Bowling Green at UCLA (2:30 p.m.)
Florida Atlantic at Ohio (6 p.m.)
Kent State at Washington (10:30 p.m.)
Miami at Kentucky (7 p.m.)
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Maryland Stadium -- College Park, MD
Big Ten Network
The Bulls start their 2021 campaign on the road against a rising Maryland Terrapins squad.
Maryland went 6-6 last year and was 3-6 in Big Ten play. After earning their first bowl game appearance in six years, UM pummeled Birginia Tech 54-10 at the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
>> The MVP of that bowl win was quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. He is the brother of former Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, now with the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
>> The Terrapins ranked 13th nationally in passing last year. Tagovailoa completed 69.2 percent of his passes, good for a total of 3,860 yards and 26 touchdowns. He was intercepted 11 times overall, but five of those came in one "clinker" of a game against Iowa. He tossed just three picks over the final seven outings.
>> Florida transfer Jacob Copeland, who led UF receivers, joins returing starters Rakim Jarret and Deontay Demus on the outside. The latter two combined for 90 catches, 1,336 yards and eight touchdowns, despite Demus missing the last seven games due to injury. Sophomore Corey Dyches notched 19 receptions with four TDs in liimited action last year.
>> Four starters return along the offensive line. The Tererapins will be young at running back, with four-star freshman Ramon Brown possibly getting the call -- or at least getting some opportunities to impress.
>> Defense has been an issue for UM, but Brian Williams took over as defensive coordinator for the Terrapins over the last two games. Maryland allowed a total of 26 points over those two contests.
>> Seven starters return on the defensive side. Deonte Branks, Jakorian Bennett, Tarheeb Steel return to anchor the secondary.
>> Former Eastern Michigan standout Chad Ryland transferred to Maryland and could be a big boost for the Terrapins this year. He hit 19-of-22 attempts last year and is riding a string of 17 straight successful boots.
>> Former Rutgers QB Cole Snyder transferred to Buffalo and could challenge returner Mike Myers at the position.
>> Standout RB Dylan McDuffie, who gained 1,049 rushing yards and scored 11 TDs last year. transferred to Georgia Tech. Junior Ron Cook could averaged 5.0 ypc in 2021.
>> For a complete preseason preview on Buffalo, CLICK HERE
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA
With veteran QB Matt McDonald returning, along with some talented weapons, the Bowling Green Falcons open 2021 with a matchup against UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
>> The Bruins posted their first winning season since 2015 last year, winning their last three games to finish 8-4. Although it earned a bowl invitation, UCLA missed that game due to a Covid outbreak.
>> Offense was the Bruins forte in 2021 as UCLA led the conference in scoring (36.7 ppg) and finished second in total offense (441.3 ypg).
>> Zach Charbonnet was second in the Pac-12 in rushing in 2021 (94.8 yards per game) and led league rushers with seven 100-yard games.
>> UCLA ranked 14th in the NCAA and second in the Pac-12 with a rushing-yards-per-game average of 215.1.
>> UCLA rushed for at least 200 yards in each of its eight 2021 wins.
>> Dorian Thompson-Robinson became just the third Bruin starting quarterback (joining Cade McNown in 1997 and 1998 and Brett Hundley in 2013 and 2014) to put together back-to-back
seasons with a passing efficiency rating of150.0 or higher (156.3 in 2020 and 153.9 in 2021).
>> Thompson-Robinson led the Pac-12 in total offense per game (274.4), passing efficiency (153.9) and passing yards per completion (13.7)
>> UCLA's defense allowed 384.4 ypg in total offense (70th nationally and 7th among PAC 12 teams). Bowling Green's total defense mark of 373.9 ypg was 62nd nationally and fourth among MAC teams.
>> UCLA held five opponents under 100 yards rushing in the 2021 season, 26 by Hawai'i, 49 by LSU, 67 by Stanford, 83 by
Washington, 92 by California ... the Bruins won each game.
>> The Bruin's struggled in pass defense last season, allowing 260.2 ypg and finishing last among PAC-12 teams. Opponents completed 62.5 percent of their pass attempts. UCLA was much better against the run, finishing second (PAC 12) while allowing 124.3 ypg).
