2016 MAC: 1-7//6th MAC East
MAC Media 2017 prediction: 5th MAC East
Bulls trying to reverse recent fortunes
The Buffalo Bulls last posted a winning record in 2013, when they finished 8-5, including a loss to San Diego State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.. Joe Licata was chucking the football to the likes of Alex Neutz, while Brandon Oliver was registering 1,535 yards and 15 touchdowns.
It’s been something of a . . .
If the Bulls are going to right the ship this time around, it may once again be with a boost from the ground game. Johnson is gone, but running back Johnathan Hawkins (338 yds, 4.6 ypc) and quarterback Tyree Jackson (399 yards, 4.0 ypc, 5 TDs) are both running threats.
There is also reason to believe that the defense will be a plus. That unit returns eight starters, including a nice linebacking unit led by All-MAC second teamer Khalil Hodge.
► The Bulls sputtered mightily on offense, tallying a league-worst 16.5 ppg. That included a 41-point output in the win over Akron, but also a 38-0 shutout at the hands of Western Michigan. The 16.5 ppg was 126th of 128 FBS teams.
► UB ranked 11th among MAC teams in total offense (353.8 ypg. The Bulls were also 11th in passing offense (200.5 ypg) and ninth in rushing (153.2 ypg).
► Hawkins, a 5-11, 208-pound junior should be a feature back this year after 99 carries (338 yards, 1 TD) last year while spelling Johnson (200 carries, 1,040 yards.
► Hawkins should also provide another valuable talent for a passaing game that hopes to improve. All-MAC (Second Team) TE Mason Schreck is gone (Cincinnati Bengals, seventh round pick) after leading the Bulls in receiving. In fact, senior Kamathi Holsey is the only returning starter in the receiving corps. He totaled 19 catches for 189 yards with one touchdown in 2016.
► The Bulls were 10th in scoring defense (32.3 ppg) and eighth in total defense (434.8 ypg). Stopping the run was problematic, as UB’s 253.2 ypg allowed on the ground was nearly 20 more yards per outing than Akron at No. 11.
► Although Buffalo was No. 1 in passing yards allowed at 181.5 ypg., that in part, owed to teams preferring the run. The Bulls were seventh in pass defense efficiency.
► Eight starters return on the defensive side. However, the are some questions up front after a year in which UB struggled in stopping the run. The Bulls also managed just 17 sacks (11th among MAC teams).
► Seniors Jarrett Franklin and Ishmael Hargrove will join Hodge in the Bulls middle line of defense. Hodge amassed a team high 123 tackles last year. Hargrove (103 stops) and Franklin (75 stops) were second and third among UB tacklers.
► Ryan Williamson (74 tackles) is back at safety, while Tim Roberts (64hits) should hold down the other safety spot. Both are seniors.
► Junior Cameron Lewis is a returning starter at cornerback.
► Junior Adam Mitcheson hit 11 of 18 (61.1%) of his field goal tries, with a long of 45 last year. Sr. Kyle DeWeen looks to improve on a 39.8-yard punt average this year.
► Buffalo converted 36.5 percent (9th, MAC) of its third down opportunities last year. Oppoments, meanwhile, were converting 46.2 percent (last, MAC).
► UB averaged just 43 ypg in penalties, second best in the conference. Unfortunately for the Bulls, opponents averaged just 37.1 ypg. (last, MAC)
► Buffalo gets an early start, opening its season Thursday, Aug. 31 at Minnesota. The Bulls then go to Army at West Point before finishing out the non-conference schedule with home contests against Colgate and Florida Atlantic.
The Bulls have their work cut out for them if they plan on getting back to a winning record. Western Michigan and Northern Illinois visit Buffalo – both will be big challenges for UB, which also gets MAC East favorite Ohio at home in the season finale.
A mobile quarterback and promising contingent up front are helpful, but getting more from the passing game would be a big boost