Buffalo Game Prep Part 2

In part two of the Buffalo preview, we take a look at how the teams matchup, keys to the game, and the always fun predictions from the BI.com staff.

With the second week of college football upon, the Baylor Bears are hosting the Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference. Buffalo is coming off of a Week 1 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes, 40-20. With a second consecutive week against a ranked team, what can we expect from a Bulls squad that was a bit feistier than most Buckeye faithful expected?

Offense vs. Defense

Baylor O vs. Buffalo D

The strength of the Bulls is their defense. They run a 3-3-5 defense, with one of their safeties acting more like a linebacker in early downs. As a comparison, it is very similar to the position that Sam Holl plays for the Bears. They have 7 senior starters and 4 junior starters. All four of their secondary players, three of their linebackers, and 1 of their lineman are returning starters. But all but one of the other starters had significant playing time. This is a veteran defense that played pretty well in 2012, especially against the pass, where they only allowed 212.2 yards per game (32nd), and 7.2 yards per pass attempt (60th).

They also were one of the better pass rushing teams in college football in 2012, getting 34 sacks, but an even more impressive 7.98% of pass attempts ended with a sack, which was tied for 14th best in the nation. They return their two top pass rushers in Khalil Mack and Colby Way, who got 15 combined sacks. They like to utilize their linebackers to blitz quite a bit, as 19 of their sacks came from their linebacker group. Against Ohio State, they had 4 sacks, 2.5 of which came from the aforementioned Mack and all of them were done by their linebackers.

Baylor D vs. Buffalo O

While the Buffalo defense prides itself on its pass defense, it certainly did not get much practice last year or possibly even this summer and fall against a good passing attack. They averaged just 193 yards per game passing in 2012 (96th) and were even worse with their efficiency, gaining only 6 yards per pass attempt (110th). Compare that to Baylor who gained 9.5 yards per pass attempt, 63% more than Buffalo.

The main culprit was an abysmal completion percentage, just a tick over 50% (50.28%, 6th worst in the nation). They also only had one dependable receiving threat in Alex Neutz, who had almost three times as many receptions as anyone else on the team (63 catches, second had 23) and almost four times the yardage (1015, second had 261 yards). He was also the only receiver with more than 2 touchdowns (11).

While their passing attack is rather meek, they still passed the ball 44% of the time. Their rushing attack was significantly more efficient and effective for the Bulls all year, even without the services of their star running back for 4 games in Branden Oliver. The senior running back has a very good chance to be the all-time leading rusher in Buffalo history with 600 more rushing yards. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry, and led them with 821 yards. He is the focal point of their offense, and has the ability to run inside or outside. He is not a blazer but has good enough speed. He is more of a shifty runner who is hard to pin down one on one.

Fun Stats to Ponder

- Last year, the Bears averaged a single point for every 13 yards they accumulated. Against Wofford, the Bears averaged 10.03 yards per point.

-Buffalo gained a total of 258 yards against Ohio State, or 31 fewer yards than just what the Bears gained on the ground against Wofford (281). Baylor of course added another 411 passing yards.

-Both teams had a defender return an interception for a touchdown, and neither was a defensive back. Baylor defensive end Chris McCallister returned his interception for a 25 yard touchdown, while Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack scampered 45 yards for his touchdown.

-Buffalo allowed 261 yards rushing against Ohio State, for an average of 5.80 yards per rush. Baylor rushed for 281 yards with an average rush of 6.39.

-By far the worst down defensively for the Bulls against the run was 2nd down, where they allowed 147 yards, and a 9.80 yards per rush average. Ohio State went heavy run on first and second down, rushing the ball 22 and 15 times, compared to 9 and 9 times passing the ball.

-However, it was still pretty good to pass the ball on second down as well, with 116 yards through the air and 2 touchdowns. In fact, 57% of the Buckeye yardage total occurred on 2nd down. Compare that to the 116 yards which was 25.5% of their total yards on first down.

Keys to the Game

1. Third down superiority

Against Wofford, the Bears were 6 for 10 in terms of converting third downs. Their average third down distance needed was just 5.47 yards. Buffalo meanwhile struggled mightily to convert 3rd downs, gaining the 1st down yardage just 3 of 14 times. Their average distance needed though was 6.15 yards. However, that is skewed substantially by a 3rd and 20, 14 and 11. If you take those three out, it was just on average 3rd and 3.72 yards. They converted just 3 of those 11 chances though, a below average 27% conversion rate.

The key is to make the Bulls have to pass on 3rd down. It doesn't have to be 3rd and 11. In fact, against Ohio State, they never threw the ball if faced with a 3rd and 6 or fewer. Out of their 5 passes, they completed just 1, and it fell a yard short of converting. Running was slightly better, especially from 3rd and short (which you would expect). However, on third down they averaged just a 2.2 yard gain off of a rush attempt (higher than their 2.09 average for the game though). They were most effective on third and between 4-6 utilizing a draw play, gaining five yards both times and converting 50% of their third downs.

Baylor on the other hand was 3 for 3 on passes on 3rd down against Wofford, gaining 41 yards and converting 66% of them for first downs. Rushing the ball, they averaged 5.29 yards on third down, with their best coming on 3rd and 7-9, where they gained 9 and 8 yards on the two carries they had. Baylor has a much better offense, but one of the biggest gaps is the Bears ability to convert third downs in a multitude of ways and from many distances.

