Following a disappointing 28-3 loss to Nebraska last week, the Bulls (1-1) are back in Buffalo to take on the 16th-ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (2-0) Saturday afternoon.
The Chanticleers are coming off a strong 49-22 victory over Kansas — coached by former UB head coach Lance Leipold — and are once again staking their claim as the best team in the Sun Belt Conference.
Like UB, Coastal Carolina had a historic 2020 campaign.
After amassing a 13-23 record since moving to the FBS in 2017, CCU exploded onto the scene in 2020, finishing with an 11-1 record, being declared Sun Belt co-champions (due to the Sun Belt Championship Game being canceled because of COVID-19) and peaking at No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
The massive jump marked one of the most dramatic program shifts in college football history.
But it wasn’t just Coastal’s on-field performance that took the nation by storm. The Chanticleers developed one of the most eccentric identities in college football, dominated by WWE-style post-game celebrations and too many mullets to count.
Heck, even head coach Jamey Chadwell is rocking a mullet this season.
Now, heading into a game as the underdog (10.5 points) for the second straight week, UB looks to defend its home turf and pull off an upset in a “Whiteout” game at UB Stadium.
Here’s what to expect from Coastal Carolina Saturday afternoon:
Coach: Jamey Chadwell, 81-52 (21-17 at Coastal Carolina), fifth season at Coastal Carolina
While Coastal dropped its final game of 2020 — a 37-34 loss to Liberty in the Cure Bowl — the Chanticleers became the only team in Sun Belt history to finish the regular season undefeated.
CCU led the Sun Belt in nearly every statistical category in 2020, averaging 37.7 points per game and giving up just 20.3 per contest.
After speculation over who would be under center for the Chants entering 2020, quarterback Grayson McCall thoroughly impressed as a redshirt freshman. The dual-threat playmaker threw for 26 touchdowns and 2,488 yards in 12 games (ranking 10th and 19th in the nation respectively).
McCall also ranked sixth in the Sun Belt with seven rushing touchdowns and 12th with 569 rushing yards. He was named 2020 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year as well as 2020 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year.
Running back C.J. Marable led the Chanticleers’ rushing attack with 887 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. An All-Sun Belt first-team selection in 2020, Marable left Coastal Carolina after graduating to pursue a career in the NFL.
As for the passing attack, wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh and tight end Isaiah Likely also earned All-Sun Belt first-team honors in their junior seasons. The duo were McCall’s primary playmakers and combined for 1,599 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns over 12 contests.
On defense, the Chants found themselves in the backfield all season, as they totaled 34 sacks (second in the Sun Belt and 10th nationally) and 77 tackles for loss.
Defensive end Tarron Jackson — the 2020 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year — racked up 8.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss before being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
While the Chanticleers lost Jackson to the NFL, a healthy portion of Coastal’s defense returned for 2021.
Fifth-year redshirt senior linebacker Silas Kelly led CCU with 80 tackles — racking up an additional five sacks — while defensive tackle C.J. Brewer and outside linebacker Jeffrey Gunter both recorded 6.5 sacks in 2020.
In the secondary, cornerback D’Jordan Strong won 2020 Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year after transferring from Northeast Mississippi Community College. Strong snagged five interceptions, defended six passes, totaled 30 tackles and forced a fumble for the Chants last season.
Unsurprisingly, the Chanticleers have picked up where they left off in 2021.
CCU is averaging 50.5 points per game and is leading the Sun Belt with 238.5 rushing yards per contest (keep in mind, the Chants have faced two inferior opponents in The Citadel and Kansas to start the season).
McCall has thrown for 507 yards and three touchdowns and leads the nation in passing completion percentage (82.5%) and passing efficiency (213.7) through two games.
In the absence of Marable, junior Reese White and senior Shermari Jones have split carries for CCU. White has rushed for 164 yards and five touchdowns while Jones has recorded 143 yards and two scores.
Heiligh is once again leading the Chants through the air with 225 yards and two touchdowns. Likely has proven to be a consistent target for another season with 10 catches and 104 yards.
The Chanticleers’ defense has also impressed through two games with averages of 18 points per game and 126 yards through the air allowed.
Strong — along with senior safeties Brayden Matts and Enock Makonzo — has provided the defense with a veteran presence in the secondary.
On the defensive line, freshman defensive end Josaiah Stewart has emerged as a force on the edge with 3.5 sacks and eight tackles this season. Brewer and Kelly are once again major contributors to the front seven, combining for 21 tackles through two games.
After suffering multiple self-inflicted wounds against Nebraska last week, the Bulls must keep penalties at a minimum to compete with the Chanticleers Saturday.
UB must also lean on its run game against the Chants, who are giving up 197.5 rush yards per game this season. If the Bulls can move the ball on the ground, they at least give themselves a chance to beat the 16th-ranked team in the country.
The head coaching matchup is also one to watch, as first-year UB head coach Maurice Linguist will face off against reigning AP Coach of the Year Chadwell.
Entering the game as underdogs for the second straight week, this week’s matchup against Coastal Carolina will show how Linguist and the Bulls respond when the odds are stacked against them.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.