Buffalo boasts the winningest football program in the Mid-American Conference over the past four years, claiming two East division titles but no outright championships among its 30 overall and 21 league victories.
Regarded as title contenders but not favorites under new coach Maurice Linguist, the Bulls (2-2) return to MAC action Saturday (noon, CBSSN, 1520 AM) against Western Michigan (3-1) at UB Stadium, where spectators will be required to show proof of vaccination for entry.
UB meets Western Michigan for the first time since 2017, when they combined to set NCAA records in a seven-overtime shootout the Broncos won 71-68. The Bulls have since won 10 of 12 home games against MAC opponents.
Western Michigan is favored by almost a touchdown following an impressive non-conference performance that included a 44-41 win at Pitt and last week's 23-3 defeat of San Jose State.
UB hung on for a 35-34 win at Old Dominion following a 28-25 home loss against No. 16 Coastal Carolina, a 28-3 defeat at Nebraska and a 69-7 opening blowout of FCS Wagner.
The Bulls recognize the schedule shifts in this phase of the season, Linguist said, but their focus remains consistent facing foes in and out of conference.
“You make your team aware that obviously when you get to playing MAC opponents, that's it's going to be reflective of your overall conference record leading up to what the championship game could look like,” Linguist said.
“In terms of your approach,” he continued, “there is no new emphasis that we are making now that we didn’t make back in August or training camp. Other than that we want to put ourselves in position ultimately to get to Detroit,” for the MAC title game.
UB ran the table against five MAC opponents last year before losing to Ball State in the conference championship game. Western Michigan followed four wins with a pair of losses, including the finale against Ball State that decided the West division.
Broncos quarterback Kaley Eleby leads the MAC with 902 passing yards and seven touchdowns without an interception.
UB’s pass defense should be aided by the return of sack leader Taylor Riggins. After recording four sacks through the first three games, Riggins was held out last week at Old Dominion. He missed all of last season due to a lower-body injury after an All-MAC campaign in 2019.
Those attending the homecoming game at UB Stadium will need to show proof of having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, along with photo identification. Children under 12 will be admitted but required to wear a mask at all times. Vaccinated spectators are encouraged to wear masks indoors.
UB officials are encouraging fans to arrive early to allow extra time for entry. Vaccination verification checkpoints will be set up along Aubspurger Road at both the north and south ends of the stadium.
“We hope that this will be a fairly quick process and we don’t get too much congestion coming in,” said Eric Gross, deputy director of athletics for external operations. “But we always encourage fans to come early and enjoy the pre-game pageantry.”