Top MAC Football Players of 2013: #21 Branden Oliver, Buffalo Half Back

Scott Cunningham

Were it not for an Injury last season Branden Oliver would have once again been one of the MAC's more productive running backs. Even missing half the season UB's primary running threat put up eight hundred yards on the ground, this year look out for more.

Buffalo fans have accepted our fate as "The Rodney Dangerfield" of the conference. Whether it was UB's 2008 conference title or the snub's seen on conference award lists UB always seems to get no respect. Take Branden Oliver for example.

Last summer, coming off of a 1400 yard season Oliver became the first player UB school history to be named to the Maxwell Award watch list. This summer, even after an injury shortened 2012 he the list for the second straight year.

To be fair Oliver is competing with a lot of other MAC running backs. He is one of seven MAC players on the Maxwell list. he is also one of seven MAC athletes to make the Doak Walker list, also repeating the honor from 2012's preseason.

It's not worth going back and seeing how many of this years MAC running backs made each list last season as well. Suffice it to say Oliver has for two seasons been arguably the most dangerous back in the conference.

In 2010, while the Bulls struggled to adjust to their new coaching staff the freshman Oliver led the team in rushing with 298 yards on the season... was particularly effective in the screen game, catching five passes for 92 yards. It was a humble start to his career which made what he did in 2011 a surprise to almost everyone but himself and the UB coaching staff.

His sophomore year Oliver UB’s single-season records for rushing yards when he carried the ball for 1,395 yards. That mark was good for 14th overall in the nation. He also broke UB's single season records for carries (306) and all-purpose yardage (1,760 yards). Carrying the ball 25 times a game, usually up the middle, displayed how tough Oliver plays the game.

He set a school record by going over 100 yards on eight occasions and added 13 touchdowns. Not satisfied with the effort Oliver developed an of season workout regiment which quickly caught the attention of the Buffalo media and hist teammates. Several tried to work out with BO but few were able to match his output.

The result was a very promising start to the 2012 season. Going into the year on the Maxwell, Doak Walker, and Walter Camp preseason watch lists Oliver had a week one opportunity to showcase his skills against a top ten team. He made believers out of the nations pundits with a 111 yard showing against the Georgia Bulldogs.

He followed that up with 238 yards against Morgan state. By the time UB was into the second quarter of their third game Oliver had already racked up 77 yards against Kent. An injury mid way through the quarter derailed his season.

He still led the Buffalo in rushing with 821 yards despite missing five complete games, and the better part of four others. His 117 yards per game would have ranked 13th nationally if he had played enough games.

This year the hype is still there but with two impressive campaigns Oliver will put some more ink in UB's record books. Oliver is just 626 yards, and two 100-yard games away from owning the program record for career rushing yards and 100-yard games..

Oliver is the lynchpin in UB's offense. If he is on his game Joe Licata will have time to throw the ball making the Bulls a dual threat offense for the first time since 2008. He may be seen as ranking somewhere in the 20's before any football is played but a healthy Oliver will be in everyone's top 10 by the time the season is over.

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