The University at Buffalo became bowl eligible last week with a 31-24 win over Ohio in the season finale before another light crowd in UB stadium. It was solid win for the Bulls considering the Bobcats were 5-2 in the Mid-American Conference and 8-3 overall going into the contest.
UB finished third in the MAC East division with a 4-4 record and was 6-6 overall, joining at least 80 other teams expected to be eligible for 39 postseason bowl games. If one play in three games had gone in their favor, and the Bulls finished 7-5 or better, they would be bowl bound with no questions asked.
Buffalo lost, 71-68, to Western Michigan in seven overtimes in one of the wildest games in college football history. They fell to Northern Illinois, 14-13. Their most critical loss was a 21-20 defeat to Akron, which ended up costing UB the East Division title after winning their final three games.
Now, other factors come into play.
"We're trying to get our point across to how good of a team we actually are," UB athletic director Allen Greene said. "We're an 8-4 team, and we've got some data that kind of shows that. That's what we're trying to get out to the community, to the sports world and the ESPN executives as well."
The Bulls are on the bowl bubble with Conference USA teams such as Louisiana Tech, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and University of Texas-San Antonio. Conference rival Western Michigan (4-4, 6-6) also is looking for a spot after playing in the Cotton Bowl last season.
Texas-San Antonio fired its offensive coordinator and lost three of its last four games to finish the season. Western Kentucky also lost three of their last four. Of the six-win teams in Conference USA and the MAC, the Bulls were the only one that finished the season with three straight wins. Certainly, it should count for something.
Greene can make a strong case about the Bulls being considerably better than their record suggests. Buffalo led the conference in passing yards while playing three quarterbacks after starter Tyree Jackson and backup Drew Anderson suffered shoulder injuries. It's an entertaining team, especially if you like offense.
"Most people would argue that we're disappointed that we only got to six wins instead of eight or nine, but that's how the game goes," Greene said. "We'll continue to fight, continue to get better and look forward to represent Buffalo."
Buffalo has the best player in the MAC in junior wideout Anthony Johnson, who was second in the nation with 1,356 yards receiving. He's 6-foot-2, 207 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. His combination of great hands and breakaway speed already has drawn attention from NFL scouts.
Jackson has the tools to play in the NFL, too. He's 6-foot-7 and extremely mobile and has a cannon arm. Linebacker Khalil Hodge was second in the nation in tackles this season with 154, breaking the UB record by a mile. Hodge, a sophomore, also could get an opportunity in the NFL if he continues to improve.
One variable that does not fall in UB's favor is the strength of its fan base. Bowl officials want full stadiums for numerous reasons, starting with revenue and including how it plays on television. It means they're looking for fans who would be willing to travel. UB has a hard time drawing people to its own stadium.
Buffalo football fans are obsessed with the Bills and indifferent about the Bulls. Here's hoping bowl committees don't hold the community against UB.
"I think we're a really good program, a fun program to watch," Greene said. "We have a potent, high-powered offense and a great defense. We want the country to know that Buffalo football is pretty damned good."
Any Volunteers for Tennessee?
The irony of Tennessee bungling its search for a new football coach after hiring Greg Schiano and allowing itself to be being bullied by an angry mob on Twitter is that the Volunteers are almost certain to settle for a lesser coach.
Why would anybody want that job after the university failed to support Schiano before he walked through the door? He was gone after UT pulled its offer amid backlash from fans and alumni, not to mention White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, about the hiring.
The fury, which included standard trolls, state politicians and everybody in between, spread across the Incubator for Idiocy in typical fashion. It was based on unsubstantiated testimony, or hearsay, that Schiano knew about sexual abuse at Penn State long before the scandal broke. The allegations were unfounded.
Tennessee buckled, anyway, rescinded its offer and sent a terrifying message: If enough people scream loud enough on social media, truth be damned, administrators will listen. Tennessee ignored the facts and supported public opinion, ignoring the potential damage to Schiano's reputation and career.
John Currie's days as athletic director must be numbered, too. He couldn't lead the team in prayer after Tennessee pulled his offer to Schiano and effectively stripped his power. The university could end up spending big money for him and a coach whose tenure was over before it began.
Tennessee is desperate for a coach that can return to the program to prominence. The pool of candidates, shallow from the start, is practically empty. If the Vols are so concerned about reaction on social media, they might as well hire the next coach after conducting a Twitter poll.
