Culbreath: Rockets, Falcons could soar past preseason predictionsWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
College football season is mere days away. Time to throw on the colors you graduated in, practice your keg stand, make a sacrifice of cigars to whatever sports deity you wish and maybe bang your head against a wall to pump you up. Listen to that “Light ’em Up” song that was so clearly written specifically for a sports broadcast to go into halftime. (Yeah, it was pretty obvious, Fall Out Boy. Doesn’t make it a bad song, it just means it doesn’t have artistic integrity.)
But wait … this totally snuck up on you. You don’t know what happened in the offseason! Yeah, you can’t get away from coverage of Ohio State, which was ranked No. 2 in the preseason. And Michigan coverage falls in your lap pretty easily. But University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University … you know nothing. Bad Rocket alum! Bad Falcon alum! You were slacking, weren’t you? Don’t worry, I’ll help you out so you don’t sound like a fool at the water cooler.
We’ll start with the Toledo Rockets. The top story, far and away, is that you no longer have two starting quarterbacks. Austin Dantin has graduated, leaving Terrance Owens as the man under center. He started most of last season anyway, so Rockets faithful know what they’re getting in T.O. He’ll be throwing to Bernard Reedy and Alonzo Russell, two guys who did amazing things for the deep game. In the backfield will be the likes of David Fluellen and Cassius McDowell.
On the defense, the D-line and secondary should be fine, but there are two big names missing in the linebacker corps: Dan Molls and Robert Bell. Both graduated, and both went undrafted. Molls signed with San Diego (hanging with fellow rookie Manti Te’o). Vlad Emilien is the only returning starter with the linebackers, but sophomore Trent Voss stepped up large last year, and should factor into being a major contributor.
Special teams will prove to be awesome once again, with Jeremiah Detmer and Vince Penza doing amazing things putting foot to football, and Reedy doing the duties when it comes to returning those kicks.
Toledo’s early schedule does them no favors: two road games against SEC schools. They open the year Aug. 31 in Florida, then travel to play former head coach Gary Pinkel and the Missouri Tigers. They’ll open up the Glass Bowl in week three against Eastern Washington.
Moving down to Wood County, the Bowling Green Falcons look to be another defensive powerhouse, even with Chris Jones now playing with the Houston Texans. Nine starters return to give their opponents fits: Names like Gabe Martin, Ted Ouellet, and “BooBoo” Gates will keep the Falcons in any game they play.
Offensively, things hurt last year. Matt Schilz returns as the QB, but Matt Johnson will be breathing down his neck all year. The good news for the QBs is that their receiver corps will be much improved. Starters who went down to injury last year are healthy once again, and the young guys who had to step up last season now have another year under their belt. Expect Chris Gallon and Shaun Joplin to use their 6-foot height to bring down passes over the heads of their defenders. The Falcons’ soft spot will be at running back, as Anthon Samuel transferred in the offseason to Florida International University to be with family and John Pettigrew enjoys life as a graduate. Andre Givens and Travis Greene will split carries for the most part.
The Falcons’ season starts a little easier than Toledo’s: They’ll open up the season at home Aug. 29 against Tulsa, then go on the road to play Kent State and Indiana.
As for the latest renewal of the Battle of I-75, that’s coming Oct. 26, down at Doyt Perry Stadium.
The postseason picture for these two squads hasn’t changed … yet. The MAC Championship Game is still held at Ford Field in Detroit, and they have primary tie-ins with the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and GoDaddy.com Bowl. It’ll look different next year, though, with the Pizza Bowl getting the boot from Ford Field to make room for a Big Ten-ACC game. Instead, the MAC is starting up two new bowls: one in the Bahamas (Oooo!), and the other in Montgomery, Ala. (Awww). There are rumors of a possible third as well, so watch this space.
Both teams were picked to finish second in their divisions, and both teams have the talent to do much better than that. But that’s why they play the games, right? So let’s play some games, then.
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director for 1370 WSPD.