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                ***** NCAA Football Preview - Buffalo Bulls *****
 
 By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 2011 SEASON IN REVIEW: Buffalo ended the 2011 season with an unimpressive 3-9
 record but was actually an improved team by the end of the year.
 
 Coach Jeff Quinn began his second year in charge of the program with a road
 loss at Pittsburgh (35-16) before the Bulls returned home to down Stony Brook
 (35-7). Buffalo then suffered three losses in a row to Ball State (28-25),
 Connecticut (17-3), and Tennessee (41-10). The losing skid ended with a much
 needed victory over Ohio University (38-37), but it was short-lived as a four-
 game losing streak would soon follow. The Bulls were dominated by Temple (34-0)
 but took Northern Illinois to the wire (31-30). Buffalo was dealt road losses
 by MAC rivals Miami-Ohio (41-13) and Eastern Michigan (30-17) before its four-
 game slide ended with an unexpected rout of Akron (51-10) at UB Stadium. The
 Bulls' season came to a close when they were defeated at home by Bowling Green
 (42-28).
 
 The three wins actually marked a one-game improvement from Quinn's 2010 team.
 The Bulls have a long way to go, but they showed they are heading in the right
 direction.
 
 2012 ANALYSIS:
 
 OFFENSE: The starting quarterback position was up for grabs between Jerry Davis
 and Alex Zordich due to Chazz Anderson's graduation. Although Davis had more
 experience, Zordich impressed the coaching staff enough with his running
 ability to be named the starter. Zordich started as a true freshman and showed
 great promise before an injury ended his season.
 
 Alex Neutz (641 yards, 43 catches, four TD) was the second leading receiver
 last season as a sophomore and will be the first option in the passing attack
 this year. He provides a big play threat that will play a factor in any close
 game. Cordero Dixon and Fred Lee should benefit from all of the attention Neutz
 commands.
 
 Branden Oliver was 14th in the NCAA in rushing yards per game (116.25) due to
 his rare combination of speed and strength. The 5-8 feature back set school
 records in rushing yards (1,395) and carries (306) last season as a sophomore.
 
 The offensive line  which set the tone up front for Oliver's record-breaking
 season, returns four of five starters. Despite the strong campaign by its
 running back, Buffalo averaged just 22.9 points per game.
 
 DEFENSE: The Bulls have yet to establish consistency on the defensive side of
 the ball. Buffalo allowed more than 30 points in seven of its last eight games
 and really had trouble stopping the run. The line is the weakest component of
 the defense, but new defensive coordinator Lou Tepper brings 45 years of total
 coaching experience to help alleviate the issues.
 
 The linebackers are the anchor of the defense. First-team All-MAC selection
 Khalil Mack (20.5 TFL) is one of the most aggressive players in the nation.
 Sophomore Lee Skinner will line up alongside Mack after an impressive freshman
 campaign (80 tackles). Safety Isaac Baugh will provide leadership for a
 secondary that will look to improve its ability to force turnovers and improve
 tackling.
 
 SPECIAL TEAMS: Patrick Clarke returns as the team's placekicker after
 connecting on all six of his field goal attempts and all 10 of his extra point
 tries as a freshman. Clarke could also serve as the team's punter if the
 coaching staff determines incoming freshman Tyler Grassman is not ready yet.
 The return game could use some improvement as well after averaging less than 20
 yards on kick returns and just above five yards on punt returns.
 
 OUTLOOK: Slowly but surely the Bulls are creeping closer and closer to their
 second winning season as a member of the FBS. Quinn, who is 5-19 in two seasons
 at Buffalo, could really use the job security that comes along with a
 successful year.
 
 "Everybody knows we've got to work way harder than last year to get where we
 want to be," said Mack. "We have the experience, we have a lot of people
 returning on both sides of the ball."
 
 Buffalo will be a huge underdog in its opener against Georgia in Athens, but
 should fair better when it hosts Morgan State and Kent State at UB Stadium in
 its second and third outings. The Bulls have a three-game road trip which
 features a winnable non-conference matchup with the Huskies at Connecticut and
 MAC battles with Ohio University and Northern Illinois. Five of UB's final six
 games, including its non-conference finale versus Pittsburgh, are at home.
 
 The Bulls will need Zordich or Davis to be productive enough to prevent
 opposing defenses from focusing primarily on Oliver. The defense allowed too
 many big plays last season. Oliver and Mack are both the best at their
 positions in the conference. That strong leadership will push UB to improve,
 but not to the point where it will be contending for the MAC Championship.
 
 
 
 
 08/20 10:44:20 ET