The Buffalo Bulls looked great last night for 59 minutes and 37 seconds. If you watched the first 23 seconds, you probably shrieked in horror when Joe Licata threw a pick six to start the game. But before long, this one became a laugher as the Bulls coasted to a win over the favored Akron Zips. The win puts Buffalo at 4-6 with two games to play. There are conflicting reports that say if the Bulls win their final two, they'd be bowl eligible, but last night, we were told by ESPN that because they beat two 1-AA opponents, they would not be bowl eligible because only one of those wins can count towards securing bowl eligibility. I have a one word repsonse to all of this.
The Bulls can finish 6-6 and they're not going to go to a bowl game. With a 6-6 record, which bowl would want them anyway? They play in the MAC and if they went to Boise, Detroit or even the Bahamas, would they fire up the locals into scurrying to buy tickets? Of course not, but that's the problem with sports today; too much projecting, too much looking ahead and not enough living in the moment. The media has created this monster as evidenced by ESPN's weekly telecasting of the College Football Playoff rankings. This has become a spectacle as the rankings come out and the panel of experts break it down like the generals broke down the upcoming battles of two world wars. What has happened to living in the moment and enjoying it?
The Bulls looked good last night, and more importantly, the players seemed to be enjoying themselves, too. It was nice to Joe Licata smiling at the end of the game. To me, he looked like a guy that was going to enjoy the fourth win of the season and not think about the six losses or the next two upcoming games. It seems as if before the season starts, there is one projection after another, checkpoint after checkpoint. I'm not naive to think that checkpoints don't matter. They do and because of them, Jeff Quinn lost his job. The next coach will also have to face one checkpoint after another, and will have to meet certain benchmarks to stay employed.
One thing about the Ivy League that is endearing is that they don't take themselves too seriously. They play ten games in ten weeks with the season over in time for the players to get home to their families for Thanksgiving weekend. There are no bowl games, no discussion of bowl eligibility and being that they play 1-AA football, no talk of which teams will qualify for the playoffs because they don't allow their teams to go. The regular season games matter in the Ivy League. If two teams finish 6-1 in league play, they are both declared champions despite who win the head-to-head meeting.
When you look at Buffalo's record, it says 4-6. Most think they should have beaten Army (I don't) and most will cite the loss to Eastern Michigan as a bad one, but with the exception of the drubbing at Ohio, the Buffalo Bulls have been very competitive in their games this season. Moreover, they've played hard and with determination and that sometimes isn't seen by simply looking at their won-lost record. People are going to look at their final two opponents---Kent State and Massachusetts---and project that the Bulls should win both to end at 6-6, even though their 2014 track record says that they'll likely win one of those two.
All you can do is compartmentalize and take a game for a game. When I watched last night, I didn't see a disappointing 3-6 team playing a meaningless game on a Tuesday night. I saw a team that was playing and trying hard to win a football game against Akron. They did a good job living in the moment and the ease of victory likely caused fans to shake their head and wish they could have made a few more plays in the narrow losses to Bowling Green and Central Michigan.
The Bulls are 4-6. They could be better. They could be worse. But, as Bill Parcells said, "you are what your record says you are," and right now, the Bulls have won 40 percent of their games. The good news is that they have a game against Kent State next week, a game that they will try to win. No need to project, just look forward with anticipation to see if the Bulls can get win number five.
Kudos to Alex Wood and his staff last night. They looked shaky at Ohio last week, but clearly erased that game from their collective memories. They were ready to play last night; they looked focus and Akron was the victim of their resolve.
In the end, things will be fine. The Bulls will play 12 games and the College Football Playoff will have four teams selected to vie for the CFP championship or whatever it's being called. No need to project and say if Ohio State wins out.....or if Texas Christian and Baylor finish 11-1, then......
Let's live in the moment, let's enjoy today and not look back or look ahead too much. It's not healthy and frankly, most of the projections don't happen anyway. We all get caught up in this, as evidenced by who we think the next Bulls' coach should be, what conference they should pursue and so on and so forth.
Last night was an enjoyable moment for University at Buffalo football. They played on ESPN and they played well. Lost in everything was how well the Bulls ran the football. Maybe the spread/read option isn't the only viable offense to run these days. Licata only threw 21 passes (16 completions), and the Bulls were more than happy to run the ball down the Akron Zips' throats. There is no substitute for being able to run the football. These gimmick offenses ala Texas Tech, where they throw on 4th and inches may look pretty and produce gaudy numbers, but running the ball is tried and tested and will never go away. If you can run the ball and more importantly, if you commit to running the ball, you can win football games.
For one night, the Bulls lived in the moment and the moment was glorious.