MAC

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#104 Buffalo Bulls

NATIONAL FORECAST

#104

MAC East PREDICTION

#4

HEAD COACH: Jeff Quinn, 17-32 (4 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Alex Wood | DEF. COORDINATOR: Lou Tepper

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. 104 Buffalo Bulls.

Previewing Buffalo’s Offense in 2014

The Bulls lost two of the most productive players in school history in tailback Branden Oliver and wide receiver Alex Neutz but return junior quarterback Joe Licata. A local product, Licata threw for 2,824 yards and 24 touchdowns — one shy of the single-season school record — while completing 58 percent of his passes. Licata missed spring practice while recovering from hip surgery, which allowed backup Tony Daniel to get the majority of the snaps.

With Oliver gone, junior Anthone Taylor, who rushed for 399 yards and three touchdowns, becomes the centerpiece of the running game. Junior Devin Campbell moves from slot receiver back to his natural position at tailback, where he provides breakaway speed. He’ll be pushed by sophomore Jordan Johnson, a bruising back who has been slowed by injuries.

Offensive coordinator Alex Wood wants to feature more players in the passing game, so there will be opportunities for some fresh faces at wide receiver. Sophomore Boise Ross is a blur and has the ability to be a quality playmaker after showing flashes as a true freshman. The Bulls hope Devon Hughes rebounds and enjoys a strong senior season, similar to Fred Lee last year.

Licata will be well protected with all five starters returning from an offensive line that is arguably the best in the MAC. The unit is anchored by versatile senior left guard Andre Davis, a starter for 37 consecutive games.

Previewing Buffalo’s Defense in 2014

Years of solid recruiting will help Buffalo survive the sting of losing seven starters on defense. Nevertheless, you can’t lose a player like All-America linebacker Khalil Mack and not expect a significant drop-off. Also gone is four-year starter Colby Way at end. Both ends, in fact, have to be replaced, but nose guard Kristjan Sokoli, who started all 13 games last season, and linebacker Adam Redden, an All-MAC selection, return to the Bulls’ lineup. Veteran defensive coordinator Lou Tepper will lean on both Sokoli and Redden for leadership as the unit matures.

Senior linebacker Lee Skinner has started all 37 games of his career and has ranked second on the team in tackles in each of his first three seasons. In the secondary, Cortney Lester enters his fourth season as a starting cornerback, while Marqus Baker will get the nod at the other corner to replace All-MAC selection Najja Johnson. Witney Sherry was sidelined with an injury last season but will likely start at free safety. Okezie Alozie ranked seventh on the team in tackles with 45 a year ago and is the favorite at strong safety.

The Bulls’ ability to remain among the MAC’s elite will largely depend on how soon a pass rush can be developed. 

Previewing Buffalo’s Specialists in 2014

Kicker Patrick Clarke made 13-of-20 field goals and 45-of-48 extra point attempts last season and enters his senior season ranked third in Buffalo history with 29 career field goals. Tyler Grassman averaged 40 yards per punt a year ago with 26 downed inside the 20. Campbell is a feared returner, and Ross has the potential to blossom into one.

Final analysis

Plenty of attention has been paid to Buffalo’s heavy losses to graduation, and perhaps deservedly so, but the return of Licata should be enough to carry the offense. It will be challenging to avoid a projected slide on defense, but a soft schedule in the early season should ease the growing pains. Four of the first five games are at home, including games with two FCS opponents in Duquesne and Norfolk State.

Bowling Green is clearly the team to beat in the MAC East, but the Bulls, if the defense comes through, will have a chance to be a factor once again in the division race.




Unpublished

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#97 Akron Zips

NATIONAL FORECAST

#97

MAC East PREDICTION

#3

HEAD COACH: Terry Bowden, 6-18 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: A.J. Milwee | DEF. COORDINATOR: Chuck Amato

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. 97 Akron.

Previewing Akron’s Offense for 2014

With a bevy of playmakers returning, the Zips have the potential to field one of the best offenses in the conference. The definitive word here is “potential,” because those skill players must improve if Akron is to avoid its ninth consecutive losing record.

Junior quarterback Kyle Pohl is back for his second year as a starter, but he must do better than 14 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 56 percent completion rate. His running mate is senior tailback Jawon Chisholm, who has led the team in rushing for three consecutive years but has never reached the 1,000-yard plateau.

