A 2-10 team coming into last year, Buffalo, under Head Coach Lance Leipold, in his 3rd year, were one of the big surprises out of the MAC in 2017. Finishing 6-6, with two big wins over Florida Atlantic and Ohio, the Bulls finished 3rd in the East division and qualified for a Bowl game for the first time since 2013. They were left off the guest list as far as bowl games go, but the stock is as high as it’s been for a long time for Buffalo and earning that Bowl invitation, which they thought that they deserved last year, will be their over-arching goal for the 2018 season.
As they did in 2017, Buffalo will again return 14 starters, with eight of these veterans coming back to an offense that improved by 12 points per game by the end of the 2018 season (28.5). A large part of this resurgence is attributed to the play of Sophomore Quarterback, Tyree Jackson, who will be back for his junior season in 2018. Jackson has battled injuries throughout his career, missing three games as a freshman and another three last year, but has shown flashes of All-MAC level play when he has been on the field (2096 YDS, 12 TD, 3 INTs: 269 YDS Rushing 4 TD in 9 games). With a season win total posted at 6.5 (-110, -110) at BetOnline, the betting world is banking on Buffalo being about as good as they were last year. The question to ponder for potential Bull-backers is whether Buffalo will take another step forward this year and notch just their third winning season in program Division I history or if last season was a bit of a fluke, and a return bottom-dweller status in the MAC is imminent.
|10/6||@ Central Michigan||-2.5|
|11/6||Kent St. (Off Bye, Tue)||-15.5|
|11/14||@ Ohio (Wed)||+12|
|11/23||@ Bowling Green (Fri)||-3|
With six returning starters in 2017, Buffalo averaged 28.5 points per game, drastically improving upon their 16.5 points per game the year prior, while averaging 432 yards per game, accumulating more yardage per game than they did during their 8-5, 2013 season. With eight offensive starters returning in 2018, they could even be better this year, especially with a now a veteran Quarterback entering his Junior season. Their first team All-MAC Wide Receiver, Anthony Johnson (76 REC, 1356 YDS, 14 TD), will also rejoin the Bulls, along with their whole stable of running backs, and 72 career starts along the offensive line. When it’s all said and done, this offense has a chance to be the best version we’ve ever seen in Buffalo and topping their 32.3 points per game output in 2014 isn’t outside of the realm of possibility.
If it wasn’t for the epic, 68-71, loss to Western Michigan in the 7th overtime last year, 2017 could’ve went down as the best defensive performance in the program’s short Division I history. They were one of the more experienced defenses in the country, however, with eight returning starters. With only six coming back this year and having to cope with the loss of their leading tackler and 1st team All-MAC MLB, Khalil Hodge, there may be a bit of a fall-off on this side of the ball. Having seven seniors out there starting should help ease this transition, though, and for that reason, the loss of experience shouldn’t be dramatically felt; especially in the secondary, where three seniors and a junior will start for the Bulls. Considering the potential potency of this offense in 2018, as long as the defense could put up similar numbers to last year’s 24.8 points per game allowed, Buffalo should be in a lot of ball games.
When you look at Buffalo’s schedule, there are very few games that I feel confident projecting as wins or losses, suggesting a lot of unpredictability in this season’s outcome. The home games vs. Delaware St., Kent St., and Akron as well as the game at Bowling Green are probable wins. As are the away games at Ohio and Toledo likely losses. That’s a net positive two-games, but other than that, I think you’re looking at a lot of coin flips for the Bulls that could easily go either way. They did avoid tough travel spots on the schedule, and the only back-to-back road games they play are nine games apart. This is certainly advantageous, but again, five or six of these games look like ones that could go either way.
Season Win Total Pick: Lean Under 6.5 -110
Though Buffalo is a team that could show some improvement in 2018, I still don’t have a good feel for how good this team even was last year. Yes, they were a .500 team with a few unfortunate injuries, but how good were their wins last year? The FAU win was impressive for sure, as was the win over Ohio, but FAU wasn’t the team they were the finish the season at that point just yet, and Ohio had questionable motivation after their big loss to Akron the week before. Ohio was the only team they beat in the MAC with a winning record, and with their other wins being over Colgate (-10), Kent St. (-7), Bowling Green (-8), and Ball St. (-20), it’s difficult to be overly impressed. It’s not that I love the under here, but there is just a lot of uncertainty with Buffalo and there is no way I’d feel comfortable with an over 6.5 wins ticket, considering that this is a team that has only had two winning seasons since joining Division I in 1999.