If the University at Buffalo wants to make their first bowl appearance under head coach Lance Leipold, the Bulls are going to need to make quite the run.
UB currently sits at 3-6, meaning it'll need to win the last three games to be bowl eligible. Leipold, in his third year directing the program, said it isn't something the team directly discusses, but it's certainly in the back of everyone's mind.
"I was never told by X amount of years we had to have X amount of bowl appearances or wins," Leipold said. "I do know we're better. I do know we are doing right things. We are just not doing enough to show up on the scoreboard."
The biggest hurdle on the remaining schedule is Ohio, which currently sits at 4-1 in the MAC and 7-2 overall. The Bobcats are riding a three-game win streak and have scored over 40 points in all three outings.
The other two games are winnable, including UB's game Tuesday against Bowling Green. The Falcons are 2-3 in the MAC, just a game ahead of the Bulls, and 2-7 overall. The following Thursday, Nov. 16, the Bulls travel to face a Ball State team that's winless in the conference.
UB lost to all three schools last season.
"We've talked for a long time that we felt that we've been able to show that when we play and play well we can win any game," Leipold said. "If we don't do the right things, we could lose any game on our schedule."
UB's bowl possibility extends at least four days longer than last year, when the team was eliminated Nov. 3 with a loss to Ohio.
"It's good to be playing for something now," quarterback Tyree Jackson said. "Last year we didn't get that opportunity."
With the season on the brink, it's easy to wonder what might have been for the Bulls if not for injuries to the team's top two quarterbacks, Jackson and Drew Anderson, and the starting running back, Jonathan Hawkins. Buffalo's four MAC losses are by a combined 15 points. Three of those games were one-score games, and two the Bulls lost by one point.
"It's something that's always kinda in your head," Jackson said. "It's really close, and stuff like that. We've just got to play with the cards that we were dealt, finish these last three games strong and give ourselves the opportunity to play in December."
Leipold said now it's about learning how to win, getting those few plays to put the team over the edge. Of course, that's often easier said than done.
"If there was a playbook, there'd be some guy selling a lot of those," Leipold joked.
Jackson played for the first time since Sept. 23 Saturday, but there won't be the quarterback controversy many expected after Anderson's record-breaking performance against Western Michigan.
Injuries ended any possibility of a position battle, as Leipold said Thursday that Anderson is out for the season after undergoing surgery. He's missed the past 2 1/2 games after taking a blindside hit at the end of the first half against Northern Illinois.
Tight end Zac Lefebvre is also out for the year after suffering a non-contact injury in practice. He had five receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown in eight games played this season.