2015 Bowling Green Falcons Football Preview

Team Info
Bowling Green Falcons
Head Coach: Dino Babers
2014 record: 8-6 overall, 5-3 MAC East
2014 Postseason results: Beat South Alabama 33-28 in the Camellia Bowl
2015 returning starters: 10 offense, 5 defense

Betting Info
Odds to win 2016 College Football  Championship game: 3500/1
Odds to win 2015 MAC Championship Game: +425
Regular season wins: over 5 -165 /under 5 +135
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Bowling Green looks for a third straight MAC East title.
Bowling Green looks for a third straight MAC East title.

Bowling Green and Northern Illinois have played in the MAC Championship game for two straight seasons. They exchanged blowout victories with BGSU winning by 20 in 2013, and NIU winning 51-17 last season. Both teams are primed to win their respective divisions in the MAC again and could meet for a third straight season.

Last season, the Bowling Green Falcons went 8-6 under first year coach Dino Babers, including 5-3 in the East. The Falcons won at least 8 games for the third straight season. Bowling Green would beat South Alabama 33-28 in the Camellia Bowl. Five of the six losses were to bowl teams, and except for  a seven point loss against Toledo all losses were by 12 points or more. Fifteen starters are back including 10 on offense.

Offense

Last year, the Falcons averaged 433 yards per game including 260 passing and 173 rushing yards. Bowling Green averaged 30 points a game. New Co-coordinators Mike Lynch and Sean Lewis get 10 starters back. Former Co-coordinators Sterlin Gilbert and Matt Maddox were hired for the same position at Tulsa.

In 2013, quarterback Matt Johnson threw for 3,467 yards with 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and rushed for 238 yards with 5 touchdowns. He threw for over 300 yards and a touchdown in last year’s season opener against Western Kentucky. However, he suffered a season-ending hip injury in that game. James Knapke would start for the rest of the season. Knapke, now a junior, threw for 3,173 yards with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also rushed for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. Johnson returns for his senior season and Knapke will serve as the back-up. Johnson played well in the spring game for the Falcons.

Running back Travis Greene is back after he had 180 carries for 949 yards with 12 touchdowns, and had 27 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown. Junior Fred Coppet is also back after rushing for 764 yards on 141 carries with 6 touchdowns, and making 8 catches. The Falcons must replace Andre Givens who had 101 carries for 479 yards and 8 touchdowns. Johnson had 117 carries in 2013, but might not get as many this year, coming off a hip injury.

The top four receivers are back for Bowling Green. Roger Lewis had 73 catches for 1,093 yards and 7 touchdowns. Ryan Burbrink had 64 catches for 758 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ronnie Moore had 56 catches for 690 yards and 5 touchdowns. Gehrig Dieter had 35 catches for 460 yards and a touchdown. Chris Gallon had 24 catches and 2 touchdowns in 2013 but missed all of last season with an injury. Baylor transfer Robbie Rhodes will also get some targets.

The same five players started all 14 games on the offensive line last year. All five are back in 2015. Although, left guard Ben Steward could lose his starting spot to Ryan Hunter. Right guard Alex Huettel is a two time All-MAC selection.

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Defense

The defense was awful last year. Bowling Green gave up 494 yards per game, including 291 passing and 202 rushing yards. The Falcons allowed 34 points a game. Bowling Green was #99 or worse in all four categories out of 128 teams. Coordinator Kim McCloud was moved to assistant head coach. Babers hired Western Illinois defensive coordinator Brian Ward to the same position. Only five starters are back for the Falcons on defense.

Three starters were supposed to be back on the line including tackles Taylor Royster and Gus Schwieterman and end Bryan Thomas. However, Thomas was suspended indefinitely after a June arrest for assault.  Zach Colvin, Mike Minns and Terrance Bushwill hopefully add depth to a unit that struggled in getting to the quarterback and stopping the run.

James Sanford is the only returning starting linebacker. He isn’t guaranteed a starting spot with the arrivals of talented freshmen Austin Valdez and Nate Locke.

Cornerback Darrell Hunter started eight games in 2014. Sophomore Clint Stephens had four interceptions last year as a freshman. Jack Walz III and Denard Turner will start at the safeties. Notre Dame transfer Eilar Hardy could also see some time in the rotation.

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Special Teams

Kicker Tyler Tate made 23 of 29 field goals last year. Punter Joe Davidson is also back after booting 14 punts of 50 or more yards. Stephens will return kicks and Burbrink will return punts. Each had a return for a touchdown last year.

Schedule

Bowling Green has a very difficult non-conference schedule with road games at Tennessee in Nashville, Maryland, and Purdue, plus a home game against Memphis. In October, the Falcons travel to Buffalo and Kent State, and host Akron and Massachusetts. November brings home games against Ohio and Toledo, and road games at Western Michigan and Ball State.

Outlook

September and November are very difficult. Still with a relatively soft October, this team should win at least 7 or 8 games if the defense can improve. Akron and Ohio should be the two top challengers in a weak East Division.

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