There is nothing that gets me more excited and fired up than Tuesday night MACtion, and one of the staples of those midweek college football masterpieces has been the Bowling Green Falcons. After finishing 6-7 last season and clinching their first bowl game since 2015, Scott Loeffler’s program will be looking to build on their success this season.
Like for most teams, the transfer portal was a blessing and a curse for the Falcons, and we’ll break down their outlook on both sides of the ball before going over whether or not I think the Falcons can go bowling for the second straight season.
The Falcons ended last season ranked 105th in college football in average points per game and 108th in average yards. Those numbers were put up with Matt McDonald at quarterback, and most of the offensive responsibility was put into his hands since the Falcons were 30th in the country in pass play percentage. McDonald won’t be the man under center this season, with the Falcons likely handing the reigns over to Indiana Hoosiers transfer Connor Bazelak.
Bazelak will play in his third program this season after starting his career at Missouri before heading to Indiana and now BGSU. In his career, Bazelak has thrown for over 7,000 yards and 36 touchdowns, so he has had mild success in power five programs and gives the Falcons a great deal of experience. The last time we saw a quarterback transfer from the BIG-10 to the MAC was Rocky Lombardi, and that has turned out nicely for him and Northern Illinois.
There is good news and bad news for Bazelak heading into this season. Starting with the good news, the team is returning four offensive line starters, along with running backs Jaison Patterson and Terrion Stewart. The team did not have much of a run game last season, ranking 123rd in yards per game, so getting Stewart back from injury will be huge for them.
In terms of who Bazelak can throw to, that’s where the bad news comes in. Bowling Green lost last year’s leader in receiving touchdowns, Tyrone Broden, to the transfer portal, so Odieu Hiliare, who led the team in receptions and yards, will need to play an even more significant role this season.
First-year defensive coordinator Steve Morrison will share the coordinator position with Sammy Lawanson, but it will be Morrison making the play calls for the defense on game day. Morrison and Lawanson have some strong returning players on their roster, with six starters back for the Falcons. Like the offense, though, the defense also lost some big names that will be tough to replace with defensive end Karl Brooks and safety Jordan Anderson.
Brooks led the team in tackles for loss last season and sacks, so it will be up to senior Demetrius Hardamon to provide the Falcons with the bulk of their quarterback pressures. Hardamon was second on the team last year in both TFLs and sacks, so the ability to lead the defensive up front is there. BGSU was 36th in the country in sack percentage last season, so pressuring the QB is a big part of their game.
One of the biggest questions will be the Falcons' secondary, as they lost Anderson to UCLA, and a few of their top defensive backs graduated from the program. BGSU was able to add to the defensive back room with Stony Brook transfer Jordan Jackson and will likely need their highest-rated recruit, Tracy Revels, to step up and play significant time at the safety position.
Bowling Green’s win total across most sportsbooks is set at 4.5, and I’ll be taking the over for my play. While the Falcons lost three big players, the talent on the roster is still present, and getting a former BIG-10 quarterback gives them a nice advantage in most games. Based on Athlon Sports projections of the two divisions in the conference, the Falcons will play the bottom two teams on each side of the conference, which means even if they win three of them, they just need to find two more wins in nine games.
While they have a tough non-conference schedule, the Falcons' first home game comes against a beatable Eastern Illinois team. If MACtion has taught us anything, any team can walk away with a win when they have a strong QB-to-receiver combo, so if Bazelak and Hiliare can form that chemistry, then I think we’re looking at back-to-back six-win season for the Falcons.