It has been 37 days since Spears introduced you to the Georgia Bulldogs’ opening opponent, the Buffalo Bulls, and, although he was quite thorough, there always are more data to mine when it comes to college football. Consequently, I bring you the first in our weekly series of looks at the Classic City Canines’ upcoming gridiron opponent, in which we provide you not a dash of insight or a dollop of detail, but, rather, Too Much Information!
As noted yesterday by MaconDawg, the Buffalo defense is coached by Lou Tepper. Were it not for the fact that the Bulls will be facing the Bulldogs between the hedges tomorrow, you could have stumped me with Lou Tepper in a game of Dead/Not Dead. Coach Tepper was best known as the defensive coordinator who succeeded John Mackovic as the head coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini just prior to the 1991 John Hancock Bowl, which the Illini lost to the UCLA Bruins, 6-3. Coach Tepper’s Illinois teams never lost fewer than five games in any of his five full seasons as the skipper in Champaign-Urbana, and his Illini slipped steadily in the Big Ten standings, from fourth in 1992 to tied for fourth in 1993 to tied for fifth in 1994 to tied for seventh in 1995 to tied for ninth in 1996. Subsequent head coaching gigs for Coach Tepper included the Edinboro Fighting Scots (2000-2005) and the IUP Crimson Hawks (2006-2010), both of whom compete in the Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and, surprisingly, are not EPL soccer teams. Coach Tepper, who will celebrate his 67th birthday one week from today, was not employed as a football coach in 2011.
Believe it or not, the ‘Dawgs have played just three previous games against current Mid-American Conference teams, facing Miami (Ohio) in 1974, Kent State in 1998, and Central Michigan in 2008. The Athenians are 2-0 all-time against the MAC both at home and during the regular season, and their last loss to the Big Ten’s version of the Sun Belt came in the Tangerine Bowl at the end of the autumn that was so dismal defensively that Erk Russell changed schemes and got the Redcoats to play “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”
In 2011, the Bulls ranked twelfth in the MAC, and 100th in the country, in opponents’ fourth-down conversion percentage, permitting the other team to move the chains on more than 60 per cent of their last-ditch tries.
Tomorrow, for just the third time in their history, the Bulldogs will play a football game on September 1. The first time it happened was in 2001, when the Red and Black won Mark Richt’s first game as a head coach, 45-17. The second time it happened was in 2007, when the Athenians bested Oklahoma State, 35-14.
The aforementioned Lou Tepper is a linebackers guy, and Buffalo has linebackers. Of course, Khalil Mack, Wonderful Monds, and Jaleel Verser won’t be among them, but the guys who are there will know what they’re doing.
All right, that was more of an opportunity to take a shot than an actual discouraging statistic, so let me try again: The Bulls last year led the Mid-American Conference in blocked kicks and punts, with six in twelve games. You may recall that the Bulldogs likely will be starting freshmen at placekicker and punter. That particular combination is less than ideal for the ‘Dawgs, which is why we would do well to remember the aforementioned Buffalo ineptitude against opponents who go for it on fourth down.
Contrary to Phil Steele’s misstatement of the year, the last time Georgia lost a season-opening home game to a non-conference opponent was in 1996 against Southern Mississippi. That was in Jim Donnan’s first game as the Bulldogs’ head coach; the last time a returning Red and Black skipper started the season with a setback between the hedges suffered at the hands of a team from outside the SEC was in 1979, when Herschel Walker was a hotly-recruited high school senior.
In six straight season-opening non-conference home games subsequent to 2002, Georgia has scored 35 or more points on the visitors each time, posting 45 or more in five of them.
Come on, now. We’re Georgia. They’re Buffalo. Get real, man.
My Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 45, Buffalo Bulls 10.