The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 125 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 85: Bowling Green
Coach: Dave Clawson (22-28, fifth season; 80-77 overall)
2012 record: 8-5 (6-2 in Mid-American Conference, second in East Division)
Look back: The Bowling Green program has grown through a nice progression as of late. The Falcons went from a 2-win season in 2010 to five-wins in 2011 and then an eight-win season in 2012. It earned the program its first bowl appearance since 2009 and the second under Dave Clawson. The recent uptick has helped earned the fifth-year coach a new contract extension that will keep the 49-year-old Clawson at Bowling Green until 2019.
Offensive starters returning: 9
Offensive starters lost: 2
Defensive starters returning: 9
Defensive starters lost: 2
Key losses: RB Anthon Samuel, OL Jordon Roussos, DL Chris Jones, LB Dwayne Woods
Top returnees: QB Matt Schilz, WR Chris Gallon, WR Shaun Joplin, C Chief Kekuewa, DE Charlie Walker, DE Bryan Thomas, LB Gabe Martin
Strengths: Bowling Green was the top defensive team in the Mid-American Conference in 2012. The Falcons were No. 1 in the league in scoring defense (16.8 points per game) as well as tops in the yards allowed (296.7). The group was also the leader in stopping not only the run (106.5 ypg) but the pass (190.1 ypg) as well. All-conference players Chris Jones and Dwyane Woods are gone, but the unit returns nine starters including ends Charlie Walker (2.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss) and Bryan Thomas (3.5 sacks, 8.0 TFL). The secondary remains intact led by Boo-Boo Gates (47 tackles, 2 INTs) and Cameron Truss (63 tackles). … The receiving ranks and offensive line return most of their starters from 2012 and are deep with depth making them a valuable commodity in 2013.
Weaknesses: While the defense flourished, the offense had its struggles in 2012. The Falcons finished No. 11 in the Mid-American Conference in total offense (365.5 ypg) and were dead-last in the league in red-zone offense, only converting 66 percent of their possessions inside the 20-yard line (31-of-47). Despite having 35 career starts under his belt, quarterback Matt Schilz will face tough competition for the starting job in 2013. Schilz struggled in 2012, only completing 55 percent of his passes for 2,585 yards and 14 touchdowns. Turnovers (he threw 12 interceptions) have forced Clawson to look at backups Matt Johnson and James Knapke as possible replacements. … One of the few bright spots on offense last season was running back Anthon Samuel, who rushed for more than 900 yards and 11 touchdowns, but his decision to leave the program for personal reasons leaves the team with questions in the backfield. Sophomore Andre Givens appears the best option.
Outlook: It’s strange to think that a team that returns 18 starters could struggle, but that could be the case for Bowling Green this season. Once again, the defense appears in solid shape heading into the season, but there are so many questions on offense with quarterback and running back being top priorities.
Aug. 29 Tulsa
Sept. 7 at Kent State
Sept. 14 at Indiana
Sept. 21 Murray State
Sept. 28 Akron