The Ohio State football season will be here before you know it, and even if you’ve only been paying semi-close attention this offseason, you’re probably aware of the major storylines with the program. This is going to be an exceptionally young, but talented and athletic team. There’s a lack of proven production at wideout, running back, and defensive back. They return the best QB in the conference, and should at least compete for a Big Ten title.
But you may not know a lot about the specific teams on Ohio State’s schedule. We’ll get into a lot more detail before the actual games, but you may want a primer so you can sound smart at the bar, or at the barbecue, or in the grocery store checkout line.
So take a look at Ohio State’s opponents this year, starting with Bowling Green.
What was the story with BGSU last year?
If you didn’t watch any Bowling Green games last year, you missed out. The Falcons, lead by an impressive, big-play passing offense, absolutely torched Maryland, made Tennessee sweat for a little bit, and hung basketball scores on many of the best teams in the MAC en route to a conference championship. The Falcons lost badly in their bowl game against Georgia Southern, but a 10-4 final record, a Top 25 finish in the S&P+ rating and a MAC title meant that 2015 was a successful season by just about every metric.
Why were the Falcons so successful last year? The short answer was their offense. Quarterback Matt Johnson threw for nearly 4,500 yards and for 46 TDs, running back Travis Greene went for 5.8 yards a carry racking up 1,299 yards rushing, and wideouts Gehrig Dieter and one time Ohio State ocmmit Roger Lewis combined for 2,577 yards. Those are all very big numbers, and when you combine them with a quality head coach (Dino Babers), you’re going to win a lot of MAC games, even if your defense isn’t very good.
Bowling Green’s offense sounds terrifying
It was, but none of those people are coming back. Dieter graduate transferred to Alabama, Babers is now the head coach at Syracuse, and Johnson, Greene and Lewis are gone too. The cupboard isn’t entirely empty, as the Falcons return four offensive linemen from last year, including 2nd-team All-MAC LT Jacob Bennett, along with wideout Ronnie Moore. But when it comes to skill position talent, the Falcons will need to reload.
What about their defense?
BGSU did fine last year against teams with inferior athletes, or schemes that weren’t prepared to attack their secondary, which is just fine if you’re in the MAC. But the unit struggled against the best offenses they faced, which is why the Falcons didn’t get quite as much national hype. Particularly, the team struggled in passing downs situations, which lead to longer drives. If you’re a team that doesn’t have great depth, that can be particularly dangerous.
BGSU returns a fair amount of players from last year’s defense, especially in the secondary, but there aren’t four-star players or huge producers that jump off the page here. BGSU also perhaps had the worst special teams in the country last season.
Who is coaching this team now?
The Falcons replaced Babers with a bit of an unknown name, Mike Jinks. Jinks was previously the running backs coach at Texas Tech. He was coaching high school football as recently as 2012, and brings a young face, and experience with Air Raid principles, to Bowling Green. But yeah, his very first game as a head coach is going to be on the road in Columbus. That seems pretty tough.
How good is this team supposed to be?
Probably still pretty good. In the 2016 MAC preseason media poll, Bowling Green was picked as the narrow favorite to win the East over Ohio and Akron. The Falcons have another tricky non-conference game beyond OSU (against Memphis), and wholesale replacements at quarterback (senior James Knapke appears to be the likely starter), running back and elsewhere, means a 10 win season appears less likely. A bowl game, and perhaps a divisional championship, are still on the table though.
What’s BGSU’s history on the field with OSU like?
Ohio State has played BGSU four times, winning every game, most recently a 35-7 win in 2006. The Buckeyes have not lost to another team in Ohio in the modern era, and probably won’t to start this season either.
How worried should fans be about this game?
Mildly at most. Bowling Green is not a bad football team. They should be able to score points, perhaps quickly, and they’ll be a very competitive MAC team, so they could potentially hang around for a bit if Ohio State’s youth shows or they aren’t mentally energized. But the Buckeyes are going against a new coach and a new starter at QB at home, and have an overwhelming athletic advantage at every position. It might be sloppy at times, but Ohio State should win this game, probably by multiple touchdowns.