2. Containing Mack

I am going to go out on a limb and say Mack might be the single best defensive player the Bears play in 2013. He is that good. Khalil Mack is a 6-foot-3, 248 pound beast. He is one of the best linebackers over the past three years in getting into the backfield and disrupting the play, totaling 59.5 tackles for loss so far in his career. He had 21 of these in 2012, which would have been 10.5 more than the bears leader Eddie Lackey. He is tied for 9th all-time in career forced fumbles and 12th all-time in tackles for loss.

Mack took over parts of the Ohio State game, displayed perfectly in his interception and uber-athletic return for a touchdown. Art Briles himself has high praise for the senior linebacker, comparing him to top NFL pass rusher Von Miller in terms of size and athletic ability.

Baylor cannot let him wreak havoc on their offense, and need to keep him under 4 tackles of loss, and hopefully no turnovers caused. Mack is one of the best playmaking linebackers in NCAA history, so expect them to double him, which could leave defensive end Colby Way with more room to work.

3. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers

If you read any of our pregame articles last year, you know that turnovers caused were a big point of emphasis in almost every game. The fact is, the Bears are 16-2 under Art Briles when forcing 2+ turnovers. That is a tremendous mark, and one that continued to shine against Wofford. The Bulls have had issues turning the ball over in the past, giving it away 22 times last year, but only turned it over once against Ohio State. Baylor forced three turnovers against the Terriers, with two fumbles and an interception. Baylor probably doesn't have to win the turnover margin in this game, but if they get 2, and stay close in terms of margin, they should put themselves in position to win.

4. Set the tempo with the running game

Both of these teams probably look at the opposition and will want to run the ball primarily in this one. The Bears because that is what Buffalo is significantly weaker against, and the Bulls because, well they can't pass very well at all. So this game could come down to who sets their tempo with their running game. The Bears will want to run and then get back to the line of scrimmage and run again, or do a quick pass.

As we saw against Wofford, the hurry up to the line and snap it quick after gaining a first down is still a big part of the Baylor attack. Buffalo isn't necessarily a slow-tempo team, but they will want to be against an offense like the Bears. The best defense against the Baylor offense is still keeping them on the sidelines. That was the game plan for Wofford, and they couldn't get the first down and long drives to succeed. Buffalo will have the same goals in mind, to run the ball the majority of the time, keep the clock rolling and try and pop a deep pass to Neutz when they catch the Baylor secondary napping. Both teams will want to run the ball, just with a significant different in tempo and what it sets up.

5. Show up to work, not just to win

Look, let's just be honest, the Bears are the much better team talent wise. They showed they can handle an overmatched opponent against Wofford, and do it handily. But what happens to this team when they get some confidence? Do they get overconfident and not work as hard? How many times have we seen a team come out and destroy the opposition, get too cocky, lose their focus and drive and either lose their next game or have too close of a call.

The Bears ran into this in 2010 after the Wake Forest win before coming home and losing to UConn two weeks later. The difference between that team and this team though is the Bears now know how to win. In the early part of 2010, that was still a big question mark. Now, it is a foregone conclusion. The Bears have to put in the work in practice and come out hard, not just show up and expect to win.

Buffalo is a well-coached team that could have been really blown out against Ohio State, falling behind 23-0 pretty quickly. But they came back and had the chance to get the lead down to just 3 points in the third quarter. They played that game with confidence in the second and third quarters and made some big plays as a result. Baylor has to take this one as seriously as they did Wofford.


Chris Bullajian, BearsIllustrated.com Publisher

Baylor 47-20

Baylor wins this game with another early start on offense. The Bears will likely keep the momentum from last week and start fast on the ground and through the air. The Buffalo Bulls are a bigger test for the Bears secondary than the Wofford Terriers were, but Baylor's team speed on defense will be too much. Lache Seastrunk gets 100 yards on the ground by halftime, Petty throws for 350+ yards, and Baylor defense gets two picks. Baylor wins by 30+.

Baylor 47-20

Steve Brischke, BearsIllustrated.com Administrator

Baylor 42-10

Much like they did a week ago, Baylor will get of to a fast start in this game against Buffalo. Coach Briles and Coach Montgomery will scheme away from All-American Khalil Mack and test Buffalo's secondary early. Once the passing game is opened up, look for a heavy dose of running from the Bears. After the Bears build an early lead, their defense will be opportunistic and create another couple of turnovers. Bears win 42-10.

Kevin Barrera, BearsIllustrated.com Contributor

Baylor 44-13

This week, I think we will see Coach Briles open up the playbook a little more for Bryce Petty. Coming off their 69-3 win over Wofford, Petty showed flashes of being the next great quarterback in this Baylor offense, and Coach Briles rewards that this week. Lache Seastrunk will continue his dominance on the ground, gaining 150+ yards and 2 TDs, and Glasco scores a couple as well. After a few early miscues, the Bears defense calms down and shows another dominant effort, giving up less than 300 yds of offense. Going in to halftime, Baylor is up a couple of TDs, and closes the game out in a 44-13 win over the Buffalo Bulls.

Tim Watkins, BearsIllustrated.com Writer

Baylor 56-20

The Bulls impressed me with their fight against Ohio State, showing some back bone in not folding after falling behind 23-0. But the main question is do the Bulls get credit for that or does Ohio State get the blame for stepping off the gas pedal? It is probably a mixture of the two, but Buffalo is still not a team that is accustomed to the type of speed that the Bears possess. Yes, the Bulls have some good experience in the secondary, something that Wofford lacked. Yes, they have a much better pass rush that will test the Bears line. But do they have the horses to stop the Bears rushing attack, which I think will take over this game? I do not think so, and I think the Bears will rush for over 350 yards in this one, and have two 100-yard rushers. The Bears defense is also a good matchup for an offense that is just not very good at passing the ball.

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