John Wagner is a Bowling Green football beat writer for the Toledo Blade in Ohio. He has covered Dino Babers’ Bowling Green teams the last two seasons and answered our questions about SU’s next potential head coach.
If Dino Babers does end up coaching Syracuse, what kind of coach is Syracuse getting?
Syracuse would be getting a coach who took a talented team and helped it achieve success. He took over at Bowling Green when Dave Clawson left to become the coach at Wake Forest — after winning the Mid-American Conference championship game in a stunning upset of Northern Illinois and Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Lynch. Last year the Falcons lost their starting QB to a season-ending injury in the first game, yet the team posted a 5-3 record to win the MAC East and return to MAC title game, then won the Camellia Bowl to finish 8-6.
This year that quarterback, Matt Johnson, has been healthy and the team has ridden him to success. Bowling Green is 9-3 overall, including non-conference wins over Purdue and Maryland as well as a near-victory over Memphis. The Falcons are 7-1 in the MAC heading into the league title game, and the offense is among the most prolific in the country.
How has Babers performed on the recruiting trail?
It’s too early to tell. Last year’s group was his first, and there were a couple of guys he and the coaching staff were excited about. But with a veteran team, not many of those players got on the field this year.
What are Babers’ strengths, what are his weaknesses?
His strengths include keeping a promise about the offense … He said it would take off around the fourth game of this, his second, season. Believe it or not, it did … The team ranks among the FBS leaders in offense and has strong passing and rushing components.
Another strength was his willingness to address the problems of last season and correct them. Last year’s team underperformed massively on defense, and Babers hired a new defensive coordinator which has improved things on that side of the ball.
And a third is charisma. His players love him.
Weaknesses? He’s not a defense-first coach, so that was a problem last season. There’s only one recruiting class to judge him on, so that’s a question mark more than a weakness. He can be strong-willed, doing things like closing practices and not issuing injury reports — but at the same time, he can be a quote machine, and he will win the press conference.
How does the Bowling Green community view Babers?
Funny you ask that … Last year’s team was coming off a MAC title with a bunch of returnees, so expectations were sky-high. When that team struggled just to win the East — which is down, the West is considered the tougher division — and lost to all three West teams it played, including a team that wasn’t bowl eligible, then lost in the MAC championship game … well, there was some grumbling.
Most of that grumbling has gone away this year — as it should. The Falcons had a strong offensive performance against Tennessee, beat two Big Ten teams and nearly beat a Memphis team that obviously has been highly regarded. BG also has gone 7-1 in the MAC, with its lone loss to Toledo, the only blemish on the season. They enter the MAC championship game as the favorite, and they will be in a bowl game.
Who can complain about that?
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Posted: Connor Morrissette