2013 Bowling Green football's 10 things to know: We're ready

Rob Carr

Bowling Green's defense dominated for most of the final two-thirds of 2012 and returns almost every major contributor. Can the Falcons' offense, inefficient but loaded with potential last fall, take a step forward to match the D?

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Bowling Green is ready

They have been to five bowls in 10 years. They have won at least six games in nine of the last 12. In a conference of extreme parity, the Bowling Green Falcons have, aside from a 2-10 crater in 2010, been rather consistently solid. But they've rarely been the most solid team in the conference. They haven't been to a MAC title game since the epic 2003 shootout between Ben Roethlisberger's No. 14 Miami (Ohio) Redhawks and Josh Harris's No. 20 Falcons, and they haven't secured a conference title since 1992. Even in the Urban Meyer years, they couldn't quite seal the deal.

I don't want to claim that this is the year BGSU's title streak comes to an end. There are plenty of MAC teams with a strong shot at the top spot -- the usual suspects (Northern Illinois, Toledo, Ohio), the upstarts (Central Michigan, Buffalo), the encores (Kent State, Ball State), and the bouncebacks (Western Michigan) might all have roles to play in what should be a really fun race. All I can say for sure, though, is that Bowling Green had one of the best mid-major defenses in the country last season and will bring one of the most experienced FBS two-deeps to the table in 2013.

The offense can expect to improve, and there is a good chance that the defense might retain the form it maintained over the final two-thirds of 2012. And if that happens, Bowling Green might have its best shot at a MAC title since Urban Meyer left. Dave Clawson has overseen the rebuilding of a program that is now quite deep and interesting. And now we get to see just how high his team's ceiling is (or, technically, isn't).

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 7-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 67
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep at Florida 14-27 L 28.0 - 32.2 L
8-Sep Idaho 21-13 W 22.9 - 41.1 L
15-Sep at Toledo 15-27 L 22.9 - 32.5 L
22-Sep at Virginia Tech 0-37 L 18.0 - 34.4 L
29-Sep Rhode Island 48-8 W 32.3 - 12.5 W
6-Oct at Akron 24-10 W 31.1 - 18.1 W
13-Oct Miami (Ohio) 37-12 W 33.8 - 16.9 W
20-Oct at Massachusetts 24-0 W 11.9 - 1.3 W
27-Oct Eastern Michigan 24-3 W 20.5 - 13.6 W
7-Nov at Ohio 26-14 W 25.8 - 12.4 W
17-Nov Kent State 24-31 L 27.9 - 32.5 L
23-Nov Buffalo 21-7 W 20.2 - 12.0 W
27-Dec vs. San Jose State 20-29 L 20.2 - 24.4 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 22.9 94 16.8 10
Adj. Points Per Game 24.3 98 21.8 18

2. The lightbulb came on

With a young team and an absolutely brutal September slate that featured trips to Gainesville, Toledo and Blacksburg, Bowling Green struggled early in 2012. Granted, the Falcons were perfectly competitive against Florida (they were tied, 14-14, deep into the third quarter, but that was basically par for the course for Florida) and Toledo, but they also looked iffy in creeping by an awful Idaho team, and they got romped by a mediocre Virginia Tech squad. Through four games, BGSU had shown minimal hints of what was to come on the defensive side of the ball.

Adj. Points per Game (first 4 games): Opponent 35.1, Bowling Green 23.0 (minus-12.1)
Adj. Points per Game (next 6 games): Bowling Green 25.9, Opponent 12.5 (plus-13.4)
Adj. Points per Game (last 3 games): Opponent 23.0, Bowling Green 22.8 (minus-0.2)

The offense faded late, and the defense regressed toward the mean a bit, but the Bowling Green of the final nine games of the season, one that barely lost to Kent State and had a tremendous San Jose State team on the ropes for most of the Military Bowl, was excellent. The offense was never anything better than average, but oh, that defense. BGSU allowed just 118 yards to UMass, 171 to Rhode Island, 178 to Eastern Michigan, 197 to Buffalo, 244 to Ohio, and 256 to Miami (Ohio). Better offenses (i.e. Kent State and San Jose State) figured out ways to move the ball, of course, but Bowling Green's performance against these lesser offenses was above and beyond what most teams managed.

