Coming off a 30-19 home loss to Navy, they're favored by a field goal-and-change on Saturday against Buffalo, which won twice a year ago. The Owls won once. It's the first time in 47 months that the folks who allegedly know about these things think the Owls should be the team giving the points.
One of Buffalo's 2006 wins was 9-3, in overtime, up there against Temple in the opener. The Owls were 1-5 against MAC opponents last season, 0-4 in 2005. But the count officially begins anew at 0-0.
"It's obviously not only a MAC game, but an East Division game," said second-year coach Al Golden. "So it takes on added significance, in terms of how you finish. Ultimately, you want the chance to play on Dec. 1 [in the conference-title game]. It's basically a six-game playoff and it starts [Saturday]."
Actually, the Owls play eight games that factor into the standings, with crossover matchups against Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. But the point is, this one means something extra. It won't be the last.
"We're trying to make our guys understand, we're the new kids on the block," Golden continued. "Everybody else in the league understands that.
"The landscape has changed, dramatically. We were just trying to survive, hang on, in the midst of a transition between [affiliations]. Now, we have something to really play for.
Each MAC game, he noted, "takes on added value, as you go along."
"I expect us to have considerable improvement, from Game 1 to Game 2. I just hope [the kids] aren't listening to everyone telling them what a good game they had [vs. Navy]. I've been hearing it. I appreciate it. I understand what people are saying. I'm not used to it. I'm really not. I fully expected to win. So I was [ticked]." *