BOWLING GREEN — Six things I think about the 2018 Bowling Green football team, one for each red habanero beneath the seat of coach Mike Jinks ...
1. Nobody is asking Jinks to build Rome.
They are asking him to build a competent MAC football team.
Which is why Year 3 is a make-or-see-ya-later season.
As hard as it is to imagine the league’s poorest athletic department finding the rainy day funds to dismiss Jinks — who is halfway through a five-year, $2.1 million deal — it is just as hard to imagine the depths the program has plumbed. Coming off the lousiest two-year stretch in Falcons history, boosters are nearing their tipping point. My sense is Jinks needs five wins this year to continue on.
2. There are no more excuses.
Yes, former Falcons coach Dino Babers left only a couple old mugs in the cupboard. But Jinks has now had three recruiting classes to replenish it.
What is left of them, at least. For as well as Jinks has peddled the program — BG signed top-three hauls in the MAC the past two years — the attrition rate is concerning. Ten of the 18 four-year players BG introduced on signing day in 2016 have since left town, as have eight players from the 2017 class, leaving the roster thin in several key areas.
Still, what are we waiting for? Jinks has had time to get his players. To land a quarterback well suited to his Air Raid offense. To do-over his coaching staff. The time is now to make fans believe.
3. Bowling Green’s schedule does it no favors.
That’s not to say the Falcons’ nonconference junket will go as poorly as it did the last two years, when they were outscored 303-64 by their six FBS opponents. (They were only outscored 61-54 by FCS teams.) That’s not to say it won’t, either.
BG could toss a scare into Maryland the second week, but otherwise, a nonconference path to slaughter that also includes paycheck games at Oregon and Georgia Tech will generate as much momentum as a stone block.
4. The season will turn on a single Saturday: the Falcons’ league opener against Miami.
The game comes amid the kick-in-the-face nonconference schedule and a front-loaded start to conference play, with the visit from the middle-of-the-road RedHawks followed by trips to league contenders Toledo and Ohio and a home date against Western Michigan.
Win this toss-up, and a little confidence could go a long way. Lose, and the Falcons are staring at a 1-7 start and another year of playing out the string. It is no overstatement to call this the most important game of the Jinks era.
5. We’re not here to be Freddy Rain Cloud. The Falcons have things going for them, too.
Jarret Doege — the first true freshman quarterback to start at BG in 35 years last season — looks like the real deal, and he has a few all-league-caliber playmakers around him, including running back Andrew Clair and wideout Scotty Miller. The line, too, is a strength, returning five players with starting experience.
Best-case scenario: the offense picks up where it left off after averaging 35 points over the final four games last year and the defense, well, picks itself up, improving from NC-17 to suitable for all ages under new coordinator Carl Pelini.
It’s very possible. Consider: Pelini, working under his brother, Bo, coordinated highly rated defenses at Nebraska and, most recently, Youngstown State, and produced similar results on his own at Florida Atlantic. The Owls averaged the 90th-rated D in the four years before Pelini took over in 2012. By his second year, they were 11th.
6. Even half that kind of improvement would conservatively mark the biggest advancement since the discovery of the incandescent light bulb — and save Jinks.
Is this the light-bulb year it all comes together?
We’ll see. To me, there remain too many questions. Prediction: 4-8.
If we’re right, there’s a first time for everything! If not, all the better. For as much as we all respect Jinks the person, here’s rooting for the crow.
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