We continue our early 2019 opponent previews this week with a look at Liberty’s 3rd opponent on the 2019 schedule.

Buffalo Bulls

Recommended Blog/Message Board: UBBullRun (SBNation)

Conference: MAC

Coach: Lance Leipold is entering his 5th season as head coach at Buffalo where he has compiled a 23-27 record. Prior to his time with the Bulls, he was head coach for Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater for 8 seasons and had a record of 109-6, winning the DIII National Championship in 6 seasons.

2018 Record: 10-4, 7-1, L Dollar General Bowl

Last Season: Buffalo is coming off perhaps the best season in school history, winning 10 games for the first time ever and advancing to the program’s third ever bowl game where they lost to Troy, 42-32. After finishing 7-1 in the MAC, Buffalo won the East Division, advancing to the MAC Championship Game where they lost to West Division champ Northern Illinois in a game they led 29-10 in the 3rd quarter before losing 30-29.

Buffalo started the season an impressive 9-1, including a lopsided win against Big 10 member Rutgers, 42-13. They would struggle down the stretch, losing 3 of their final 4 games. They were led by quarterback Tyree Jackson who took the MAC by storm, leading the Bulls offense with 2,605 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. Jackson was named the MAC’s Offensive Player of the year, and, despite having another year of eligibility remaining, opted to leave school early and enter the NFL Draft where he signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent. MAC Freshman of the Year, Jaret Patterson, led the Bulls with 1,013 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

2019 Outlook: To repeat the success of 2018, Buffalo will have to do so without several key pieces. The Bulls lose 20 seniors in addition to quarterback Tyree Jackson and wide receiver K.J. Osborn (transferred to Miami). Their wide receiving corps is also shy of experience. Jackson will be a huge void to fill in the Bulls’ offense with no significant experience behind him. Kyle Vantrease and Dominic Johnson received the bulk of the first team work during the spring, and Leipold could use a rotation between the two especially early in the season. In addition to the loss at quarterback, Buffalo also lost their top 5 receivers, 3 of whom decided to transfer out of the program. With running backs Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks both returning, the Bulls’ run game will likely be the focus of their offense. The offensive line also returns 5 players with a combined 87 career starts. They were run-heavy in 2018, but 2019 figures to be even more lopsided in that direction.

Patterson’s twin brother, James, is the top returning tackler with 77 tackles a season ago. Several other key contributors from the defense are gone, but Taylor Riggins and Malcolm Koonce provide a steadying presence to the front seven. Safeties Tyrone Hill and Joey Banks return as does corner Aapri Washington.

Liberty Game Date: Saturday, September 14

Location: Williams Stadium, Lynchburg, VA

Odds of Liberty Victory: 40 percent

Very Early Outlook: We will not get a Turner Gill rematch with his former team, as the former Liberty head coach led Buffalo to its first ever bowl appearance in 2008. This is the 3rd game in of the season and all 3 face very experienced teams all coming off bowl appearances. Liberty probably catches Buffalo at a good time as they’re in a bit of a rebuilding year, but as long as head coach Lance Leipold is around the Bulls figure to be a contender in the MAC. With the Flames playing at home, having already faced two tough opponents, and having the more experienced team, this is a game Freeze’s squad will need to win to keep bowl hopes alive.