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The Edge: previewing UB football versus Miami (OH)

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The Buffalo Bulls (2-7, 1-4 Mid-American Conference) are coming off nine days rest as they prepare to face the Miami (OH) RedHawks (4-6, 4-2 MAC) on Saturday. After a disappointing performance last week, Buffalo will have to bounce back against a RedHawks team that is currently on a four game winning streak. This will be the Bulls final home game of the year.

Quarterback: Miami

Sophomore quarterback Gus Ragland has been on fire for Miami.

Since taking over the starting job four games ago, he has taken a winless RedHawks team on a four game win streak. He has yet to throw a pick this year and has accumulated 10 touchdowns during the win streak.

Freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson has shown some flashes of great talent this season but he hasn’t been consistent enough. Some of his mistakes have been detrimental to the team and it has added to the Bulls’ struggles.

Miami gets the edge because Ragland has looked more impressive, even though he has played less games this year.

Running backs: Buffalo

Jordan Johnson will have to be the X-factor on Saturday if the Bulls are going to win this game.

Miami has the advantage in depth with more distribution between different backs, but Johnson is the best and most productive back in this game. Johnson has struggled at times this season, but he showed against Akron that if his offensive line can open holes, he can deliver in a major way. Sophomore running back Johnathan Hawkins has also shown his ability in the pass game, which could be important against a stout Miami defense.

Buffalo takes the edge on this one.

Wide receivers and tight ends: Miami

In wide receivers, Miami has the clear edge. Buffalo’s top three receivers have a total of 62 catches, so the RedHawks are doing a much better job of getting their unit the ball. Their top three receivers currently have 83 catches this season. Miami is also getting to the end zone more with 16 touchdowns from receivers while Buffalo only has two.

Senior tight end Mason Schreck does possess the clear advantage at tight end. He has been Buffalo’s most reliable receiver with twice as many touchdowns as the entire receiving core. RedHawks junior tight end Ryan Smith is certainly not a slouch at tight end but he doesn’t have to manage the same workload as Schreck.

When you consider both positions, Miami gets the Edge.

Offensive line: Buffalo

The Bulls have certainly not been known for their offensive line this season but they may have the better group Saturday. Run blocking has been inconsistent for the Bulls throughout the year but they are averaging about 30 more rushing yards a game than Miami.

Pass blocking is an area where Buffalo has a major advantage. Though Jackson’s mobility is a part of the reasoning, Buffalo quarterbacks have only been sacked 14 times. In contrast, the RedHawks have surrendered 32 sacks in the year.

The edge is solidly with Buffalo.

Defensive line: Miami

Buffalo is going to have to run through a wall Saturday. Miami currently ranks second against the run in the MAC, behind only Ohio, who held Buffalo to 105 yards on the ground last week. The Bulls defensive line has really turned things around in the last couple weeks, yet it still isn’t on the same level the RedHawks are playing at. The Bulls face the risk of giving up the big play whenever they face mobile quarterbacks.

The Bulls will also enter Saturday without the services of senior defensive lineman Max Perisse who had surgery this week and will be out the remainder of the season.

The RedHawks have the clear edge here.

Linebackers: Miami

Miami’s linebackers are huge part of their success with the No. 1 overall defense in the MAC. Led by sophomore linebacker Junior McMullen, the unit has the ability to disrupt offenses.

Buffalo also posts a solid linebacker group led by their own sophomore linebacker, Khalil Hodge. Last week’s performance by freshman Matt Otwinowski showed the depth Buffalo has in the unit.

While this is a close matchup, Miami wins out because of their defense’s overall better performance.

Defensive backs: Miami

This is one of the closest matchups in the game.

Overall, Buffalo has the advantage in both touchdowns and yards allowed, however, they’ve also faced almost 100 fewer passes. What makes Miami the better secondary is their ability to cause turnovers. The RedHawks currently lead the MAC in interceptions. If they can capitalize on the Bulls’ mistakes, Saturday could be a long day in Buffalo.

The RedHawks take the edge because of their playmaking.

Special Teams: Miami

Buffalo has been sloppy on special teams this year. Sophomore kicker Adam Mitcheson missed two field goals last week, including a 20 yarder and is currently only converting 63 percent of his attempts. The kickoff and punting unit have also allowed some big returns including a punt return touchdown from Akron.

The RedHawks switched kickers after the first two games of the year. Sophomore kicker Nick Dowd is converting as a much higher rate than Mitcheson; Dowd made 89 percent of his field goals this year.

The Edge goes to the RedHawks until Mitcheson can be more accurate.

Coaching: Miami

Both teams have faced their share of troubles and heartaches this season. It took the RedHawks seven games to secure their first victory of the season, but after settling on a new quarterback they have looked great. The team has been efficient and has only one turnover since the quarterback switch.

Buffalo looked like they were turning things around after a strong showing against Akron but stumbled again last week against Ohio. Bulls head coach Lance Leipold and his staff have done a good job of helping their team defend the rush and Buffalo has looked much more competitive in the trenches.

Miami gets the edge here because of the quarterback switch that has led to late season success that could get them from 0-6 to a MAC championship game.

Daniel Petruccelli is a sports staff writer and can be reached atsports@ubspectrum.com


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