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Season-opening road tilts at Ohio State and Baylor and a string of mid-week conference games broadcast by ESPN highlight the 2013 University at Buffalo football schedule released Friday by the Mid-American Conference office.

The overall schedule strikes a better balance than the 2012 slate that saw the Bulls play an exceedingly demanding stretch of games the first half of the campaign.

The season begins with four non-conference games: Ohio State (Aug. 31) and Baylor (Sept. 7) followed by home contests against FBS Stony Brook (Sept. 14) and UConn (Sept. 28).

UB’s MAC schedule begins with divisional crossovers against Eastern Michigan (home) and Western Michigan (road) before the Oct. 19 divisional opener against visiting UMass.

An Oct. 26 visit to Kent State, the defending MAC East champion, marks UB’s final Saturday game of the season.

The first of three straight Tuesday starts has Ohio paying a visit to UB Stadium for a Nov. 5 game that will be carried on either ESPNU or ESPN2. Either ESPNU or ESPN3 will pick up UB’s Nov. 12 crossover game at Toledo.

The final two games could end up on ESPNU, ESPN2 or ESPN3. UB’s at Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 19 and finishes the season at home against Bowling Green on Friday, Nov. 29.

What’s different about the schedule? For one, instead of playing West Division champ and Orange Bowl participant Northern Illinois the Bulls have seen the Huskies replaced by Eastern Michigan (2-10, 1-7).

The Bulls also found relief in the scheduling within the division. The East opener against UMass (1-11, 1-7) means that, theoretically, UB has a chance to build some momentum before getting into the meat of the division.

The Bulls return a strong nucleus on both offense and defense from the team that went 4-8 overall last year and 3-5 in the MAC while winning three of the last four games. The returning senior cast includes NFL prospects such as linebacker Khalil Mack, running back Branden Oliver and wideout Alex Neutz.

This will be the second straight season UB opens against a team ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason poll. Ohio State is expected to start the season no worse than third and possibly No. 1. Last year the Bulls opened at No. 6 Georgia.

It’s expected UB will play a less taxing non-conference schedule moving forward, as the program places less of an emphasis on financial gain while courting competitive balance. UB’s non-conference opponents in 2014 include Baylor, Army and Norfolk State.

email: bdicesare@buffnews.com