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.
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.
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.