Bowling Green went 4-8 overall and 3-5 in Mid-American Conference play last year, its first under head coach Mike Jinks. BLADE/LORI KING
CANTON — Bowling Green State University football coach Mike Jinks pleaded innocent.
One of the voters in the Mid-American Conference preseason football poll predicted that the Falcons would win the East Division title, then claim victory in the MAC championship game played at Ford Field in Detroit in early December.
“It wasn’t me,” Jinks said Wednesday at the annual MAC football preview hosted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“We sure do appreciate it,” running back Donovan Wilson said.
Linebacker Nate Locke agreed, adding, “Whoever that person was, we sure do appreciate their positivity and their optimism for Bowling Green football.”
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The University of Toledo was the overwhelming favorite in the poll of MAC media members.
The Rockets received all but two of the first-place votes to win the West Division, as well as all but three of the 24 votes to win the MAC championship game.
The winner of the East Division race was not as clear to the media. Defending champ Ohio received 11 first-place votes and 131 points overall to narrowly win the nod over Miami, which got 12 first-place votes and 129 points.
BG was third with 88 points, followed by Akron (79), Buffalo (41), and Kent State (35).
“When you look at last year as a whole, third is probably right where we belong,” said Jinks, whose team finished 4-8 overall and 3-5 in MAC play in his first year. “We need to play with more discipline on both sides of the ball.
“We can’t turn the ball over offensively like we did last season, and defensively, we can’t give up the unexplainable big plays.”
Offensively, the Falcons return six starters from last season, including quarterback James Morgan, All-MAC receiver Scotty Miller, and Wilson, who ran for 503 yards and five touchdowns.
“We’re not worried about we were picked,” Wilson said. “We’re going to keep grinding and working hard. We’ll just play and let our game show us where we belong.”
Defensively, only five starters are back from a year ago, but returnees include Locke at linebacker and All-MAC safety Jamari Bozeman.
“[Defensive coordinator Perry] Eliano is doing a great job of catering his defense to the players we have,” Locke said. “We’ve had conversations about what he wants particular linebackers to do, what he wants different safeties and cornerbacks and other position players to do.
“We want to make sure the defense relies on the strengths of our different players.”
Both Locke and Wilson agreed that the team does not care what position the media picks for the Falcons in the preseason.
“In the past we’ve ignored the polls and just work the way we work and train the way we train,” Locke said. “We never let being picked first get to our heads.
“It’s just a poll. But in my experience, those things can get turned upside down very quickly.”
In fact, Jinks and the rest of the Falcons are hoping that the poll does prove to be incorrect — except, of course, for that one lone voter.
“It’s my hope that the same smart people who picked us to win it last year are wrong again when they said we would finish third this year,” Jinks said.