UB Bulls vs. Kent State: Who has the edge?

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The football team (4-4, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) continues to stride toward bowl eligibility. After a 29-24 victory over Miami Ohio (1-8, 0-5 MAC) last week, the Bulls will try to make it three victories in a row when they face Kent State (3-5, 2-2 MAC) on Thursday.

The Spectrum has your scouting report on which team has the edge in each respective position.

Quarterback: Buffalo

The Bulls have the edge at the quarterback position. Senior quarterback Joe Licata has average numbers after a slow start, but has played well in his last two games, completing 70 percent of his passes and has three total touchdowns to just one turnover. It’s not a coincidence that Buffalo is peaking at the same time Licata has found his groove.

The Golden Flashes, have freshman George Bollas under center. Bollas has started the pas two games over junior Collin Reardon with mixed results. Bollas was impressive in a 15-10 over Massachusetts (1-7, 0-4 MAC), but faltered in a 48-0 loss to Bowling Green (6-2, 4-0 MAC) last week.

Buffalo has the clear edge.

Running back: Buffalo

Regardless of health, the Bulls are entering Thursday’s game with the best running back among either team. Junior Jordan Johnson has been a revelation in his two starts – finishing with 260 yards and four touchdowns. His emergence as an every down back gives Buffalo a running back for the future once senior Anthone Taylor graduates.

Kent State has just five touchdowns on the season and its leading running back, Trayion Durham has just 308 yards rushing and averages just 3.3 yards per carry.

Wide receivers and tight ends: Buffalo

The Golden Flashes have six players with at least 10 receptions, but none with more than 216 yards on the season. It’s a group of several weapons, but not the game-changing receivers that Buffalo has.

The Bulls have both the depth and the ability to make a big play. Seniors receiver and Ron Willoughby and tight end Matt Weiser are Licata’s reliable targets. Sophomore wide receiver Collin Lisa can make big third down catches and senior wide receiver Marcus McGill can make big plays as a deep threat.

Offensive line: Buffalo

The Bulls have the better offensive line, and they’re going to need it.

Despite injuries to guards Dillon Guy and Brandon Manosalves, the Bulls have formed a formidable unit, capable of opening up holes for Taylor and Johnson, while keeping Licata upright in the pocket. The youth and size of the interior of Buffalo’s offensive line is going to be one of the constants for the next two to three years for the Bulls.

Defensive line: Kent State

The Golden Flashes come in with the second best rush defense in the MAC. Defensive end Terence Waugh is one of the conference’s best linemen, currently standing at nine sacks and 11 tackles for losses on the season. Alongside him is defensive tackle Nate Terhune, who’s also just as disruptive. For the season, Terhune has four sacks and seven tackles for losses.

The Bulls defensive line has looked good as of late, but Kent State’s line has been performing better and for longer.

Linebackers: Buffalo

The Bulls continue to get elite level production from their linebackers. Senior Nick Gilbo and junior Brandon Berry have combined for 145 tackles on the season, making all of the key tackles from sideline to sideline in the middle of the Buffalo defense. Next to Gilbo and Berry is senior Okezie Alozie, who has 47 tackles, including six tackles for losses, four sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Kent State’s linebackers aren’t slouches, though. Linebacker Elcee Refuge has six tackles for losses on the season with 52 total tackles and Matt Dellinger has 32 tackles and five tackles for losses.

Secondary: Kent State

The Bulls have solid production from their secondary. Junior cornerback Boise Ross is one of better defensive backs in the conference, so much so that teams are avoiding throwing to whatever side Ross is on.

But the Golden Flashes get the edge because of their strength in numbers.

The Golden Flashes have safety Nate Holley who leads the Golden Flashes with 83 tackles on the season and cornerback Demetrius Monday, who has five interceptions on the year. Najee Murray is also a solid cornerback with 24 tackles and a team-leading seven pass breakups on the season.

The Golden Flashes have the talent in their secondary to make it a tough day for Licata.

Coaching: Buffalo

Kent State head coach Paul Haynes, like most coaches in the conference, has an impressive resume. Haynes spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars on the pro level and Louisville, Michigan State, Ohio State and Arkansas on the college level. Still, his 9-22 record at Kent States gives the edge to Bulls head coach Lance Leipold.

Leipold has been a sound coach the last two weeks by simply allowing the game to play out without an error or questionable decision. Whether it was deciding when to go for it on fourth down or timeout mismanagement, Leipold has found a perfect balance and the result has been back-to-back victories.

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Haynes_Spectrum.