#83 Bowling Green Football 2015 Preview

Bowling Green Falcons

Overall Rank: #83
#4 Mid-American

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Bowling Green reached the MAC Championship game in 2014, but they did come out of the weak MAC East. Only two teams in the MAC East were at .500 or better in conference play, while five of the six teams in the West were .500 or better. But Bowling Green did enough to compete for a conference title and reach the Camellia Bowl. In the bowl game, the Falcons beat South Alabama 33-28.

2014 Record: 8-6, 4-3
2014 Bowl: Camellia Bowl vs. South Alabama (W 33-28)
Coach: Dino Babers (8-6 at Bowling Green, 27-13 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Lynch, Sean Lewis
Defensive Coordinator: Brian Ward

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Travis Greene, RB, 949 yards
Passing: James Knapke, QB, 3,173 yards
Receiving: Roger Lewis, WR, 1,093 yards
Tackles: James Sanford, LB, 71
Sacks: James Sanford, LB, 2.5; Gus Schwieterman, DT, 2.5
Interceptions: Clint Stephens, CB, 4

Other Key Returnees: QB Matt Johnson, RB Fred Coppet, WR Ryan Burbrink, WR Ronnie Moore, OL Alex Huettel, OL Jacob Bennett, K Tyler Tate

Key Losses: LB Gabe Martin, DB Brian Sutton, DB Jude Adjei-Barimah, DB Ryland Ward, DE Bryan Thomas

The Bowling Green offense was good in 2014 and now they could be amazing. Quarterback James Knapke returns after throwing for 3,173 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, but the job is not his for the taking. Matt Johnson was the MAC Offensive Player of the Year heading into the 2014 campaign, but he was injured during the season opener. Knapke deserves a ton of credit for stepping up and playing as well as he did. In 2013, Johnson threw for 3,467 yards, 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. There are a couple other quarterbacks in the race as well, but it should come down to Knapke and Johnson. Whoever wins that battle is going to be a great quarterback. And they will have receiver Roger Lewis to work with. Lewis caught 73 passes for 1,093 yards and seven touchdowns. Ryan Burbrink and Ronnie Moore were the other top targets for Knapke last season and they also return. The coaching staff also believes they have some younger playmakers ready to contribute at wide receiver as well. With the offensive line returning intact and Travis Greene ready for one more big year, the Falcons do not need to always go through the air. Greene rushed for 949 yards and a dozen touchdowns as a junior and he will be pushed by Georgia Tech transfer Donovan Wilson.  

The defense was pretty bad last year and it could be even worse in 2015. Seven starters are gone and a rash of suspensions to players like Nick Johnson and Bryan Thomas leaves more questions than answers. Junior linebacker James Sanford needs to turn into a leader of the front seven after tallying 71 tackles last season. Underclassmen Austin Valdez and Nate Locke figure to start alongside Sanford. The front four has a little more experience, but there has not been much production. Sophomore Gus Schwieterman does not have that experience, but he is the player most likely to step up and make an impact on the line. Clint Stephens, Will Watson and Darrell Hunter are not a bad start in the secondary, but the pass rush needs to get better if the secondary is going to rank much better than 122th in the nation in pass defense.

The Bottom Line:
If Johnson can win the quarterback job and return to his 2013 form, not many MAC defenses will be able to slow down Bowling Green. With games against Tennessee, Maryland, Memphis and Purdue, the non-conference slate is brutal, but the Falcons do avoid Northern Illinois during the regular season. The defense must make strides during the first four games of the season, even if the scoreboard does not tell the entire story. Even with an 0-4 start, which seems quite plausible, this a Bowling Green squad that can cruise through the MAC East and get back to the title game.

Projected Bowl: GoDaddy Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 173.0 (54th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 259.9 (40, 4)
Total Offense: 432.9 (41, 5)
Scoring Offense: 30.0 (56, 5)
Rushing Defense: 202.1 (99, 11)
Pass Defense: 291.4 (122, 12)
Total Defense: 493.6 (115, 12)
Scoring Defense: 33.5 (106, 12)
Turnover Margin: 0.71 (17, 3)
Sacks: 2.00 (74, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (56, 8)


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