to face its most-heated MAC West ri­val, North­ern Il­li­nois, next Wed­nes­day night. The Huskies have won nine in a row, should re­place UT in the Top 25 by then, have out­scored op­po­nents 406-179, and should be heav­ily fa­vored.

NIU has won two straight over Toledo, by 65-30 in DeKalb in 2010 and in a wild 63-60 de­ci­sion last sea­son at the Glass Bowl. The Rock­ets’ de­fense didn’t take the full hit for that one con­sid­er­ing the Huskies re­turned two kick­offs for touch­downs.

If UT can find a way to re­verse that re­cent trend against NIU the Rock­ets would then close the reg­u­lar-sea­son at home against Akron, cur­rently 1-9.

BG’s road to a re­match is sim­i­larly dif­fi­cult with a wrin­kle tossed in to make things even more in­ter­est­ing.

The Fal­cons host Kent State on Nov. 17. The Flashes first play this week­end at Miami where they will be shoot­ing for an eighth straight win to im­prove to 9-1, 6-0 in the MAC.

Kent is for real, a group­ing of words that has rarely been ut­tered through the years. With a solid de­fense be­hind stand­out line­man Roosevelt Nix and a run­ning back tan­dem – Tray­ion Durham and Dri Archer — nick­named “Thun­der and Light­ning,” the Flashes would likely be an ever-so-slight fa­vor­ite over BG even at Doyt Perry Sta­dium.

The wrin­kle? The Fal­cons have moved their reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale against Buf­falo from the Doyt to Crew Sta­dium in Co­lum­bus. BG’s ad­min­is­tra­tion was think­ing out­side the box, I guess, but there will be a lot of sec­ond-guess­ing if the Fal­cons’ MAC East ti­tle hopes get boxed in as a re­sult of sac­ri­fic­ing home-field ad­van­tage.

First things first — NIU for the Rock­ets and Kent for the Fal­cons; two big games where wins could pay big div­i­dends.

It has been a splen­did sea­son for MAC teams, six of which are al­ready bowl el­i­gi­ble. Some big wins against BCS con­fer­ence op­po­nents — Ohio over Penn State, Toledo over Cin­cin­nati, Cen­tral Mich­i­gan over Iowa, Kent over Rut­gers, and Ball State over In­di­ana for a sam­pling — have pro­vided ex­cla­ma­tion points.

For it to end with a UT-BG ti­tle game would be quite a turn of events.

Con­tact Blade sports col­um­nistDave Hack­en­berg at:dhack@the­blade.comor 419-724-6398.

 



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