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2020 Mid-American Conference Football Key Storylines: Bowling Green Falcons

A young Falcon team still offers plenty of intrigue, even in a rebuild.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 29 Bowling Green at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Year Two of the Scot Loeffler experience in Bowling Green is set to begin for the Falcons with a rivalry matchup against Toledo, a rematch of last year’s program-affirming upset victory. That victory was one of three on the season for the Falcons, who also beat Akron and FCS foe Morgan State.

The pandemic—and limit of six games—will keep BGSU from a third straight 3-9 season, which is nice in its own strange way. If anything, the six-game season will be a time for experimentation and growth with no real pressure for performance.

What affect the COVID-affected offseason has on the Falcons’ learning curve in another year of the system remains to be seen, but the pre-shutdown analysis of the on-field product shouldn’t be too different post-shutdown.

As a disclaimer, I have elected to bypass the COVID pandemic as a storyline, as we all are aware of it and its possible effects on teams and schedules.

Will BGSU Be Loving It With McDonald?

Bowling Green has quietly had a string of solid quarterbacks in recent years, including James Morgan and Jarret Doege. The problem is neither Morgan nor Doege finished their careers in Brown and Orange. Morgan ended up at FIU, and is currently a backup with the New York Jets, while Doege followed Country Roads to West Virginia, where he starts for the Mountaineers after sitting out last season due to NCAA guidelines.

Even last year’s emerging starter, Grant Loy, was a surpise transfer to Auburn, where he’s seeing some time in unique packages.

Loy split time with Boston College transfer Darius Wade. Wade started the first game (the victory over Morgan State) and was named MAC East offensive player of the week for his efforts but injuries and struggles gave way to Loy, who was more of a runner than a passer but did end the losing streak to Toledo. Wade is no longer on the roster after graduating, leaving the BGSU QB room essentially a clean slate.

Enter Matt McDonald, a 6’3 redshirt junior, who according to Loeffler, would have been the starting signal caller a season ago if the NCAA had allowed him following his transfer from Boston College. In two seasons at BC, he saw action in just two games, going 7 of 8 for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

Coach Loeffler was his offensive coordinator, so he knows the system well. Having a coach known for coaching up quarterbacks like Tom Brady, can’t hurt McDonald.

The early returns have been good from practice according to those close to the team and McDonald seems to have taken on a leadership role. It wont take much for him to represent an improvement at the position for BG.

If the Falcons are to surprise early, expect it to start with McDonald.

Lots of eyas on the farm

A falcon chick is known as an eyas. That term seems to fit this edition of a Falcon roster filled with youth.

Bowling Green was one of the youngest teams in the MAC a season ago, and they project to be young yet again, as Loeffler overhauls a roster depleted by transfers and defections in a culture change.

Per 247Sports, BGSU had the second best recruiting class in the MAC (behind Toledo) for 2020, but Loefflers first class in which he got a very late start was not highly regarded. As a likely result, the Falcons first two deep depth chart features nine true freshman, and seven redshirt freshman.

It is hard to win with that kind of youth and that is one of the reasons why many see BGSU as a year away.

Bowling Green is well positioned in this COVID year as the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility will allow Loeffler and his staff to play freshmen without fear of burning a redshirt year.

While this may lead to some lumps this fall, it could lead to value experience and further depth for 2021.

Return of the MAC? Return Of Andrew Clair

Much to the dismay of MAC defenders, Andrew Clair is back.

The redshirt junior is projected to start after losing his sister this offseason due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

The two time all-MAC third team selection was limited to just four games a season ago, as he redshirted due to injury. In those four games, Clair rushed 68 times for 244 yards. He had a team high average of 61 yards per game, and his four touchdowns in limited work led the team. This speaks to the lak of depth they had at the position, as well as the importance of Clair to what the offense can do. With him being one of the MAC’s best receiving backs, expect him to serve as a safety net for McDonald and company.

The preseason Doak Walker list nominee rushed for 86 yards twice (against Morgan State and Akron), with BGSU winning both times. 2019 was understandably a down year due to injury. In 2018, the St. Louis native had 702 yards rushing and three 100-yard games, including at Oregon. 2017, he set a school record with 6.8 yards per carry average and had four 100 yard games.

In a conference suddenly filled with stud backs (Kevin Marks, Caleb Huntley, Jaret Patterson, Bryant Koback and so on), don’t forget about Clair.

Defensive Improvement?

The Falcon defense had as much success stopping opponents a season ago as Doyt Perry Stadium does stopping the wind. Which is to say, none. Opponents averaged 467 yards per game. Kent State alone scored 62 points on 750 (!) yards last season.

While these numbers were impacted by games against power five schools Kansas State and Notre Dame, they will certainly need to improve if the Falcons wish to surprise the league.

The Falcons allowed over 35 points in all but three games, Coincidentally, those three games in which they allowed less than 35 points, accounted for all three of the Falcons victories.

With numbers like these, it’s a case of good news bad news that the Falcons return six defensive starters. A schedule that features strong offenses in Toledo, Kent State, Buffalo, Miami and Ohio certainly won’t do the Orange and Brown bunch any favors.

Expect projected improvement from the quarterback position and the return of Clair to help keep the defense off of the field a bit more and potentially help improve the defense.

Keep an eye on linebacker Kholbe Coleman, who might be the MAC’s most underrated linebacker after earning third team all-MAC honors a year ago.

Quintin Morris And His NFL Path

Would you believe it if I told you that the Falcons have two of the top offensive players in the MAC? Well, they do.

In addition to Andrew Clair, senior tight end Quintin Morris is one to watch. The six-foot-four Texas native is one of many tall Falcon pass catchers on the roster, with Morris catching 55 passes for 649 yards and four touchdowns en route to second-team all-MAC honors.

As someone who has been tweeted about by the Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy. a strong season could move Morris up in the NFL draft. Combined with Andrew Clair, their presence alone should give the Falcons a chance to surprise.

Most everyone believes that Scot Loeffler will return the Falcons to contention. The Falcons have talent but they don’t quite have the depth and need improve play in the trenches. With that being said, expect the Falcons to be a year away.

However, if the defense can play passable and McDonald shows what he has shown in practice with talented playmakers in Clair and Morris, don’t be surprised if the Falcons steal a game or two in the conference as they showed they were capable of by beating UT a year ago.