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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UB Stadium (29,013) -- Buffalo, New York. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: EMU 1-1, UB 0-0. Away Record: EMU 0-2, UB 0-0. Neutral Record: EMU 0-0, UB 0-0. Conference Record: EMU 1-0, UB 0-0. Series Record: Eastern Michigan leads, 5-0.
GAME NOTES: The Buffalo Bulls hope to pick up their first victory in history over Eastern Michigan as they host the Eagles for the Mid-American Conference opener at UB Stadium.
Ron English's Eagles had a bye week after suffering a 51-20 setback to Ball State in their first MAC game of the season. The loss was the third in a row for EMU, which lost road games at Penn State (45-7) and Rutgers (28-10) after its season opening victory over FCS Howard. The Eagles are still just one win shy of their total from a season ago. Now in his fifth year with the program, coach Ron English has compiled an 11-41 record.
Buffalo improved to 2-2 with a 41-12 rout of Connecticut last week which marked the fourth-straight win at home for the program, which is its longest since joining the FBS in 1999. The Bulls began their season with back-to-back road losses to Ohio State (40-20) and Baylor (70-13) before a 26-23 victory over Stony Brook in a contest that needed five overtimes to be decided. Now in his fourth year with the program, Jeff Quinn is 11-29 at the Bulls' head coach.
The Bulls have lost all five of their previous meetings with EMU, making the Eagles one of two MAC teams they have never defeated. EMU downed Buffalo, 30-17, in Ypsilanti in the most recent encounter on Nov. 12, 2011.
EMU's offense has not been efficient since facing Howard in week one. It out- gained Rutgers, 373 to 274, and amassed 416 total yards last week versus Ball State, but lost both games by lopsided margins. In their MAC opener, the Eagles failed to convert the high output into points because of nine penalties for 81 yards and four turnovers. Tyler Benz went 20-of-32 for 212 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. The senior signal caller has been serviceable in 2013 en route to 872 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions on 80- of-124 passing efficiency. EMU has yet to have any of its wide receivers emerge as a go-to-guy. Tight end Tyreese Russell is the Eagles' top pass catcher with 230 yards on 23 receptions.
In the running game Bronson Hill is a workhorse, but his success this season is nothing compared to his 2012 campaign. The junior gained 910 yards on just 140 carries, including a 283-yard outing against Toledo last season. Hill registered a game-high 126 rushing yards on 21 attempts in the setback to BSU. He has 295 yards on 75 carries through four games.
The Eagles have limited their last three opponents to a 23.3 percent conversion rate on third downs. Unfortunately, they are still 11th out of 13 MAC schools in scoring defense (37.0 ppg) and rank eighth in total defense (443.8 ypg). EMU was destroyed in its last appearance as the Cardinals racked up 543 yards of total offense and 51 points. Senior Mycal Swaim is the anchor of the defense with 29 total tackles and an interception.
EMU will have to slow down one of the conference's rising stars in Bulls' quarterback Joe Licata. The sophomore pocket passer earned the starting job late in his rookie year and led the team to three wins in four outings. Licata completed 10-of-19 attempt versus UConn for 177 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Alex Neutz is one of the top wideouts in the MAC once again. He has already reeled in 27 catches for 414 yards and four touchdowns, including a career-best 197 yards receiving on only six grabs at Baylor.
The Bulls have had to rotate different players at the tailback position in recent weeks. Anthone Taylor rushed for a career-high 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winner in the fifth extra session, to propel the Bulls past the Seawolves in their home opener. He started in place of Branden Oliver, who returned last week to pace Buffalo on the ground with 90 yards and a score on 23 attempts.
Buffalo's allowed average of 36.2 points per game has it ranked ninth in the MAC in scoring defense, which is not bad considering it played two of the top offenses in the nation. The Bulls showed they are capable of completing halting an opposing attack last week versus the Huskies, who finished 220 total yards, with only 27 coming in the second half. The UB defense registered five sacks and three interceptions. Senior linebacker Khalil Mack is in pursuit a pair of career NCAA records, forced fumbles and tackles for loss. He now has 11 forced fumbles, three shy of the record, and he is 13 tackles for loss behind the NCAA record holder in the category.
Senior safety Adam Redden was named the East Division's Defensive Player of the Week for his work against the Huskies. Redden had five tackles, two sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the game.
The Bulls have been impressive in recent weeks on both sides of the ball. They should have no trouble moving the ball down the field against EMU's shoddy defense. Benz will have trouble against the revived Bulls' defense, which should thrive against EMU's undersized offensive line. A win will make Buffalo 3-2, which would be its best start of its FBS era.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 31, Eastern Michigan 17
10/02 10:33:19 ET