It’s a tale of two narratives as the Buffalo Bulls open their 2016 season against a fellow Empire State foe, the Albany Great Danes. The Great Danes, an FCS opponent and Colonial Athletic Association member are picked to finish 11th in their conference. This presents an almost Choose Your Own Adventure for the always measured and thoughtful Buffalo fan.
The first option of HOT BUFFALO SPORTS TAKES would be that it’s an in-state rival with a chip on their shoulder who is chomping at the bit to take a bite out of the Bulls. We’ve all seen those types of games, mostly in the MAC where an FCS team rolls into town, everything goes right, and the outcome is what is casually referred to as “an absolute disaster”. That’s also not an ideal way to start your season and there is nothing worse than losing to a mediocre FCS squad. As a Ball State fan who sat in Scheumann Stadium when Indiana State rolled out with the Victory Bell, I can assure you, it sucks. It sucks long. It sucks hard.
The alternative thought process and more a LUKEWARM BUFFALO SPORTS TAKE would be that in-state or not, this Albany team just isn’t a threat to Buffalo. This isn’t to say that the Bulls are an unbeatable MAC behemoth, but it is grounded in the reality that a middling FCS team shouldn’t be able to go on the road and get the W. Buffalo also beat Albany last year by a 51-14 margin, so there is a bit of historical precedence here, all of which alludes to the “This is going to get ugly” narrative being the correct one for the rational Bulls fan.
Perhaps a more fruitful exercise for Bulls fans for this game will be to practice some semblance of even keeled fandom no matter the results. Say, for example, the Buffalo offense struggles and only hangs a 20-point win on the board. No reason to watch the bridges in Buffalo for jumping pessimists. Maybe the reverse is true and Buffalo comes out guns blazing en route to an even more dominating performance than 2015. No reason to rush to the store to preorder those Lance Leipold Coach of the Year 2016 shirts.
Like many of their MAC brethren, this opening weekend sees the Bulls squaring off against an FCS opponent, but not an FCS opponent that is worth spending a ton of time on worrying about. If Albany was an out of state squad, then there would be virtually no storylines of value. For Buffalo it’s a tune up game in the truest sense of the word, and a chance to answer some questions like can their offense rebound after losing 8 starters including their QB, top RBs, and top WRs? Or does Lance Leipold show the Year 2 improvement that so many in the MAC do? You can find out for yourself on Friday at 7pm on ESPN3.