By Mitch Stacy
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS — Bowling Green will be a four-touchdown underdog coming into Ohio Stadium on Saturday, but new Falcons coach Mike Jinks said he welcomes the chance to “shock the world.”
If Jinks’ squad can knock off the mighty Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium, it would be a monumental inaugural win for him as a college coach. A Texas Tech assistant for three seasons after a long career in Texas high school football, the 44-year-old Jinks took the helm at Bowling Green this season after Dino Babers was hired away by Syracuse.
Returning fewer than half the starters from a team that went 10-4 and won the Mid-American Conference crown last year, the Falcons have their work cut out for them. They have new starters at quarterback and tailback, a rebuilt defensive line and must compensate for the loss of two of the three best receivers from last year.
Anything can happen, right?
“I’ve been an underdog my whole life,” Jinks said. “I kind of excel in those situations.”
So does Bowling Green, it seems. The Falcons shocked two Big 10 teams last season on the road, Maryland and Purdue, and stayed competitive against Tennessee in the season opener. In 2014, they beat Indiana 45-42 at home.
“These are the games we ought to want to be in,” Jinks said. “These are the opportunities that don’t come too often. There are 128 FBS schools in the country, and we’re playing at probably one of the top five venues of all time. Not everybody gets those chances throughout a college career, so it’s a trend that we hope to continue in years to come.”
Bowling Green will take home a guaranteed payout of $975,000 for the trip to Ohio Stadium.
Some other things to know as the Falcons try to pull off the upset in Columbus:
QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS
There may be as many questions about No. 6 ranked Ohio State as Bowling Green this season. The Buckeyes have the least experienced team in the nation, losing 16 starters from last year. They have new starters at tailback and wide receiver, and throughout the defense.
“I know what we’re walking into, but you don’t know what this ‘16 Ohio State team going to be, and you don’t know what this ‘16 Bowling Green team is going to be,” Jinks said. “That’s the exciting part of it.”
DON’T DISCOUNT THE UNDERDOGS
Ohio State players say they’ve learned not to look past any team. The Buckeyes needed a pick-six from linebacker Darron Lee to bail out its struggling offense and squeak by MAC power Northern Illinois 20-13 in what was intended to be a tune-up game early last season.
“Scrappy. Very, very scrappy,” offensive guard Billy Price said of BG. “NIU was a very good opponent. We expect the same thing. We cannot take an opponent lightly no matter what conference, whatever team it is. We’re going in there respecting them just as much as we did Alabama or just as much as Oregon.”
Said linebacker Chris Worley: “A team like Bowling Green, you can never overlook them. They’re going to come here ready to play, and we know that. The team that plays the hardest will win.”
SHADES OF 2014?
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said this year’s teams reminds him of the 2014 team in terms of starting so many talented but still untested players. That team ended up winning the national championship.
“(It’s) very similar,” he said. “And I’m real excited about them. I’m trying to hold down the excitement, because I really am. I can’t wait to watch them to play. This has been a good camp. Good people to work with.”
The biggest unknown, he said, is how the young players will react to being in the stadium with 100,000 of their closest, noisiest friends.
BARRETT READY TO ROLL
Meyer said quarterback J.T. Barrett, who entered a training camp for the first time as the undisputed starting quarterback, is playing as well as he ever has.
“He’s on top of his game, I’m proud to say,” Meyer said. “He’s a very good player, a very good leader. He’s driving the car and he’s never had that this time of year. The first time he got a start, he certainly wasn’t driving the car. He was in the front seat somewhere, but he wasn’t driving it. Now it’s his, and he’s really doing a nice job.”