Pohl will throw to a group of experienced receivers, including junior Zach D’Orazio (team-high 42 catches for 567 yards) and 5'6" sophomore speedster Fransohn Bickley (39 catches for 407 yards). A breakout season by some of the talented young receivers, especially highly touted sophomore Mykel Traylor-Bennett, would make Akron even more dangerous.

Of course, much will depend on the play of the line, which has been a problem area in recent years. Third-year coach Terry Bowden and his staff have concentrated on adding depth to the line in recruiting, and there are signs that the emphasis has paid off. Center Travis Switzer and guard Dylan Brumbaugh head the list of returnees, but the other three spots will be handled by former reserves or incoming recruits.

Previewing Akron’s Defense for 2014

The Zips showed vast improvement here, jumping from No. 99 nationally in 2012 to No. 59 in 2013, but they are facing major rebuilding jobs on the front line and the secondary. The only returning starter up front is nose guard Cody Grice. There are plenty of candidates to fill the holes, but they are of unknown quality. A key player here is end Se’Von Pittman, who must put his troubled past at Ohio State behind him.

Both starting cornerbacks will be new, but at least safeties Devonte Morgan, Johnny Robinson and Bre’ Ford are veterans.

The linebacking corps is led by the strong duo of Jatavis Brown (No. 1 in tackles with 107) and Justin March (No. 2 with 80).

If the likes of Pittman, corner Bryce Cheek and linebackers C.J. Mizell and Dylan Evans, among many others, can fill holes, the defense may be a viable complement to the offense.

Previewing Akron’s Specialists for 2014

The Zips kicked the ball capably last season, with returning placekicker Robert Stein and returning punter Zach Paul. But the return teams were abysmal, ranking 111th nationally on kickoff returns and 117th on punt returns. The hope is that the diminutive Bickley can give both areas a major boost.

Final Analysis

Akron made major strides last season with a 5–7 record after winning only six games total in the previous four seasons. A winning season is possible if enough players turn potential into productivity. It helps that the league schedule seems more forgiving than in the recent past.

The offense needs Pohl to make better decisions and be more consistent than he was in 2013. The receiving corps may have put up some decent numbers, but there were far too many drops. A senior-style performance from Chisholm would take some pressure off the passing game.

Defensively, veteran coordinator Chuck Amato believes that question marks can be turned into exclamation points.

The feeling around the conference is that the Zips are finally going to have a team befitting the beautiful InfoCision Stadium. The university must feel the same way, because Bowden was awarded a new two-year contract extension through 2018.
Bowden has built from the bottom, filled pieces slowly but surely and has a team that might be a surprise.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#95 Ohio Bobcats

NATIONAL FORECAST

#95

MAC East PREDICTION

#2

HEAD COACH: Frank Solich, 66-50 (9 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Tim Albin, Scott Isphording | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jimmy Burrow

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. 95 Ohio.

Previewing Ohio’s Offense for 2014

After scores of records, the only two bowl wins in the program’s history, and even a brief stay inside the nation’s top 25 in 2012, Ohio turns the page on the Tyler Tettleton era in 2014. The Bobcats’ most accomplished quarterback will be replaced this season by one of two candidates who have waited for their chance the past two years. Junior Derrius Vick has more reps, including a spot start in 2012 on his résumé, and a slight lead going into fall camp. He’ll be pushed by sophomore JD Sprague, a former walk-on who fits the same dual-threat mold.

Ohio has to replace key offensive pieces all over the depth chart. Departed running back Beau Blankenship piled up just under 3,000 yards rushing over the past three years, and the Bobcats now will turn to two largely unproven backs. Junior Daz Patterson averaged 5.6 per carry in spot work in 2013, but he lacks the size to be an every-down, between-the-tackles threat. Senior Tim Edmond, who has also played tight end and linebacker at Ohio, will be the big-back option and handle short-yardage situations. Expect redshirt freshman Dorian Brown, or perhaps incoming freshman Maleek Irons, to get a look as well.

The receiving group is also being rebuilt nearly from scratch. Only senior flanker Chase Cochran (689 receiving yards in 2013) returns from Ohio’s top six pass-catchers of a year ago. Iowa transfer Cam Wilson and slot specialist Landon Smith (hurt for most of 2013) also will be critical. Sophomore Troy Mangen and junior college transfer Brennan Boland are tasked to handle the varied role of Ohio’s tight ends.

