Buffalo’s march through Georgia
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • August 31, 2012 @ 8:45am
It’s a terrifying prospect for a Mid-American Conference school to travel 853 miles due south to play the No. 6 team in the country, a Georgia Bulldogs squad hailing from the perennially potent Southeastern Conference.
The University at Buffalo Bulls face that extreme of a challenge at noon Saturday in a game televised on ESPN3 and the SEC Network. Buffalo enters as 38 point underdogs to Mark Richt’s club, which returns stalwart and Heisman hopeful quarterback Aaron Murray.
Remember, the Bulls traveled to Tennessee last year to test the SEC’s Vols, who finished in the cellar of the East Division at 1-7 in conference. Jeff Quinn’s Bulls were blown out 41-10, having no answer for passer Tyler Bray, who coincidentally broke his thumb against Georgia the following week.
Buffalo’s defense will be at less than full strength for Saturday’s contest, as superstar outside linebacker Khalil Mack will miss the contest because of a suspension stemming from a fight in practice with starting receiver Fred Lee. Mack will be available for the home opener against Morgan State.
Even if the Bulls don’t cover the massive point spread, there’s solace in the fact that the school will earn $1 million for making the trip to Athens. Beyond the money, however, is an early experience to play in front of almost 93,000 screaming fans donning red and black and hurling insults. If there’s anything that’ll vault a team into mid-season form, it’s dealing with those horrifying bulldog masks with the spikes protruding from them.
Check out the Bulls’ depth chart for the Georgia game.
Here are five quick story-lines I’ll be focusing on:
—What newcomers will crumble and which will shine? There are high hopes for first-time starters like safety Witney Sherry, center Trevor Sales, wide receiver Cordero Dixon and inside linebacker Jake Stockman, but Saturday afternoon could be a brutal introduction to high-major football for these four.
—Buffalo’s hopes for an upset may be miniscule, but if the running duo of quarterback Alex Zordich and Branden Oliver can control the clock and wear down the Georgia D, the game could be close for awhile.
—Special teams is a must-watch for Bulls fans as well, as Quinn breaks in freshman punter Tyler Grassman and an incredibly small long-snapper in freshman Marcus McGill. Fellow freshman Devin Campbell—quite possibly the fastest player on the Bulls—may see time returning kicks. Hopefully inexperience doesn’t prove costly in this sphere.
—Senior defensive end Steven Means is running out of chances to prove that he’s capable of playing at the next level. Fast but undersized, Means will need to avoid being engulfed by the Bulldogs’ beastly line. His counterparts on the Bulls’ defensive line—Wyatt Cahill and Colby Way—both had promising moments last year but are both undersized as well.
—How quickly will Buffalo abandon the run game? Ideally, the Bulls will run all afternoon, but that may not be an option if Quinn’s squad is trailing early. Riding Oliver is obviously the visitors’ bread-and-butter, however, so play-calling is worth monitoring.
(Header photo courtesy of Don Nieman from last year’s UB vs. Stony Brook game.)