Bulls square off with UConn: The Spectrum’s Scouting Report
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 15:09
Offensive players to watch
Shakim Phillips, Jr., WR:
Phillips is playing in his second year at UConn after transferring from Boston College. In the Huskies’ second game of the season against Maryland, he ripped off 10 catches for 178 yards and one touchdown – a UConn FBS record for receiving yards in a game. He’s a big target, which is something the Bulls’ defensive backs struggled to contain against Stony Brook two weeks ago.
Phillips was held out of UConn’s last game against Michigan with a hamstring injury but still leads all receivers in catches, yards and touchdowns.
Lyle McCombs, Jr., RB:
McCombs came into the season as UConn’s most prolific offensive weapon, but he has been second class thus far for the Huskies. McCombs was a preseason candidate for the Doak Walker Award (nation’s top running back) and was named first-team All-American Conference. Through three games, he’s gained just 167 yards and one touchdown. Some of this could be contributed to the Huskies’ general lack of mobility on offense – their total offense ranks 115th in the nation.
This could be the game McCombs breaks out of his slump, as Buffalo’s run defense is allowing 243.3 yards per game.
Defensive player to watch
Yawin Smallwood, Jr., LB:
Smallwood is the Huskies’ best overall player and matches the credentials of Buffalo’s own beastly linebacker – Khalil Mack.
Smallwood was named to the preseason Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski watch lists. He has backed up his preseason hype. He’s currently second in the country in total tackles (43), 13 of which came against No. 15 Michigan last week.
Branden Oliver vs. Yawin Smallwood
The Bulls’ running game has been subpar this season. They’re averaging nearly 94 fewer yards per game than they did in 2012, but this is the game senior running back Branden Oliver has been waiting for. He sat out two weeks ago against Stony Brook – which appeared to be a precautionary decision – making him fully rested for Saturday.
The Bulls can’t thrive by airing it out all game; they’re going to need to establish an effective running game to get the offense’s engine going at full strength. It will be a tough task as Smallwood is one of the best in the country at his position.
UConn 27, Buffalo 24
We haven’t seen enough of the Bulls to predict otherwise. Their first two losses against Ohio State and Baylor were expected, and although Stony Brook was a more demanding opponent than people thought, it shouldn’t have taken the Bulls five overtimes to beat the Seawolves. The Bulls need to put together a 60-minute performance against a competent but beatable team before we can predict them as favorites.