Thankfully, the college football season is just 80 days away. That means it’s time to preview team No. 80 in the Rant Sports 100 in 100 Series: the Bowling Green Falcons.
BG finished the 2012-13 campaign as one of the hottest teams in the country. After a slow start to the season, the Falcons won seven of their last nine contests, with the only losses coming against the Kent State Golden Flashes (11-3) and San Jose State Spartans (11-2).
With nine starters returning on both sides of the ball, Bowling Green is one of the most experienced teams in the country. Will this extra seasoning be enough to propel the Falcons to their first MAC Championship since 1992?
The Falcons’ offense is much better than people give it credit for. Sure, it finished towards the bottom of the league in most statistical categories, but BG still managed to run for 4.5 yards per carry in conference play last year. With four starters on the offensive line returning, including team captain Dominic Flewellyn, the ground game will have no trouble moving the sticks this fall, regardless of who takes over at tailback.
Led by veteran quarterback Matt Schilz, who has 7,800 career passing yards, the Bowling Green passing game is also in great shape for the 2013 season. After all, the Falcon receiving corps welcomes back their top four targets from a year ago, including sophomore Chris Gallon, whose 6-foot-4 frame will cause all sorts of matchup problems for opposing defensive backs.
Keep an eye on tight end Alex Bayer, who should push for all-conference honors this season.
Bowling Green had one of the top defenses in the country last year. Anchored by MAC Defensive Player of the Year Chris Jones, the Falcons led the conference in rushing defense, passing defense, total defense and scoring defense.
This year’s D will be just as good. After all, BG welcomes back 10 lettermen from a stout defensive line that allowed just 3.35 yards per carry last season. Linebackers Gabe Martin (8.5 tackles for a loss), Paul Swan (6.5 tackles for a loss) and D.J. Lynch (6.0 tackles for a loss) have a knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage, which will constantly force its opponents into long-yardage situations.
While the run defense will be solid, the Falcon secondary will be the best in the league. Not only does it return All-MAC performers Jerry “BooBoo” Gates and Cameron Truss, it welcomes back top reserves Jude Adjei-Barimah and Aaron Foster, who finished first and second on the team in passes broken up last season. With its top eight players combining for 123 career starts, this unit is as deep as any in the country.
As it always does, Bowling Green is playing a very tough non-conference schedule. Aside from a glorified scrimmage against the Murray State Racers, the Falcons play the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Indiana Hoosiers and Mississippi State Bulldogs. Although it’s possible that BG can pull off an upset or two, it’s probably looking at a 1-3 mark in non-conference play.
Fortunately, the conference slate isn’t nearly as bad. Sure, the Falcons have to play Kent State on the road, but they have the luxury of facing the Toledo Rockets and Ohio Bobcats within the friendly confines of Doyt Perry Stadium. The season finale against the Buffalo Bulls could be a potential landmine since Bowling Green will be playing on just six days rest.
Believe it or not, the Falcons were just 14 yards away from playing for the MAC Championship last year. Although the team loses a couple of key players from that squad, it still has enough talent to capture the division title this season. If – and it’s a big if – it can win a couple of key home games against Toledo and Ohio, BG will have the opportunity to play for its first conference championship in 21 years.