Can Buffalo Finish Its Cinderella Season

Josh WalfishContributor IJanuary 1, 2009

The University at Buffalo is by far the most surprising of the 68 teams going to a bowl game. The Bulls won 10 games their first seven years at Division 1A football but this season alone the team has a shot at winning nine games. Buffalo was the doormat of Division 1A for years but here they are playing in the first bowl game in school history. Now the question is can the MAC Champion Bulls finish off their Cinderella season?

The Bulls are led offensively by the trio of senior quarterback Drew Willy, junior running back James Starks and junior receiver Naaman Roosevelt. Starks and Roosevelt both rank eighth nationally in yards per game at their respective position.

Roosevelt ranks higher than Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree in receiving yards per game, yards per catch, total yards, and receptions. Willy ranks 28th in the nation in passing yards per game. Buffalo also ranks 48th in the nation in total offense, 65th in rushing, 40th in passing and fifth in turnovers lost.

Defensively, the Bulls are led by defensive backs Mike Newton and Davonte Shannon but they have struggled against the pass, ranking 97th. Against the run Buffalo is a little better, ranking 83rd. Overall, Buffalo ranks 94th in the nation. However, this is the same defense that caused Ball State to turn the ball over five times. The Bulls actually rank sixth in the nation in turnover margin and 19th in turnovers created.

The Bulls opponent in the International Bowl is the Connecticut Huskies. The Huskies are led by junior running back Donald Brown who leads the NCAA in rushing yards per game. The Huskies are 7-5 but they did handily defeat Big East Champion Cincinnati at home to give the Bearcats their only loss in the Big East. However, the Huskies only won three conference games.

Now lets look at the stats: Advantage

Scoring Offense: Buffalo 31.1 - 23.8

Scoring Defense:UCONN 19.8 - 27.5

Turnovers Lost: Buffalo 13 - 24

Turnovers Forced: Buffalo 28 - 24

Turnover Margin: Buffalo 15 - 0

Time of Possession: UCONN 32:07 - 30:57 

Rushing Offense: UCONN 204.6 - 141.1

Rushing Defense: UCONN 116.9 - 158.8

Passing Offense: Buffalo 239.5 - 147.2

Passing Defense: UCONN 164.5 - 249.5

In these 10 important stats Buffalo and UCONN both have an advantage in five categories. UCONN has the better defense while Buffalo the better offense. The question is which one will give.

I think that although statistically UCONN has the better defense, Buffalo protects the football and creates turnovers, something UCONN doesn't do as well.

If Buffalo is going to win they must:

  1. STOP the Run
  2. Give Starks the ball 20-25 times
  3. Win the turnover battle
  4. Win the Time of Possession battle.
  5. Have their D-line have the game of their lives.

Of these five goals, Buffalo has proven they can accomplish four of them but can the Bulls stop Brown from running all over them.

Brown will have a big game but with the inconsistency at QB the Bulls secondary will feast on plenty of INTs.

Prediction: BUFFALO 27

                     UCONN 21