MAC

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#75 Toledo Rockets

NATIONAL FORECAST

#75

MAC West PREDICTION

#1

HEAD COACH: Matt Campbell, 17-9 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jason Candle | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jon Heacock

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 75 Toledo.

Previewing Toledo’s Offense for 2014: 

Toledo has maintained one of the best offensive machines in the MAC ever since it went to the spread more than a decade ago under former coach Tom Amstutz. In 2013, the Rockets were again near the top of the league in scoring (33.0 ppg) and total offense (447.3 ypg). Although it has several skill positions to fill, Toledo is once again loaded with talent and options to charge up its offense.

Sophomore Logan Woodside is the frontrunner to start at quarterback after seeing time in four games as a backup and hitting on 51.2 percent of his passes without an interception. Sophomore Kareem Hunt is the featured back after rolling up 866 yards and averaging 6.3 yards per carry in a supplemental role in 2013 behind 1,100-yard rusher David Fluellen. Filling in for the injured Fluellen, Hunt rushed for more than 100 yards in four of the final five games.

The strength and experience of the Toledo offense is up front, where four starters return. All-MAC guard Greg Mancz is a pro prospect who leads the group, along with fellow returning starters Jeff Myers at guard and Josh Hendershot and Chase Nelson at tackle. The group allowed just six sacks in 12 games last year, best in the conference.

The receiving corps is rich in talent and speed, led by junior Alonzo Russell, who has had 115 catches over the past two seasons. Seniors Dwight Macon and Justin Olack are steady performers. Junior Kishon Wilcher adds explosive speed.

Previewing Toledo’s Defense for 2014: 

With six returning all-conference players among the 10 regulars coming back on this side of the ball, the Rockets should be a stronger defensive unit in 2014 and improve on the 421.8 yards allowed per game last season. Toledo has five of its top six tacklers returning, led by senior linebacker Junior Sylvestre.

The crew up front is deep, with a dozen players possessing a shot at making the rotation. The athleticism of the unit should allow it to pressure the quarterback in the same manner the Rockets did in 2013, when they recorded 34 sacks in 12 games. All-conference tackle Treyvon Hester anchors the middle. Senior Ray Bush and junior Allen Covington will man the ends, with junior college transfer Tre James also a part of the plan.

Sylvestre joins experienced juniors Trent Voss and Chase Murdock in a strong linebacking unit. The Rockets have nine defensive backs with experience, but when the sorting out is completed, look for seniors Cheatham Norrils and Cameron Cole to man the corners, with help from sophomore Jordan Martin. Senior Jordan Haden leads the group at safety.

Previewing Toledo’s Specialists for 2014: 

Senior Jeremiah Detmer is one of the nation’s most accurate placekickers, currently working a streak in which he’s hit 36-of-37 field goals. Sophomore Nick Ellis looks to replace four-year starter Vince Penza at punter. Speedster Wilcher leads a deep return corps.

Final Analysis 

Toledo has 17 starters back to work on purging the sour taste left from last season, when the Rockets went 7–5 overall and missed playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2009. The schedule is not easy; the Rockets play Missouri, Cincinnati and Iowa State in non-conference action and host Bowling Green, the defending league champs, from the MAC East.

Toledo has a wealth of experience and talent along its offensive front and at linebacker, but the Rockets will be featuring a new starter at quarterback — always a dangerous proposition. If Woodside emerges as viable playmaker and the defense improves, the Rockets should be right back in the MAC East title picture.




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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#59 Bowling Green Falcons

NATIONAL FORECAST

#59

MAC East PREDICTION

#1

HEAD COACH: Dino Babers, First Year | OFF. COORDINATOR: Sterlin Gilbert, Matt Mattox | DEF. COORDINATOR: Kim McCloud

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 59 Bowling Green.

Previewing Bowling Green’s Offense for 2014:

Things went from chaotic to frenetic to simply hectic as Bowling Green spent the spring adjusting to the ultra high-speed attack preferred by head coach Dino Babers.

Junior quarterback Matt Johnson, who started every game but the opener in Bowling Green’s MAC championship season last year, expects to improve on his 3,467 passing yards and 25 touchdowns since the Babers offense will provide more plays.
Running back Travis Greene rushed for a school-record 1,594 yards last season — breaking a mark that had stood for more than 60 years — while recording nine games of more than 100 yards. The junior is firmly entrenched as the workhorse back. Powerful 262-pound sophomore William Houston provides additional punch in the running game.

Most of the receiving corps is back, led by senior Heath Jackson, junior Ryan Burbrink and sophomore Ronnie Moore. Burbrink has big-play potential after catching 30 passes for 477 yards and two touchdowns last season, including a 92-yard scoring grab. SMU transfer Gehrig Dieter is eligible after sitting out 2013 and, along with early enrollee freshman Roger Lewis, is expected to press for playing time. Senior Chris Pohlman steps in at tight end after catching just four passes in 2013.

The line needs only a slight tweak with three starters back from the conference championship unit. Junior Alex Huettel, who moves from guard to center, anchors the group as a returning second-team All-MAC performer, and sophomore tackles Logan Dietz and Jacob Bennett are also returning starters.

Previewing Bowling Green’s Defense for 2014:

Bowling Green had the top-ranked scoring defense in the MAC last season, allowing a meager 15.9 points per game. Seven times, the Falcons held their opponent to seven points or less. They were also No. 1 in total defense (321.4 ypg) and rushing defense (150.6 ypg).

New personnel will have to be called on to maintain that excellence. The interior of the line will feature two new starters, but junior Taylor Royster and senior Zach Colvin both have plenty of experience. Senior ends Bryan Thomas and Charlie Walker combined to start 22 games last season. At linebacker, seniors D.J. Lynch and Gabe Martin are battle-tested on the outside, while redshirt freshman Nate Locke is pushing senior Paul Senn in the middle.

The secondary, the best in the MAC last season, gets the most severe overhaul — senior free safety Ryland Ward is the sole starter back. Senior Jude Adjei-Barimah and junior Darrell Hunter are the likely starters at the corners, and senior Brian Sutton is the top candidate at strong safety.

Specialists 

The placekicking game will be a strength again. Tyler Tate converted 18-of-22 field goals, including 6-of-8 from beyond 40 yards. Joe Davidson inherits the punting job coming off a redshirt season. The Falcons led the conference in both kickoff returns and punt returns, and should be explosive again with Burbrink and Moore leading the way.

Final Analysis

Immediately after winning its first conference championship in 21 years, Bowling Green lost coach Dave Clawson to Wake Forest. The Falcons recovered quickly, landing Babers after he led Eastern Illinois to a No. 4 final ranking in the FCS — and did so with the division’s No. 1 total offense (589.5 ypg) and scoring offense (48.2 ppg). Babers and his staff — most of which followed him from EIU — changed some things that weren’t necessarily broken, and Bowling Green will be a different animal this fall as Babers unleashes his dizzying pace on offense. The defense has more holes to fill, but there is enough returning talent to make the Falcons the heavy favorite in the MAC East.




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