The University at Buffalo needs to get off to a decent start in the Mid-American Conference this season because the November schedule is ominous.
The West Division of the MAC is clearly superior to the East, and UB faces two of the top West teams in Western Michigan and Northern Illinois. UB had a more favorable schedule the past two years but could not take advantage and earn a bowl bid.
Sept. 2 at UB Stadium.
Coach: Greg Gattuso (third year)
2015 Record: 3-8
Players to watch: QB D.J. Crook, LB Julian Cox. Crook is a former Penn State walk-on who’s battling for the starting QB job.
Expectations: Albany is a lower-level, Football Championship Subdivision foe picked for 11th in the 12-team Colonial Athletic Association.
Did You Know? North Dakota State, the alma mater of Bills great Phil Hansen, has won five straight FCS national championships.
Last time vs. UB: The Bulls won in last year’s opener, 51-14.
Outlook: Albany returns 19 starters and should be better. The Bulls should exert their size and speed advantages.
Sept. 17 at Mackay Stadium, Reno, Nev.
Coach: Brian Polian (fourth year)
2015 Record: 7-5
Players to Watch: RB James Butler, RB Akeel Lynch, SS Daemeon Butler. Butler rushed for 179 yards on UB last year. Lynch, like Polian a St. Francis High product, transferred from Penn State for his last season of eligibility.
Expectations: Picked second in the West Division of the Mountain West and pegged for fifth or sixth overall in the 11-team conference.
Did You Know? Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Marion Motley ran for Nevada from 1940-42. His No. 41 is retired.
Last time vs. UB: Nevada rushed for 289 yards in a 24-21 win at UB last year.
Outlook: UB’s run defense faces a big task. Nevada is loaded on offense with 10 returning starters and will be a clear favorite.
Sept. 24 at UB Stadium.
Coach: Jeff Monken (third year)
2015 Record: 2-10
Players to Watch: RB Aaron Kemper, WR Edgar Allan Poe, LB Andrew King. The 5-6 Kemper rushed for 147 yards on Eastern Michigan last year. Poe is 6-4. Expectations: With 16 returning starters, a winning season is a realistic hope for the Black Knights, who lost seven games by seven or fewer points last year.
Did You Know? Army has lost 14 in a row to Navy, the longest streak in the series.
Last time vs. UB: Army rolled up 341 rushing yards in a 47-39 win in 2014.
Outlook: It’s a key game and a close call for UB. Army’s triple-option rush offense is a challenge. Army ran the ball 85 percent of its plays last year.
Oct. 1 at Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Coach: Steve Addazio (fourth year)
2015 Record: 3-9
Players to Watch: QB Patrick Towles, LB Matt Milano, LB Connor Strachan. Towles is a transfer from Kentucky. Milano has an NFL future at safety.
Expectations: Picked fifth in the seven-team Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Did You Know? Boston College was the only school in the nation to go winless in conference in both football (0-8) and basketball (0-18) last year.
Last time vs. UB: A 41-0 BC win in 2006. BC beat Northern Illinois last year, 17-14.
Outlook: Probably a loss for UB against a defense that returns 17 of its top 21 tacklers and allowed 15.3 ppg last year, fourth best in the nation. UB’s QB will have to make some plays because the run sledding will be tough.
Oct. 8 at UB Stadium.
Coach: Paul Haynes (fourth year)
2015 record: 3-9
Players to Watch: FS Nate Holley, CB Demetrius Monday, DE Terence Waugh. All three made first-team all-MAC. Waugh ranked third in the MAC with 9.0 sacks.
Expectations: The Golden Flashes are picked last in the MAC East but are banking on improvement.
Did You Know? Kent State returns the most experienced team in the nation (according to Phil Steele) with 18 returning starters, eight of them seniors.
Last time vs. UB: The Bulls won in 2015 (18-17) and 2013 (41-21) but the 2014 meeting was cancelled due to the infamous “Snowvember” blizzard.
Outlook: A pivotal game in the season that UB needs. Look for low scoring, just like last season.
Oct. 8 at UB Stadium.
Coach: Mike Neu (first year)
2015 Record: 3-9
Players to Watch: QB Riley Neal, LB Sean Wiggins, WR KeVon Mabon. Wiggins was first-team all-MAC, while Neal is a 6-5 sophomore with promise.
Expectations: The Cardinals are picked for fifth in the MAC West and are rebuilding under Neu, who spent the past two years as New Orleans Saints QB coach.
Did You Know? Ball State is 8-1 vs. UB but the lone loss was in the 2008 MAC title game, a 42-24 Bulls win.
