With just 38 days until kickoff between the Hedges, it's time to start getting serious about football season. Over the next few weeks, the Dawg Sports staff is going to preview each of the twelve opponents we will face over the course of the regular season. Since I currently reside in the great state of New York, Kyle asked me to tackle the season and home opener: the University of Buffalo Bulls.
Mascot: Victor E. Bull
Head Coach: Jeff Quinn (Year 3)
Offense: Up-Tempo Spread (Pass First)
Defense: 3-4 Base
Conference: MAC (East)
Last Year: 3-9 (2-6)
SBNation Affiliate: Bull Run
Three Things to Watch:
- Our Defensive Front Seven - Coming into the season, the one thing on which we can all agree is that our defense should be a strength. We lost only one starting lineman (DeAngelo Tyson) and return the entire two deep on the line-backing core, including Butkus and Walter Camp Award Watch Lister Jarvis Jones. But the Bulls return 8 of their top 10 offensive linemen, plus First Team MAC running back Branden Oliver, who rushed for 1,395 yards at a 4.6 yards per carry clip and caught 38 passes for another 365 yards out of the backfield. This will be a good test of our every-down discipline because if someone takes a play off, Oliver is perfectly capable of shredding us for a big gain or even a TD.
- Our Offensive Line - You may have heard that we're starting a true freshman, a potted plant, and Mr. Sanchez on our o-line. That's not too far off the mark, at least in terms of starting experience. The Bulls, on the other hand, are returning an experienced (if slightly undersized) 4 of 6 on their two-deep up-front, and they probably have the best set of linebackers in their conference. Oh, and did I mention that their new DC literally wrote the book on linebacking? Our guys are guaranteed to see some things they've never seen in a live-game situation, so Coach Friend will have earned his paycheck if we don't see too many plays get blown up in the backfield.
- Hutson Mason v. Christian Lemay - Notwithstanding our ingrained pessimism, when your opponent's blog likens opening up their season with your team to The Shining, you're probably going to have a healthy lead early on in the second half. In other words, we really ought to be seeing heavy doses of both of our back-up QBs in the final 30 minutes. Hutson Mason impressed in his first collegiate start, throwing a 26-yard touchdown on his very first pass. Can Christian Lemay live up to his hype?
Three Thing to Ignore:
- Our Defensive Secondary - Bulls' HC Jeff Quinn is a protégé of Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, and, like his mentor, he likes to throw the ball more than the average team. This ought to be a chance to see how all of the young'ens can do while all of our returning starters are sitting out, right? Not so fast, my friend. Redshirt freshman QB Joe Licata is expected to start for the Bulls, and he's got to face Todd Grantham's full fury in his first collegiate start... on the road in front of 92,746 of us. The Dawg Sports staff could probably start in the secondary without affecting the outcome of this game too much. [EDIT: One of the fine folks from Bull Run informs me that Junior Alex Zordich is the probable starter, and he has slightly more experience, having started four games and appeared in another five. But if he has enough time in the pocket to test our secondary, they're still the least of our worries.]
- Special Teams Play - Buffalo's special teams are bad. Last year they ranked 92nd in punt return coverage and had to switch placekickers mid-season after they missed several XPs. Since we still don't have a full-time special teams coach, I'm inclined to chalk anything good that happens on special teams up to our superior talent rather than fixing any of last year's problems. Theoretically we might get a taste of how our new freshman kickers will be, but, frankly, if they're doing too much more than kicking off into the end zone, we're in trouble.
- Mike Bobo's Play-Calling - With apologies to chuckdawg, the Green Noteback is actually ideally suited to this game. Since Buffalo's front seven is a relative strength on their defense, first and bomb is actually a decent strategy. And since Buffalo has undersized nose tackles but experienced, well-coached linebackers, running our tailbacks right up the middle isn't insane, either. Of course, the flip side of all of this is that no one should get too excited when Mikey B runs up the score.
Prediction: Georgia wins 52-0
The Bulls are a well-coached squad, and they're going to put up a fight. We might score on the first possession or two, but don't be surprised if their defense gives our o-line fits for a few series. Still, there's a reason that we're paying them close to a million dollars to visit for our season opener. Their relative strength is running the ball, but we should score enough to make them a one-dimensional passing offense before the half. If Buffalo scores, we're in serious trouble for the year, and if we can't score, it's going to be a long, long fall.
Polite Topics of Conversation for the Visitors:
Buffalo is the birth place of the fried chicken sub -- if you have a Publix anywhere near you, just go get one right now -- and, of course, the buffalo wing. Superfreak Rick James and indie darling Ani DiFranco hail from Buffalo. CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and Reason.com editor Nick Gillespie received degrees from the university, which was founded by the 13th President of the United States, Millard Fillmore, and attended for two years by Ronnie James Dio. I hear nearby Niagara Falls is just lovely this time of year.
Trash Talk (If You Must):
Chan Gailey coaches the best team in Buffalo.