The offensive line never got settled a year ago — eight different lineups were used in the first eight games — and the unit will be young again with three juniors and two sophomores in the projected starting five. For the first time in a decade, Ohio will not have a senior in the projected two-deep up front. However, guard Mike Lucas, center Lucas Powell and tackle Mike McQueen all return with two years of experience.

Previewing Ohio’s Defense for 2014

Rebuilding in 2013, Ohio simply wasn’t good enough on this side of the ball to contend for a MAC championship. The Bobcats gave up 4.6 yards per carry, more than 400 yards per game and yielded 34 plays of 30 yards or more.

The good news is that the defense has the potential to be much better. Seven starters return, and Ohio will have solid depth on the line where sophomore ends Tarell Basham and Kurt Laseak and senior tackles Antwan Crutcher and Cameron McLeod lead the way.

The Bobcats have two returning junior linebackers, Ben Russell (middle) and Jovon Johnson (outside), who were important contributors a year ago, when both learned on the fly.

In the secondary, Ohio loses two starters but shouldn’t skip a beat. Senior safeties Josh Kristoff, Thad Ingol and Nate Carpenter each have considerable experience, and junior cornerbacks Devin Bass and Ian Wells have both started games the previous two seasons.

Previewing Ohio’s Specialists for 2014

Junior placekicker Josiah Yazdani was a pleasant find early last season as he solidified that role four weeks into the season and missed just one attempt on the year. Ohio signed junior college transfer Mitch Bonnstetter to help alleviate the problems of the past two seasons with blocked punts or mishandled snaps.

Final Analysis

Ohio has developed into a consistent winner under coach Frank Solich, and with a veteran defense and solid special teams, the Bobcats should again be a contender for a winning season and possible bowl bid. But with a complete rebuild in store for the offense, Ohio will have a tough time contending for a league title in 2014.




Unpublished

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#79 Ball State Cardinals

NATIONAL FORECAST

#79

MAC West PREDICTION

#3

HEAD COACH: Pete Lembo, 104-49 (13 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Joey Lynch | DEF. COORDINATOR: Kevin Kelly

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. 79 Ball State.

Previewing Ball State’s Offense for 2014:

Ball State bid a bittersweet farewell to four-year starting quarterback Keith Wenning, who walked out the door with 11,402 career passing yards, 92 touchdowns and virtually every other passing record in the school’s book. Wenning led the Cardinals to 19 wins the last two seasons and a pair of bowl bids, but Ball State is still searching for its first bowl victory.

Coach Pete Lembo spent the spring searching for Wenning’s successor. Four youngsters shared the snaps in April, but sophomore Ozzie Mann (nine career attempts) and redshirt freshman Jack Milas earned the right to take the fight into fall camp. “It’s Mann slightly ahead of Milas,” Lembo says. “Ozzie had a solid spring. Jack has a big upside to him. He has the playmaker ‘it’ factor. It should be a good battle.”

Ball State also lost three of its top four receivers, including Willie Snead (106 catches, 1,516 yards, 15 TDs) after he opted to turn pro a year early. Look for Jordan Williams (72-1,050-10) to expand on his monstrous sophomore campaign. “He’s poised for a breakout year,” Lembo says. “He’s got a chance to be special.”

With relatively few veterans returning in the passing game, the Cardinals are more than happy to emphasize a running game that features Jahwan Edwards (1,110 yards) and Horactio Banks (595). Edwards already owns the school record with 39 career rushing scores and needs just 697 yards to claim that career mark as well. He has three stalwart linemen, including third-team All-MAC center Jacob Richard, to blaze paths for him.
“We would be foolish if we didn’t play to the strengths of the unit,” Lembo says.

Previewing Ball State’s Defense for 2014:

When defensive coordinator Jay Bateman moved to take the same role at Army in the offseason, Lembo jumped at the chance to hire Georgetown head coach Kevin Kelly to replace him. Lembo and Kelly coached together at Dartmouth in 1995 and have been close friends since. “He’s a guy I completely trust,” Lembo says. “The trust factor is huge. He’s brought such a great presence to our defense. He’s tried to simplify a few things so our kids can play fast. I like the way this group is playing right now.”
Ball State won’t look significantly different than in years past, though opponents might notice the Cardinals in a few more three-man fronts this fall.

Kelly inherits a strong secondary that features three worthy starters at safety in Brian Jones, Dae’Shaun Hurley and Martez Hester as well as veteran corner Eric Patterson. Second-team All-MAC outside linebacker Ben Ingle ranked third in the league last year with 116 tackles, while sophomore Zack Ryan started every game in the middle last year.

