Albany Great Danes 2014: Overall 7-5 / CAA (3-5)
The Great Danes have been competing in the Colonial Athletic Association for the past two seasons. With their first season in the conference under longtime coach Bob Ford in 2013, they finished with a dismal 1-11 record. In current coach Greg Gattuso's inaugural season, he led the Danes to a much improved 7-5 record. The Danes will look to further improve this season, but they will face a challenge in Buffalo. Albany has never played an FBS opponent. The series record between Albany and UB is 7-4 in Albany's favor, with the last meeting coming in 1988.
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Albany was selected to finish 10th in this year's CAA Preseason Poll, so apparently there is not much regard in what they are capable of, however everyone knows these should be taken with a grain of salt.
The Danes lose significant talent on the offensive side of the ball with the graduation of both their starting QB and RB. Will Fiacchi became Albany's all time passing leader with 7,150 career passing yards, and also set a single season passing record during his senior season at the university. Omar Osbourne ranked third in the CAA with 101 rushing yards/game, and finished the year making second-team all CAA racking up over 1,200 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. With such loss in key skill positions, will new players be able to step up and contribute immediately?
One player that they are hoping to do just that is DJ Crook, who was recently named the starting quarterback for this season. Crook is a redshirt sophomore who recently transferred from Penn State. At Penn State, he saw action in one game against UMASS and went 6/9 for 57 yards and a TD. Because of his limited game action it is hard to extrapolate his potential, but the program has faith in him to perform well this season.
Their starting running back will be Andre Martin, who saw game action in 11 games last year behind Osbourne. He totaled 215 yards on 52 carries last year, and with increased reps this year these numbers will increase. Josh Gontarek will be the primary receiving option for Crook and the most dangerous offensive option the Danes have. Last year he was named the CAA Offensive Rookie of the year, and finished with 58 receptions for 687 yards and nine touchdowns (a team high).
On the defensive side of the ball, safety Kyle Sakowski will be the player to watch. Totaling four interceptions, 11 pass breakups, 92 tackles, and 3 fumbles recovered, Sakowski is coming off of a nice season and will show leadership on defense.
What to Watch For:
Boise Ross v. Josh Gontarek: Ross has been the standout secondary player throughout training camp and it has been shown that Gontarek will pose a threat in the passing game. Ross has a slight height advantage which will play in his favor. Look for the Danes to stretch the field with Gontarek and challenge Ross early.
UB OL v. Albany DL: The Danes' average weight of a defensive lineman is 254 lbs, while the average weight for a UB offensive lineman is 304 lbs (ranked 14th in FBS). With the large differential in size here, the UB running game should have a significant advantage. Although the offensive line has lost some talent to graduation, Anthone Taylor should have a field day thanks to UB's size advantage.
Leipold's Offense: Even for UB fans, the way the offense will work this season is an unknown. Besides the Spring Game, fans have not seen the type of play calling Leipold will use. This first game will give us insight on how the offense will operate. There may be some growing pains early on, but the Bulls will hit their stride and become comfortable as the game progresses. The skill and talent differential will become too much for Albany and the Bulls should win handily.