Buffalo Game Prep Part 1

The Bears welcome a team that they have seen quite often the past decade, especially for one that is over 1,400 miles away. The Buffalo Bulls are coming to town. Or should we say the State University of New York Buffalo Bulls.

vs.
23/RV BAYLOR (1-0) vs. NR/NR BUFFALO (0-1)
Sept. 7, 2013 | 2:30 p.m. CT
Waco, Texas | Floyd Casey Stadium (50,000)

TV: FSN
Listen | Gametracker | Notes | Tickets | SportStream | Gameday Central
*Courtesy of BaylorBears.com

The University of Buffalo is coming to Waco, TX again. Or should I say State University of New York in Buffalo as their jersey's say? I understand playing up the New York thing, but why oh why like this???

But back on point, this is the third time the Bears and Bulls have faced off since 2007. Kind of weird to be developing a series like this with a team that far away, but here we are. The Bulls are in their 4th year under Coach Jeff Quinn, who took over for Turner Gill who we all remember from his lackluster "rebuilding" of Kansas. Quinn's team have gotten better each year record wise first notching 2 wins, then growing that to 3 and 4 wins the past two years. In year #4, Quinn wants to get bowl eligible, but with a very difficult non-conference schedule, he is already behind the 8-ball.

Last week, the Bulls traveled to Columbus, OH to play second ranked Ohio State. The Bulls fell to the Buckeyes 40-20 in a game that saw them fall behind 23-0 in a blink of an eye, but come back and hang around valiantly and get to within 10 points twice in the 3rd quarter. It was an impressive job, despite losing the game by 20.

Analytical Breakdown:

As a reminder, in this section, we will take a look at some of the advanced stats available to us. For the early part of the year, including this game, we will have to use 2012 data, as there just isn't enough this year to make any logical conclusions. Here is how the Bears and Bulls stack up in terms of their end of year rankings:

Baylor '12

Buffalo '12

FEI Rank

18

91

F/+ Rank

30

92

S&P+ Rank

33

89

GE Rank

38

96

Average

29.75

92

The Bears were the better team in 2012, as their records would clearly indicate. Buffalo finished at just 4-8 overall with a 3-5 record in the MAC. Baylor went 8-5, with a 4-5 record in the Big 12. Baylor had a better record against a much tougher schedule in comparison to a rebuilding Buffalo squad. So, what did the Bulls struggle with in 2012?

2012

Baylor O Rank

Buffalo D Rank

Advantage

FEI

1

61

Baylor

F/+

3

65

Baylor

S&P+

11

72

Baylor

Rush S&P+

12

64

Baylor

Pass S&P+

12

65

Baylor

Standard Downs S&P+

20

61

Baylor

Passing Downs S&P+

5

57

Baylor

Average

9.14

63.57

Baylor

2012

Baylor D Rank

Buffalo O Rank

Advantage

FEI

85

110

Baylor

F/+

79

108

Baylor

S&P+

60

102

Baylor

Rush S&P+

71

89

Baylor

Pass S&P+

77

109

Baylor

Standard Downs S&P+

69

97

Baylor

Passing Downs S&P+

90

114

Baylor

Average

75.86

104.14

Baylor

TOTAL

42.50

83.86

Baylor

They were slightly below average defensively, but their offense is what really held them back. In 2012, they averaged just 357 yards per game (94th in country) and 18.1 points per game from their offense (115th). Their offense was pitiful at times, scoring under 10 points on four separate occasions. In fact, they only scored more than Baylor's scoring average on the year (44.2) once, and it was against Morgan State, a smaller FCS program. Even their 20 points against Ohio State are inflated, with 6 of those coming courtesy of a defensive touchdown (which we will get to).

So, we know what they did last year, but what about this year? They returned their starting quarterback at the end of the year, and their leading rusher as well. They return 9 starters on offense, and 8 on defense, so they should be better than last year. But how much better is the question.

Players to Watch:

First and foremost, the Bulls have a special linebacker, as good as any defender we will see in the Big 12. His name is Khalil Mack and he is a beast. You don't believe me? Watch this.

Yes, that is Mack. Oh, and he is happening to make an incredibly athletic interception and then happens to outrun the opposition's offense on his way to diving into the endzone. Wait, is that Ohio State? And isn't that Heisman candidate Braxton Miller, one of the fastest quarterbacks playing right now? Did Mack just outrun Braxton Miller and Dontre Wilson a freshman running back from DeSoto, TX who is listed as a four-star recruit in 2013 who has a 4.4 forty time?!?! So you are telling me he is good. Yes, yes I am. Mack finished the game against Ohio State with 9 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and that monster interception and touchdown.

Quarterback Joe Licata is their main man under center, and after starting 4 games last year, has earned the trust of the staff and won the job this year. He had 3 of their four wins after he got the starting job due to injury. Last year, he played pretty well, throwing 7 touchdowns versus only 3 interceptions with 116 yards per game through the air. Against Ohio State he was 19-32, 185 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Not bad against a Top 5 team.

Their main offensive weapon though is Branden Oliver, 5-8 bowling ball of a rusher. He is a shorter running back that does a great job of hiding behind the offensive line and shooting out of the open gaps. In 2012, he struggled with injuries playing in only 8 games. He still ended up with 821 rushing yards though. Against Ohio State, he had 73 yards on 26 carries as the Buckeyes really focused on him.

The Bulls like to run Oliver out of the pistol set quite a bit, which allows him to get up more speed when he needs to. He is very capable inside the tackles as well as outside, but seems to be better suited for the tougher yards.

Another key offensive player is Alex Neutz, a senior wide receiver who led them with 9 catches for 98 yards and a touchdown against Ohio State. He was very effective against the Buckeyes and will be a much more difficult test for the Baylor cornerbacks than what they saw last week. Neutz was the Buffalo leading receiver in 2012, gaining over 1000 yards on 65 catches while adding 11 touchdowns.

What do the Bulls want to do?

I think it is fair to say that expectations for what Buffalo could do in their first two games of the season are quite realistic. They fought hard and were down by 10 points twice in the second and third quarters, and played hard throughout the opener against second ranked Ohio State. They know that the Bears will have an even better offense to stop, but they are probably hoping that their offense will be able to move the ball a bit better against the Bears.

Defensively, they play a 3-4 defense with 4 defensive backs. At times though, it looks more like a 3-3-5 with one of the linebackers playing an almost 3rd safety position. Mack currently occupies that role, and at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, he is built much more like a safety than a linebacker. Compare him to Sam Holl, the Bears nickel back who is 210 pounds. You can expect Redden to lineup over the inside receiver on the strong side of the field with safety help over the top in case he gets matched up with a speedier receiver. They will blitz him also, along with Mack from the other side.

Offensively, they run a no-huddle spread attack. They do quite a bit of shot-gun and pistol formations. They didn't appear to do much motion against Ohio State, though they did more of that last year. They ran the ball 56% of the time last year, and more than likely with their top running back healthy again, we can expect them to do at least that much. They will want to get Oliver the ball on first down, second down and third down. Neutz has good size, and is a threat in the redzone. At 6-foot-3, he has good height and can go get the ball when he needs to.


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