The question marks are along the line as defensive end Nick Miles (five sacks) is the only returning starter. Projected starting nose tackle Carlutorbantu Zaramo injured his knee during spring ball, so he’s not expected to be ready on time.

Previewing Ball State’s Specialists for 2014:

Senior Scott Secor was the top-scoring kicker in the MAC (117 points) last season and drilled 19-of-24 field-goal attempts. Sophomore punter Kyle Schmidt ranked sixth in the league with his 40.9-yard average. The Cardinals must replace splendid returner Jamill Smith and will decide among three different contenders to handle return duties in the fall.

Final Analysis

Northern Illinois is the standard-bearer in the MAC West, but nobody in the division has played the Huskies tougher than Ball State. While the Cardinals might not improve their win total for the fourth time in Lembo’s four years at the helm, they appear positioned to stay in the MAC’s elite for years to come.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#77 Northern Illinois Huskies

NATIONAL FORECAST

#77

MAC West PREDICTION

#2

HEAD COACH: Rod Carey, 12-3 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Bob Cole | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jay Niemann

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. 77 Northern Illinois.

Previewing Northern Illinois’ Offense for 2014:

Once known as Tailback U for its string of 1,000-yard rushers, Northern Illinois turned into Quarterback U after the sterling back-to-back careers by Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch. The two quarterbacks combined to win the last three MAC MVPs, with Lynch setting a new standard with consecutive MVPs and placing seventh and third, respectively, in the last two Heisman Trophy races.

Replacing the dual-threat Lynch is the main priority for Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey. Lynch, who passed for 2,892 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,920 yards and 23 scores last season, handled the majority of the snaps the last two seasons. The top three candidates — Matt McIntosh, Drew Hare and Western Michigan transfer Anthony Maddie — all bring different elements to the offense. McIntosh, a junior, possesses the most experience, with Hare boasting the best arm and Maddie a mixture of both.

Regardless of the starter at quarterback, the running back corps should help ease the transition. This is the clearly the deepest and most talented position on the team. After rushing for 1,119 yards last season, Cameron Stingily might not even be the featured runner. Akeem Daniels, who sat out last season with a foot injury, is healthy and primed for a big role.

Often overlooked due to Lynch’s big-play ability, the NIU offensive line allowed just 11 sacks in 14 games and helped generate a MAC-best 297.2 yards rushing per game last season. Count on the Huskies running the ball more this upcoming season, though the senior wide receiving tandem of Da’Ron Brown and Tommylee Lewis is polished and dangerous.

Previewing Northern Illinois’ Defense for 2014:

This is a unit currently in the midst of a massive shakeup after losing all four starters on the defensive line and some key pieces in the secondary. A year ago, the Huskies dealt with a similar reconstruction process along the front four, so this won’t be a big issue. There’s plenty of experience along the line, with senior Jason Meehan and junior Perez Ford slated to start at end. Senior nose guard Donovan Gordon will demand double-teams, while tackle Mario Jones played quality minutes last year.

The linebacker group is the strength of the defense, with Jamaal Bass, Boomer Mays and Jamaal Payton forming an athletic and seasoned trio. As the leading returning tackler with 87 stops last season, Bass is a durable playmaker. Mayes, a junior, is ready for a breakout season after tallying 82 tackles last season.

Safety Jimmie Ward, called the “quarterback of the defense” by Carey, will be missed. Marlon Moore was moved from cornerback to safety in the spring.

Previewing Northern Illinois’ Specialists for 2014:

There’s no doubt that the Huskies will miss the clutch kicking of Mathew Sims. Punter Tyler Wedel is the odds-on favorite to take over the placekicking duties, becoming a possible jack-of-all-trades in handling the punting and kickoff jobs.

Final Analysis

After the best two-year run in school history, Northern Illinois faces a daunting task trying to maintain its level of excellence. There should be some early-season growing pains without Lynch’s leadership and big-time production spearheading the offense. Following the season opener, the Huskies hit the road to play at Northwestern, UNLV and Arkansas.

Although NIU is loaded at several offensive positions, most notably at tailback, offensive line and wide receiver, Lynch is tough to replace. Carey is emphasizing the importance of finishing strong, with the Huskies losing their last two games last season and not winning a bowl game in the last two years. Even without Lynch, the Huskies return enough talent to contend in the tough MAC West.




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.




Unpublished

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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