That defense, by the way, returns all but two players from last year's three-deep.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 93 101 97 100
RUSHING 64 84 68 98
PASSING 83 104 110 98
Standard Downs 88 84 89
Passing Downs 104 94 106
Redzone 88 70 103
Q1 Rk 92 1st Down Rk 79
Q2 Rk 120 2nd Down Rk 119
Q3 Rk 74 3rd Down Rk 90
Q4 Rk 100

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Matt Schilz 6'3, 220 Sr. *** (5.6) 228 413 2,585 55.2% 14 12 13 3.1% 5.9
Matt Johnson 6'0, 210 So. *** (5.5) 10 28 119 35.7% 1 1 2 6.7% 3.8
James Knapke 6'2, 205 RSFr. ** (5.2)








3. Does experience fix inefficiency?

The offense was the issue in 2012. Bowling Green was reasonably efficient on the ground (and lacking in big-play capability), but the biggest issue at hand was woeful inefficiency through the air. Matt Schilz completed just 55 percent of his passes (at just 11.3 yards per completion) despite minimal pass rush; his options were low-efficiency explosiveness (receivers Chris Gallon and Shaun Joplin 14.5 yards per catch with just a 53 percent catch rate) or sure passes to lesser targets that went nowhere.

The good news is that just about everybody related to the passing game returns: Schilz, the top eight receivers/tight ends, four starters on the line. From a chemistry standpoint, experience is a wonderful thing, and familiarity alone could raise Gallon's and Joplin's catch rates closer to 60 percent. But sometimes new blood is a good thing, too. With a depth chart that takes shape almost exactly like last year's, you've got a lot of known quantities. That's not necessarily a good thing when they are known quantities from a terribly inefficient offense.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Anthon Samuel RB 5'11, 188 Jr. ** (5.3) 202 998 4.9 4.9 11 -4.9
John Pettigrew RB 128 562 4.4 3.8 6 -9.0
Jamel Martin RB 5'10, 194 Jr. *** (5.6) 39 205 5.3 3.8 0 +0.7
Andre Givens RB 5'9, 190 So. *** (5.7) 20 134 6.7 10.2 1 +2.5
Matt Schilz QB 6'3, 220 Sr. *** (5.6) 19 73 3.8 2.3 1 -1.9
Jordan Hopgood RB 5'11, 215 Sr. ** (5.3) 9 74 8.2 3.2 0 +1.1
Matt Johnson QB 6'0, 210 So. *** (5.5) 6 29 4.8 1.7 0 +0.1
Fred Coppet RB 5'9, 176 Fr. *** (5.7)





Marcus Levy RB 5'10, 187 Fr. *** (5.6)




Brandon English RB 5'9, 189 Fr. ** (5.4)




4. A stable of backs

From SB Nation's Hustle Belt in January:

Anthon Samuel has gone through way too much real life for a 19-year-old. He saw his father murdered when he was 7 years old. I can stop the list right there: that's way too much already. But he's also a husband and father. Again, he's only a teenager. Additionally he's grown into a fine football player, winning MAC Freshman of the Year in 2011 and serving as their best offensive player.

The Toledo Blade reported that Samuel didn't enroll for classes this spring in order to spend more time with his wife and child, both who reside in his home state of Florida.

It is really, really easy to root for Anthon Samuel. He is potentially expected back in Bowling Green in time for the fall, but one has to wonder if that is going to happen. One also has to hate following up on his real-world circumstances with "What this means for Bowling Green's depth chart" speculation on the off-chance that Samuel doesn't return to Ohio.

But know this: BGSU is set no matter what happens with Samuel. Behind him last year were two interesting options in Jamel Martin (who was lost for the season to injury after seven games), Andre Givens (who was hobbled on and off in his own right), and veteran Jordan Hopgood (who played a larger role before the emergence of Martin and Givens). Plus, Clawson signed a host of interesting backs, including star recruits Fred Coppet and Marcus Levy. Quite a few backs will see the ball this fall, whether Samuel returns or not.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Chris Gallon WR-Z 6'4, 221 So. *** (5.7) 99 54 720 54.5% 7.3 24.4% 49.5% 7.8 78.5
Shaun Joplin WR-X 6'2, 197 Sr. NR 79 40 639 50.6% 8.1 19.5% 55.7% 8.1 69.6
Alex Bayer TE 6'4, 253 Sr. ** (5.3) 57 36 410 63.2% 7.2 14.1% 56.1% 7.2 44.7
Ryan Burbrink SLOT 5'8, 181 So. ** (5.4) 57 39 351 68.4% 6.2 14.1% 54.4% 6.3 38.3
Je`Ron Stokes SLOT 6'1, 198 Sr. **** (5.9) 34 15 114 44.1% 3.4 8.4% 58.8% 3.4 12.4
Anthon Samuel RB 5'11, 188 Jr. ** (5.3) 33 22 198 66.7% 6.0 8.1% 66.7% 6.0 21.6
John Pettigrew RB 12 8 71 66.7% 5.9 3.0% 25.0% 6.7 7.7
Jermal Hosley WR 5'8, 183 So. ** (5.4) 8 5 62 62.5% 7.8 2.0% 50.0% 8.6 6.8
Tyler Beck FB 6'2, 259 Sr. ** (5.2) 7 5 60 71.4% 8.6 1.7% 71.4% 7.4 6.5
Herve Coby WR-X 5'11, 177 So. *** (5.6) 6 3 40 50.0% 6.7 1.5% 83.3% 10.1 4.4
Jordan Hopgood RB 5'11, 215 Sr. ** (5.3) 5 5 49 100.0% 9.8 1.2% 40.0% 10.4 5.3
Jamel Martin RB 5'10, 194 Jr. *** (5.6) 4 3 19 75.0% 4.8 1.0% 50.0% 5.4 2.1
Heath Jackson WR 5'11, 180 Jr. ** (5.3) 3 3 32 100.0% 10.7 0.7% 33.3% 8.8 3.5
Logan Larson TE 6'4, 255 Fr. ** (5.4)






