As part of TheUConnBlog's 2010 Season Preview Month-ish, we're counting down the days to the UConn football team's opener against Michigan. Today, we look at the Huskies' fourth opponent: the Buffalo Bulls. You can read all our Football Preview Month-ish posts here.
In a way, UConn and Buffalo are bound by history. Both entered what was then division 1-A in 1999, struggled to find their place in the world and as they took their first steps toward big time football started a budding rivalry. But in another, much more accurate way, these two have very little in common beyond those first few middling years of 1-A ball. The two programs are on wildly different trajectories, and while UConn is starting to thrive in the Big East, the departure of head coach Turner Gill means Buffalo will likely wallow in the middle of the MAC for years to come.
Gill was the best thing to ever happen to the Bulls. He went 20-30 in his four years there, though that looks worse than it is because of the 2-10 record Buffalo put up in his first year. The high point was a MAC championship in 2008, which was followed by UConn manhandling the Bulls 38-20 in the International Bowl. Fun sidenote: I assume that game was the high point of former offensive coordinator and noted rushing enthusiast Rob Ambrose's career with the Huskies. UConn attempted only six passes, completing four for 49 total yards, all while running for over 350 yards.
The Bulls slipped back in 2009, falling to a 5-7 record and Gill, who wasn't going to stay in Buffalo forever, bolted for Kansas at the end of the season. Gill has been replaced by Jeff Quinn, the brains behind Cincinnati's high-powered offense for the past few seasons, who was last seen filling in for Brian Kelly as Florida destroyed the Bearcats 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl.
I have no reason to doubt that Quinn will eventually be able to bring his offensive prowess to the Bulls, but Gill didn't leave him a ton to work with so it will probably take a while.. Their running game should be fine, but starting QB Zach Maynard transferred to Cal in the off-season and his top three receiving targets are all gone this year.
Opponent: The Buffalo Bulls
Date / Time / TV: Saturday, Sept. 25 / Kickoff TBA / TV Coverage TBA
Site: Rentschler Field - East Hartford, CT (capacity: 40,000)
Coach: Jeff Quinn (1st season, 0-0; 1-1 overall)
Team's Official Website: Buffalo Football
On SB Nation: Hustle Belt (MAC Blog)
Other Fansite(s): Bull Run
2009 Record: 5-7 overall (3-5 MAC; 5th in MAC East; no postseason)
Notable 2009 wins: None. If you put a gun to my head, I'd pick their 9-6 win over Kent St. (5-7) to end the season.
Notable 2009 losses: The Bulls were able to stay within one score of last year's MAC title game participants. They lost 20-13 to Central Michigan on Oct. 3 and 27-24 to Ohio on Nov. 10.
September 2 Rhode Island
September 11 @Baylor
September 18 Central Florida
September 25 @UConn
October 2 @Bowling Green
October 16 @Northern Illinois
October 23 Temple
October 30 Miami (OH)
November 4 @Ohio
November 12 Ball State
November 20 Eastern Michigan
November 26 @Akron
Know your enemy: Buffalo's opening matchup against URI is going to be broadcast in some form on Time-Warner if they're your cable provider. Their matchup with Baylor will be on Fox College Sports Central. The UCF game will also be on Time-Warner.
Series vs. UConn: UConn leads, 13-4
Last time vs. UConn: UConn 38, Buffalo 20 (Jan. 3, 2009)
2009 offensive stats: 24.1 PPG / 241.91 YPG passing / 163.5 YPG rushing
2009 defensive stats: 23.8 PPG / 210.91 YPG passing / 131.75 YPG rushing
Returning starters (offense): 5
Returning starters (defense): 6
Key players (offense): Sr. RB Ike Nduka (96 rush, 598 yards, 6 TD in 2009); Sr. RB Brandon Thermilus (124 rush, 560 yards, 4 TD in 2009); Jr. WR Terrell Jackson (25 rec, 250 yds, 0 TD in 2009)
Key players (defense): Sr. DB Davonte Shannon (97 tackles, 2 interceptions in 2009); Sr. LB Justin Winters (79 tackles, 1 interception in 2009); So. LB Steven Means (25 tackles, 5 sacks as a DE in 2009)
Our outlook for 2010, in 50 words or less: The consensus seems to be a middle- to back-of-the-pack finish for Buffalo in the MAC. With a new coach and new system, that seems fair.
What the experts say: "There’s plenty of speed on both sides of the ball, and it shouldn’t take long for Quinn’s presence to be felt in the win column. " -- Athlon
"Now, in a major year of transition with Turner Gill off to Kansas, UB has to establish itself as a consistent player in the conference race and not be another Akron with one somewhat-fluky title before fading back into insignificance." -- Scout
UConn wins if: The bus gets to the stadium.
Buffalo wins if: Up is down, black is white and cats start getting along with dogs. This, along with Texas Southern, are the two slam-dunk wins on UConn's schedule. Their defense was their strong last year and they return eight starters, but the offense should be in worse shape. The Bulls may be able to run the ball, but have next to no one on the offense that took part in last year's passing attack.
Bottom line: Even at their absolute best two years ago, Buffalo looked completely overmatched against UConn the last time they meet. Since then, Buffalo has slipped quite a bit and UConn has only gotten better. This is an easy win for the Huskies, the best the Bulls can hope for is to keep the final score respectable.