TEAM: Bowling Green Falcons
2015 RECORD: 10-4, (7-1, first in MAC East)
HEAD COACH: Mike Jinks (1st year)
MAC MEDIA PRESEASON POLL RANK: First in MAC East
The 2015 Bowling Green Falcons were an offensive juggernaut -- a whirlwind passing attack that could also hurt you with the run , as well. Quarterback Matt Johnson made the most of his senior season, finishing among the nation’s passing leaders and taking his team to a MAC championship.
Surrendering nearly 29 ppg didn’t seem so bad when BG was averaging over 42 points per game on offense. However, Georgia Southern reversed roles with Bowling Green in the GoDaddy Bowl with a 58-27 win over the Falcons.
There will be considerable turnover in many spots this year. Adding that to . . . .
BIG PICTURE STAT OVERVIEW
Scoring offense: 1st (42.2 ppg)
Scoring defense: 9th (28.9 ppg)
Total offense: 1st (546.8 ypg)
Total defense: 9th (417.8 ypg)
Turnover margin: 1st (+12/0.86 per game)
How do you replace a quarterback who finished second in the nation in passing yards? Actually, Bowling Green already replaced Johnson once, and that same replacement is back to take over again. Johnson missed virtually all of the 2014 season due to injury, and BG turned to James Knapke, who fared reasonably well. The 6-2, 237-pound senior is capable enough and will have an experienced line in front of him. Returning starters include two seniors and a pair of juniors. Jacob Bennett was a Second Team All-MAC member in 2015.
Line play is important, because Knapke may need a little more time while he breaks in some new receivers. Losses include two All-MAC performers – Roger Lewis (First Team) and Gehrig Dieter (Second Team), who transferred to Alabama. Between them, they accounted for 2,577 yards and 26 touchdowns.
That leaves Roger Lewis (Third Team All-MAC) as the lynchpin of the receiving corps. He registered 72 catches for 951 yards and six scores. Junior Theo Redding got his first start in the Falcons’ bowl game and totaled 13 catches for 222 yards and three TDs. Former Michigan receiver Da'Marco Jones will use a grad season at Bowling Green, so that should add another solid target to the mix.
As for the ground game, Travis Green racked up 1,299 yards and 15 touchdowns to lead BG rushers last year, but he is gone. Senior Fred Coppet (5-9, 205) will inherit much of the load. He ran for 825 yards and five scores in 2015.
"The operations of our two systems are very similar. . . . To the average fan, they won't (be able) to tell the difference," new Head Coach Mike Jinks on last year's systems versus his systems.
All-MAC linebacker Austin Valdez (6-1, 225, Jr. First Team All-MAC) leads the defense. His 10.3 tackles per game was fourth among MAC defenders. Fellow linebacker Trent Green (5-9, 213, Sr) notched 97 stops in 2015. Together, they are two of five returning starters on defense.
Alfonso Mack returns at corner for his junior campaign. Will Watson gives a senior presence, while the safety spot appears headed for underclassmen.
Likewise, the Falcons figure to have a youthful front line. Junior Terrance Bush owned 8.0 TFL anong his 50.5 stops last year.
Punter Joe Davidson earned First Team All-MAC during his freshman campaign. The placekicking position was up for grabs heading into fall practice.
The Falcons certainly should have enough firepower to again score plenty of points. It probably isn’t a good idea, however, to continue giving up 28.9 ppg. With just five starters returning on that side of the ball, improvement may be marginal.
Another significant factor is the schedule. Bowling Green fans might enjoy some comfortable wins at home, only to see the team struggle in a very difficult road slate. Bowling Green travels to Ohio, Toledo, Northern Illinois and Akron in league play.
The non-conference schedule starts at Ohio State and ends at Memphis. In between BG hosts North Dakota and Middle Tennessee.