The University at Buffalo football team is on the brink of bowl eligibility but might need to run the table in its two remaining home games to secure a postseason bid.
The Bulls (5-5) host Toledo (6-4) in a nationally-televised (ESPN2) game tonight before wrapping up the regular season against Bowling Green next Friday at UB Stadium.
UB needs one more victory to ensure finishing with a .500 record for the third consecutive season — a feat the program has not achieved since the mid 1980s when it played at the Division III level.
Getting to six wins also would make UB eligible to participate in a bowl game. But as the Bulls learned in 2017, a 6-6 record does not guarantee an invitation.
“It didn’t do anything for us two years ago,” UB coach Lance Leipold said. “So we are going to keep going and trying to do more than that.”
UB was making a strong push toward bowl eligibility and come-from-behind contention to defend its Mid-American Conference East division title with three straight wins by an average of more than 24 points coming out of its bye week.
But the Bulls squandered their MAC title hopes with a fourth quarter collapse last week at Kent State. Allowing a blocked punt, an onside kick recovery, 177 yards and three touchdowns in the final 11 minutes, UB let a 21-point lead turn into a 30-27 loss.
“When the momentum shifted, adversity hit, we did not handle it very well,” Leipold said.
It was the fourth time this season UB lost after leading at halftime.
Leipold said mistakes on offense, defense and special teams contributed to the loss, and if there is one person to blame, “it’s myself. I have to do a better job.”
Sophomore running back Jaret Patterson, who crossed the 1,000-yard threshold for the second straight season at Kent State, told reporters the Bulls “got too comfortable” after taking a three-touchdown lead but that the loss “woke us up” going into the final two regular season games.
UB has won 9 of its last 11 home games and is 3-1 this season with its only loss coming in overtime against Ohio, 21-20.
Toledo was the preseason favorite to win the MAC but has the same record as the Bulls in conference play (3-3) and is two games behind Western Michigan and Central Michigan in the West division standings.
The Rockets are one of four MAC teams that are already bowl-eligible. UB is currently one of two MAC teams at 5-5 and four teams have four victories with two games remaining.
In 2017, five of seven eligible MAC teams received bowl bids. Last year, six of seven eligible teams earned invitations.
Heading into this week’s games, 64 teams are eligible for 78 bowl spots. UB is one of 14 teams that is one win away. Another 27 teams can become bowl eligible by winning their final two games.
“We still have a chance to do some things that haven’t been done here before,” Leipold said. “From the day we arrived here on the job the goal has been to build a program that can win consistently. To be bowl eligible for three consecutive years would say a lot about where we are in that process.”