Only one time last season did UB have a negative turnover margin (-1 against Temple), Well now we know how it feels to be the victim. In many games, like the MAC Championship, key turnovers and taking care of the ball on offense were the reason for UB's success. This past week against Pittsburgh the shoe was on the other foot and an impressive performance by our offense was nullified by 3 fumbles and an interception that led to 26 Panther points.
Maynard played well through it earning his first, of many, MAC Player of the week honors and he did it against one of the more respected defenses in the country. Four hundred yards, and four touchdowns gives UB fans hope for a quick transition from Willy to Maynard. Twelve receptions by Hamlin puts to rest the idea that Naaman Roosevelt will have to carry the offense all by himself.
UCF lost to conference foe Southern Mississippi, staying tight in a game in which they had no business being within a touchdown. The Golden Nights ended up losing by just a seven points to a team that out gained them 2:1, had a 2:1 turnover advantage, and out rushed them 10:1. UCF is trying to bounce back from last seasons and so far, offensively, there is not a lot of improvement. But the fact they can stay in a game where they are so outplayed demonstrates the danger this game poses, this could defiantly be a trap game going into Temple.
Coaching (Buffalo, Slight):
Turner Gill has kept his team trending steadily upwards, winning 2, 5, and 8 games in consecutive seasons sets a high bar. Losing your star QB to graduation and star Half Back to injury makes improving over last season even harder yet Gill seems to have developed Zack Maynard into an unflappable veteran quarterback during the spring and summer. Winning 8 games this year is realistic for UB if the offense can show up every week like they did against Pitt.
George O'Leary threw away a chance to coach Notre Dame when he was 'creative' with his resume. The incident was disappointing because O'Leary had no need to lie, his rather impressive body of work at Georgia Tech spoke for itself. He turned a struggling yellow jackets team into a year after year Bowl fixture. He was working a similar miracle at UCF until the wheels came off last season. He may be down now, he defiantly has higher negatives than Gill (Ereck Plancher), but his results over the years make this only a slight Buffalo Advantage.
Offense (Buffalo, Clear):
No bones about this, UCF has had an anemic offense last season and it looks to continue this year. Against FCS foe Samford they had one scoring drive better than 40 yards relying on a Kickoff Return and Interception return to put away the Bulldogs.
The Knights seem to have settled on Brett Hodges for their quarterback, he is doing better than anything they offered up last year but that is not saying much. He has a 58% completion ratio and just under 290 yards on the season. Their rushing game is even more invisible, managing just 15 yards last week. If the Bulls can't stop this running game we are in for a world of hurt this season against teams like CMU and BGSU.
The Bulls came into this season with their own quarterback question, can Zach Maynard fill Drew Will's shoes? Its too early to say if he will be better than Drew but we have seen enough of him to know that Zach Mayanrd, Sophomore Edition, is better than Drew Willy, Sophomore Edition. Right now he is the 9th ranked quarterback in the nation and he is there after facing the strongest defense he will come up against.
Defense (UCF, Slight):
Defense has been the force carrying the Golden Knights for some time, they were in the top half of all defenses last season and are out performing UB's defense this year. So far they have generated turnovers, scored off of those turnovers, and kept opponents to fewer yards than the Bulls. They are not as good a defense as Pittsburgh but clearly if the offense does not take care of the Ball UCF can make them pay.
I'm cautiously optimistic about the Bulls defense this year. Against UTEP and, in the second half, Pittsburgh they seemed to be able to keep the team in the game. The first half of the Panthers game and the fact they have yet to take the ball away does give pause for concern but its early in the year. On the whole they are far better tacklers this year than last but the defensive front seven have yet to dominate a series by applying pressure in the opposing teams backfield, two weeks and one sack puts us in the bottom twenty programs in the nation.
Special Teams: (UCF, Barely)
There is noway around this, the Bulls special teams are playing poorly this year. Even putting aside the early fumble against Pitt I cant find a single positive from Saturday and few from the UTEP game. Our kicking has been so-so, our punting is inconsistent, and our return game is passable. Nowhere on special teams do the bulls jump out as a threat.
UCF's kicking and punting are, like the Bulls, nothing special. On the whole special teams should be a push, but the fact they have a return for a touchdown, albeit against a IAA team, and the fact they have not turned the ball over on a return gives them the advantage.