As a fan I entered this season with what I thought were reasonable expectations. I didn’t expect the world given the whirlwind of changes that happened I never expected this team to go bowling, at most I thought they might have an outside chance of getting that sixth win.
Here were are two games left, and if UB wins out they go to a bowl. Still, I feel like my preseason expectations were too high. In fact, I’m quite dour on the state of this year's football team.
Recently ESPN’s “Bottom 10” put “half of the MAC East” on their waiting list, and make no mistake we’re part of that half.
After four weeks we were 2-2. We hung with a ranked Coastal Carolina and managed to get a win on the road at Old Dominion, albeit after a spectacular collapse but Buffalo.
Still, to me, looking ahead, six wins seemed possible. Even after losing our next two games to WMU and Kent, sitting at 2-4, I felt decent about the job this staff had done given all the circumstances around the program.
Our losses to Kent and WMU were both close games where we spotted them three score leads, only to come back and fall just short.
We barely survived Ohio, after a mammoth comeback and bashed Akron. But the loss to Bowling Green, and then last week to Miami were the worst back-to-back “whistle to whistle” games that Buffalo the Buffalo Bulls have played in quite a while.
So what worries me is not the record, and now “who we lost to” but that this team is regressing, hard, toward a level of performance not seen in a decade.
There is no excuse, with this level of talent, for the team to be moving backward and playing so badly. If we had played like this against Coastal Carolina, early in the season, I would have not been surprised.
But what’s going on in Amherst.
That brings us to our last two games. We host NIU and go on the road at Ball State.
Now I’ve strained my shoulder from patting myself on the back about NIU this season. I didn’t pick them first in the West but I was pretty sure they’d get bowling and be a lot better than anyone expected.
And it’s played out that way. They lead the MAC west by a game, and own the tiebreaker with the team behind them. So long as they won’t lose the last two games of the season they are going to be in Detroit.
A win this week in Buffalo gets them the division in a season when a lot of people picked them last. They are going to come in here fired up.
The Cards are 5-5, heading into CMU this week. They very well could be 5-6 next week, given how Central Michigan is playing. Even if they win and are 6-5 it’s a home game and they are going to try to finish strong enough to get a better bowl slot.
Plus, Buffalo just seems to play badly against Ball State (outside of the 2008 MAC Championship game).
Winning these two games would be enormous, and quite honestly I’d be shocked. This year's team has never put together eight straight quarters of solid play, in fact, you’d have to go back to Wagner to find four straight quarters.
So what would I do?
Play NIU to win, if you can’t start building for next season.
For the first three-quarters of the NIU-game play to win, if you’re ahead or close after three then keep the foot on the gas trying to “stay alive” for a bowl bid.
But if things go like they have the last two weeks, and the Bulls are getting blown out then it’s time to start looking forward to 2022. No seniors in the fourth quarter, all next years talent because NIU and Ball State the next week, is not going to let up.
The following week start the seniors, but in the second quarter go young. Any underclassmen who can play without losing eligibility (so those who have played in three or less games).
I’m more than willing to give the coaching staff a mulligan this season. I’ve never seen a more drastic situation than the one Lance Leipold left us in when he took the entire coaching staff and our best linemen with him to Kansas.
Anyone claiming the “know” this was a good or bad hire at this point are wrong. There is no way based on two months of prep and massive turnover to know if Coach Mo is the guy for the job. I think at this point you start treating him like a new hire.
The next year or two will be telling for Linuguist, how does he recruit and develop players? how does he deal with coaches who’s units are underperforming? How does he get more engagement out of the fan base when the team is performing pretty badly.
But let’s have some fun and support the kids on the field this last two weeks, they deserve that.