Location: Buffalo, N.Y.
Returning starters: 16 (9 offense, 7 defense)
2012 record: 4-8 (3-5 MAC)
Aug. 31 -- at Ohio State, Noon (ESPN2)
Sept. 7 -- at Baylor, 3:30 p.m. (FSN)
Sept. 14 -- Stony Brook, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Sept. 28 -- Connecticut, 3:30 P.M.
Oct. 5 -- Eastern Michigan, Noon (ESPN Regional)
Oct. 12 -- at Western Michigan, 2 p.m.
Oct. 19 -- Massachusetts, 3:30 p.m. (TW Cable SportsChannel)
Oct. 26 -- at Kent State, TBD
Nov. 5 -- Ohio, 8 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPNU)
Nov. 12 -- at Toledo, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU/ESPN3)
Nov. 19 -- at Miami, 8 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPNU)
Nov. 29 -- Bowling Green, TBD (ESPNU/ESPN3)
In a nutshell: This is the time for Buffalo. The pieces are in place. The defense is among the MAC's two or three best. The offense has the tools, talent and experience to move beyond the last three seasons of middling results, even if the Bulls will be reliant on a young quarterback like Licata and a revamped right side of the line. In all, Quinn has bolstered Buffalo's personnel where it counts, along the offensive line and the defensive front seven; the Bulls have enough depth to survive an eight-game MAC schedule – even if one must admit that the Bulls, talent-wise, don't quite match up with the league's elite upper crust.
One step at a time. After slowly building to this point over Quinn's first three seasons, Buffalo shouldn't expect a burst to eight or nine wins. Instead, let's take it a step at a time: Buffalo should win six or seven games during the regular season and return to the postseason after a five-year absence, building a bridge to continued success over the duration of Quinn's new contract. So how do the Bulls get to six wins? By harassing quarterbacks, forcing turnovers and punching back between the tackles on defense. Offensively, the Bulls need to be smooth and patient with Licata, balancing out his bouts with youthful inconsistency with a powerful running game. It's a simple formula that should yield solid results. The Bulls should expect six wins and bowl eligibility. Now that's a change.