Besting Bowling Green: The Spectrum's Scouting Report
As Buffalo prepares for a colossal conference showdown with Bowling Green at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Black Friday, The Spectrum's sports staff gives its scouting report of the potent Falcons and provides UB's keys to victory.
Offensive players to watch:
Travis Greene, sophomore running back
As a redshirt freshman last year, Greene recorded only one carry all season. In 2013, as the Falcons' full-time back, Greene ranks third in rushing (117.5 yards per game) amongst running backs in the Mid-American Conference.
Greene has rushed for at least 112 yards in three consecutive games and is averaging a staggering 132.8 yards per game in conference play.
Matt Johnson, sophomore quarterback
Like Greene, Johnson is in his first year as the full-time starter for the Falcons and has been a major catalyst during their 8-3 season. Johnson ranks second in the MAC in passing (233.8 yards per game) despite not having a receiver who is averaging more than 60 yards per game.
Bowling Green is on a three-game win streak, outscoring opponents 152-10, and Johnson has been near perfect, throwing for 745 yards and eight touchdowns.
Defensive player to watch:
D.J. Lynch, junior linebacker
Lynch is a pivotal piece of a stellar defensive unit. His team-high 64 tackles rank just 37th in the MAC - a microcosm of a team with players producing at every position.
Bowling Green is giving up just 14.4 points per game - in comparison, the Bulls are second in the MAC in scoring defense, surrendering 22.2 points per game. Lynch has been disruptive in the backfield as well, notching 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Joe Licata vs. Bowling Green pass defense
The Falcons' run defense ranks first in the conference, so the Bulls' formula of success this season - pound the ball through running back Branden Oliver - may not be as effective as they'd like.
If the Bulls can't get anything going on the ground, Licata will need to step up and move the ball down the field to counter Bowling Green's explosive offense. That won't be an easy task - the Falcons' pass defense also ranks first in the conference, allowing just 156.4 yards per game.
This is the biggest game for the Buffalo football program since its bowl appearance in 2008. The stakes are high: win and advance to the MAC Championship in Detroit on Dec. 6. It may be a disappointing afternoon for a team that has won eight of its past nine games.
The Bulls' lone loss in conference, against Toledo two weeks ago, gave insight that Buffalo's defense - which let up 51 points to the Rockets - isn't as strong as we believed. Bowling Green's offense is statistically more potent than Toledo's, which poses an obvious problem. But the biggest test comes for the Bulls' offense, which will have to match the Falcons' scoring against the league's toughest defense.
Stagnant starts have been a problem for the Bulls all season. It hadn't mattered against weaker competition, but they went down 38-0 against Toledo before scoring. That can't happen against Bowling Green, either, because UB wouldn't be able to catch up. The Bulls will need a hot start to stay in the game. Without one, there is little chance of winning.
Bowling Green 24, Buffalo 17
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