>> Bowling Green returns 35 Falcons that have starting experience at BGSU. Compared to last year on opening day when only 16 Falcons had starting experience.
>> BGSU returns nine starters on offense and nine starters on defense from 2021
>> For a complete preseason preview on Bowling Green, CLICK HERE
Peden Stadium - Athens, OH
The Ohio Bobcats begin a formidable non-conference slate Saturday when they host Florida Atlantic. The Owls actually have one game - a win -- under their belt. They blasted Charlotte 43-13 last Saturday.
>> After going 5-3 through their first eight games of 2021, the Owls dropped four straight down the stretch to fall short of bowl eligibility.
>> After giving up a 52-yard TD pass play on Charlotte's first drive last week, FAU ripped off a 52-yard TD run. It was the first of 33 straight points Florida Atlantic points.
>> The game's only turnover turned into points when Justin McKithen returned an interception 63 yards for an Owls touchdown just before halftime.
>> FAU outgained Charlotte 482-279 and held a 26-11 edge in first downs.
>> N'Kosi Perry completed 16-of-22 passes for 256 yards with one TD.
>> Junior Larry McCammon led FAU with 14 carries totaling 118 yards and one of three Owls rushing TDs.
>> The Bobcats in their first year under new head coach Tim Albin. Ohio scored an average of 22.6 ppg while surrending 30.3 points per contest. In particular, the 'Cats were last among MAC teams in passing, registering 184.1 ypg. The 187.3 ypg rushing was sixth (MAC).
>> For a complete preseason preview on Ohio, CLICK HERE
Husky Stadium - Seattle, Washington
After reaching the MAC championship game in 2021, the Kent State Golden Flashes open a new campaign Saturday when they meet Washington in Seattle. The Huskies struggled down the stretch last year, dropping their last four games, albeit two of those setebacks were by a total of eight points.
>> Suffice it to say Washington will take Kent State VERY seriously. Not only are there plenty of stats -- and film -- to get anybody's attention, the Cougars no doubt remember thier 2021 opener. UW lost to Montana in that contest, 13-7!!! It was a particularly difficult pill to swallow, given that Washington entered the season with No. 20 ranking.
>> Aside from a 52-3 rout of Arkansas State, each of the Cougar's four 2021 victories were one-score margins. Washington's offense managed just 21.5 ppg.
>> While Washington has struggled on offense, it is matched against a Kent State defense that ranked 11th (of 12) MAC teams in scoring defense. The Flashes surrendered 35.1 ppg. Meanwhile, KSU led the MAC is scoring (33.0 ppg).
>> UW is playing its first campaign under new head coach Kalen DeBoer. Last year, he led Fresno State, which averaged 464.8 ypg and 33.4 ppg. Washington is expected to particularly embrace the passing game.
>> Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. is listed atop the Huskies Week One two-deep. He previously ran DeBoer's offense at Indiana and was 12-5 as an IU starter. Two-year starter Dylan Morris and five-star recruit Sam Huard are also available as UW works out a winning formula. However, the Cougars biggest problem may not be moving the ball so much as stopping the KSU offense.
>> Washington's receiving corps is young, but the Huskies have potential. Sophomore Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan are returning starters. Sophomore Taj Davis, a transfer from Michigan, joins the group.
>> Two starting cornerbacks left for the NFL, but senior Alex Cook is back to anchor the seconday. Senior Cam Bright, a transfer from Pittsburgh, will join sophomore Alphonzo Tuputala at linebacker. Zion Tupuola-Feu, meanwhile, could move up to an edge position.
>> Ulumoo Ale, a 6-6, 340-pound former offensive lineman, anchors the defensive line.
>> A number of defenders have shown playmaking abilities, but the Huskie "D" dealt with a rash of injuries last year.
>> The Fast Flash offense is built to move the football and score points. KSU led the conference in total offense (493.4 ypg) and was second in scoring (33.0 ppg)
>> Perhaps Kent State's biggest challenge for 2021 is replacing First Team All-MAC quarterback Dustin Crum. He was a tremendous dual threat who was a perfect fit for head coach Sean Lewis' system. Junior Collin Schlee has limited game experience but is familiar with the system and should be able to keep KSU moving.
