Northwestern looks to bounce back from a disappointing defeat when it hosts Bowling Green to close out non-conference play on Saturday. The Wildcats opened the season with a 31-20 win over Nevada before suffering a humbling 41-17 loss on the road to Duke, and hopes to climb above .500 with their first-ever win against the Falcons with marquee matchups with No. 12 Wisconsin and fifth-ranked Penn State on the horizon.
“We’re in a heightened state of urgency,” Northwestern safety Kyle Queiro told reporters. “Being able to respond is one of the best indicators of the maturity level of a team and you’re going to have your answer pretty soon.” The Wildcats are 0-2 against Bowling Green, but haven’t played the Falcons since dropping a 28-24 decision in the 2003 Motor City Bowl, and they aim to extend their home winning streak to a modest three games. Northwestern has lost three of its last five non-conference contests, including a 22-21 defeat to Mid-American Conference opponent Western Michigan last season. Bowling Green is left to pick up the pieces following a 35-27 loss to FCS outfit South Dakota, and hopes to turn its fortunes around by knocking off its fourth Big Ten team since 2014.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Ntework. LINE: Northwestern -21.5
ABOUT BOWLING GREEN (0-2): James Morgan threw for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough as the Falcons suffered their first loss to an FCS opponent in nearly 30 years. “The kids were disappointed to say the least but the sun came up and they understood we have a challenge on Saturday night against a good Northwestern team,” Bowling Green head coach Mike Jinks told reporters. “It’s a great opportunity so there’s no time to sulk.” Jake Suder was named the MAC East Division Special Teams Player of the Week after making all four of his field goal attempts against the Coyotes to equal a Perry Stadium record.
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (1-1): Clayton Thorson struggled with his consistency as he completed just 11-of-29 passes for 120 yards and two interceptions in the loss to Duke to finish with less than 125 yards for the second time in his last three regular-season starts. Freshman wide receiver Riley Lees caught a touchdown pass against Duke to become the first Wildcat player in 17 years to start his collegiate career with TD receptions in back-to-back games. Justin Jackson was limited to 18 yards on the ground due to a nagging injury, but rushed for a touchdown and needs one more rushing TD to move past Tyrell Sutton (31) for fourth place on the Wildcats’ all-time list.
1. Northwestern has won 24 of 30 non-conference home games under Pat Fitzgerald.
2. Jackson needs 94 yards to become the third player in Wildcats history to surpass 5,000 all-purpose yards.
3. Bowling Green has been outscored 112-20 in its last two games against Big Ten opponents.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 31, Bowling Green 17