Over the next few weeks Inside the Gators will take a off-season look at the 12 2012 regular season opponents, looking at the key departures, a player to watch on offense and defense and more. Up today is Bowling Green.
BOWLING GREEN FALCONS
Returning Starters: 14: Offense (5), Defense (7)
Key departures: WR Kamar Jorden (Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agent, 12 TDs), WR Eugene Cooper (67 receptions, 9 TDs), C Ben Bojicic (Cincinnati Bengals undrafted free agent), SS Keith Morgan
Player to watch offense: Quarterback Matt Schilz - The junior signal-caller hurled 28 touchdowns (second in the MAC) despite laboring behind a shaky and injury prone offensive line. The junior's touchdown total was a dramatic 20 score increase from his freshman season, although he still tossed 13 interceptions in 2011. Schilz lost his two favorite targets, but in steps Michigan transfer Je'Ron Stokes and the return of talented running backs Anthon Samuel and Jordan Hopgood. Schilz looks to improve upon his career-low completion percentage (59.6 percent).
Player to watch defense: Defensive Tackle Chris Jones - The 6-1, 295-pound tackle was the Falcons' only viable pass rushing threat last season. The senior led the team with 8.5 sacks, while no other Falcons player recorded more than two quarterback takedowns. On a young and inexperienced defense, (Bowling Green is projected to start eight underclassmen) Jones is expected to lead the way if the unit is to improve on its dismal showings in 2011.
2012 Outlook: Iffy, at best. The Falcons finished the 2011 campaign just 5-7, good for ninth in the MAC. Losing their two top pass catchers won't help, although the introduction of Stokes and JUCO-transfer Michael Allen could lessen the blow. The Falcons' offense possesses talent with Schilz and Samuel -- the tailback was the MAC Freshman of the Year after rushing for 844 yards and five touchdowns -- and a freshly rebuilt offensive line, but there are still just too many holes on defense. A year after finishing 79th in total defense and 81st in total sacks, Bowling Green returns just one starter (Jones) along its front-four. Junior linebacker Dwayne Woods paced the Falcons with 111 tackles last season, but in their 4-2-5 system, no other linebacker registered more than 60. The Falcons were 116th nationally in turnover margin, and with just one returning upperclassmen in the secondary, that number might not improve.
Level of Difficultly for the Gators (*based on ranking schedule 1-12, one being the hardest): 11 … There's just two things these teams have in common: Urban Meyer once presided over each program and their turnover differentials were abysmal in 2011. The teams have never squared off and Florida should roll in its season opener. The game could be an opportunity for whoever wins UF's quarterback derby to gain some confidence moving forward. While the tune-up won't give the Gators any great indicators for the rest of their season, it will be a nice test for their vaunted secondary against a formidable passing attack.
Gators' chances of winning: 99.9%