The Bulls are coming off of a bye week owed to lake effect snow and the total incompetence of Kent's equipment truck driver. The UB Athletic department wanted the game, fought for the game, but in the end the MAC decided to not force Kent to play or forfeit, they gave Kent State and their shaq equipment truck a free pass.
This of course spawned the "notgame" and renewed calls from many UB fans to get the hell out of the MAC.
You see despite the oft-repeated "fact" that UB can't go bowling at 6-6 because of their two FCS wins the fact of the matter is that if there were not enough 6-6 teams with one or fewer wins than a 6-6 UB would take that spot. The odds of this happening are small, to be sure, but not *zero*.
Now that the MAC screwed UB out of the Kent game those odds *are* zero. If UB beats UMass and there are not enough bowl teams the school *could* file a grievance with the NCAA but it's not very likely the NCAA would see our case.
So here we are, a 4-6 team who fired their coach midseason. On one hand it feels kind of nice to see those kind of expectations from the department, on the other I really don't want to lose to UMass. I mean, I really don't want to lose to UMass.
If I had to pick one game and one game alone for the Bulls to win this year it would be Baylor, right after that UMass.
UMass is a hard team to put your finger on right now. They played a very hard out-of-conference schedule and they played it well. Under the new-old coach Mark Whipple they were within a score of Colorado and Vanderbilt and got some turnover luck to play Boston College within a score at the half.
Then they played Bowling Green tight and lost to Miami only after allowing the RedHawks to put on an epic comeback late in the game. Since then they have beaten Kent, EMU, and Ball State, during that run also losing a close game to Toledo.
Most recently Akron took UMass behind the woodshed and treated them like the expansion team that they are. Buffalo is 2-0 against UMass since the Minutemen joined the MAC and hopes are that the Bulls can continue that unblemished record this season.
We are of course playing for the Powder Horn, a quasi-fictional trophy invented here on Bull Run when UMass came to the MAC. Buffalo's 2-0 record against UMass in conference play has given the school an overall 6-5 lead all time.
With the Minutemen leaving the MAC next year for exile as an FBS independent, a win on Friday would guarantee that UB holds the advantage for a good long while.
More than that, there is pride. UB's seniors were robbed of their final home game, UB coach Alex Wood will complete his tenure as an "interim coach" and likely be looking for a job come Monday.
Bull Run's own David Brand, a former NCAA scholarship hockey player, has said often that he would give up a lot for the opportunity to play one more game. Hopefully our seniors are wise enough to appreciate this and our non-senior players strive to send their teammates off into the world with a win.
For Buffalo to win this game they need to slow down a UMass passing attack which is ranked 7th overall in the nation. Their strength plays right to our weakness. But despite being a very strong passing team UMass has problems:
First Blake Frohnapfel is doubtful with a knee injury. Frohnapfel is a transfer from Marshall whose fantastic season a UMass saw him win the the George H. "Bulger" Lowe Award, given annually to the best offensive and defensive players in the six New England States. In other words he is viewed as a better weapon than anyone playing for Boston College, UConn, or any of the FCS teams in the area.
Secondly the region is due for a three-foot winter storm over the next two days and frigid temperatures on Friday. That will present a challenge to back up quarterback Austin Whipple. He and Tajae Sharpe, their stud receiver, are going to have to work out their chemistry throwing around a ball chilled to the point where it may feel like a stone.
Finally UMass will face the improving UB secondary. The unit was as bad as any secondary I have ever seen through the first half of the season but in the past couple of weeks the coverage has gotten tighter and as a result we have seen more pressure on the quarterback as he has to work through his reads.
If UB stymies the passing game they should be able to bottle up a respectable but not explosive UMass running game.
On offense it's going to rest on the legs of Anthone Taylor. If the Kent game had been played Taylor may have challenged Branden Oliver's single season UB rushing record, now Anth1 is running for pride and O.D. Underwood's #4 spot on that list.
Meanwhile in the Bermuda Triangle..