Buffalo (2-2) vs. Kent State (1-3)
It is the natural page-turning, next chapter moment for any Mid-American Conference team. For the Bulls, it happens Saturday with the start of conference play against Kent State. But it's different this season. For the first time since 2013, UB enters MAC play on a winning streak. The victories over Colgate and FAU have given the team momentum, belief and confidence as they square-off against teams that play at their level, talent-wise. A 2-2 record is always a good goal to finish non-conference play, because it sets you up to finish at least .500 in conference and be in position to compete for a division title and a bowl game. That's where the Bulls are right now, although their goals are much higher than that.
Bull Session Trivia: Kent State currently has three very prominent alums in the NFL. One is a defending Super Bowl champion, one a record-setting tight end, and the other is playing his 15th season. Can you name these three famous Flashes?
Bullseye on: Buffalo Offense
Tyree Jackson's status for Saturday will be a game-time decision, which is good news based on how bad the injury looked and how emotional Tyree was on the sidelines. So there's a chance that Drew Anderson will make his first college start. It sure looks like he's ready. Starting the second half against FAU in his first real action, the California native began 6/6 and looked calm and cool. His touchdown pass to Anthony Johnson, the first of Anderson's career, was a great throw and the play of the game. Anderson was a three-sport star in high school, who walked-on at San Diego State for a year, and then threw 33 touchdown passes during his season in junior college…When asked if the offense will change if Anderson plays, Bulls head coach Lance Leipold said no, the "offense is the offense"…Emmanuel Reed made his first start at running back, and turned in his second straight 100 yard game. That's 227 yards in the last two games…Theo Anderson filled in for Johnathan Hawkins, and showed the position is stacked with talent as always. Anderson ran hard, and displayed that he'll use his 220 pounds to be physical…In the last two games, TE Tyler Mabry has 58 and 28 yard catches…In the last two games, WR K.J. Osborn has 25 and 24 yard gains…The Bulls offense has scored on their first drive three games in a row. They are outscoring opponents in the first quarter 44-31…Kent State's defense has allowed a lot of yards and points. That may have to do with playing Clemson and Louisville, plus an offense that is struggling to score and control the ball...The Golden Flashes always have good players on defense, and this year is no different. No matter what the stats say. CB Demetrius Monday leads the nation with four interceptions. Fellow CB Jerrell Foster was 2nd Team All-MAC in 2016. KSU has 8 takeaways this season, and they're +2 in the turnover margin. That's unusual for a team with a losing record that's allowing 37 points and 500 yards per game…Red zone defense has been a problem for the Flashes. Opponents have been inside the 20-yard line 15 times, with 14 scores and 13 touchdowns.
Bullseye on: Buffalo Defense
The UB defense is number one in the country against the pass. They are allowing only 115.5 yards passing per game, with only one TD pass and just four passing plays of more than 20 yards…Tatum Slack and Brandon Williams were outstanding filling in for Cam Lewis. Slack had three passes defended along with six tackles. He's tied for #1 in the MAC in pass breakups…Williams had eight tackles against FAU…Khalil Hodge was back in double-digits with 16 tackles. He's 2nd in the NCAA and 1st in the MAC with 13 tackles per game…The Bulls have faced 100 more runs than passes this season…The defense really picked up the Bulls and set the second-half tone for the win over FAU. The three-and-out they forced on the first drive of the second half was a huge momentum swing in the Buffalo win…Kent State's offense has struggled this season. Losing their starting quarterback is a big reason why. Nick Holley, who masterfully ran the Flashes triple-option, hurt his knee two games ago and he's out for the season. George Bollas, a junior, started last week. Freshman Dustin Crum has seen more snaps, and could start. If he does, he'll be Kent State's third starting QB of the season, and the 7th starting QB in the last two years…Mostly based on the offense style and high-level opponents, they have completed just 18 of their 43 passes…An even more disturbing stat about Kent State's offense is this: they have 20 three-and-outs on their 50 offensive possessions. That's 40% of all their drives have ended without a first down…Based on all of that, no one has any real impressive offensive stats. But Kent State does have very talented players. RB Justin Rankin is their top back and leading receiver. Freshman RB Kesean Gamble has emerged as their leading touchdown scorer. They have speed at receiver…Watch for the jet sweep wide receiver runs. The wideouts have 15 runs in the first four games.
Bullseye on: Special Teams
Sometimes we ignore the third unit of the team. This is a good week not to do that. Bulls kicker Adam Mitcheson was the MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week after drilling two big field goals against FAU. Mitcheson has hit five field goals in a row.
The recovery of the onside kick was a huge play in the win. Redshirt freshman Tito Overton was the guy who tipped the ball to himself and fell on it. That was Overton's first game as a Bull, and the first time he touched the ball.
Bull Session Trivia Answer: Kent State's famous NFL alumni include injured Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, NFL alltime leading tight end touchdown scorer Antonio Gates and Steelers veteran linebacker James Harrison.
Please join me, color analyst Scott Wilson, game host Brad Riter and postgame host Bob Gaughan for the broadcast on the Bulls Football Network. Our pregame show starts at 2:30pm. You can hear it in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 and in Rochester on Fox Sports 1280. A link to the online broadcast is also available here and on the Tune In app.