An early look at Bowling Green’s David Shepherd is taking a look at each of the Florida football team’s 12 opponents in this series leading up to the Gators’ home opener.

On Sept. 1, the 106th year of Florida Gators football will kickoff when the Bowling Green Falcons visit The Swamp. It will be the first contest between this Mid-American Conference team and the Gators.

A decade ago (2002), the Falcons were in their last season of Urban Meyer football and the second year of four consecutive three-loss seasons. Times were indeed going well in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Fast forward to 2010 when the Falcons were unable to win three games despite coming off a bowl appearance in 2009. The 2011 season saw the Falcons improve to 5-7 with third-year starting quarterback Matt Schilz directing the Bowling Green offensive attack.

Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson returns for his fourth season at the helm. Clawson had previous stints at Richmond and Fordham. His record with the Falcons is 14-23. Clawson was offensive coordinator at Tennessee in 2008 before Phillip Fulmer was fired. That resulted in new Vols coach Lane Kiffin firing Clawson on Dec. 1, 2008.

Clawson’s scheme has been described as an offense that utilizes its personnel to maximize success. Simply put, the Falcons’ offense is a mix of pro-style, spread and power-running attacks.

The Falcons’ offense will have experience on its side when it comes to Gainesville in September. Schilz already has 22 starts under his belt and improved his game from his freshman to sophomore seasons. In 2010, Schilz threw eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions. In 2011 he threw 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with more than 3,000 yards. Falcons offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero describes Schilz as being strong-armed with a quick release, but he has struggled under duress.

In 2011 the Falcons were unsure of their running back situation, but true freshman Anthon Samuel, a 5-foot-11, 183-pounder from Opa Locka, Fla., ended the season with more than 800 yards and five touchdowns to earn MAC Freshman of the Year honors.

With all of that production, the Falcons ended up 63rd in FBC scoring offense (26.6 ppg) while the Gators were 71st, although against superior competition.

If comparing 2011 statistics have any meaning the Gators have a large edge in defensive points-per-game with a 20.3 average (20th nationally) vs. the Falcons at 28.8 (77th nationally).

Bowling Green defensive coordinator Mike Elko is in his fourth season after coaching at Hofstra. 

The defense will be experienced as the Falcons return eight of their top performers. Leading the way will be senior Chris Jones, an All-MAC performer in 2011.  With 8.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss, along with three forced fumbles the Falcons will count on the 6’1” 295 pound defensive lineman.

If there is a weakness on the defense it might be in the secondary. Coaches comments include they like the way the group is coming along. One of the leaders of the group is Jerry “Boo Boo” Gates.

On special teams the Falcons have Brian Schmiedebusch, who averaged 45.3 yards per punt in 2011. Left-footed place kicker Stephen Stein broke his kicking foot in the spring, so the Falcons are unsure about him. They may have to look at Tyler Tate, who was hurt in the 2010 season, to handle kicking duties vs. the Gators.

Extra Points: Bowling Green has plenty of reasons to return to their winning ways of the Urban Meyer era. The Falcons have experience all over the field and they saw noted improvement from 2010 to 2011.  In the past 10 years, the Falcons were 65-56. Falcons mascot names have some similarity to Albert and Alberta, as they are known as Freddie and Frieda Falcon.

Prediction: Gators 37-17.