Teo Redding WR 6'2, 170 Fr. ** (5.4)








Mike Rogers WR 6'1, 190 Fr. ** (5.4)








5. Watch Chris Gallon

He was perhaps leaned on a bit more than he should have been as a redshirt freshman, but that's what happens when you've got a young receiving corps and other youngsters are dropping like flies -- Jermal Hosley (two games), Herve Coby (four), and Heath Jackson (one) each barely played because of injury. Still, Gallon held his own, managed a reasonable per-target rate of over seven yards (not great, certainly not terrible), and had his moments. He caught six of eight passes for 89 yards against Idaho, caught two touchdown passes against Rhode Island, reeled in a 55-yard touchdown against Ohio (his only catch among four targets), and in his masterpiece, he caught 10 of 16 passes for 213 yards and two scores against a solid Kent State defense. Gallon is a big target, one of many in this receiving corps, and he is a player to watch. It would help if he got a steadier contribution from the slot receivers, but he could thrive regardless.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 96.0 2.93 2.99 40.7% 71.8% 22.8% 154.0 3.3% 3.5%
Rank 84 71 80 45 43 108 23 39 19
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Jordon Roussos RT 32 career starts; 2012 2nd All-MAC
Dominic Flewellyn LG 6'3, 293 Sr. ** (5.3) 33 career starts; 2012 3rd All-MAC
Chip Robinson LG 22 career starts
Fahn Cooper LT 6'4, 300 So. ** (5.4) 13 career starts
David "Chief" Kekuewa C 6'2, 308 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 career starts
Alex Huettel RG 6'3, 291 So. *** (5.5) 13 career starts
Dominique Wharton RG 10 career starts
Darion Delaney LT 6'3, 303 Jr. ** (5.3)
Spencer Cairo C 6'2, 289 So. NR
Scott Hodges RT
Christian Piazza LT 6'7, 281 So. *** (5.5)
Logan Dietz OL 6'5, 285 RSFr. ** (5.3)
Jacob Bennett OL 6'4, 307 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 6 42 33 49
RUSHING 12 51 39 59
PASSING 13 33 31 35
Standard Downs 48 32 54
Passing Downs 43 46 39
Redzone 95 105 78
Q1 Rk 31 1st Down Rk 35
Q2 Rk 64 2nd Down Rk 80
Q3 Rk 23 3rd Down Rk 22
Q4 Rk 41

6. The nation's best mid-major defense?

Obviously with Boise State still filling the "mid-major" ranks and Utah State potentially maintaining some semblance of defensive strength despite the loss of its head coach (and BYU still qualifying as a mid-major to many), the title of "Best Mid-Major Defense" is probably indeed taken. But BGSU played at a Boise State (or better) level for most of the last two months of the season, posted outstanding line stats, and managed solid full-year stats overall despite the September struggles, and again, the defense returns almost literally everybody from last year.

