The Leipold era will truly begin on Saturday
Bulls shouldn’t get too confident because of a victory over an FCS team
I get it. It’s a fun time to be a UB football fan. There’s a new head coach in place that’s thriving in his position, the locker room camaraderie has reached a zenith and the Bulls just came off of a blowout 51-14 victory over Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team Albany.
That’s my problem.
The term “FCS” is a weird football stigma. It’s essentially the minor leagues of Division I football. If a Division I team loses to an FCS team, it could be catastrophic for the team’s confidence throughout the rest of the season. With a victory, it could lead to a false confidence heading into the next week.
The latter is exactly the position Buffalo is in.
It’s easy to predict an upset loss against Penn State on Saturday. Buffalo’s offense was clicking on all cylinders. The defense stepped up in a big way. That questionable offensive line proved many skeptics wrong. Even the special teams unit, which has been rocky at best the past few years, played with a new swagger.
But the Bulls are going to Happy Valley to take on Penn State, a perennial powerhouse year in and year out that plays in one of the best conferences in the nation, the Big Ten Conference. It’s a far cry from what Buffalo played in its last game. A rookie quarterback opponent is replaced with a potential Heisman contender. Buffalo’s ground game that ran for more than 200 yards will face a school with a self-declared moniker of “Linebacker U.”
With Buffalo heading into Penn State, they are entering a foreign college football territory. It isn’t a Mid-American Conference team. It isn’t an FCS team. It’s the best competition the Bulls will face since their blowout loss to Baylor last year.
And as confident as Buffalo may be heading into Happy Valley, it cannot become cocky and ignorant in the process.
It’s easy to be distracted by the Nittany Lions’ blowout loss to an underrated Temple squad last week. There’s even no doubt in my mind that Penn State is worried about Buffalo coming to town after its performance last week.
But the bitter truth is that in the grand scheme of things, the average Mid-Major team cannot hold its own to a program that is usually considered one of the best in the country. Even in a down year, Penn State could throw a random lineup out there and will expose the holes that Buffalo perceived to be fixed from last Saturday’s win.
Buffalo doesn’t exactly have prolific outings against top teams in the country either. Last year, Baylor dominated the Bulls 63-21. Two seasons ago, Baylor beat them 70-13 and Ohio State ran away with a 20-point victory after Buffalo put a little bit of a scare into them.
The same result could potentially happen on Saturday, even with the boost of confidence after scoring 50-plus points.
To me, the Lance Leipold era for Buffalo truly begins at kickoff on Saturday. Coming from Division III, Leipold was ready to tackle a team of lesser value in Albany. He’s used to that. Just let his 110-6 record speak for itself.
For one of the first times in his coaching career, Leipold will truly be put to the test. It’s not a second-tier defense and an exposed quarterback this week. It’s not a team that will make many mental mistakes at crucial points in the game.
In order for Buffalo to take home the victory, it must thrive on its most efficient areas of the field. Senior quarterback Joe Licata has to be virtually perfect, running back Anthone Taylor has to fight for that extra yard and emerging cornerback Boise Ross must prove why he was put in that position in the first place.
Even that may not be enough.
Penn State simply features bigger and stronger players. It’s not a knock to criticize Buffalo’s size, but it’s hard to convince anyone that the Bulls can hold up with the Nittany Lions. Just because they bullied an FCS team doesn’t mean there’s not a bigger bully out there. That’s what Buffalo has to expect.
And it could go either way. Buffalo could pull the upset of the year to date and catapult a surprising season. But it also could be a demoralizing loss that could plummet the Bulls’ chances of a bowl game.
Either way, the Leipold era will truly begin.
Penn State: 45 Buffalo: 21
Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org