Each week, Voice of Bulls Football Paul Peck will preview the upcoming game.
Buffalo (2-6, 1-3 MAC) vs. Ohio (6-3, 4-1 MAC)
Death and taxes are givens in life. In the Mid-American Conference, its the Ohio Bobcats at the top of the division. Nothing has changed this year. Once again, the Bobcats are in position for atrip to the MAC Championship. They control their own destiny, and winning out gets them to Detroit. Much like other years, they aren't flashy. They don't have any of the MAC's "star" players. But they play solid, their defense is outstanding, they force turnovers, and they don't make mistakes. Why are the Bobcats always good? Why have they gone to five straight bowls? One answer: Head Coach Frank Solich. In a conference most often known as a stepping stone to bigger jobs, Solich has been in Athens for 12 seasons since his firing at Nebraska. His coordinators have been with him for all 12 years. He is able to build his program with stability. Recruits know they will have to wait their turn to play. He develops great players, then replaces them with the next wave of great players. It's a big advantage for Ohio, and one that many other MAC teams wish they had.Even with all the platitudes for Ohio, the Bulls dominated them last year at Buffalo, winning41-17. The teams have split the last 6 games, with the home team coming out on top.Bull Session
Trivia: Jordan Johnson is 103 yards away from becoming the 7th player in school history to run for 2,000 career yards. Can you name the other six?
Bullseye on: Buffalo Offense Let's start with Jordan Johnson, and his amazing performance against Akron. The J-Train's 282yards broke Branden Oliver's FBS record, and broke the UB all-divisions record set by Alan Bell 25 years ago. Including his 61 & 39 yard touchdowns, Johnson had 10 carries of 10 yards or more. The 282 yards rushing were the most by a MAC player this season, and the 5th most by an NCAA player this year. Johnson's total was 2 yards shy of LSU's Leonard Fournette's day against Ole Miss. Utah's Joe Williams had 332 yards against UCL...By averaging 11.7 yards per carry, he upped his career per carry average to 5.1. That's better than Oliver or James Starks....A lot of the runs came from a two tight end formation, with Mason Schreck and Tyler Mabry providing edge blocks that opened holes for JJ....Of course, the offensive line opened up huge holes on the record-setting day. When starting right guard Tomas Jack-Kurdyla went down at the end of the first half, Skyler Hartley stepped in and was on the field for all of Johnson's 113 fourth quarter yards. It's the first time Hartley has played at guard in his UB career...Tyree Jackson also had two TD runs, including a big 38-yarder off a fake screen in the 4th. Bulls color analyst Jim Kubiak joked that Tyree covered those 38 yards in about seven strides. I don't think that's far from the truth...Even though Jackson only hit seven passes, most were big plays. Marcus McGillhad two huge catches, and Schreck had a 36 yard grab along with his 14 yard touchdown...If Johnson wants to have the first back-to-back 200 yard games since Anthony Taylor in 2014, he'll have to work hard. Ohio's defense is #1 in the MAC against the run, allowing only 116 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry. They have allowed only one 100 yard rusher, and that was Kent State QB Nick Holley. The Bobcats may have the best front seven in the MAC. I believe they do. It starts with relentless players up front, and a super-talented defensive end in Tarell Basham. Defensive tackle Casey Sayles is right up there too. The linebackers are outstanding. Blair Brown, Quentin Poling and Chad Moore have combined for 215 tackles...Basham is second in the MAC with 7.5 sacks. He has 25 in his career...The Bobcats lead the MAC in sacks with 29.21 of those sacks have come from the defensive line...The OU secondary is banged up. Both starting cornerbacks are out. Kylan Nelson made his 2nd start at CB last week (he previously started at safety), and London Miller made his 1st start at CB against Toledo. The Rockets threw for 438 yards....The safeties are very good. Javon Hagan leads the team in interceptions and forced fumbles.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Defense
Let's give the Bulls defense a lot of credit for making Akron QB Thomas Woodson have one of his worst days of the season. They held the MAC's #2 passer to less than 200 yards. While the nation's third-ranked pass defense may partly be a product of facing so many running teams, the Zips wanted to pass and could not. The Bulls contained the dangerous Akron receivers, and did it without three key players. CB Boise Ross did not play, and neither did #3 CB Brandon Williams. Cameron Lewis was outstanding against Zips star Jerome Lane, and Tatum Slack answered the call in his first UB start. Safety Tim Roberts had his second straight interception,and was a force in the middle of the field....The Bulls run defense answered a lot of critics with their best performance of the season. They held Akron to 128 yards on the ground, the second fewest allowed this season. While Woodson was not a running quarterback, the Bulls front four was aggressive and never let Akron establish anything on the ground....DT Chris Ford missed his second straight game, but he was replaced by a group of player including Myles Nicholas. The sophomore from Rochester started, and had a career-high 3 tackles....The challenge in stopping Ohio will once again be on the ground. RB Dorian Brown is also coming off a big game, a 212 yard performance against Toledo. He's had 416 yards in the last three games...By the count of the Ohio coaches, Brown broke 38 tackles in last week's career-high outing...Ohio's success hascome without a consistent quarterback. Greg Windham started the first seven games. Then, he was benched and replaced by Quinton Maxwell, who's started the last two games. But Maxwell struggled against Toledo, missing his first six passes. He was replaced by Windham, who sparked the Bobcats offense. But Windham got hurt, and did not return. He is questionable forthis week's game. Windham is a better runner who's totaled 368 yards on the ground. Maxwell can run (a 25 yard burst last week) but is a better passer....Based on Windham's running abilityand the Bulls struggles to stop running QB's, they may catch a break if Windham doesn'tplay...Maxwell has a great weapon in wideout Sebastian Smith. His 40 catches lead he team, and he ranks 5th in the MAC in receiving yards...Despite the inconsistent QB play against Toledo,the Bobcats still had touchdown passes of 57, 33 & 25 yards....RB/WR Papi White caught the 25yarder. He is a dangerous athlete who will lineup in the backfield, at receiver and in the slot. Look for him to run some jet sweeps, another bugaboo for the UB defense. White was hurt anddid not play against UB last season.
Bullseye on: Matchup of Red-Hot Running Backs
For the first time this season in the MAC, this game will feature a matchup of two running backs coming off 200 yard games. Johnson and Brown are two of the five MAC athletes who have run for over 200 yards in a game. Kent State's Nick Holley, Western Michigan's Jarvion Franklin and Ball State's James Gilbert have also topped the double-century mark. As you might expect,all five players are ranked in the MAC's top ten in rushing. Some quick research shows that a matchup of red-hot backs like this hasn't happened in the MAC in at least three years.
Bull Session Trivia Answer: Here are the six UB players who have run for 2000 career yards: Branden Oliver (4049), James Starks (3140), Anthony Swan (3103), Alan Bell (3022), AnthoneTaylor (2651), O.D. Underwood (2062). Johnson has been teammates of Oliver and Taylor.
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 5:00pm. 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.