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2009 Internat'l Bowl Preview - UB vs. UConn
Buffalo's Drew Willy & Connecticut Tyler Lorenzen
Buffalo's Drew Willy & Connecticut Tyler Lorenzen
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 20, 2008


Buffalo vs. Connecticut - The 2009 International Bowl Preview & Prediction



2009 International Bowl

Connecticut (7-5) vs. Buffalo (8-5)

 
Jan. 3, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN


Payout:
$1.5 million combined   Location: Rogers Center, Toronto ON

2009 International Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More

National Rankings
Connecticut Buffalo
Total Offense
69th  351.83 ypg 45th  380.54 ypg
Total Defense
10th  281.42 ypg 84th  408.31 ypg
Scoring Offense
78th  23.83 ppg 31st  31.08 ppg
Scoring Defense
24th  19.75 ppg 73rd  27.46 ppg
Run Offense
19th  204.58 ypg 65th  141.08 ypg
Run Defense
20th  116.92 ypg 83rd  158.77
Pass Offense
106th  147.25 ypg 40th  239.46 ypg
Pass Defense
8th  164.50 ypg 97th  249.54 ypg
Turnover Margin
61st  0.00 6th  1.15
Connecticut
Hofstra W 35-3
at Temple W 12-9 OT
Virginia W 45-10
Baylor W 31-28
at Louisville W 26-21
at N Carolina L 38-12
at Rutgers L 12-10
Cincinnati W 40-16
West Virginia L 35-13
at Syracuse W 39-14
at USF L 17-13
Pitt L 34-10
Buffalo
UTEP W 42-17
at Pitt L 27-16
Temple W 30-28
at Missouri L 42-21
at CMU L 27-25
WMU L 34-28 OT
Army W 27-24 OT
at Ohio W 32-19
Miami Univ. W 37-17
at Akr W 43-40 4OT
at BG W 40-34 2OT
Kent St L 24-21
MAC Champ.
Ball St W 42-24
Position Ratings
relative to each other
C 5 highest
1 lowest
B
2 Quarterbacks 4.5
5 RBs 4
3 Receivers 3.5
4.5 O Line 3
4 D Line 2
4 Linebackers 2.5
5 Secondary 2
3.5 Spec Teams 2.5
4 Coaching 4

Buffalo might have won the MAC, it might have a nice core of players, and it might think this is a magical season, but it’s going to need every break, every trick, and every bounce in the book to make this the most interesting International Bowl yet. 

There have only been three so far, with the Big East going 2-0, but this is the first time the MAC Champion is involved. Even if Buffalo had lost to Ball State, it likely would’ve been here because of the location, but it doesn’t matter where the game is being played. This is a bowl game, and Buffalo is involved.
 

Traditionally among the worst programs in college football, UB is playing in its first bowl game as head coach Turner Gill, who’s still in Buffalo and not in Auburn, Syracuse, or anywhere else, has put together one of the great turnarounds in the history of college football. But is this team a fluke, or is it able to beat a good team like Connecticut?       
 
The Bulls needed a Hail Mary to beat Temple, needed three overtime wins, and it needed Ball State to keep dropping the ball on the ground to get to this point, but the Bulls forced several of those mistakes along the way. The offense is efficient and effective, it doesn’t turn the ball over, and there’s just enough pop from the return game to change a game or two. However, the defense, outside of its ability to take the ball away, is among the worst in the MAC, meaning it’s among the worst in college football, but it’s not like it’ll have to deal with Oklahoma in Toronto.
 
Connecticut is an afterthought in this game, but for a program that was all but non-existent not all that long ago, bowl appearances are still a big deal. The Huskies had the Big East title there for the taking, but it lost three of their final four games to West Virginia, South Florida, and Pitt, with the one win coming against Buffalo, mainly because the offense the offense struggled to score. 13 against WVU, 13 against USF, and 10 against Pitt didn’t get the job done, and it’ll have to come up with a strong offensive performance to avoid the upset.
 
