BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team knows it will open the season Friday at Western Kentucky, but that’s about the only thing the Falcons are certain about.
The Hilltoppers have a new coaching staff — well, sort of — and must replace a number of graduating starters, especially on defense. BG coach Dino Babers said that uncertainty has altered his sleep patterns.
“I got to bed around midnight and woke up at 3:15 in the morning,” Babers said Monday. “About an hour later I realized we have no idea what they’re going to do.
“You can watch tape and think you know what someone is going to do, but really you have no idea.”
Jeff Brohm is in his first year as Western Kentucky’s coach, but he is not new to the program after serving as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator last season.
That, plus the return of eight starters on offense, can erase a little bit of uncertainty.
That’s not the case for the Hilltoppers defense, where only four starters are back.
“They had so many athletic players who were seniors last year,” BG quarterback Matt Johnson said of the Hilltoppers. “This year there’s so much mystery around this Week 1 game.
“They could bring in a bunch of guys who are more athletic, or they could use a different scheme. So we’re keeping an open mind in our game-planning.”
One interesting twist is that WKU defensive coordinator Nick Holt was on the same staff as Babers at Nevada-Las Vegas in 1988-89. Holt also was the defensive coordinator at Washington when the Huskies faced Baylor in the 2011 Alamo Bowl.
In that contest Baylor, led by Robert Griffin III, scored 67 points against the Huskies.
“He has seen [this style] play before, and he’s experienced [in defending it],” Babers said of Holt. “I’m sure he’ll have some thoughts on it, some ideas he’d like to try to stop us.”
While Brohm feels the familiarity the Western Kentucky players have with him and his staff has been an advantage — “It’s a good mesh, because both sides know what to expect,” he said — the Hilltoppers new coach said it also has been tough to get a handle on Bowling Green because of its new staff.
“We have studied a lot of BG film to learn about the players, and we respect them,” Brohm said. “But we had to watch a lot of Eastern Illinois film to know what they want to do, and we know Baylor won a lot of games with this style.”
Johnson said that is the beauty of BG’s new offense: It can run the same plays against any type of defense.
“Last year we were heavily predicated on [answering the question], ‘What does this defense do?’ and designing plays to beat that defense,” Johnson said. “This year we’re just going to run our offense and see if [other teams] can stop it.”