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2012 College Football Season Preview: Bowling Green Falcons

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2011 Record: (5-7, 3-5 in MAC)

Head Coach: Dave Clawson (14-23 at BGSU, 10-14 in MAC games)

Last Bowl Game: 2009 Humanitarian Bowl: Lost to Idaho 43-42

2011 Preview

Schedule Glimpse:

2012 Schedule Link

Paying the Bills: 9/1 at Florida, 9/22 at Virginia Tech

Must Win: 9/8 vs Idaho, 9/29 vs Rhode Island, 10/20 at UMass

Revenge: 9/15 at Toledo, 11/7 at Ohio, 11/17 vs Kent State

Statistical Snapshot:

2011 Statistics Link

Stat to Cheer: 19 returning starters (first in MAC)

Stat to Fear: -1.08 turnover margin (worst in MAC) and a -2.14 margin in losses

Personnel:

Phil Steele's Returning Starters (Offense: 7; Defense: 10: Specialists: 2)

Key Defensive Returnees: LB Dwayne Woods (111 tackles), DL Chris Jones (8.5 sacks)

Key Offensive Returnees: QB Matt Schilz (28 TD, 13 INT), RB Anthon Samuel (844 yards rushing, 5 TD)

Top Recruits: OT Logan Dietz (Scout.com's #65 OT), S James Sanford (#81 S), CB James White (#83 CB), DT Michael Minns (#90 DT)

Inside Scoop with the Falcon Blog:

CFBZ: Dave Clawson is 14-23 going into his fourth year for the Falcons. How close is Bowling Green to turning the corner?

Falcon Blog: I think Bowling Green is turning the corner. Last year's team showed improvement and was among the youngest teams in the country. I believe we are developing a very solid nucleus of players, improving on both lines. The defensive secondary should be markedly better than it was two years ago. I think BG will have a decent year this year with a chance to win a deeply flawed East division and then be very strong the following season.

CFBZ: Most avid college football fans have heard the name Matt Schilz. Who are some of the other players on this Falcons offense that fans should take note of?

Falcon Blog: One of Dave Clawson's priorities has been to improve the running game. Last year's MAC Freshman of the Year, Anthon Samuel, will be back. He showed himself to be a very solid back with explosive ability, and if he can stay healthy (he is a small back), he will become a name known to avid college football fans.

Also at RB, BG has a little bit of a sleeper in Andre Givens. Givens was one of Ohio's most highly recruited RBs in 2010. He signed with Pitt but went to prep school instead. He is enrolled at BG, although he is cleaning up his academics before he can play. He was not in Spring Practice. Even with all that, he clearly has the ability to be a game changer in the MAC.

BG lost six WRs from last year's team. Two players to keep your eye on here. First, Je'Ron Stokes is a transfer from Michigan. Clawson recruited him to Tennessee while he was the OC there, and then that imploded and he went to UM, and now has transferred to BG. He will be eligible and also has the ability to be very solid in the MAC. The other is Shaun Joplin. Joplin has the skill set to be a #1 receiver in the MAC.

CFBZ: In it's seven losses, Bowling Green gave up an average of 254 yards rushing and 18 rushing TDs. Who are some players that need to step up to help the Falcons in this aspect of their defense?

Falcon Blog: Ouch. Yeah, if there has been one hallmark of the BG program going back to the immediate post-Meyer teams is an inability to stop the run. At the end of the season, Coach Clawson said we needed to get stronger, especially on the D-line. Teams like NIU and UT with big physical lines just abused us. He has recruited the d-line position hard. Also, BG lost only one lineman from last year's team. DT Chris Jones is a beast and is set for a huge senior season after being first-team All-MAC last year. My view is that the tackle position is set with Ted Ouelett, Jarius Campell, Hunter Maynard and Darius Gilbert. The players who need to step up are on the edge--Robbie Goble, Charlie Walker, Zach Colvin and Bryan Thomas.

CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

Falcon Blog: BG has a very favorable schedule. I see us going 8-4 on the high end. Given that two of those losses would be to Florida and VaTech, that would make us 6-2 in the MAC and probably win the East. At a minimum, however, I'd like to see BG win 7 and make a bowl game.

Verdict:

Bowling Green returns a ton of starters off of a team that improved by two wins from 2010 to 2011. They have a solid quarterback, a young running back and some potential talent at WR despite losing their top two pass catchers. I would expect Bowling Green's offense to continue to improve (increased points per game by 5.2 in 2011 and gained over 1,000 yards more in total offense in 2011 versus 2010).

Bowling Green returns ten starters on defense and this is the unit that will make or break the Falcons. Anybody can play offense in the MAC but being better on defense could vault Bowling Green into the MAC Championship hunt.

This is the fourth year of the Dave Clawson era and this could be a make or break year for him. After starting out 4-1 in 2010, the Falcons went on a 1-6 drought before winning their finale. The season starts out tough for the Falcons as they face off with Florida and then have to go to Toledo for their third game and Virginia Tech for their fourth game. I project them at 1-3 after this stretch but if they can keep their composure of getting smacked in the face early, they can have a really good year and return to a bowl game and build for a possible MAC Championship run in 2013.

2012 Prediction: 7-5

Previous 2012 Previews:

MAC: EMU

Sun Belt: FAU Owls, North Texas

Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.