For the first time since the 2006 season, Bowling Green will venture a couple of hours south to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium. Bowling Green is coming off a 2015 season that saw the Falcons win the Mid-American Conference championship with a 10-4 overall record. More importantly, Bowling Green is coming into the 2016 season with a brand-new coaching staff, led by first-year head coach Mike Jinks. Jinks was formerly an assistant coach at Texas Tech, serving as the running backs coach from 2013-15.
Ohio State also is in a state of flux, as the Buckeyes lost several key players to graduation and early NFL departures. The Ohio State roster is high on talent, but tremendously low on experience. Ohio State has only six returning starters heading into the 2016 season, led by quarterback J.T. Barrett. Even the Ohio State coaching staff adjusted – former safeties coach Chris Ash left to take over as the new head coach of Rutgers, and former tight ends coach Tim Hinton moved into an administrative role. Former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano is now the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach to replace Ash, while Urban Meyer gave Ed Warriner the responsibility of coaching the tight ends, in addition to Warriner's offensive coordinator duties. Greg Studrawa, a longtime offensive line coach and former Meyer assistant, was hired to take over the offensive line duties from Warriner.
Bowling Green at Ohio State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 3 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Big Ten Network
Spread: Ohio State -28
Three Things to Watch
1. Ohio State's Running Game vs. Bowling Green's Run Defense
Off to the NFL is Ezekiel Elliott. Redshirt freshman Mike Weber is the projected starter at tailback, but Ohio State also will involve junior Curtis Samuel and senior Dontre Wilson with a committee approach to this position, along with Barrett on designed QB runs. Bowling Green will look to counter the Buckeye rushing attack with a defense led by returning All-MAC linebackers Austin Valdez and Trent Greene.
2. Bowling Green's Passing Game vs. Ohio State's Pass Defense
Bowling Green lost its starting quarterback (Matt Johnson) and top two wide receivers (Roger Lewis, Gehrig Dieter) from 2015, but have capable players returning in quarterback James Knapke and receivers Ronnie Moore and Scott Miller. Ohio State's secondary was hard hit by early NFL departures, with only redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley returning as a starter.
3. How to Prepare for the Unexpected
This game marks Jinks’ debut as Bowling Green's head coach. Even though Jinks is coming from Texas Tech as an assistant, he was not a coordinator, so the Ohio State defensive coaching staff will need to be prepared with contingency plans, especially with such an inexperienced defensive unit. Conversely, Ohio State will be lining up several new starters at wide receiver, tight end, and running back, so the Bowling Green defensive coaching staff will need to be prepared in a comparable manner.
Ohio State has played, and defeated, Bowling Green four times since 1992. While two games were easy wins for the Buckeyes, two games were closer than Ohio State would have wanted (1992, 2003). As a former Bowling Green coach (2001-02), Urban Meyer will be preaching to his coaching staff and young team about being too overconfident and wary of an upset. While Bowling Green will put points on the board and keep it interesting through the first half, look for Ohio State to slowly pull away in the second half with a deeper and faster squad than Bowling Green can keep pace with in Ohio Stadium.
Prediction: Ohio State 42, Bowling Green 17
— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.