Buffalo (3-2) at Western Michigan (0-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 2:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Waldo Stadium (30,200) -- Kalamazoo, Michigan. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: UB 3-0, WMU 0-2. Away Record: UB 0-2, WMU 0-4. Neutral Record: UB 0-0, WMU 0-0. Conference Record: UB 1-0, WMU 0-2. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 5-1.
GAME NOTES: The red hot Buffalo Bulls will try to maintain their momentum as they hit the road to square off with the Western Michigan Broncos in a Mid- American Conference bout at Waldo Stadium.
The Bulls began their conference season with an impressive, 42-14, victory over Eastern Michigan in upstate New York last week. The win was the third in a row for coach Jeff Quinn's squad, which will be looking to start 2-0 in MAC play for the first time since joining the league in 1999. All three of Buffalo's victories came at home after it suffered setbacks at Ohio State (40-20) and Baylor (70-13) to kick off the campaign. The Bulls have clearly moved on from the lopsided losses as they have outscored their last two opponents, 83-26.
While Buffalo is on the rise, WMU is winless and 0-2 in conference play thanks to its 47-20 loss to Toledo in week six. P.J. Fleck is the youngest head coach in the FBS at 32 years of age. His Broncos have been outscored by an average of 27 points per game in their five games against FBS schools. They also suffered a 27-23 loss to FCS foe Nicholls at home in their only non-conference game against a school not from the Big Ten. WMU has been defeated eight times in a row dating back to last season, including four straight losses at Waldo Stadium.
The Broncos' current losing slide began with a 29-24 loss at Buffalo last November. WMU still owns a 5-1 all-time series lead in its brief rivalry with the Bulls.
Buffalo is going to be a hard team to beat if Branden Oliver stays healthy the rest of the way. The senior halfback racked up a season-best 150 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries last week in only three quarters of action versus EMU. Oliver has amassed 345 yards in four games, netting 4.0 yards per rush. The Bulls also have a rising star at quarterback in sophomore Joe Licata, who has gone 6-3 as a starter since earning the job late in 2012. Licata completed 15-of-22 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing) in his last outing versus the Eagles. Alex Neutz finished the contest with four receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown, giving him a receiving score in every game this season. Oliver's backup, Devin Campbell, accounted for two touchdowns (one rushing, one kick return) and racked up 160 all-purpose yards.
The Bulls have turned things around on the defensive side of the ball since being lit up for 110 points by two of the top offenses in the FBS. UB limited Stony Brook to 23 points in a thriller that lasted five overtimes to notch its first win of the season and surrendered only 12 points to UConn its next time out. EMU produced only 329 yards of total offense versus the Bulls last week and half of their points came courtesy of a 75-yard touchdown run. Senior linebacker Khalil Mack is in pursuit of the NCAA career records for both forced fumbles and tackles for loss. He now has 11 forced fumbles, three shy of the record, and he is 12.5 tackles for loss behind former WMU star Jason Babin's FBS standard of 75 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Mack could gain some ground this week against WMU's offense, which was stopped for loss seven times and fumbled twice last week at Toledo. The Broncos tallied only 360 yards of total offense while allowing the Rockets to amass 528 total yards, including 360 on the ground. They were held to only seven points through the first 45 minutes of play as their offense was bottled up by the Rockets' defense. Tyler Van Tubbergen continued to struggle, finishing with nine completions on 19 pass attempts for 104 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The senior signal caller is connecting on only 44.9 percent of his throws and has been picked off 10 times already.
Van Tubbergen's poor play prompted Fleck to give redshirt freshman Zach Terrell a chance under center at Toledo. Terrell hit on 10-of-13 pass attempts for 184 yards with one interception. Freshman wideout Corey Davis led the Broncos in receiving with five catches and 77 yards. Dareyon Chance filled in for the injured Brian Fields nicely with 80 yards and a touchdown on 25 rushes. Neither halfback has been particularly effective this season which has translated into a mere 116.2 yards per game for WMU via the ground attack.
The Broncos are also one of the worst nationally against the run with just over 270 rushing yards allowed per game. Although it did have a difficult non- conference schedule that included road games at Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa, WMU has been torched for 980 total yards in its two league games. The trio of Kyle Lark (52), Justin Currie (50) and Mike Jones (49) have kept busy this season and all rank in the top 12 among MAC players in tackles.
UB put itself in a three-team race with Bowling Green and Ohio for the East Division crown with its rout of EMU last week. The Bulls cannot afford to fail against one of the MAC's weaker programs with tough matchups against Kent State, Ohio, Toledo and Bowling Green still left on the schedule. Fleck is clearly going to need time to rebuild WMU's lineup that is lacking in talent and leadership. Oliver has a great chance of breaking his personal single-game record of 238 rushing yards if the Broncos continue to struggle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 40, Western Michigan 17
10/09 10:36:05 ET