For a complete preseason preview on Kent State, CLICK HERE
Kroger Field - Lexington, OH
By MIKE SMITH
Another season ... another tough non-conference schedule.
For a variety of reasons, its the burden many MAC teams annually face as they open their seasons.
The burden part is two-fold: 1) Losses to major college football programs can work against a team bowl eligibility. 2) Injuries can cost teams key players before even reaching conference play.
On the plus side: 1) The games are often important paydays for "mid-major" programs. 2) Pro scouts get to see MAC players against high-level opponents 3) Many players enjoy the chance to play against major competition in front of huge crowds.
"It's quite an opportunity," Miami head coach Chuck Martin said this week when talking about his team's opener at Kentucky.
"It will be thrilling for everybody involved."
He continued. "I know the kids are excited. Our preparation has been really good."
The Wildcats are coming off a 10-3 2021 record that included a bowl win (over No. 15 Iowa). This year's team is also projected to finish second behind Georgia in the Southeast Conference East Division. Such expectations don't come lightly, and they a reflect respect for talent.
>> Senior quarterback Will Levis is a key component to the Wildcat's offensive success. He completed 66 percent of his passes last year, good for 2,826 yards with 24 toiuchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also ran 107 times, contributing 376 yards and nine scores.
"People talk about (him becoming) a first round pick a year from now," Martain said. "He's big and strong (6-4, 232). We've got a whole cutup (video collage) of him running over SEC linebackers. He's a huge run threat, but ... the NFL (would) like him because he can throw a post route about 75 yards in the air, right on the money. He's got this big strong arm."
>> The Wildcats are reloading a bit at receiver. Wan'Dale Robinson, a dangerous slot receiver, ranked second among SEC receivers in both receptions (104) and receiving yards (1,334). He is now with the NFL's New York Giants, but the 'Cats have brought in several transfers to go with some talented freshmen wideouts.
>> Kentucky's ground game should enjoy more success this year as RB Chris Rodriguez Jr (5-11, 224) returns. However, he will not be available against Miami. Rodriguez was second among SEC runners last year, averaging 6.1 ypg while totaling 1,379 yards. That leaves him 1,134 yards short of Benny Snell Jr's career rushing record. Senior Kavosiey Smoke (5-9, 209) will get the start this week.
>> Although UK lost a pair of linemen to the NFL, Martin said the Wildcats will again be large/talented enough to support the offense. "They do a great job with their play-action games. They do a nice job with their RPO (Run, Pass, Option) games. They do a nice job with their movement."
>> Defensively, Kentucky was among the upper half of SEC teams. Nobody could match Georgia’s 9.5 ppg, but the Wildcats were fourth in scoring defense at 22.1 ppg. They were also fourth in run defense (117.8 ypg) and seventh (219.3 ypg) against the run. “Coach Stoops is a defense guy. They have a defensive mindset,” Martin said. “They played tremendous defense a year ago. They run and hit. They fly around (and) create turnovers. They get after the quarterback and they close space (quickly) on defense. They are really sound and physical.”
>> With an experienced offense and multiple weapons, Miami’s offense should thrive this year. Saturday’s test against SEC-level size and speed, however, will be a good challenge. Avoiding turnovers and establishing favorable ball possession would certainly help the RedHawks cause.
>> Martin noted MU has been building on its offense the last several years and is getting healthy. “Now, we’ve grown … where we’ve got a lot of guys who played a lot of football for us.”
>> The biggest challenge for Miami’s 2022 squad is on defense. Graduation and some key transfers hit the RedHawks hard, especially up front. “We’ve lost a lot of guys … (but) we’re excited about the group. There are a lot of new faces.”
Martin said nobody really knows how some of the less experienced players will respond “under the bright lights,” so he plans on using non-conference play to sort out the two-deep. “We’re going to play a lot of guys. There are still some jobs to be won on the defensive side of the ball -- particularly at the safeties and the nickel positions.” According to Martin, video shows UK likes to test secondaries. “They throw a lot of deep balls. In non-SEC games, they just kept throwing over people’s heads. … You have to be on point mentally to give yourself a chance.”
For a complete preseason preview on Miami, CLICK HERE