The Edge: Buffalo vs. Akron

A position-to-position breakdown for homecoming

The Bulls responded from their worst offensive performance of the year by putting up 34 points against the top-ranked defense in the Mid-American Conference and gaining the program’s first-ever road win over the Central Michigan Chippewas. Buffalo (5-1, 2-0 MAC) looks to continue its success Saturday against the Akron Zips (2-2, 0-1 MAC) at home. It will be the Bulls’ homecoming game.

This is Buffalo’s second home-conference game this season and third overall. Key players have been banged up in recent weeks with injuries on both sides of the ball. With a win, the Bulls will reach bowl eligibility for the second straight year.

Quarterback - Bulls

Buffalo and Akron are only separated by 6 yards of total passing offense per game. Junior Tyree Jackson has averaged 221 yards per game but has completed over 55 percent of his passes.  He has an efficiency rating of 151.7. With 17 touchdowns through six games, Jackson is currently on pace to break the single-season passing touchdown record of 29, set by Joe Licata in 2014. Akron sophomore Kato Nelson has thrown more interceptions than Jackson in two less games. Nelson is more likely to use his legs and scramble rather than remain in the pocket and find someone downfield. Jackson’s ability to read coverages and extend plays with his legs has produced numerous highlights this season and he should continue to shine Saturday.

Running Back - Bulls

Akron has a stiff run defense that has only allowed 125.5 yards per game to opposing running backs. But, freshman duo Kevin Marks and Jaret Patterson are both full of big play potential and they have the ability to take over games. Marks has scored a touchdown in five-straight games, the first freshman in UB’s FBS era to do so. Akron’s quarterback Nelson has the most rushing attempts on the team and the Zips, as a unit, average only 3.3 yards per carry compared to Buffalo’s 4.5. Led by one of the best offensive lines in college football, Buffalo’s running backs should be able to break open big gains against the Zips.

Wide Receiver - Pick ‘em

Junior K.J. Osborn has been the workhorse of the Buffalo offense this season. Osborn is averaging over 18 yards per catch and has a team leading 6 touchdowns. The Bulls receiving corps had its worst two games of the season with senior Anthony Johnson out with a leg injury. With his status unknown for Saturday, the Bulls will need players like graduate transfer George Rushing to find the endzone for the first time since week one. Akron leads a more balanced attack with four receivers having at least 100 yards and a touchdown on the season. If Buffalo can get its tight ends more involved with the passing game it will win, but the Bulls have yet to show a willingness to continually target them this season.

Coaches - Bulls

Head coach Lance Leipold is looking for revenge against Akron this week. After losing in a 21-20 nail-biter to Akron last year, Leipold brings in an even more dangerous team in the rematch. Akron head coach Terry Bowden has turned the Zips into a consistent team in his 24 years with them. Bowden brings a strong defense that is coming off a pitiful 41-17 loss to the Miami (OH) Redhawks (2-4, 2-1 MAC). If Akron plays remotely like it did last Saturday, it will get bodied by the Bulls. Expect Leipold to come for blood at homecoming.

Defense - Pick ‘em

Akron plays a two-deep defense, according to Leipold. The Zips have depth at every position which has led them to being one of the top-run defenses in the MAC. The Bulls secondary has stepped up in recent weeks and has recorded 5 interceptions the past two games. With senior cornerback Cameron Lewis healthy and the emergence of redshirt-freshman Aapri Washington, the Bulls should be able to keep up its top three MAC pass defense. Senior Khalil Hodge will be the key to the Bulls shutting down the run and keeping Nelson in the pocket. The Bulls’ defense has not been able to slow down mobile quarterbacks this season and Akron will look to take advantage of that.

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