Expectations and the 2013 season: Looking ahead to 2014

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 football season on paper looks like UB can have a very successful season and make it's way back to a Bowl game. Will that happen?

Coach Quinn enters his fifth year as head coach of the Buffalo Bulls.  Every year the team has increased it's win total.  That being said, last year was the first acceptable win total.  Wins of 2, 3, 4, and last years total of 8 but a loss in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.  As a die hard Bulls fan I should have a permanent grin with eight wins (8-5, 6 - 2 MAC) and a trip to a bowl game.  Well, sort of.   Last year the conference and the out of conference schedule was the weakest that I can ever remember.

Buffalo started the season with the "Million Dollar Game."  Buffalo traveled down the 90 and took on a then ranked #3 Ohio State.  This game was the coming out party for Khalil Mack who moved from a second to third round draft choice to draft darling.  Many stating Mack should go number one overall to Houston.  Mack is picked in the fifth slot by the Oakland Raiders.  Buffalo comes up short 40 - 20 but at times had Ohio State on the ropes.

Buffalo's second game of the season,  the Bulls travel to Waco and the heat to take on Baylor.  This game was dominated by Baylor with the lone bright spot of Alex Neutz's first half showing.   Moving on.....

Next Buffalo takes on FCS cross state foe Stony Brook.  You would think that getting pushed to five overtimes to beat an opponent supposedly not in the same level as you would be the most upsetting game of the season.  Oh this is not it, wait for it.   Buffalo heads into halftime with a 3 - 0 lead.  That's right three points the entire first half.  It is true that Bo Oliver, currently in the San Diego Chargers camp, was out of the game nursing an injury.  Anthone Taylor had decent numbers but that includes additional time (24 - 188 yards, 2 TD's)  Neutz had another good game and scored a three yard TD in the third quarter to put the Bulls up 10 - 0 heading into the fourth quarter.  Do you blame the defense for giving up ten points or the vaulted Bulls offense for only scoring ten points on a FCS team. Stony Brook scores with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 10.  In overtime, if Stony Brook had a kicker this could have been one of the most embarrassing losses in school history.  Yes the Bulls pulled out a victory but this game should have never gone into five OT's.  Yes Buffalo played two grueling games before and this game had the looks of a trap game but after getting pounded by Baylor, I imagined that UB was going to stomp Stony Brook. Thank goodness this was a win or the season could have gone off the rails.

Buffalo goes on a seven game win streak.  Before the season everyone knew that Buffalo could win in a row but after seeing the final score in Waco and watching the Stony Brook game, doubts crept in the minds of Bulls fans. Buffalo stomped a terrible Connecticut team who the first game of the season lost to FCS Townsend.  The loss to Buffalo cost Coach P his job at UCONN.  Warde did not like losing to his former place of employment.

Buffalo beats five MAC teams in a row:

Beats a terrible Eastern Michigan team 42 - 14.  Most importantly in front of 23,602 in Amherst.

Buffalo stops Western Michigan and the Fleck dance 33 - 0.

UMass gets handled 32 - 3.  A great send off to a team that did not want to be in the MAC!

Kent at Dix Stadium could be a challenge but UB wins 41 - 21.

The Bulls beat Ohio 30 - 3 in front of 22,918 in Amherst.

Of all the above games the only one that any team had a chance was Kent but even they finished the season at 4 - 8.  The stars were in a line for the Bulls.  Even though Fleck is a loose cannon don't count out his ability to recruit and get the most out of athletes.  The MAC had a very down year and UB made the most of.  The Bulls beat the teams they should have beaten.  That is not a statement that many Bulls fans have been able to say very often.  The opposite has been true, many teams beat Buffalo.

Here comes the part of the schedule that concerns me for the future of the program.  The talent that the Bulls had on the field should have assured that heading into the last three games of the season Buffalo sat at 7-2, 5 - 0 in the MAC.  Two of the next three opponents are legit competition for the Bulls.  Toledo and Bowling Green are two teams that will be strong indicators how good this team is.  Toledo ends up at 7 - 5, 5 - 3 MAC and misses a bowl game. Bowling Green has a great season at 9 - 3, 7 - 1 MAC.

Buffalo in week ten takes on Toledo in the Glass Bowl.  What happens in the first half is a complete shocker for Bulls fans.  They get pushed around and are down at half time 31 - 0.  I am not going to wax poetic on how resilient the team was and almost came back and won.  How Licata threw for 497 and four TD's.  How Buffalo scored 27 points alone in the fourth quarter but lost the game 51 - 41.  I cannot understand how a team could enter a game so unprepared and not ready to play.  So is this  my most upsetting game of the season.  Oh no my fine Bulls fans, that is still to come.

Buffalo gets a bye-week of sorts and takes on the Miami Red Hawks.  Miami ends the season 0 - 12 and is a hot mess of a team and leads to the firing of Don Treadwell after week 5.  Miami did not do any favors for itself scheduling a grueling out of conference schedule to start the season.  Buffalo lays one of their worse losses of the season at 44 - 7.

And here we go.  The Mack hype machine is starting to work overtime.  A bowl game, only the second one ever to be played in school history is assured.  And to top it off, the Bulls have moved the game to Bills Stadium the day after Thanksgiving.  Our very own Matt G. makes his way home to see the Bulls at the Ralph.  The winner of this game wins the MAC East and will play at Ford Field to determine the MAC Champion.

Buffalo does not come to play.  A tough game to begin with and the Bulls fail to show up.  Bowling Green beats the Bulls 24 - 7.

The Bulls should have lost two games and did, Ohio State and Baylor.  Buffalo should have won eight games and it did.  Buffalo should have had a contest in two against Toledo and Bowling Green.  The real true tests of this team and both times did not come out on top.  Yes the seven game win streak was awesome.  Yes a Bowl game even if in Boise and getting pummeled by  SDSU was still great.  As I stated, I should have a permanent grin over the results, but the losses to Toledo and Bowling Green leaves a funny after taste in my mouth and questions to core competencies of the coaching staff.    The Bulls had the best talent on the field in perhaps forever.  The talent cliff the 2014 team will feel is real.  Thank goodness that the MAC is still in a down cycle and a respectable season should ensue.  Should?  This team is all Coach Quinn now.  These are all his players and had more than enough time to learn his system and way he coaches.

This is a big season for the Bulls.  So many winnable games especially not taking the large paycheck games against the big boys.  The offensive live will be solid as well as another season under center for Licata.  A WR and RB will have to step up as well as many questions on the defensive side of the ball.  The secondary will be better than last year and some real talent sprinkled through the line and the backers.  I am not forgetting the Bulls are losing the greatest player to ever don a uniform.  All teams have lost great players.

This is the year when a team that Buffalo has an even match up needs to win.  I count count a couple of games where UB went in to a game that should have not won or a tight match up and came out on top.  This is the year we have to see the coaching staff put a game plan and players in a position to succeed.  Is 2014 the season that happens?

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