2011 Record: (3-9, 2-6 in MAC)
Head Coach: Jeff Quinn (5-19 at Buffalo, 3-13 in MAC)
Last Bowl Game: 2009 International Bowl: Lost to UConn 38-20
Big Name Opponents: 9/1 at Georgia, 9/29 at UConn, 10/20 vs Pitt
Must Win: 9/8 vs Morgan St, 11/17 at UMass
Stat to Cheer: scored eight more points per game in 2011 than in 2010
Stat to Fear: with the loss of Chazz Anderson, the Bulls only return five completions on the roster from 2011.
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 7; Defense: 8; Specialists: 0)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Lee Skinner (80 tackles) LB Khalil Mack (65 tackles, 5.5 sacks), CB Najja Johnson (39 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: RB Branden Oliver (1395 yards, 13 TD, 38 rec), WR Alex Neutz 43 rec, 4 TD) , OG Graham Whinery
Inside Scoop with Bull Run:
CFBZ: Jeff Quinn is 5-19 in his first two years at Buffalo. What does he need to do to get this program turned back around?
Bull Run: At this point the missing pieces are a Quarterback and a defensive backfield.
The defensive backs last season were filling in for a squad that sent four players to NFL Camps since 2009 (Domonic Cook, Josh Thomas, Davonte Shannon, and Mike Newton). Three of those players we lost in 2010. Last season behind the running of Branden Oliver and the leadership of Chazz Anderson the offense was effective. However our defense was too soft in the secondary.
As to the Quarterback? It's been a sore point since Zach Maynard and Jeff Quinn got off on the wrong foot. Maynard was rumored to bee put off by Quinn's demeanor and his refusal to pay a special visit when Quinn was hired by the university. Since then we have had four starting Quarterbacks.
CFBZ: The Bulls will be breaking in a new QB this season. Who will be given the rock and what does he bring to the table?
Bull Run: It's looking like Alex Zordich will get one more chance to win the job. His career numbers are not that impressive but most of them were accrued when Zordich was a Sophomore (2010) and the Bulls had no line and no running game to take the pressure off.
Zordich sat behind Anderson last season and entered camp as the odds on favorite.
Freshman Joe Licata made some noise but during the Blue and White game (Buffalo's Spring Scrimmage) Zordich outplayed the other quarterbacks.
CFBZ: What do you see as the most pivital game on the schedule?
Bull Run: You could make the case for Kent. They, like Buffalo, are hoping to break out after a couple of bad seasons. UB has them home in week three and a win there could be a sign that Coach Quinn has started to turn a corner.
I'd love to point at our home game against Pitt, or Toledo, or Western Michigan who are all solid teams but two years of bad football has set a tone where I'd be happier to see a baby step than to see UB fall flat against a good team.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2012 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
Bull Run: UB has a rather difficult schedule. Aside from our games against Morgan State and UMass I don't see the bulls as a favorite in any contest. Perhaps Kent or Miami are winnable but everyone else on our schedule is a possible Bowl team and UB is not quite there yet.
In 2008, the Bulls went 8-6 overall and 5-3 in the MAC. It had been twelve years since the Bulls had posted a winning record (1997 as a member of Division 1-AA). It looked like a turning point for the school but in the three years since they have gone just 10-26 overall and 6-18 in MAC play.
Jeff Quinn came to Buffalo from Cincinnati (OC) and it's his third year on the job. The third year is typically the year that most coaches see their hard work show dividends (if they are going to). Will Quinn be able to turn Buffalo around this year?
Quinn has some talent at his disposal. RB Branden Oliver is one of the best running backs you've never heard of but it would be really hard for him to improve on his 2011 campaign, especially when you consider Buffalo will be starting a brand new QB.
The difference for Buffalo this year will be whether or not they can take a step forward on defense. Last year they were a middle of the road MAC defense (6th in total defense, 8th in scoring defense). They have a very strong LB corps (Phil Steele ranks it third in the MAC) but they have questions along the line and in the defensive backfield. From an experience standpoint, this is going to be one of the youngest teams in the MAC. This looks like it will be another year where the Bulls take a small step forward (in terms of being competitive) and hope to make that big jump in 2013.
2012 Prediction: 3-9
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