UB Bulls should be beware of the unknown

Wolf Pack’s schedule might have hidden how good they are

There’s positive momentum staring the Buffalo football team square in the face.

Entering Mid-American Conference play with a 3-1 record with a new head coach is certainly something that could bring positive vibes. Then add a solid senior quarterback, an nationally underrated running back, a decent defensive unit, and four more home games and you can start to get ahead of yourself.

The Bulls (2-1) looked good against Florida Atlantic. You could even say they looked great. Despite the offensive inconsistencies, the Bulls put together a solid defensive performance – one that got nearly every player into the mix. The Bulls won’t continue to play like that for the rest of the season, but it was good to see the defensive line hold the Owl run game and watch some touted, questionable and unheralded playmakers make plays.

But I don’t think the Bulls should get ahead of themselves this weekend and it’s not because of what we know about the opponent, Nevada (1-2). In fact, it’s what we don’t know about the Wolf Pack that makes them so daunting.

From an outsider’s point of view, I don’t really know who this Nevada team is. Facing Arizona and Texas A&M – two teams that could easily make it to the college football playoff this year – during the past two weeks, the Wolf Pack never had a chance to beat either team.

But don’t sleep on the Pack just yet.

This is a team that finished bowl eligible last season and brought back most of their defensive line that created pressure last season. They possess two pretty good running backs in their backfield. And despite their quarterback’s inexperience, he’s listed as 6-foot-4 with a “rocket arm” and completed more than 50 percent of his passes and threw two touchdowns against the aforementioned top-25 teams.

That’s not to say Nevada is a 10-2 team in waiting. They could be bad, but it’s tough to truly know at this stage because of their competition. They’ve shown signs of hope, but also signs of desolation in their first two games.

And despite the Bulls’ historic defensive performance against Florida Atlantic, Buffalo’s pass defense was lost in the shuffle. It was carved up for close to 400 passing yards and allowed the Owls to have two 100-yard receivers and a tight end eclipse 60 yards. As a whole, the defense has made strides, but it can also be better.

Still, there are some positives for the Bulls.

They’re at home. They’ll get the home crowd cheering and roaring. I don’t think Joe Licata is going to have as bad a game as he did against Florida Atlantic on Saturday, . Although you have to worry about Nevada’s pass rushers going up against Buffalo’s offensive line, which is still in limbo and trying to establish an identity.

The Bulls are also going up against a run defense that allows 5.6 yards per rush. We’ve seen head coach Lance Leipold lean on the running game at times and I can’t imagine a more perfect time to do that than against the messy Wolf Pack. Senior Anthone Taylor and junior Jordan Johnson should get carries, thus allowing the Bulls to control the tempo.

I’m going with the Bulls to get the victory because they have the home advantage and their running game has been solid all season. A solid Licata game gives the Bulls a more well-rounded offense and that’s tough to stop with their weapons. If the offensive line can keep Licata upright, the Bulls will have the best group of either team.

But before penciling in the ‘W’ on this game, proceed with caution. We really don’t know how good the Wolf Pack is.

Those are the teams that tend to be the most dangerous of them all.

Score prediction: Buffalo 24, Nevada 20

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