The two losses, however, are noteworthy. First, you've got tackle Chris Jones, the MAC defensive player of the year and a wonderfully disruptive interior force; then, you've got Dwayne Woods, the steady quarterback of an aggressive linebacking corps. Both units in the front seven were deep last year, and are even deeper this year when you look at the experience involved; still, Jones and Woods were probably among BGSU's 3-4 best defensive players, and their departure means it isn't a slam dunk that BGSU maintains the same torrid defensive pace it had last year.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 111.1 2.34 3.02 33.2% 60.6% 24.8% 134.1 6.7% 9.2%
Rank 21 5 41 10 21 10 18 15 21
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Chris Jones DT 13 34.5 5.3% 19 12.5 0 1 2 2
Ted Ouellet NT 6'3, 282 Sr. ** (4.9) 13 27.0 4.1% 6 3 0 0 0 0
Charlie Walker DE 6'2, 238 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 26.0 4.0% 6 2.5 0 2 1 0
Bryan Thomas DE 6'2, 260 So. ** (5.2) 13 24.0 3.7% 8 3.5 0 0 0 0
Zach Colvin DT 6'2, 268 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 11.0 1.7% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Bryan Baird DE 6'3, 237 So. ** (5.4) 11 10.5 1.6% 3 2 0 0 0 1
Ronnie Goble DE 6'2, 247 Sr. ** (5.2) 12 8.5 1.3% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Jairus Campbell DT 6'5, 310 Sr. ** (5.3) 3 3.0 0.5% 1.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Taylor Royster NT 5'9, 252 So. NR 9 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Minns DT 5'10, 317 So. *** (5.5) 3 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Shaq Hall DE 6'3, 256 So. ** (5.2) 3 0.0 0.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Darius Holiday DT 6'5, 260 Fr. ** (5.4)







7. The Suh Effect

Chris Jones had at least 2.0 tackles for loss in six games last year and finished the season with one of the best TFL totals in the country. He was most certainly not alone in his disruptive ability -- the three other line starters combined for another 20 tackles for loss, and the backups pitched in with another six. Still, anytime you find yourself saying "Sure, they lost their best defensive player, but they should still improve," you should pause and reflect.

With two former three-star recruits among those vying to take some of his playing time, and with the return of nose tackle Ted Ouellet and a host of interesting ends, it is not a guarantee that BGSU will miss Jones a tremendous amount. But losing a difference maker of this caliber is always a red flag.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Gabe Martin ROV 6'1, 224 Jr. ** (5.4) 13 55.0 8.4% 8.5 4.5 1 5 2 0
Dwayne Woods MLB 12 50.5 7.8% 8.5 2 1 4 0 0
D.J. Lynch BUCK 5'11, 242 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 48.0 7.4% 6 2 0 3 0 1
Paul Swan BUCK 6'0, 230 Sr. ** (5.2) 13 48.0 7.4% 6.5 1 0 0 1 0
Brian Sutton ROV 6'0, 190 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 17.5 2.7% 1.5 1 0 0 0 0
Trenton Greene LB 5'9, 195 So. NR 13 6.5 1.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Coy Brown III MLB 5'11, 214 So. ** (5.4) 7 4.0 0.6% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Zac Bartman LB 5'11, 215 RSFr. NR

Paul Senn LB 6'1, 230 Jr. ** (5.2)

Patric Hannon LB 6'1, 210 Fr. ** (5.4)

Nate Locke LB 6'0, 214 Fr. ** (5.4)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Cameron Truss CB 5'10, 182 Sr. ** (5.2) 13 56.5 8.7% 0.5 0 0 5 1 1
Ryland Ward WS 5'10, 198 Jr. ** (5.4) 13 45.5 7.0% 1 0 0 4 1 0
Booboo Gates SS 5'11, 213 Sr. ** (5.3) 12 37.5 5.8% 1 0 2 1 1 1
Josh Pettus SS 5'9, 203 Sr. *** (5.5) 11 25.5 3.9% 1.5 0 1 0 1 2
Jude Adjei-Barimah WS 5'10, 205 Jr. ** (5.3) 13 25.5 3.9% 1.5 0 4 7 1 1
Darrell Hunter CB 5'8, 177 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 21.5 3.3% 0 0 1 1 0 0
DeVon McKoy CB 5'10, 178 Jr. ** (5.4) 11 18.0 2.8% 1 0 0 3 0 0
Aaron Foster WS 5'10, 202 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 14.0 2.2% 2.5 2.5 0 6 0 2
Victor Osborne DB 5'10, 182 Jr. NR 12 11.0 1.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Ford DB 6'1, 210 Jr. ** (5.4) 8 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Will Watson CB 5'11, 175 So. *** (5.5) 10 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Johnny Joseph CB 5'7, 169 Jr. ** (5.2) 4 1.0 0.2% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Mark Mays DB 5'9, 189 Sr. ** (5.3) 1 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
James Sanford DB 6'1, 186 RSFr. *** (5.5)

Isaiah Gourdine DB 6'2, 195 Fr. *** (5.5)

Aaron Banks DB 6'3, 200 Fr. ** (5.4)

8. What does Bowling Green do that others don't?

As the defense began to surge last season, the reasons for the improvement were ... less than satisfying.

