After last year’s dramatic season opener, fans started to look at this year’s schedule and look for an “Appalachian State level” trap game.
All eyes focused on this week’s matchup with Buffalo, and it’s hard to blame fans for thinking that.
The Bulls were one of the better Group of Five programs in the country last season. They started off on fire, going 9-1, including a road win over Rutgers.
While they struggled down the stretch, losing in the MAC Championship and the Dollar General Bowl, they still finished at 10-4, strong among non-power five teams. There was plenty of talent on that team.
But things have changed.
A lot of that talent has left, whether it was via the draft, graduation or transfer.
The most notable of those losses was their quarterback.
Tyree Jackson was solid for Buffalo last season, throwing for 3,131 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Jackson was signed by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent, and while he was cut, he is still working out with teams.
A lot of what made Jackson great was his receivers.
Anthony Johnson led the team in receiving yards with 1,011 and 11 touchdowns, but he graduated and went the NFL route, signing as an undrafted free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In all, Buffalo lost five of its six top receivers.
The personnel turnover doesn’t stop at offense though.
The Bulls only return three defensive starters from a unit that was decent last year, averaging 26 points allowed per game.
They suffered the same fate as a lot of teams do — having to deal with the transfer portal.
“I think those jobs have gotten harder. I really do. Those jobs have always been tough jobs, but I think they've gotten tougher. The old days of building a program and recruiting kids and developing them and redshirting them, you look at basketball, some of the teams that are making the Sweet 16, a lot of them are what?
“They're the older teams that they've been able to develop over time, and that's where you would see a MAC team or someone like that be able to go through a similar process and have a chance to compete and compete at the highest level.”
While Buffalo is not able to grow that core, they did get off to a solid start, winning its opening weekend game 38-10. It was against Robert Morris though, so who knows what Buffalo team this is.
In 2017, with some of the same key performers as last year’s squad, the Bulls only went 6-6.
2018 was a great year for Buffalo, but this team looks a lot different.
If this matchup took place last year, then this would definitely could have been an upset trap game.
But now, it’s likely that this becomes another nonconference tune up.