The Buffalo Bulls and the Army Black Knights are set to battle and there are a few observations to be made before kickoff which is set for tomorrow at 12 Noon.
First is that I will be there, in the press box to cover the game for Bull Run. I've covered some sporting events in the past, but this is my first real foray into a "big time event." I will be trying my best to provide live updates via twitter. You can reach me on Twitter @Furgele228.
Second, the weather. The Weather Channel is calling for thunderstorms with a high of 82 degrees. The chance of storms is 80 percent so could there be another weather delay in the offing? The weather really shouldn't be that much a factor for Army's offense, although a slippery ball could lead to turnovers. Heat and humidity will be the biggest obstacle and I still get amazed at how many players cramp up during games. One would think that hydration would be emphasized all week, but for some reason, there is always a battle of attrition.
This is big game for Buffalo. For the Bulls, getting off to a 2-0 start is important and yes, that is an obvious statement. But, though Army has been down, this would be a good win for the Buffalo Bulls. We'll see if they're better than a team that for the most part, is right at or slightly below their level, but because this game is on the road, it's a pretty even contest, at least going into the game. You certainly don't want to overplay the New York aspect, but there are only three FBS teams (Syracuse) in New York, so in that sense, it is a big game. Add the fact that the two schools will play in 2016, 2018 and 2020 means that a rivalry will develop and hopefully, the two New York schools will keep playing each other after the current contract expires. With Baylor coming in next Friday, it is imperative for Buffalo to look good and play well tomorrow at Michie Stadium. Hosting Baylor at 2-0 would be an excellent tonic.
This is a big game for Army. The Knights have struggled in recent times, going just 15-40 the past five years. That said, they have been tough at home. I've seen them play in person in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and they lost to San Diego State, Hawaii and Northern Illinois at the gun in each game. The 42-40 lost to Northern Illinois was the Jordan Lynch team that went 12-0 before losing the MAC Championship Game, so at the very least, based on this result, is that Army can play MAC schools. In 2013, they did beat Eastern Michigan, so they are no stranger to the conference.
It's also a big game for Army because they have a new coach and there is no doubt they will be pumped to get the Jeff Monken era off to a flying start. Monken brings great enthusiasm, the triple option and a renewal of commitment and discipline to the academy and with an 0-0 record, the players have undoubtedly bought in. A win in game one will give the Knights a boost of confidence that they haven't had in many years.
It's an interesting time for Army football. Except for a brief experience in Conference USA, the Knights, like Notre Dame, Navy and most recently, BYU play as an independent. Their brother, Navy, is leaving the independent world to join the American Athletic Conference in 2015, and Notre Dame is a defacto member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which makes scheduling easier. BYU, being the national Mormon university has found independency to be good for them, but with Navy heading to the American, one wonders what Army will eventually do. Football wise, they're probably a fit for the MAC, but we've seen with Massachusetts that the MAC wants schools to be full fledged members and Army likes being in the Patriot League for all other sports, except of course for hockey.
This is what Bill Parcells and Bobby Knight would call a 50-50 game. When it came to scheduling, both believed that you should schedule a team you can beat, a team you probably can't beat and a team that you have a 50-50 shot of beating and Buffalo-Army fits the 50-50 criteria. There is no shame if Buffalo loses this game as long as they're representative, and same for Army. Bulls and Knights fans might not feel this way, but it is the truth. This is why these two schools should play on a regular basis.
Finally, for Bulls fans planning on making the trip, bring your beer, your grill, your food and your snacks. Tailgating at Michie Stadium is fun, and if you can, get there early and walk around the campus. It's small and beautiful, in some ways, it reminds me of Notre Dame. Eisenhower, George C. Scott, and John J. Pershing all attended West Point and did pretty well after graduating. After 9/11, they moved tailgating away from the stadium to places like Buffalo Soldier Field, so you'll have to jump on a bus and make a short five minute drive from tailgate to stadium. The bus ride is fun as you see people board in all their garb, just remember what color bus to board to get back to your parking spot.
I'm not one to predict and make predictions. I find it silly and that goes back to the Buffalo-Cleveland AFC Divisional Playoff in the 1989 season. We were driving from the Red Roof Inn when an 80 year old lady called into a Cleveland talk show and predicted a 35-31 Browns win. The hosts, expecting a defensive battle on a cold, windy day at Cleveland Stadium laughed her off the air. Hours later, the K-Gun made it s debut, Clay Matthews chased Thurman Thomas all over the field, Scott Norwood slipped on the "green dirt," and missed an PAT, Ronnie Harmon dropped a sure touchdown pass in the game's closing moments and the Bills lost 34-30. The little old lady was right on and ever since then, I try not to get too involved in guessing which team will win a football game. Of course, I'm a die-hard horse racing fan who goes to races and doesn't wager, too, so take that for what it's worth
My hunch says that this will be a close one. The point spread this morning was Army by three-and-a-half, and I have a feeling that the game will be a nip and tuck affair.
Once again, my twitter is @Furgele228.