"The things people don’t see are their attention to detail and the effort that those guys practice with," Clawson said of the defense. "We present them with preliminary scheme on Sunday and have Monday off.

"The past two years Tuesdays have been a mess. It goes to show how coach-able those guys are. They know the game-plan and they know the checks and they know the offensive formations.

"Those guys have grown up."

I'm sure every word of that was true. But every coach in the country strives for "attention to detail" and "coach-ability" and good practices. But really, the statistics don't point to an answer that is anymore satisfying than that.

Bowling Green was quite efficient on standard downs and steadily leveraged opponents into passing downs. On passing downs, the Falcons minimized big plays through both sure tackling and a good pass rush. Every unit in the defense was quite experienced (and will be even more experienced in 2013), stocked with players who were at least in their second years as contributors, and every unit had disruptive forces -- Jones and the ends up front, four linebackers logging at least 6.0 tackles for loss in the middle, and a foursome of quality safeties capable of either ball-hawking or flying to the line of scrimmage in a given play. With Rovers, WS (weakside safeties) and the like, Clawson and defensive coordinator Mike Elko use the terminology of the old 4-4 defense, one that was predicated on speed and aggressiveness. And with both depth and options, BGSU's defense played like a 4-4 defense as well. It's kind of a boring answer -- "be well-coached, smart and aggressive" -- but it's the only answer I can derive.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Brian Schmiedebusch 6'3, 226 Sr. 72 40.8 12 10 24 47.2%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Anthony Farinella 6'3, 180 So. 54 58.0 7 13.0%
Stephen Stein 6 45.7 0 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Stephen Stein 30-31 2-6 33.3% 0-1 0.0%
Tyler Tate 5'11, 175 So. 5-6 6-8 75.0% 1-2 50.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Booboo Gates KR 5'11, 213 Sr. 19 19.4 0
John Pettigrew KR 15 20.7 0
Ryan Burbrink PR 5'8, 181 So. 19 8.9 0
Booboo Gates PR 5'11, 213 Sr. 2 41.0 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 95
Net Punting 98
Net Kickoffs 115
Touchback Pct 118
Field Goal Pct 120
Kick Returns Avg 90
Punt Returns Avg 42

9. Coverage matters

There wasn't too much to love about BGSU's special teams unit in 2012 -- Ryan Burbrink was a steady punt return man, Booboo Gates hinted at some lovely explosiveness in that regard, and when Tyler Tate was attempting field goals instead of Stephen Stein, that unit was fine. But coverage was an issue. Anthony Farinella couldn't get kickoffs into the end zone with any regularity, and the coverage units were lacking on both kicks and punts. That typically hints at a problem with your depth of athleticism -- since, as much as possible, you're going to be using backups in coverage roles -- but looking ta BGSU's defense, that's not necessarily the problem. Whatever the problem actually was, fixing it could help tremendously. Because of the defense, BGSU still ranked 24th in Field Position Advantage despite the leaks. Tackling the return man more reliably might get them into the Top 15.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
29-Aug Tulsa 56
7-Sep at Kent State 80
14-Sep at Indiana 70
21-Sep Murray State NR
28-Sep Akron 120
5-Oct Massachusetts 124
12-Oct at Mississippi State 51
26-Oct Toledo 62
5-Nov at Miami (Ohio) 106
12-Nov Ohio 83
23-Nov at Eastern Michigan 118
29-Nov at Buffalo 101
Five-Year F/+ Rk 84
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 93
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +4 / +9.0
TO Luck/Game -1.9
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 19 (10, 9)
Yds/Pt Margin** -1.7

10. Guaranteed improvement

Okay, nothing is guaranteed in life or football, but returning 19 starters results in relatively significant improvement a good portion of the time in college football. We tend to overthink when it comes to returning starters, and parsing between the significance of 10 returners versus 12, or 12 versus 13, is not very fruitful.

But the extremes usually mean something. Boise State and Air Force returned almost no starters in 2012 and regressed. Meanwhile, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Bowling Green and Indiana returned a ton of talent and improved a decent amount. (Of course, Boston College and FIU also returned a lot of starters.) Now BGSU returns another batch of experienced talent.

Will they take another hefty step forward, or will the experience just help them shore up last year's gains? The answer to that question could determine whether the Falcons' two-decade conference title drought comes to an end.

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