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Who has the edge: UB Bulls vs. Akron

The Spectrum’s scouting report for Buffalo and Akron

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In a Mid-American Conference matchup between two teams vying for bowl eligibility, the Buffalo football team (5-5, 3-3 MAC) and Akron (5-5, 3-3) face off in the second-to-last game of the regular season Saturday.

The Spectrum decided who has the edge at each position.

Quarterback: Buffalo

Buffalo has the better passing quarterback, as senior quarterback Joe Licata has completed 64 percent of his passes and threw 14 touchdown passes on the season. Akron quarterback Thomas Woodson is more a rushing threat, as he’s run for 430 rushing yards and three touchdowns compared to 1,636 yards and 11 touchdowns in the air. Despite Woodson’s rushing ability, we’ll give the edge to the better and more experienced passer in Licata.

Running backs: Buffalo

Akron’s Conor Hundley has the running back with the better overall numbers, as he’s totalled 761 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the season.

That being said, Buffalo has two solid backs that have combing for more than 1,300 yards on the season. After a strong start, senior Anthone Taylor has been slowed down by injuries in MAC play. Junior Jordan Johnson has picked up the slack, rushing for 464 of his 701 yards and seven of his nine touchdowns against MAC opponents.

Wide receivers and tight ends: Buffalo

Like most matchups, the Bulls have the best group of receivers and tight ends.

After getting all of his players included in the offense, Licata has found three reliable targets in senior wide receivers Ron Willoughby and Marcus McGill and senior tight end Matt Weiser. All three have recorded at least 40 catches on the season with Willoughby leading the trio in touchdowns with six.

The Zips has two wide receivers that have accounted for 65 of the team’s 141 catches and eight of team’s 12 touchdown catches, in Imani Davis and Jerome Lane. But Buffalo’s balance gives it the upper hand in the matchup

Offensive line: Draw

Both teams are close in sacks allowed, with Akron with 14 sacks allowed and Buffalo with 16. Buffalo lost senior guard Dillon Guy to a season-ending injury, but junior Roubbens Joseph has been a steady replacement alongside the interior of the unit.

Defensive line: Akron

The Zips have a trio of defensive linemen leading the way hat give them the edge – Rodney Coe, Se’Von Pittman and Jamal Marcus. Marcus is the most disruptive, leading the trio with 9.5 tackles for losses and 4.5 sacks. Coe and Pittman have combined for four sacks and 12 tackles for losses.

Buffalo meanwhile may be without junior defensive tackle Brandon Crawford, who left last week’s game against Northern Illinois with an ankle injury. Crawford has complied 28 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for losses and forced fumble this season.

Linebackers: Akron

Akron’s trio of Jatavis Brown, Dylan Evans and Darryl Monroe match Buffalo’s own trio with their ability to make plays on the ball. Brown is one of the best players in the conference, with Khalil Mack-esque numbers of 88 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 16 tackles for losses.

The Bulls’ trio of Nick Gilbo, Brandon Berry and Okezie Alozie have been Buffalo’s most consistent unit on the season, but for the first time all season, they’re the second best linebacking unit on the field.

Defensive backs: Akron

The Zips rank ninth in the MAC in pass defense compared to Buffalo’s ranking of sixth, but a playmaking Zips cornerback and a potential injured Bulls cornerback give Akron the edge.

DeAndre Scott has just 19 tackles on the season, but has six interceptions and eight pass breakups.

Buffalo has playmaking cornerback Boise Ross, but the junior left last week’s game with an ankle injury. Even if Ross is healthy, he has also slowed down since his great start, as he has just seven pass breakups in his last seven games and hasn’t intercepted a pass since Week Three against Florida Atlantic.

Special teams: Buffalo

It’s hard to count out a near-perfect unit that has won multiple accolades throughout this season, even with a down week from its main contributors.

Freshman Adam Mitcheson had one of his worst games as a Bull last week with a 1-for-3 performance. Senior Tyler Grassman, who’s been great this season, mustered up just three punts for a little more than 100 yards – well under his season average.

But it’s a new week. Buffalo may need its special teams unit to perform in an even conference matchup.

Coaching: Buffalo

Bulls head coach Lance Leipold has continued to have his team prepared for its opponent and continues to show that he belongs on the Division-I level. After a mid-season swoon, Leipold has done a good job of making sure the Bulls come out with a balanced attack on both sides of the ball.

Akron has head coach Terry Bowden, who had success at Auburn in the 90s, but the Zips have been unable to put together a winning season under him thus far. Buffalo may keep it that way with another strong coaching performance from Leipold.

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


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