One thing that the MAC brings is parity. Just ask the 2010 Miami RedHawks who capped a worst to first season with back to back upsets of Temple and Northern Illinois. Nobody saw it coming few even suspected a bowl game was possible for the ailing hawks who won just one game the previous season.
Its that sense of parity that makes the MAC any ones conference for the taking. After spending the middle part of the decade building a respectable team Buffalo has fallen off. 2009 was a year full of "should have won games" with fourth quarters fans would like to have over and 2010 was a season they wish they could forget.
The Wizard of Warde, who plucked Turner Gill from an obscure position on the Packers staff, is in danger of watching his football program fall back to earth under the watch of Jeff Quinn. While Manual had to beg coaches to give Buffalo a look back in 2005 he had more choices than he could have imagined in 2009. The man who won the Job, Coach Quinn, was supposed to bring the BearCats high powered offensive schemes to Buffalo.
The result was one win against an average FCS team and one win against Bowling Green, when the falcons kicker missed a last second field goal. Starting in week two the Bulls couldn’t move the ball, and they got worse as the year went on. UB eventually Finished dead last in the nation in scoring, averaging just over 14 points per game, was 111th in total offense, and dead last in passing efficiency. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the season was zero touchdowns in the first quarter.
Following the season UB released their Offensive coordinator and their wide receivers coach. The coaches brought in to replace them have run offenses that differ a bit with the Cincinnati spread that Coach Quinn was expected to bring in. This, and the fact Coach Duval has had the offensive line beefing up point to a more pragmatic attitude taking hold in Coach Quinn.
While UB Winning the MAC East may be less likely than Miami's run last year there are reasons to believe that 2011 will be a step forward for the Buffalo Bulls.
In Chazz we trust?
Coming out of Spring ball Quarterback Jerry Davis paid back Alex Zordich by reclaiming the spot that Zordich took from him last season. Buffalo was, in effect, right back where they started. The Bulls went into the summer with Davis as the starter who barely beat out the competition.
Then a funny thing happened. Chazz Anderson who has been a bit player and steady backup for Cincinnati finished his undergraduate studies with one year of eligibility left. By NCAA rules he could go to any graduate school in the nation and forgo sitting out a year unlike undergraduate transfers. Anderson, who was moved from Quarterback to wide out by Butch Jones decided to move on, and connected with his former coordinator, Coach Quinn, at Buffalo.
While he is not going to be handed the job Anderson certainly will be in the mix when Buffalo starts their summer camps. He is the level of player who gives lower rung MAC teams a punchers chance against some of the mid to upper level conference foes. Combined with talented receivers and a bigger line UB's offense might surprise a few people if the running game comes together.
The running game was anemic last season. Hampered by a line which was both learning a new system and plagued by injury Buffalo managed just one touchdown by a running back all year. With the returning talent, and their augmented size, the Bulls can start to take some of the pressure off of the passing game with a ground attack that is, at least, somewhat threatening.
Mack attack: The aggressive, attacking defense coach Inge brought in did its part to keep UB in many of their games last season. It worked for two reasons. First UB had one of the best secondaries in the conference and second the Bulls benefited from amazing play among the linebackers.
Every starter from last years defensive backfield is gone. The Defensive line should improve a bit but it's still a bunch of guys recruited to play a 4-3 defense working the 3-4. The Bulls still lack a nose tackle who can occupy two or three linemen up front. Steven means remains one of the best speed rushers in the conference but he, and the line, did not have solid push against the run last seasons.
Khalil Mack and company are some of the conferences best play makers but backing both the defensive backfield and the defensive line may overtax the unit. The physical talent and depth is there to do a little of everything, they have the speed to rush the passer and cover most backs and tight ends. They can also hold up against the run but they will need help from someone else on the defense.
|at Ball State *||W|
|at Temple *||L|
|Northern Illinois *|
|at Miami (OH) *||L|
|at Eastern Michigan *||W|
|Bowling Green *|
Is the glass half empty or half full? UB has a killer out of conference schedule this season. Aside from playing FCS member Stony Brook, a fellow SUNY school, UB has nothing but AQ conference competition. They play defending Big East Champ UConn at home and make road trips to Pitt and Tennessee. Two of these schools are breaking in new coaches and Tennessee is one year past the Lane Kiffin.
The glass is half full is that if the Bulls take just one of these three games it will be a huge moral victory. The glass is half empty because the odds of them winning any of these games is pretty low.
In conference UB plays one of the favorites in the MAC west (NIU) at home and they get Temple on the road. On the slightly easier side of things UB gets a crack at Akron, EMU, and at Ball State. All three of those teams beat the Bulls last season with the latter two doing it mainly because of the Bulls woeful offense.
Key to the season:
The offensive line. If the Bulls line play is effective then UB has the skill talent to win the types of games this season that they lost last year. Akron, EMU, Ball State and Even Miami were games that UB could have won if the line established the ground attack. This year they are bigger and healthier.
There is enough parity on UB's Schedule to pull out six wins. Unfortunately parity being what it is there is also enough on the schedule for the Bulls to win just one or two games again. The Key game for Bulls fans will be the trip to Muncie. BSU is a good measure for some of the other rebuilding teams on the schedule. Teams like EMU, Akron, and perhaps Bowling Green are all winnable if UB shows well against Ball State.
If the Bulls take one on the road against the Cards then they will not only likely exceed last years win total but they may come close to matching Turner Gills 2007 effort when UB finished 5-7 and tied for first in the East division.