Each week, Voice of Bulls Football Paul Peck will preview the upcoming game.
Buffalo (1-, 0-3 MAC) vs. Akron (5-3, 3-1 MAC)
Are you ready for #MACtion? It's here, and the Bulls & Zips will kick it off Thursday. The Mid-American Conference's brilliant marketing idea is great for exposure and otherwise unavailable national TV exposure. But it also presents some challenges for football coaches. Especially this year. Normally, when a team like UB plays a mid-week game, they get a whole week off and play on at least 10-12 day's rest. But this year, the Bulls & Zips (along with Ohio & Toledo) are all playing on short weeks after playing Saturday. It means less rest and recovery for the players, and a challenge for the coaches.
"It's a short week, you're trying to combine some days and keep your players fresh," said UB Head Coach Lance Leipold, "of course, as a coaching staff you're trying to get the game plan together….it's made us burn the midnight oil the first couple of days of the week."
The Bulls only practiced twice this week, and did it without pads to keep the players fresh. One other challenge for midweek football is the class schedule. NCAA rules require the home team players to attend classes up to noon on game day. Road teams, because of the travel, don't have that requirement and can have the entire day for meetings.
Bull Session Trivia: The Bulls single game FBS record for receptions in a game is 13. Second on the list is a 12-catch game. Next is an 11 catch game. All were set against Akron. Who holds those top three spots in UB's receiving record book?
Bullseye on: Buffalo Offense
Jordan Johnson had one of his better games last week at NIU. He averaged 7.5 yards per carry, as part of a 13 carry, 97 yard game. He wound up just three yards shy of his fifth career 100 yard game. His first 100 yard game came against Akron in 2014. Johnson is currently 10th in the MAC in rushing…We saw more of the wide receiving corp against the Huskies. Some of that was due to more four-receiver formations. Lance Leipold also acknowledged that some of it is a search for more consistency at the position. Jacob Martinez started and had one catch. Jamarl Eiland tied a career high with four catches. K.J. Osborn also had a catch…Tyree Jackson completed passes to nine different receivers against Northern Illinois…The Bulls ran more shallow crossing routes last week. But the trade-off for that was obvious when the receivers didn't catch the ball. Shallow crossing routes that are tipped almost always end up being interceptions, as two of them were against NIU…Another trouble spot popped up in the game. The Bulls were 1/12 on third down, and now are converting 35% on the season. That's 9th in the MAC…Akron's defense was #1 overall in the MAC last year. But graduation losses have stripped away many of those key players. Through 8 games, the Zips D is ranked 11th. They have struggled to stop the run, allowing a 100 yard rusher in five of their eight games. In the last two games, against Western Michigan & Ball State, the Zips have allowed 634 yards rushing…Akron's defense features five Power 5 transfer as starters or backups…The best player on their defense is linebacker Ulysees Gilbert. His 94 tackles are second in the MAC. Gilbert is coming off a 17 tackle game against Ball State. He is tied for the team lead with two sacks…Lately, freshman safety Alvin Davis has emerged as a key Zip defender. He had 15 tackles against Ball State…The Zips defensive coordinator is veteran coach and former North Carolina State head coach Chuck Amato.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Defense
For the first time this season, the Bulls defense will face a true passing team. The Zips average 33 pass attempts a game, and they rank 4th in the MAC in passing yards. UB's defense has faced 376 rushing attempts, the 4th most in the NCAA. That's part of the reason why the Bulls rank near the bottom in stopping the run. The Bulls pass defense is 4th in the nation, and will face their toughest test….The Bulls may have to stop the pass without cornerback Boise Ross. He is questionable after hurting his knee against NIU…Akron quarterback Thomas Woodson has been outstanding this season. Despite missing three games with a shoulder injury, he is the MAC's #2 passer. Woodson has thrown for 300 yards in four of his five starts. He tossed for 407 yards and six touchdowns against VMI. The Zips are averaging 39 points in his five starts…Last season, Woodson ran for 600 yards. This year, he has only run 26 times for 25 yards. That may be a relief to the Bulls defenders, who have struggled to stop running QB's this season…Woodson has lot of pass-catching weapons. JoJo Natson, a Utah State transfer, is the MAC's 5th leading receiver. Jerome Lane, who had 2 scores vs. UB last year, is the MAC's 7th leading receiver. Both had 90 yards in last week's win over Ball State. So did third receiver Austin Wolf…The Zips don't throw much to their tight ends, but they hand the ball off to one of them. Mykel Traylor-Bennett has run the ball 19 times, and scored four touchdowns…Akron stared the season with Ohio State transfer Warren Ball as their starting running back. But he's been out with a broken leg. Ball actually had two carries for the Buckeyes against UB in 2013, the Khalil Mack Game…They have turned to Van Edwards and Manny Morgan. Both have had a 100 yard game. Edwards topped that last week, with 112 vs. Ball State.
Bullseye on: Zip-Tied in Buffalo
Only twice have the Bulls scored 50 points in a MAC game. Both came against Akron, and both came at UB Stadium. Actually, they came in the last two times that Akron made the trip to WNY. In 2014, UB won 55-24. Joe Licata threw 4 touchdown passes, while Anthone Taylor & Jordan Johnson both went over 100 yards. Johnson even threw a touchdown pass.
In 2011, it was a Bulls 51-10 victory. Branden Oliver ran for 235 yards, Chazz Anderson threw two touchdown passes to Fred Lee and Khalil Mack had two sacks.
Akron hasn't won in Buffalo since 2005.
Bull Session Trivia Answer: The FBS record for catches in a game belongs to James Starks, who had 13 against Akron in 2008. Naaman Roosevelt had an 11 catch game against the Zips in 2009. Ron Willoughby pulled in 11 footballs vs. Akron last year, 2015.
Please join me, color analyst Jim Kubiak, sideline reporter Scott Wilson, game host Brad Riter and postgame host Bob Gaughan for the broadcast on the Bulls Football Network. Our pregame show starts at 6:30pm. You can hear it in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 (www.espn1520.com). A link to the online broadcast is also available at http://www.ubbulls.com/video/test-live2.