The Edge: Buffalo vs. Army

A position-to-position breakdown of the next football game

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It was a good week for Buffalo football as the Bulls (4-0, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) and the Bills bodied its opponents this past weekend. The Bulls earned its first Big Ten Conference win on Saturday, beating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-3, 0-1 Big Ten) 42-13. Buffalo looks to continue its best start in Division I and improve to 5-0 when it takes on the Army Black Knights (2-2). This will be the third annual meeting between the teams with both games being decided by a single score. With the way both teams match up, expect another close game at UB Stadium this weekend.

Quarterback - Bulls

Junior quarterback Tyree Jackson didn’t have his best performance this season against Rutgers, but still put up impressive numbers. Jackson went 14-of-28 with 263 yards and three touchdowns, passing against the Scarlet Knights. The Bulls averaged 428.8 yards per game so far and should be able to keep those numbers up against the Army backfield. Army has a strong passing defense that gave the number six nationally ranked Oklahoma Sooners (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) trouble last week in a 28-21 overtime loss. The Bulls have the best passing game in the MAC. Jackson was once touted as a running quarterback but has deadeye accuracy with a 62 percent completion rate passing and 1052 yards this season. Army barely uses the passing game, relying a strong rushing force.

Running Backs - Black Knights

The running backs will be Army’s best chance of picking up the win against Buffalo. The Black Knights used seven different backs against the Sooners, and Buffalo should expect no different. Army put up 353 rushing yards against Oklahoma, which could be a threat to Buffalo. The Bulls had one of the worst rushing defenses in Division I last season. Though the Bulls have improved, it wasn’t a very hard bar to pass in the first place. Expect Army junior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. to rush just as much as the running backs this Saturday. Buffalo freshman Jaret Patterson rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns against Rutgers, but that won’t be enough to compete with Army’s rushing game.

Receivers - Bulls

If the Duke Blue Devils (4-0) proved on thing in its 34-14 win over the Black Knights, it’s that effective receivers can score big in the backfield. The Bulls have even more options passing than Duke did. Expect head coach Lance Leipold to look for the deep ball like Buffalo did against Rutgers. Senior Anthony Johnson is an unquestionable force in the deep field and can punish the Army backfield on any play. Add junior K.J. Osborn and redshirt freshman Charlie Jones to Buffalo’s passing attack and the Bulls have a clear advantage. Saturday looks to be a game of passing offense vs. rushing offense. 

Coaches - Bulls

Army head coach Jeff Monken deserves credit for his 18-8 record with the Black Knights over the last two seasons. Still, Leipold brings an ever-improving offense with him each week. And coming off a historic Big Ten win, Leipold seems close to having the Bulls in top form in time for the MAC season. Leipold has been able to make even the defense look better week-in and week-out. The coaching staff will have to be creative against the Army rush game, but it is a staff that has been working together before they ever started at UB.

Defense - Pick’ em

If the game is a battle of two clashing offensive styles, then it is the defense that will be the battle’s X-factor. If either defense can stop the other’s trademark offense for just a single quarter, that may be all either team will need to win the game. Army’s defense has been more consistent this season, but both teams can exploit the others defensive weakness. If the Bulls can get to a hot start and make some early stops, it will pick up the early lead it needs to stop the game into becoming a trading of scores. With no clear advantage in either team’s corner, it will come down to the big plays on defense come Saturday.

The game is set for Saturday with a start time of 12 p.m.

Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at Thomas.Zafonte@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @Thomas_Spectrum