Coach: Dino Babers (8-6, entering second season; 27-13 overall record)
2014 record: 8-6, 5-3 in Mid-American Conference; first in East Division
Look back: Offense typically isn’t a concern for Bowling Green and the Falcons were expecting another strong season under offensive-minded coach Dino Babers. However, injuries and inefficiency at several positions forced the team to take a step back and win just eight games in 2014. The defense gave up twice as many points per game as it had during the previous two seasons and it showed during blowout losses to Western Kentucky, Wisconsin, Ball State and Northern Illinois.
Offensive starters returning: 11
Offensive starters lost: 1
Defensive starters returning: 4
Defensive starters lost: 7
Key losses: WR Heath Jackson, DE Bryan Thomas, LB Gabe Martin, SS Brian Sutton, CB Jude Adjei-Barimah, FS Ryland Ward, DE Charlie Walker, LB Paul Senn, LB D.J. Lynch, DE Kendall Montgomery
Top returnees: QB Matt Johnson, QB James Knapke, RB Travis Greene, WR Roger Lewis, WR Ryan Burbrink, OL Tim McAuliffe, OL Jacob Bennett, OL Alex Huettel, OL Logan Dietz, S Nick Johnson, LB James Sanford, DT Gus Schwieterman
Strengths: After sitting out most of last season due to an injury, Matt Johnson returns to compete for the starting quarterback position. In 2013, Johnson passed for 3,467 yards with 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. James Knapke was just as effective in his absence, passing for 3,173 yards with 15 touchdowns, but turnovers (12 interceptions, four fumbles) were a concern.
Travis Greene and Fred Coppet shared much of the workload out of the backfield, combining for 1,713 total yards and 18 total touchdowns for the Falcons last season.
Roger Lewis was one of four players to accumulate more than 1,000 yards receiving last season after totaling 1,093 yards and seven touchdowns for Bowling Green. His return, coupled with fellow starters Ryan Burbrink (65 catches, 758 yards, 3 TDs) and Ronnie Moore (56 catches, 690 yards, 5 TDs) gives the Falcons one of the deepest receiving units in the league.
Bowling Green features one of the best offensive lines in the country thanks to the return of four starters from last season that have combined for 111 career starts. The group is led by senior guard Alex Huettel (40 career starts). The unit allowed 28 sacks in 2014.
Weaknesses: The defense was hit hard by departures during the offseason, losing seven starters from a unit that ranked eighth in the conference in scoring defense (26.8 points per game) and ninth in total defense (435 yards per game). Bryan Thomas (38 career starts), Gus Schwieterman (13) and Taylor Royster (13) all have starting experience on the front line, with Thomas leading the team in sacks with eight.
The middle of the defense is also light on experience, with junior James Sanford leading the way with nine career starts. The secondary was one of the worst in the MAC last season, allowing 291 yards per game through the air.
Outlook: Bowling Green has won back-to-back MAC East Division titles and is one year removed from winning its first MAC championship in close to a quarter of a century. Many considered an eight-win season in 2014 a major step back. Perhaps it’s because the defense gave up more points per game (33.5) than it has since 2010. If the Falcons are to win another conference title and compete for the Group of 5 spot in the new College Football Playoff, they will need to grow up quickly on the defensive side of the ball.
Sept. 5 Tennessee
Sept. 12 at Maryland
Sept. 19 Memphis
Sept. 26 at Purdue
Oct. 3 at Buffalo
Oct. 10 UMass
Oct. 17 Akron
Oct. 24 at Kent State
Nov. 4 Ohio
Nov. 11 at Western Michigan
Nov. 17 Toledo
Nov. 24 at Ball State
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com