The Edge: Buffalo vs. Toledo
A position-to-position breakdown of the pivotal conference matchup
Football keeps on rolling with its second-straight win Saturday against the Akron Zips.
The Bulls are 6-1 for the first time since 1959 and are bowl eligible only seven games into the season. Buffalo may be on fire, but the Toledo Rockets present one of Buffalo’s toughest challenges in the Mid-American Conference. Toledo (3-3, 1-1 MAC) has talent on both sides of the ball and is coming off a close loss to the Eastern Michigan Eagles (3-4, 1-3 MAC). The Bulls (6-1, 3-0 MAC) will have to be at full strength if they want to keep the game from becoming a shootout.
Quarterbacks- Pick em’
Junior Tyree Jackson has been nothing but aces in the pocket this season, but the Bulls are up against arguably the best quarterback in the MAC in Toledo junior Mitchell Guadagni. Guadagni has thrown for 904 yards, 11 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions this season. He is also a dangerous rusher who is coming off a career high 134 yards rushing in the Eastern game. But never sleep on Jackson who is quickly climbing all-time Bulls quarterback records. He has a career-high of 18 touchdowns passing this season and 1,543 yards passing in just seven games. Guadagni was coming off a concussion in the Eastern game. If he is not there at Toledo against the Bulls, it could be a long day for the Rockets. With both players expected to be healthy, it will be the two best at their position in the MAC against each other, so expect fireworks.
Even with Jackson having a strong rushing performance against the Zips, the receiving corp is still Buffalo’s best weapon. Junior K.J. Osborn is having a breakout season and had 116 yards against the Zips this past Saturday. Senior star-receiver Anthony Johnson made his return to UB Stadium against Akron and gives Jackson one of the NCAA’s best receiving options to pass to. Add graduate transfer George Rushing and redshirt freshman Charlie Jones, Jackson has even more options in case Toledo double teams Osborn or Johnson. Toledo has a strong option with senior Jon’Vea Johnson, but Buffalo’s pass defense has made strides in recent weeks and will present issues for the entire Toledo pass unit.
Running Backs- Bulls
Buffalo is no longer a pass-only team with the breakout year for both redshirt freshman Kevin Marks and freshman Jaret Patterson. The two have combined for 443 yards and 3 touchdowns in the last two games. With two reliable options, Buffalo’s run game is the strongest it has been in years. Toledo is a dangerous run team as well, with Guadagni being a good rushing quarterback. Guadagni has led the team in rushing yards in his last two performances and will look to take advantage of Buffalo’s rushing defense, which was exploited in the Army Black Knights (4-2) game earlier this season. But in terms of actual running backs, Buffalo has the deeper roster.
Coach- Pick em’
When head coach Lance Leipold admits that he wants to turn Buffalo into a Toledo, you know this is a battle of football mega minds. Leipold is having a breakout season at UB, but Toledo head coach Jason Candle had his own breakout year last season. Candle brought the team to a bowl game, won the MAC championship and touted an 11-3 record for the year. Toledo has looked like the same MAC powerhouse this season, excluding last weekend’s Eastern game. Still, Leipold continues to improve the Bulls with the pass defense recently coming into its own. Both coaches have been in hard-fought games before, so expect whoever finds a consistent weakness in the other's’ team to come out on top.
The Bulls are now the number one defense in the MAC after their defense started the season as the weaker link of the team. Thanks to an ever-improving pass defense and a rushing defense that has made big stops when it matters, Buffalo has come in to its own on both ends of the ball. Despite Toledo’s strong offense, the defense is a different story. The Rockets have given up more than 30 points three times this season against offenses that were not as highly touted as Buffalo’s. It will be on the Toledo offense to keep the Rockets in the game as Buffalo seems primed for a big scoring day.