University at Buffalo coach Alex Wood does not have to con his players into believing there is something to play for with four games remaining in the regular season.
Yes, UB has lost three straight conference games. Yes, the season has been disappointing. Yes, their bowl-bid hopes are minuscule.
But all Wood needs to do is show his team the Mid-American Conference standing.
Who is great? Nobody. Who looks especially intimidating on UB’s remaining schedule? Nobody.
In fact, none of UB’s final four foes look as good as Bowling Green or Central Michigan, two teams that UB went down to the final possession against over the past three weeks.
So Wood doesn’t need to be a super salesman to sell his 3-5 team on having a respectable finish – or maybe even a winning one.
“We have a chance to win a game and win seven,” overall, Wood said in the wake of UB’s 20-14 loss Saturday to Central Michigan. “That’s what we’re talking about today and what we’ll continue to talk about all the way until we play Ohio U. To me that’s not a difficult task. It’s reality. It’s what we’re facing right now. We feel pretty good about it, in spite of the loss. We have to get through that and really look at it favorably as another opportunity to get a win.”
The shame of the past month for UB is if it had won even one of the last three, it would be in the thick of the race for the MAC East Division title. UB is 1-3 in conference.
Bowling Green leads the MAC East at 3-1. Akron is 2-2, Ohio 2-3, UMass 2-3, Miami 2-3 and Kent State 0-4.
UB’s remaining games are at Ohio, home against Akron and Kent State and at UMass. The overall combined record of those four teams is 11-23.
“It is wide open,” Wood said. “It is competitive. Anybody can beat anybody. It’s proven week in and week out as teams play.”
The MAC has five bowl bids. West Division leader Toledo (5-3 overall), Northern Illinois (6-2), Western Michigan (5-3) and East Division leader Bowling Green (5-3) are strong favorites to get four of the bowl bids.
Central Michigan (5-3) has a favorable schedule, if it can survive an injury that could keep running back Thomas Rawls out awhile.
The Bulls visit Ohio on Tuesday. Here’s an update on UB’s remaining four foes:
• Ohio (4-5): The Bobcats gave up 530 yards in getting whipped by Western Michigan, 42-21, on Saturday. Ohio was blown out by Bowling Green and walloped by Central Michigan in the past month. But Ohio’s run defense isn’t bad.
• Akron (4-4): The Zips have a load of talent via transfers from major programs, and it would be a disappointment if they don’t go to a bowl game. They have had disappointing losses the past two games, at Ohio and Ball State. Akron is No. 2 in the MAC in defense and No. 1 in sacks.
• Kent State (1-7): One would think UB will win its final home game. Kent State is last in the MAC in yards gained and second last in rushing yards allowed.
• UMass (2-7): Despite its record, UMass has played almost everyone tough, thanks to senior quarterback Blake Frohnapfel. He’s a transfer from Marshall, and he’s leading the MAC in passing, averaging 324 yards a game. This likely will be a tough finishing game for UB.