The Bowling Green Falcons were coming on strong down the stretch in the 2012 college football season. They won seven of their last eight games, and played competitively in a bowl loss to a good San Jose State team. Now the Falcons are back for more and looked primed to win the MAC’s Eastern Division.
In a league where it’s all about the quarterbacks, it’s refreshing to see Bowling Green build their success on defense. They had a solid D a year ago, and while they lose tackle Chris Jones—the MAC Defensive Player of the Year—nine other starters return and this will again be a team conference foes don’t want to get into the usual MAC scoring races with.
The offense is no less experienced, with veteran quarterback Matt Schilz at the helm, and eight other starters back in his supporting cast. It won’t be easy—it never is in this topsy-turvy league—but the TheSportsNotebook’s college football coverage is picking Bowling Green to be playing in the MAC Championship Game on December 6 in Detroit’s Ford Field.
Ohio has been a consistent winner under head coach Frank Solich, and it looked like they might be more last season when a 7-0 start included a win at Penn State. But the Bobcats dealt with injuries and struggled down the stretch.
Quarterback Tyler Tettleton—the son of former MLB catcher Mickey Tettleton—is back for a third year behind center. Tyler is a versatile quarterback who will get his numbers, but the offensive line and the defense are both young.
One thing Ohio does have going for them is the return of starting corners Travis Carrie and Jamil Shaw from injuries that cost them all of last season. Between these returnees, Tettleton and the quality of Solich’s program they will at least make a bowl game and be playing significant conference games in November. It’s just hard to pick them ahead of Bowling Green here in August.
Kent State and Buffalo are both in the dark-horse category, but they each appear to be going in opposite direction. Kent went 11-1 last year, won this division and took Northern Illinois to overtime in the conference championship game, but the success cost them head coach Darrell Hazell.
The Golden Flashes also have a very young offensive line and a new quarterback. Defenses are going to be able to key on their spectacular slot player Dri Archer, who can both run and catch passes.
Any championship scenario for Kent is going to require the defense, anchored by All-Conference tackle Roosevelt Nix, and a good secondary, to carry the team early, while a new quarterback and offensive line get settled in.
Buffalo only wet 4-8 in 2012 and they have uncertainty at quarterback. But I really like this team’s defense, with an experienced back seven that’s so important in a league where the football is always flying. They return three starters on the offensive line, and have good skill position talent in Branden Oliver and Alex Neutz. Expect the Bulls to at least get a winning record in 2013.
UMass: They broke into the FBS level a year ago and went 1-11. There are still 13 starters who are underclassmen, so simply winning three games would be a big deal for the Minutemen.
Miami-Ohio: This program has really fallen hard in recent years. The Redskins went 4-8 last year, have a new quarterback, a new offensive line and a revamped defensive scheme. I suppose one shouldn’t rule out 6-6 and sneaking into a bowl game, but they aren’t sniffing this division title.
Akron: Another program that seemed to be on the upswing a few years ago, and is now in Terry Bowden’s hands for rebuilding. They went 1-11 in Bowden’s first year. With returning players on both lines and the secondary, Bowden will show progress, but not enough to make this team relevant in 2013.