Buffalo might have needed a fluky miracle to beat Temple, but Connecticut needed overtime to beat the Owls 12-9. The weather conditions were lousy, but the Huskies were still the better team that should’ve been able to win a game like that far easier. Like Buffalo, UConn was able to find ways to win most of the close ones. While the losses to Rutgers and USF were by a grand total of five points, UConn won four games by five points or fewer. There weren’t too many special wins outside of the 40-16 shocker over eventual Big East champion Cincinnati, and the five losses all came to bowl bound teams.  

Even though UConn is limited, it should pull off the win if its head is in the game. As long as the Huskies decide to show up and can avoid making a ton of big mistakes, there shouldn’t be a problem. However, the Bulls have found ways to force a ton of big mistakes and are great at taking advantage of teams that don’t take them seriously. If nothing else, there are only a few college football games left this season. Savor what you can get.
 
Players to watch: Connecticut junior Donald Brown says he’s coming back for his senior season, but that could quickly change with one more big performance. Iowa’s Shonn Greene might have won the Doak Walker award, but it’s Brown who led the nation in rushing as the ultimate workhorse. He ran the ball 338 times, and caught 21 passes, with 1,822 rushing yards and 17 scores. The Buffalo run defense allows 159 yards per game, and Brown needs 178 to hit the 2,000-yard mark. He can do it all running inside and out, with speed and power. He’ll be fed the ball 35 times and the game will be on his shoulders.
 
Buffalo has a star back of its own in James Starks, a tall, big runner who tore off 1,308 yards and 15 touchdowns despite being hurt for a stretch this midseason. He ran for 100 yards or more in seven games and came up with 41 catches for 340 yards and a score. While not always the workhorse that Brown can be, Starks can carry the attack, running 37 times for 151 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Akron. He doesn’t have Brown’s NFL potential, but a big game against a strong UConn run defense would put Starks more on the map with the scouts.
 
Starks might be the rushing star, but it’s Naaman Roosevelt who’s the top playmaker. The junior receiver and top return man going over the 100-yard receiving mark in each of his last five games, and he scored at least once in the final seven games and in eight of the final nine games. He’s a speedster who caught the Hail Mary against Temple and has the flash to be used in a variety of ways. Watch to see how the UB coaching staff invents ways, with the time off to prepare, to get the ball into their stars’ hands.
 
While the UConn offense will revolve around Brown, the passing game needs to be better than it was late in the year. QB Tyler Lorenzen was miserable against Pitt, completing 6-of-27 passes for 80 yards with two interceptions, but Zach Frazer was far worse going 0-for-4 with three interceptions.  Lorenzen is the team’s second leading rusher, even though he missed a bulk of the second half of the year, and he finished completing fewer than half of his passes for 820 yards and two touchdowns with eight interceptions. All he has to do is not make mistakes, not turn the ball over, and occasionally run for a first down. That’s far easier said than done in a tough year.

Buffalo will win if... it wins the turnover battle by a lot. A lot. The Bull defense might not be great, but it takes the ball away with 20 forced fumbles on the year and eight interceptions. Getting the takeaways hasn’t always meant wins for the Bulls, but the run defense isn’t quite strong enough to keep Brown under wraps and the pass defense should be tested by Lorenzen, who stunk all season long but should be able to dink and dunk a bit. If UConn wins the turnover margin, this will be a blowout.
 
Connecticut will win if
...  the offensive line takes control of the game from the start. Buffalo has an aggressive, hard-hitting defense, but it doesn’t get any pressure into the backfield and could be put on its heels all game long. Lorenzen will get all the time he needs to throw, but his job will be to hand it off to Brown. The UConn offensive front has to pound out a few long scoring drives early on, and then the defense will do the rest. That’s easier said than done for an attack that struggled to score over the second half of the year, but the UB defense isn’t Pitt’s or West Virginia’s.

What will happen: Buffalo will be fired up and will come up with one or two plays to suggest that this could be interesting, and then Brown will go to work. He’ll run for over 200 yards, will get over the 2,000-yard mark, and Buffalo will struggle against a Husky defense that’ll come looking to make a statement. After the way the last month of the year went for UConn, it appears to have the right mindset … the program isn’t taking this game lightly.

CFN Prediction: Connecticut 26 … Buffalo 17 … Line: Connecticut -4.5