MAC Championship Football

Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson (26) runs into the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of the Mid-American Conference championship NCAA college football game against Northern Illinois, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

BUFFALO BULLS

COACH: Lance Leipold, 23-27, entering fifth season at Buffalo

2018 RECORD: 10-4, 7-1 MAC

POSTSEASON: lost to Troy 42-32 in the Dollar General Bowl

» A LOOK BACK

The Bulls took off in Lance Leipold’s third season at the helm by reaching the 10-win mark, playing in the MAC championship game and going to the Dollar General Bowl.

The offense was one of the nation’s best with MAC offensive player of the year Tyree Jackson leading the way at quarterback. He was able to thrive with a pair of running backs being able to churn out yards a plenty in Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks. Patterson was the conference’s freshman of the year thanks to nearly rushing for 1,000 yards and 14 scores. Jackson also had two reliable outside targets in Anthony Johnson and K.J. Osborn, and tight end Tyler Mabry was a threat over the middle.

The defense also thrived with Khalil Hodge leading the way at linebacker. The unit finished in the top 62 in all four major categories, but surrendered 30 points in the MAC title game and 42 in the Dollar General Bowl.

» LOOKING AHEAD

Jackson’s graduation means Leipold and his staff must identify a quarterback to lead the offense. Though, with Patterson and Marks returning plus four starting offensive linemen back, whoever gets the job will have the ability to be eased into action.

However, all the weapons aren’t back. Osborn (Miami) and Mabry (Maryland) both transferred to the ACC, leaving the panty somewhat empty in outside receiver depth. The staff is hoping Charlie Jones and Antonio Nunn can take a step forward in their development after getting limited looks in the offense.

The defense only returns two starters, but has plenty of young depth up front. That unit, which does have limited starting experience, will need to anchor the team while the back end figures out its rotation. James Patterson is expected to highlight the linebacker corps, while Joey Banks is back after getting some substantial playing time at strong safety last season.

» WHO’S BACK?

• SKILL PLAYERS

RB Jaret Patterson (174 carries, 978 yards, 5.6 average, 14 TD)

RB Kevin Marks (166 carries, 785 yards, 4.7 average, 11 TD)

WR Charlie Jones (17 catches, 368 yards, 21.6 average, 3 TD)

WR Antonio Nunn (11 catches, 142 yards, 12.9 average, 1 TD)

• OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

LT Evan Ksiezarczyk

LG Paul Nosworthy

RG Jacob Gall

RT Kayode Awosika

• DEFENSIVE LEADERS

LB James Patterson (72 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 FR, 4 FF)

SS Joey Banks (38 tackles, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FF)

• SPECIAL TEAMS

P Evan Finegan (49 punts, 41.2 average, 69 long, 4 TB, 15 FC, 10 I20, 9 50+, 2 blocked)

» WHO’S GONE?

• SKILL PLAYERS

QB Tyree Jackson (204-381 passing, 2,806 yards, 25 TD, 12 INT; 55 carries, 151 yards, 2.9 average, 7 TD)

WR Anthony Johnson (51 catches, 937 yards, 18.4 average, 11 TD)

WR K.J. Osborn (46 catches, 704 yards, 15.3 average, 4 TD)

TE Tyler Mabry (24 catches, 205 yards, 8.5 average, 2 TD)

• OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

C James O’Hagan

• DEFENSIVE LEADERS

LB Khalil Hodge (130 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 4 QBH, 1 FF)

LB Jordan Collier (52 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR)

FS Brandon Williams (58 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)

DE Chuck Harris (37 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 3 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF)

CB Tatum Slack (30 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 2 INT, 4 PBU)

• SPECIAL TEAMS

K Adam Mitcheson (9-14 FG, 46 long, 0 blocked; 46-53 PAT)

» WHOM TO FOLLOW

Rachel Lenzi, The Buffalo News: @rachelmlenzi

Buffalo Football: @UBFootball

» SCHEDULE

Aug. 29: Robert Morris, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7: at Penn State, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14: at Liberty, 6 p.m.

Sept. 21: Temple, TBD

Sept. 28: at Miami (Ohio), TBD

Oct. 5: Ohio, 3:30 p.m.

Oct. 19: at Akron, TBD

Oct. 26: Central Michigan, TBD

Nov. 2: at Eastern Michigan, TBD

Nov. 14: at Kent State, 7 p.m.

Nov. 20: Toledo, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 29: Bowling Green, TBD

» THE SERIES (home team in CAPS)

Liberty leads 1-0

Oct. 24, 1998: LIBERTY 27, Buffalo 24

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Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550. Follow him on Twitter: @DamienSordelett

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