Yanks to make strong pitch for Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani will have numerous teams interested in him over the next two weeks when he officially becomes a free agent, but most signs point toward the two-way Japanese star landing with the Yankees.
Ohtani, 23, is a 6-5 right-hander and the most complete player in memory to come from Japan. He's a dominant pitcher with a fastball in the 100 mph range and two complimentary breaking balls, but he's almost as effective as a hitter and outfielder. An ankle injury that required surgery limited him to 65 games last season.
In his first five seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, he had a 42-15 record with a 2.69 ERA after beginning his career as an 18-year-old. Over the same stretch, he batted .286 with 48 homers. In his last two years, he had 13-6 record with a 2.06 ERA while batting .325 with 30 homers in 169 games.
The Yanks are most equipped to pay the $20 million posting fee, paid to Ohtani's team in Japan, for the right to sign him. They also have $3.5 million available in their international bonus pool, which is the second-most behind the Rangers. Teams have 21 days to negotiate with him after paying the fee.
Ohtani wants a spot in the rotations and the batting order, and the Yankees just might give it him. It could mean using him as a designated hitter while giving him days off before and after games he pitches. AL teams are not required to use him as a DH, which would allow him to pitch and bat in the same game.
The Dodgers would be a good fit considering Los Angeles has the largest Japanese-American population in the United States. Other Japanese stars such as Hideo Nomo and Kiroki Kuroda had successful careers in LA. However, according to MLB.com, the Dodgers can only offer him $300,000 to sign.
Remembering Bonnie Laettner
One of my favorite interviews in years was last February with Bonnie Laettner, the mother of former Duke and NBA star Christian Laettner who talked about her son's famous shot to beat Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament.
Bonnie Laettner, who died unexpectedly Sunday at age 74, became a national figure because television cameras often caught her futile attempts to watch her son play. The day after Laettner hit The Shot, parishioners in a Philadelphia church asked to have their pictures taken with her.
A great storyteller with a big personality, she was on a roll in February while describing the stress she felt from sports. She attended every game she could for all of her children but watched as little as possible. She also didn't know her son won that memorable game until she heard the crowd respond.
"I had my eyes shut for the whole last quarter of the game," she said. "I don’t go to sporting events with my grandchildren anymore. I can’t take it. When Christian started at Duke, I had brown hair. Four Final Fours later, I had white hair."
"What's up with Mahomes- I mean my homies!? #chiefs" – @2LarryJohnson7, the retired Kansas City running back after the Chiefs lost to the Bills amid calls for rookie Patrick Mahomes to takes over as their starting quarterback.
Russian Deputy Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, in an interview with The Associated Press, about concerns its national soccer team used performance-enhancing drugs after failing to win a game in the last World Cup: "If we play like that while doped, then how would we do without? It's absolute stupidity."
3 – Quarterbacks in NFL history who had at least 25 touchdown passes and five or fewer interceptions through 11 games. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were the only two before Carson Wentz joined them Sunday.
76, 136 – Players who had more goals in the NHL this season, respectively, than former No. 2 picks overall Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart going into Buffalo's game against Tampa Bay. Eichel had seven goals, Reinhart five.
50 – Years after Wilt Chamberlain had 28 points, 28 rebounds and six assists that a visiting player had at least 25-20-5 in Boston before Andre Drummond had 26 points, 22 boards and six assists to lead the Pistons over the Celtics on Monday.
It's seems a matter of time before the UB women's basketball team receives votes in the Top 25. The Bulls beat Nebraska, 82-72, and blew out Clemson, 61-41, in the San Juan shootout in Florida. If they beat 27th-ranked Arizona State on Saturday in ASU's tournament, UB should get consideration.
Miami has scored one rushing touchdown in 17 games, including a playoff loss to the Steelers last season. It came on a 66-yard run from Kenyon Drake in a blowout loss to the Panthers on Nov. 13. The Dolphins this week play the Broncos, who have allowed five rushing TDs in their last five games.
Keep an eye on Jordan Nwora, the former Park School star who is a freshman at Louisville. The 6-8 forward averaged 10 points and 3.5 rebounds going into Tuesday's matchup with Purdue. He had a game-high 18 points and team-high eight rebounds in an 84-42 win last week over Southern Illinois.