Second-year head coach Gregg Brandon and his Falcons believe there is some unfinished business left over from 2003, despite an 11-3 mark and a Top 25 ranking.
"Last year, we won a bowl game, won the (MAC) West (Division), and now we want to win the MAC," said Brandon, who enjoyed a rookie season the likes of which few college coaches have ever experienced.
OffenseAll eyes are on sophomore Omar Jacobs as he attempts to build his own record of success as Bowling Green's starting quarterback. The shoes he's filling are enormous. Last season, team MVP Josh Harris ranked third in the nation in total offense with a 331.6-yard average.
"Omar is smart," Brandon said. "You tell him something once, he grasps it. Omar can watch a tape, he can get coached and go out and execute it on the field, usually the first time."
Nothing takes the pressure off an inexperienced quarterback better than a running game. The Falcons are stocked at running back with first-team All-MAC performer P.J. Pope leading the way. Pope topped 1,000 rushing yards last fall and caught 48 passes in BG's spread attack. B.J. Lane averaged a school-record 6.4 yards per carry in '04.
Falcon receivers return 4,043 receiving yards and 29 touchdown catches from '03. Cole Magner set single-season BG marks last year in receptions (99), receiving yardage (1,138) and all-purpose yardage (1,592). Charles Sharon added 59 catches for 887 yards.
With several veteran players injured, spring ball saw young offensive linemen getting plenty of reps and much needed experience. All-MAC senior standout Scott Mruczkowski will be at center and no doubt provide a calming influence for Jacobs when the Falcons line up at Oklahoma on Sept. 4.
DefenseThe big loss on defense is corner Janssen Patton (seven interceptions, first-team All-MAC). However, Brandon is confident senior Keon Newson will step it up in 2004.
"I certainly think [Keon] can be the best defensive player in the conference," Brandon said.
Newson forced a MAC-high six fumbles and recorded a team-high 124 tackles last year.
The Falcons were deep up front in '03 and kept fresh legs on the field. End Mitchell Crossley recorded nine sacks and earned second-team All-MAC honors. Devon Parks came off the edge for five sacks. Brandon said run stopper Mike Thaler, who racked up 64 tackles a year ago, had a "great spring."
Bowling Green also has an experienced linebacking corps. Senior Jovon Burkes will push for All-MAC accolades this season, after recording 78 tackles and nine tackles for a loss in '03.
SpecialistsBrandon doesn't pull any punches about senior kicker Shaun Suisham.
"[Shaun] was better two years ago than he was last year," Brandon said.
Suisham was 16-of-24 on field goals and 56-of-60 on extra points.
Punter Nate Fry did solid job a year ago, averaging 40.2 yards per kick.
Final AnalysisMAC teams are usually forced to rebuild after the kind of season Bowling Green enjoyed. But if Jacobs emerges at quarterback, the Falcons may very well take the next step and bring home the MAC hardware.