It's already been seven years since Akron stopped playing football games at the historic Rubber Bowl. On November 13 of 2008, the Drew Willy led Buffalo Bulls, who would eventually win the MAC Championship, beat the Zips 43-40 in 4 OT to close the Rubber Bowl.
It was a sad day as not only did UA fans say goodbye to a place where they made so many memories, but it was the beginning of a three-game losing streak that gave Akron a 5-7 overall record to go with a 3-5 MAC record. It can even be argued that Akron still hasn't rebounded from that heartbreaking defeat.
A 3-9 season in 2009, which included a loss to Buffalo, ended J.D. Brookhart's tenure as head coach of the Zips.
Then 2010 rolls along. Akron hires former Notre Dame wide receivers coach Rob Ianello as it's next head coach. The season opened with 11 consecutive losses, including an overtime loss to FCS opponent Gardner-Webb.
Black Friday rolls along and the Buffalo Bulls, led by first year head coach Jeff Quinn, came to InfoCision Stadium for the first time looking for their third win of the season. The Zips hung on to win 22-14 and it would end up being Ianello's only win over an FBS program during his two 1-11 seasons as the head coach at Akron.
The Zips didn't face the Bulls in either 2012 or 2013, but they did meet up on Tuesday November 11 of 2014. Terry Bowden was in his third season as the head coach of Akron and Buffalo had fired Quinn just a few weeks earlier following a loss to Eastern Michigan. Akron was on a three-game skid and needed a boost if they wanted to make a bowl game.
It started off as well as it could have for the Zips as cornerback DeAndre Scott got a pick-six just a few seconds in and Akron then recovered a Buffalo fumble on the very next drive. Buffalo ended up with two 100 plus yard rushers and outscored Akron 55-17 the rest of the way to win 55-24.
A lot has changed for each program since that unforgettable game in 2008 and the rather forgettable 2010 game. Former Akron head coach Rob Ianello is currently the wide receivers coach for the Bulls while former Wisconsin-Whitewater (DIII) coach Lance Leipold is in his first year at the helm for the Bulls.
The Bulls (5-5, 3-3 MAC) and Zips (5-5, 3-3 MAC) have identical records, but the Bulls are coming off of a 41-30 home loss to Northern Illinois and the Zips have won their last two at UMass and at Miami.
Buffalo tends to be better offensively when the focus is on using the run to set up the pass. In fact, they haven't won a game this year when veteran quarterback Joe Licata throws 40 or more times. Jordan Johnson and Anthone Taylor each ran for over 100 yards against the Zips in Buffalo last year, so there's reason to believe that running will be the primary focus again.
If Buffalo can run with success again, Licata can once again have a small, but extremely efficient day through the air. He threw 4 touchdowns on just 21 attempts in the game last year.
Akron's offense sputtered down the stretch last year, and that was especially visible against the Bulls. Akron's a much different team now, though. Dual threat quarterback Thomas Woodson, senior back Conor Hundley, and converted linebacker Jerome Lane lead the offensive attack. The Zips win when they can hit the big play, plain and simple. They never hit it in 2014, and they're getting better at it this year.
Two of Buffalo's starting defenders are not listed on the depth chart this week. Linebacker Brandon Crawford and cornerback Boise Ross each left last week's games with injuries.
Saturday could add so much more to the history between these programs, as a sixth win for either team would likely lead to a bowl appearance.
All in all, you may not find two teams as evenly matched as Akron and Buffalo, statistically. History is in Akron's favor though. The Zips have beaten the Bulls in their only trip to InfoCision Stadium (2010) and Buffalo's last two head coaches, Turner Gill and Jeff Quinn, each lost at Akron in their first seasons, but the Bulls are a much better team now than they were in 2006 and 2010.
Akron leads the all-time series 9-5 and Buffalo has won the last two meetings.