I'm not sure if its my fan hat, my blue tinted glasses, or the fact that back in July I expected UB to be 2-2 or 1-3 at this point but I am not Panicking, yet. Last year UB started the season 2-4 before they got things rolling with a win against Army. The problem is that in losing four of their first six last season UB looked way better than they have this year. Last years games went like this:
- Throttled UTEP Last Season (Snuck by this year)
- Close Loss to Pitt Last Season (Blowout this year, but Maynard looked good)
- Close win to Temple ( Terrible against them this year)
- Respectable Loss to Missouri (swap out a 2nd half collapse to UCF)
- Close Loss to CMU
- Fourth Quarter Collapse to WMU
So while we all remember winning the MAC and going Bowling last season lets remember that after six Weeks it was Akron looking like team to beat in the east last year and UB was a blip at 2-4, 1-2.
Now if I put on my pessimist hat I can point out that the loss to Temple puts them more than once conference game up, it hands them the tiebreaker. Temple has an easy schedule in the MAC, save Toledo and maybe Ohio. Where we draw CMU and WMU from the west hey draw Toledo and Ball State, where we get Bowling Green they get EMU. The loss to Temple makes every MAC game from here on out a must win, unless the Owl's collapse in conference play.
Zach Maynard, Sophomore edition, was back again last week. The complete lack of running game did not help, nor did Matt Bocoulis going down on the first play. Maynard was also hurt by questionable play calling. If you cant run the ball and you're down more than a dime why in the heck are you running at the center of Temples Defense every first down play, do you like your struggling sophomore quarterback to face second and nine? lulling Temple into a false sense of security?
Despite the lack of running game, and the play calling Maynard has a bit to own up to himself. Two of those picks were inexcusable (the two deep in Temple Territory), one was sloppy (late in the 4th after a defensive stop), but one was due to an amazing play by a Temple Lineman can't fault ZM for that.
UB's special teams were horrid, how bad is your return game when the coach decides, in mid game, to put your best receiver in for kickoff returns? Coverage was atrocious and punting is very inconsistent. About the only special teams plus was the kicking game (2-2 FG's and 1-1 XTP).
The Defense looked better, slightly better, than they did against UCF. Stopping Temple on third downs was encouraging but 5.5 yards per carry was not. Still the defense played well enough not to lose the game for the first time since UTEP.
CMU rolled Akron, a game in which LeFevour's numbers were the opposite of Maynard's (One Touchdown and Four Interceptions). The Chips defense manhandled the Zips with five sacks keeping Akron under 200 yards of offense. Basically since the offense returned from a drubbing in week one the entire Chips team has been on target a frightening concept considering that without a solid defense the Chips have won two out of the last three MAC Championships.
Coaching (Central Michigan, safe)
At the beginning of the season I would have called this a push, but the chips are playing fundamentally sound football in *every* aspect of the game, that's coaching. The only "weakness" the chips are showing is an 8th place conference ranking in the passing game, and that's because they don't need to pass when Lefevour can run for 140 in any given game. Next year Jones will really get to prove his worth when he loses his star quarterback but I have not seen anything out of CMU recently that indicates that team is driven by talent alone.
Against Temple I saw something on the UB sideline for the first time, ever, since Turner Gill arrived in Buffalo... Hopelessness. The Bulls have lost their edge, its not because they are losing, as I mentioned above they lost plenty in the early parts of last season. Even after falling down just four point's in the first half the Bulls looked like they were wavering, when temple took scored on an interception return with seconds left in the half they gave up all together. In addition to an team lacking confidence, the offensive play calling was horrid, and the execution of little things was lacking.
I think the Temple game is an oddity our coaches, all of them, are good enough to stop that from happening again. We might still make small mistakes, maybe we still make big mistakes, but I don't think we will see players walking around the sidelines like someone just stole their lunch when adversity hits.
Offense (Central Michigan, Safe)
CMU wins this with anyone in the conference, LeFevour is a beast, one of the top two or three MAC quarterbacks of the decade (and that's saying something) and one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in football. On top of that they have Antino Brown who is on par with Naaman Roosevelt. And they have, even asdie from LeFrevour, a solid back in Carl Volny.
Buffalo has the, at least close to, the same level of offensive talent that CMU posses but the experience and discipline has not been there this year. The only three real bright spots for UB so far are Naaman Roosevelt, Bret Hamline, and what I like to call "Future Zach Maynard" (from the Pitt Game).
Defense (Central Michigan, Solid)
While the Buffalo the defense looked, marginally, improved against Temple its still a unit which is failing to live up to the talent they put out onto the field. The Defensive line is young, but they are also a very fast unit which is not lacking in size. With all the Talent where is the pass rush? why are teams running at will against us? Why are we not taking the ball away? Why does Coach Reed feel he needs to put nine in the box to stop third down?
The center of UB's front seven has to start plugging holes and getting in the quarterbacks face, not an easy task against someone as mobile as LeFevour but if you give him the time he will tear your defense apart.
The Chips have a great defense this season which has to be a relief to a team who is ten games away from saying goodbye to the best quarterback in their history. They do an amazing job getting into the opponents backfield but if you can manage to pass protect their secondary is nothing spectacular, they can be passed on. That is the only real area you can hit them, not that Akron managed very well.
Special Teams (CMU, Solid)
It's too depressing to even think about, I don't know if UB could match anyone in the conference for special teams. Right now UB has no return game, no kicking coverage, a spotty punter, and maybe a decent Place Kicker (though not one the coaches feel comfortable giving a shot at 50+ yard kicks.