Lance Leipold isn’t a fan of bowl projections.
The University at Buffalo football team is 6-5 and bowl-eligible for the third time in three seasons. A seventh win Friday is expected to guarantee the Bulls a spot in a bowl game, which could be anywhere from the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl on Dec. 20 to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Jan. 3 in Boise.
UB's fifth-year coach has seen the possibilities, too, but he won’t put much stock in them.
“People send them to me and I see them,” Leipold said. “There’s a lot of projections out there and things like that. Some of those, I know they’re not accurate, for various reasons. If you get caught up on what somebody is just sitting, a long ways away, and guessing about a lot of stuff, all it does is become a distraction and probably puts you on the road for disappointment.”
Leipold might not appreciate the prognostications, but he likes bowl games.
The fifth-year Bulls coach won’t turn down the chance for his team to play in one. The Bulls (6-5, 4-3 Mid-American Conference) host Bowling Green (3-8, 2-5) at noon Friday at UB Stadium, and a win will solidify their spot in the postseason, nine days after they became bowl eligible with a 49-30 win against Toledo.
“There are no bad bowl games, for a lot of reasons,” Leipold said. “From a coaching standpoint, you get to keep coaching and be around your younger players and keep working with them. but more importantly, being with your seniors and giving them an experience, experiences our guys will never forget, places they’ll never go."
But the Bulls are solidifying their selection before they become concerned about potential destinations.
“We can’t overlook anybody,” safety Joey Banks said. “We can’t look too far, about bowl projections. We’re really worried about securing this win and, hopefully, securing that bowl spot.
“We’ve got that fight and that hunger because we’re going after something. It’s not like we have a secured spot for a bowl. We’re all hungry and determined to get that spot, to get that seventh win, and giving ourselves a best chance for that bowl game. Everyone wants that extra game. A bowl experience is an amazing experience, if you have the chance to experience that.”
UB quarterback Kyle Vantrease said his team’s biggest challenge is not to get complacent with six wins, or against Bowling Green, whose last win came Nov. 2, a 35-6 decision against Akron. UB is a 28-point favorite.
“Coach K (UB offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki) always talks about, ‘Don’t fall for the trap,’ ” Vantrease said. “The trap will be getting comfortable. We’ve got to stay out of our comfort zone, control what you can control, be where your feet are, dominate that moment that you are in and the guy that is across from you.”
The MAC has seven teams with a minimum of six wins and are bowl eligible: UB, Miami (Ohio), Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Ohio and Toledo.
The Mid-American Conference has tie-ins to five bowl games and could have as many as seven, depending on results in other conferences. A seventh win is still vital for the Bulls, as bowl placement could become a numbers game.
According to Stadium.com, 72 teams entered the week eligible for 80 bowl spots in 40 games. It’s the fewest number of bowl-eligible teams entering the final week of the season in the last four years, but 13 teams have a chance to become bowl-eligible this week after Ohio accomplished the feat with a 52-3 win at Akron on Tuesday night. That includes MAC team Kent State (5-6), which closes the season Friday at Eastern Michigan.
Bahamas Bowl bids are awarded to a MAC team and a Conference USA team and could be announced as early this weekend, a week before all bowl bids are announced Dec. 8.
The earlier selection date gives participating programs a bigger window to expedite travel logistics such as securing passports and shipping equipment to the only bowl game outside the United States.
A MAC spokesperson told The News in an email that the LendingTree Bowl will select the top MAC team after the Bahamas Bowl and that ESPN Events will pick the remainder of the teams for the remaining MAC-affiliated bowls.
As for those bowl projections? ESPN projected Sunday that UB will play in either the Cheribundi Boca Raton (Fla.) Bowl on Dec. 21 or the Camellia Bowl on Dec. 21 in Montgomery, Ala.
CBS Sports also projects UB to play in the Camellia Bowl, while The Sporting News projects UB to play in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl on Jan. 4 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Stadium.com projects UB to play in the Bahamas Bowl in Nassau.
Those projections change from week to week, but Leipold knows his players notice them. Leipold notices them, too.
“I don’t talk about them, but you try to tell them, and, you know, it’s hard to keep guys off social media,” Leipold said. “Not to make a big deal of things like this ...
“The Dollar General Bowl is not even the Dollar General Bowl anymore. It’s been listed as that for a few weeks this year. If the person who is predicting it writes ‘Dollar General Bowl,’ I don’t know how much they’re paying attention to the Dollar General Bowl.
“That’s not even the title sponsor anymore. When you put credence into that, it’s a waste of time.”
MAC Bowl tie-ins
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl: 2 p.m. Dec. 20, MAC vs. Conference USA
*Frisco (Texas) Bowl: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20, MAC/Conference USA/Mountain West Conference vs. American Athletic Conference
Cheribundi Boca Raton (Fla.) Bowl: 11 a.m. Dec. 21, MAC vs. American Athletic Conference
Camellia Bowl: Montgomery, Ala., 5:45 p.m. Dec. 21, MAC vs. Sun Belt Conference
**Quick Lane Bowl: Detroit, 8 p.m. Dec. 26, Big Ten vs. ACC/Notre Dame
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Boise, Idaho, 3:30 p.m. Jan. 3, MAC vs. Mountain West Conference
LendingTree Bowl: Mobile, Ala., 7:30 p.m./8 p.m. Jan. 6, MAC vs. Sun Belt Conference
* MAC is one of three conferences that can have an at-large selection for the Frisco Bowl
** MAC has a secondary tie-in to the Quick Lane Bowl
14 teams who can earn a sixth win this week
Kent State (5-6)
Boston College (5-6)
North Carolina (5-6)
Michigan State (5-6)
Oregon State (5-6)
Mississippi State (5-6)
* Two of Liberty's wins are against FCS opponents.