2014 CFN Preview - Bowling Green Falcons
Bowling Green QB Matt Johnson
Bowling Green QB Matt Johnson
Posted Jun 28, 2014

CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2014 - After a championship season, can a new coaching staff reload the Falcons? (Getty Images)

Bowling Green Falcons

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Dino Babers
1st year
3rd year overall: 19-7
Ten Best BGSU Players
1. RB Travis Greene, Jr.
2. QB Matt Johnson, Jr.
3. LB D.J. Lynch, Sr.
4. LB Gabe Martin, Sr.
5. OG Alex Huettel, Jr.
6. S Ryland Ward, Sr.
7. WR Ronnie Moore, Soph.
8. DE Bryan Thomas, Sr.
9. WR Ryan Burbrink, Jr.
10. OT Jacob Bennett, Soph.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 28 at WKU
Sep. 6 VMI
Sep. 13 Indiana
Sep. 20 at Wisconsin
Sep. 27 at UMass
Oct. 4 Buffalo
Oct. 11 at Ohio
Oct. 18 Western Michigan
Nov. 4 at Akron
Nov. 12 Kent State
Nov. 19 at Toledo
Nov. 28 Ball State

Is Bowling Green going to be a Central Michigan or an Akron?

Is this going to be the type of program like CMU was from 2006 to 2009, going on a big run and showing sustained success – at least for a few years – or will it be like 2005 Akron and 2008 Buffalo with a everything-came-together-at-once one-off MAC title year?

The program has been far stronger than Akron or UB, and even with the loss of head coach Dave Clawson to Wake Forest, the potential for sustained excellence is there under new head man Dino Babers. But first, the reloading has to begin.

Everything built towards last year with a defense that came together to at the right time to destroy the mediocre MAC offenses and slow down NIU in the MAC title game. Seven starters are gone, so what will Babers do? Ramp up the offense.

His Eastern Illinois team had pro prospect Jimmy Garroppolo winging the ball around on the way to two FCS playoff appearances, and now he has a ton to work with led by QB Matt Johnson and seven starters returning to an attack that finished ninth in the nation in passing efficiency and averaged close to 460 yards per game.

But overall, the key for Babers is to improve upon what Clawson was able to do to balance things out. Bowling Green was always a program that couldn't quite put it all together with a great offense one year to offset a bad defense, and the reverse the year after. It took a while, but it all clicked last season. To keep it all going the Falcons have to keep beating up on the league's weak and the sad, and it needs that refurbished D to hold its own in the one or two big games it's going to face against a soft slate.

The schedule is good, the offense is better, and the expectations are in the right spot. It's repeat or bust this year, and it's Babers' job not to improve on the foundation, not just maintain. This team, with a little time, could do just that.

What to watch for on offense: Is the passing game going to be ramped up a few notches? Babers did wonders with Jimmy Garoppolo at Eastern Illinois – the offense bombed away for over 5,000 passing yards with Garoppolo pitching 53 touchdown passes – and as a student of Art Briles and the Baylor system, get ready for the offense to open things up even more, even with the loss of several key parts. Considering the Falcons were ninth in the nation in passing efficiency and threw for 266 yards per game, a little more production could make BGSU absolutely devastating. The key will be to do it against the better teams after stalling a bit too much against Indiana, Mississippi State and Pitt, and Babers and offensive coordinator Matt Mattox should be able to do that.

What to watch for on defense: The pressure is on defensive coordinator Kim McCloud to keep the Bowling Green D strong, but he'll have to do it with seven new starters. Eastern Illinois was known for its offense last year, but the defense did its part, especially when it came to limiting the deep ball and forcing mistakes. However, it got lit up by Northern Illinois and was ripped apart by Towson in the playoffs. McCloud wasn't really in the hunt for the head coaching gig once Babers left, so he took the same job with BGSU, and now he has to rebuild a defense that finished sixth in the nation against the pass and tenth overall. While it might take a little while to find the right combination up front and in the secondary, McCloud's defense is going to be aggressive and go after lots and lots of takeaways.

The team will be far better if … the run defense works each and every game. It'll be able to get into the backfield, and McCloud will make sure the pressure is coming from all sides, but holding up against the craftier running teams is a must after having way too many issues with the good offenses. The Falcons gave up 200 rushing yards or more five times last season and lost four of those games. The lone exception was the MAC title win over Northern Illinois, but on the year, they were 8-0 when allowing under 200 yards and only gave up four rushing scores in those eight. They allowed 12 touchdowns in the other five.

The schedule: It's manageable, and if all goes according to plan, it should be smooth sailing in the MAC until the end with a road game at Toledo and a home battle with Ball State to finish things up. Road games at Akron and UMass? Please. There's a week off before dealing with the Zips, and there's another unnecessary bye week to get ready for the finishing kick starting with Kent State. However, it should and could all come down to a road game against Ohio. Win that, and it's smooth sailing until the end. Getting Toledo and Ball State from the West is rough, but the Falcons have to take those two games down if they really believe they should be MAC champions again. And if they're that good, can they handle Indiana at home after getting pasted in Bloomington last year? Forget about winning at Wisconsin, but getting by WKU and VMI shouldn't be a problem.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Travis Greene. The big question mark going into last year was Anthon Samuel. The star back of 2012 was leaving the program, making running back the one big question mark for an offense that had a ton of upside. Andre Givens was the star in-state recruit, and Jamel Martin was thought to be an option despite coming off a knee injury, but it was Greene who turned out to be the workhorse to take the heat and pressure off of QB Matt Johnson. Givens was good when he got his chances, and he'll need to do more, but Greene is going to be the workhorse, even if he's not quite built to be one.

Best defensive player: Senior LB D.J. Lynch. Bowling Green linebackers have been excellent over the years and they should be a major plus this this year with the return of Gabe Martin from a torn ACL and the bigger emergence of Paul Senn, but it's Lynch who'll be the team's top tackler again no matter where he works in the corps. Bowling Green needed him to stop up and shine, and he did just that. Considering the work needing to be done on the defensive interior, the 244-pounder should be the stout stopper against the run again.

Key player to a successful season: Senior S Ryland Ward. The Falcons should be fine in the secondary with a little bit of tweaking and work, and while the corner situation is the biggest question mark after losing Cameron Truss and Aaron Foster, not having all-star BooBoo Gates to clean up the messes anymore at the Stud position will be the biggest issue. Ward is the best returning defensive back with big-hitting ability and excellent open-field tackling skills. He has decent enough size to get by, and while he's not going to be Gates, he'll make the All-MAC team.

The season will be a success if … the Falcons do it again. There are big losses on defense, and the offense needs some reworking on the line, but even with a new coaching staff they should be the class of the MAC. The schedule works out perfectly with Toledo the only difficult road game and Buffalo, Ohio and Ball State at home. A double-digit win season is there for the taking if they can get by Indiana and roll through the MAC, but in the end, all that matters is another conference title, and they should at least get back to Detroit.

Key game: Oct. 11 at Ohio. Battling with Buffalo should be one of the big keys to the early part of the MAC season, and the West games against Toledo and Ball State should be a big deal, but the East will come down to the date in Athens against Ohio. The Bobcats didn't show up last year in a 49-0 pasting, and they should be better, but Bowling Green is still the class of the division. This is the game it has to show it.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Third Quarter Scoring: Bowling Green 138 - Opponents 24
- Time of Possession: Bowling Green 34:03 - Opponents 25:57
- Sacks: Opponents 41 for 232 yards - Bowling Green 30 for 191 yards

2014 Bowling Green Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players