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Bulls playing FCS team for second time in four weeks raises questions

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A 26-23 five-overtime victory against Stony Brook Sept. 14, 2013. A 38-28 win over Duquesne on Aug. 30, 2014.

These are two of the Bulls’ most disappointing wins in recent memory.

‘Disappointing’ is usually not a word associated with wins; that goes especially for a program like Buffalo, where wins have historically been hard to come by.

But even a team like the Bulls (1-2), on the lower end of the FBS spectrum, should easily handle Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams like Stony Brook and Duquesne.

Buffalo defeated Morgan State 56-34 in 2012 – the Bulls went 4-8 that year. The Bulls demolished Stony Brook 35-7 in a 2011 – they finished 3-9. And in 2010, one of Buffalo’s two wins was a 31-0 thrashing of Rhode Island.

Recently, they’ve struggled against FCS schools.

Last season, arguably the most talented Bulls team in program history needed five overtimes to defeat Stony Brook. And just three weeks ago, the Bulls needed a fourth-quarter rally to defeat Duquesne, who was playing in its first-ever FBS matchup.

And who’s next to play at UB Stadium this Saturday?

FCS Norfolk State (0-3).

Why is it then, in an era when the Bulls are attempting to move up the proverbial ladder of college football, is this team struggling against teams it wants to be well ahead of?

Perhaps Buffalo took its FCS foes lightly the past two seasons.

Head coach Jeff Quinn said his team is not coached to think that way.

“Doesn’t matter who you play, it matters how you compete for four quarters,” Quinn said. “I’m not interested in external factors. I’m interested in our kids preparing and understanding we respect every single opponent we play.”

If this team wants any chance of playing in a bowl game for the second straight season – which is becoming a long shot with each passing week – it can’t just win Saturday. The Bulls need to dominate.

This Buffalo team is desperate for a statement win over an FCS team for bowl selectors. Mostly because another normal win doesn’t change much for the Bulls.

Only one win against an FCS team counts toward the six-win plateau necessary for bowl eligibility. That means the Bulls have already used up their lone FCS win. This is why programs normally schedule one non-FBS opponent for the non-conference schedule.

“That’s not something we’re going to do every year,” Quinn said in August about scheduling two FCS opponents. “At the time we felt like it was in the best interest of our program to schedule those two games and that’s where we are and we’ve got to overcome it.”

Why does Buffalo have to overcome something that’s in its best interest?

If the Bulls’ main goal is to play another bowl game, which was reiterated by Quinn and the players during the summer, why did they force themselves to win even more games?

Scheduling two FCS games doesn’t sound like a program with bowl aspirations. It sounds like a team wanting an extra early season home game – preferably against a team it should beat – in front of a crowd that needs convincing that its team is worth coming out to UB Stadium to see.

I think Buffalo wanted an extra home game in good weather and scheduling another FCS squad was the only way to do it.

That’s Athletic Director Danny White’s decision to make – and he’s done a great job enhancing Buffalo’s game day experience – but doing this raises questions. Does the program care more about bowl invitations or attendance?

You know what will really ensure those stadium seats are filled?

Consecutive postseason appearances.

It may benefit the overall program’s initiative to have that extra early home game, but it hurts the team on the field.

You have already handicapped your bowl aspirations with your schedule. Is the 2014 team really supposed to win seven or eight games when last year’s squad – led by players like Khalil Mack, Branden Oliver and a host of other impact seniors – only won eight?

Buffalo players and coaches were unsure of if they would even be playing in a bowl game when the regular season ended.

If the Bulls were going to sniff bowl eligibility in 2014, they were going to do so just barely – win six to seven games, have a solid performance against either Army or Baylor, with a solid MAC win over a team like Bowling Green thrown into the mix.

That would be the best-case scenario.

Playing two FCS teams is questionable, and when Buffalo can’t easily handle its FCS opponent when it gets on the field, it makes everything look that much worse.

Buffalo’s long-term goal is to become a top-25 caliber school, but the facts are the facts: Its lone win was a comeback victory over an FCS opponent, and its two losses were mostly one-sided affairs with FBS schools.

Right now, Buffalo is closer to its FCS foes than its Top-25 ones.

email: tom.dinki@ubspectrum.com


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