Last time vs. UB: This is the first meeting since 2011, which Ball State won, 28-25.
Outlook: UB should be favored in what may be a battle of young QBs. Ball State D was terrible last year.
Oct. 22 at Huskie Stadium, DeKalb, Ill.
Coach: Rod Carey (fourth year)
2015 Record: 8-6.
Players to Watch: CB Shawun Lurry, RB Joel Bouagnon, WR Kenny Golladay. Lurry led the MAC in INTs and is an NFL prospect.
Expectations: Picked third in the MAC West.
Did You Know? Northern Illinois has appeared in six straight MAC title games.
Last time vs. UB: Bouagnon rushed for 156 yards in a 40-31 Huskies win at UB last year.
Outlook: Grim. The Huskies are 36-3 at home since 2009, return the No. 3 rusher in the MAC and get senior QB Drew Hare back.
Oct. 27 (Thursday) at UB Stadium.
Coach: Tommy Bowden (fifth year)
2015 Record: 8-5
Players to Watch: DE Jamal Marcus, DE Se’Von Pittman, WR Jerome Lane. Both starting DEs are transfers from Ohio State.
Expectations: The Zips are picked third in the MAC East and have sights set on a second straight bowl season.
Did You Know? Bowden relies heavily on transfers. He has 12 players on the roster from Power 5 Conferences.
Last time vs. UB: Akron won, 42-21, last year.
Outlook: Another pivotal game. UB could be 4-3 and thinking bowl entering this game . . . or be in desperation mode.
Nov. 3 (Thursday) at Peden Stadium, Athens, Ohio.
Coach: Frank Solich (12th year)
2015 Record: 8-5
Players to Watch: MLB Quentin Poling, DE Tarell Basham, RB A.J. Oulette. Poling is the top MLB in the MAC.
Expectations: Picked a close second in the MAC East. The Bobcats only return 12 starters but have the top front seven in the MAC.
Did You Know? Solich runs a model program and has been to six bowls in seven years but has yet to win a MAC title.
Last time vs. UB: A banged-up Bobcats team laid an egg in a 41-17 loss at UB last year.
Outlook: Another tough test for the UB run defense vs. mobile QB J.D. Sprague. Bulls will be underdogs.
Nov. 12 at UB Stadium.
Coach: Chuck Martin (third year)
2015 Record: 3-9
Players to Watch: QB Billy Bahl, DE J’Terius Jones, WR Rokeem Williams. Bahl, a three-star recruit, started seven games last year as a true freshman.
Expectations: Picked fifth in the MAC East. After five straight losing seasons, Miami has a favorable schedule and a shot to get to six wins.
Did You Know? Martin took a pay cut to go from offensive coordinator under Brian Kelly at Notre Dame to Oxford, Ohio.
Last time vs. UB: Bulls rallied for 29-24 win last year, its fourth straight over the RedHawks.
Outlook: With 16 starters back, Miami is thinking now is time to beat UB. Which team has amassed more team speed and offensive talent?
Nov. 19 at Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Coach: P.J. Fleck (fourth year)
2015 Record: 8-5
Players to Watch: QB Zach Terrell, WR Corey Davis, RB Jamauri Bogan. Davis led the MAC in receiving yards per game.
Expectations: Western is the favorite to win the MAC, and Fleck is a hot candidate to move up to a Power 5 head job after the season.
Did You Know? Fleck has landed the top recruiting class in the MAC each of the past three years,
Last time vs. UB: The Khalil Mack-led Bulls won, 33-0, in 2013, but the teams did not meet the past two years.
Outlook: Western averaged 39.9 ppg last year and should top 500 yards a game this year. Bring the oxygen for UB defenders.
Nov. 25 (Friday) at Doyt Perry Stadium, Bowling Green, Ohio.
Coach: Mike Jinks (first year)
2015 Record: 10-4
Players to Watch: RB Fred Coppet, WR Ronnie Moore, OT Ryan Hunter. Coppet and Moore are burners. Hunter is a Canisius High product.
Expectations: Picked first in MAC East, but likely to be less powerful. The defending MAC champions lost head coach Dino Babers to Syracuse and graduated first-team All-MAC players at QB, RB and WR.
Did You Know? BG WR Gehrig Dieter transferred to Alabama as a graduate student and might start for the Crimson Tide.
Last time vs. UB: Falcons won a fifth straight over UB last year, 28-22.
Outlook: A finale against the favored Falcons will be a good measuring stick for UB heading to next season.
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Our print version of the schedule breakdown:
More from our college football preview:
UB position-by-position preview (all installments linked here)