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Buffalo had an up-and-down 2015 in Lance Leipold's first season as head coach. The Bulls battled throughout the season, but faltered in the end, finishing at 5-7, closing the year with a home loss to lowly Massachusetts. With a lot of new faces on the offensive end, including at quarterback, this team has another uphill battle to reach a bowl game.
Losing a four-year starter at quarterback is the biggest issue. Buffalo still hadn't decided on a starter after the spring with Tyree Jackson and transfer Grant Rohach battling for the spot. Rohach had a better spring game, but coming from Iowa State, doesn't have a whole lot of positives to take from there. After passing the ball a decent amount last year, the Bulls will probably take a run-heavy approach with a new QB starting.
Senior Jordan Johnson (811 yards, 12 TDs) will look to build on what he did last year as the backup. The speedy Johnathan Hawkins will help him out. However, the run game still averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last season and will be working with a lot of inexperience on the offensive line. Center James O'Hagan and guard Brandon Manosalvas are the only two players with a lot of starting experience, while the other spots along the line are iffy.
Receiver is another problem with Collin Lisa (31 receptions, 325 yard) being the top returnee. Outside of him, the Bulls have a lot of questions, which doesn't really help whomever gets the starting QB gig.
The defensive side should at least be in better shape with eight returning starters in all. That starts in the secondary where corner Boise Ross is one of the best in the conference and he's joined by a couple returning juniors at safety. The line struggled against the run last year, but at least return all of those guys, so improvement is expected, especially from senior end Brandon Crawford and tackle Chris Ford. Linebacker loses a couple guys, but Brandon Berry is an all-conference selection on the outside.
Buffalo was in the middle of the pack in the MAC East last year and that'll likely be the case again. And much like season, the Bulls should come away with two non-conference wins, both of them being at home. Unfortunately, a difficult MAC schedule will hurt their chances of fighting for a title. They have to travel to Northern Illinois, Ohio, Western and Bowling Green, four of the better teams in the conference. Chalking those up as loses, the Bulls need to find a way to win all of their other conference games, which means beating Akron, a team they lost to by 21 points to in 2015.
A bowl game is the goal for Leipold in his second year, and Buffalo will be right on the cusp again. But getting there will require the Bulls to win all of their home games, something they failed to do last year. With a weaker passing game, that may be difficult, but if the defense can take a step forward, they'll be in contention.
2016 Buffalo Bulls Football Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. Albany
Sept. 17 at Nevada
Sept. 24 vs. Army
Oct. 1 at Boston College
Oct. 8 vs. Kent State
Oct. 15 vs. Ball State
Oct. 22 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 27 vs. Akron
Nov. 3 at Ohio
Nov. 12 vs. Miami (OH)
Nov. 19 at Western Michigan
Nov. 25 at Bowling Green
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