#76 Bowling Green Football 2014 Preview

Bowling Green Falcons

Overall Rank: #76
#2 Mid-American

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Bowling Green flew under the radar more than they should have last year because they boasted an amazing defense in a conference known for potent offenses. But defense wins championships and that is exactly what the Falcons did, going 10-4 overall and taking care of Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship game. The offense will quickly catch up this year with Coach Dino Babers and his high powered offense stepping in for Dave Clawson, who took the Wake Forest job.

2013 Record:  (10-4, 7-1)
2013 Bowl: Little Caesars Pizza Bowl vs. Pittsburg (L 27-30)
Coach: Dino Babers (0-0 at Bowling Green, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Sterlin Gilbert, Matt Mattox
Defensive Coordinator: Kim McCloud

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Travis Greene, RB, 1,594 yards
Passing: Matt Johnson, QB, 3,467 yards
Receiving: Ronnie Moore, WR, 547 yards
Tackles: D.J. Lynch, LB, 85
Sacks: Taylor Royster, DL, 3.5
Interceptions: Ryland Ward, DB, 2

Other Key Returnees: WR Heath Jackson, WR Bryan Burbrink, K Tyler Tate, DL Kendall Montgomery, OL Alex Huettel, LB Gabe Martin

Key Losses: WR Shaun Joplin, TE Alex Bayer, DL Ted Ouellet, DB BooBoo Gates, OL Dominic Flewellyn, C Chief Kekuewa

With many losses to the defense that ranked in the top ten nationally in pass defense, total defense and scoring defense, it is actually the new look offense that will give the Falcons another chance at winning a MAC title. Coach Babers knows how to get quarterbacks to put up big numbers. As the head man at Eastern Illinois, he led Jiimy Garopolo to a couple of amazing seasons. At Bowling Green, Matt Johnson is the guy who will benefit from Coach Babers’ tutelage. Johnson threw for 3,467 yards and 25 touchdowns as a sophomore and those numbers are only going to get better now. He has some quality receivers to work with even though his top two targets from last season are gone. Ronnie Moore is a big play receiver who reached the end zone on an impressive quarter of his 28 receptions. He averaged nearly 20 yards per catch and that was as a freshman. This is an offense that will have four wide most of the time, so some more unproven players do need to step up, but there are plenty of options. Ryan Burbrink, Chris Gallon, Heath Jackson, Roger Lewis and SMU transfer Gehrig Dieter are all capable of having big years. Running back Travis Greene returns after rushing for 1,594 yards and 11 scores. He may not get 279 carries on the ground again, but he is a capable pass catcher who can make big plays in the open field.

The strength of the defense in 2013 cannot be overstated, but there are a lot of holes to fill. The secondary that was so impressive last season returns only safety Ryland Ward as a starter. Ward ranked second on the team with 81 tackles and picked off a couple passes, but the pieces around him are going to be extremely inexperienced. The front four will have to rely on ends Bryan Thomas and Charlie Walker more this time around. This is a defense that wants to be fast, yet they are still dangerously small in the trenches. Senior linebackers D.J. Lynch and Gabe Martin will be asked to do even more in run support and help out the inexperienced secondary as much as possible.

The Bottom Line:
With the new coaching staff there is going to be an adjustment period for Bowling Green. This team has the talent on both sides of the ball to win another conference title, yet the question will be just how long will it take before it all comes together? Early games against Western Kentucky and VMI will help gain experience and momentum, but it remains to be seen if that will be enough to carry the Falcons through the rest of the season. Northern Illinois is not on the schedule, but Bowling Green may meet them in the title game again.

Projected Bowl: Bahamas Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 193.4 (39th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 266.1 (31, 2)
Total Offense: 459.4 (29, 3)
Scoring Offense: 34.8 (28, 3)
Rushing Defense: 150.6 (46, 1)
Pass Defense: 170.9 (6, 2)
Total Defense: 321.4 (10, 1)
Scoring Defense: 15.9 (5, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.7 (19, 4)
Sacks:  2.14 (58, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 2.93 (108, 12)


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