If you are just joining us for this college football season, welcome. Maybe it was the frantic scramble to find a way to watch the end of last week’s Army game against Oklahoma that got you sucked in too. Now, you’re jumping on the Black Knights Bandwagon with us and think, oh Buffalo, this will be a nice recovery game following last week’s near dramatic upset of the Sooners.
After all, Khalil Mack isn’t lining up across from the Army offensive line, and the Bulls haven’t been good in quite awhile, right?
Well, I’d like to introduce you to the 2018 version of the University of Buffalo football team.
They have started the season 4-0 for the first time since joining the FBS ranks.
Yeah, but it’s gotta be against inferior competition, right?.
Well, sure, they’ve played Delaware State. And they beat a Rutgers team that while in the Big Ten is on pace to be absolutely abysmal, even by Rutgers standards.
But they also beat an Eastern Michigan squad that has a win against Purdue on its record. And they took it to a Temple program that may end up being pretty dang good even after starting 0-2 with a loss to FCS Villanova.
So, yeah, this might be a game worth watching. In fact, I would argue, this is the best Group of 5 matchup in the country this weekend. And this will certainly not be a cakewalk for either side.
We know what Army is capable of doing when they put it together offensively like they did last week. They will look to dial up the same recipe and limit Buffalo’s offensive possessions. But just how successful will they be? Let’s take a look...
The Bulls are led by quarterback Tyree Jackson, the 6’7, 245 pound junior from Michigan who is off to a terrific start to the season. The Bulls’ man under center has passed for 15 touchdowns through four games this year. That’s third in the country so far on the season. With only three interceptions to his name, it’s no surprise that Buffalo is averaging 40 points a game.
His primary target is K.J. Osborn, a fellow junior from Michigan who has 328 yards receiving and is sixth in the country with 5 receiving touchdowns on the year.
The ground game is a by-committee approach with Kevin Marks leading the way with 5 rushing touchdowns on 57 carries and Jaret Patterson/Emmanuel Reed each getting over 30 carries as well. What has made their attack so balanced and successful?
It might have something to do with their offensive line, which is the ONLY unit in the country to not allow a sack so far this season. (By the way, Army has only allowed one sack). They are going up against an Army defensive front that has struggled at times to get pressure on the quarterback and ranks 116th in defensive S&P+ so far this year.
Army is going to have to reverse course on this in order to win this game. They are going to have to force Jackson into some bad decisions while their offense hopes to repeat its performance from a week ago and limit the number of times Buffalo has the ball. Jaylon McClinton and Elijah Riley will need to continue their great start to the season and make some plays in the defensive backfield.
Before you start thinking this Buffalo team is going to allow Army to gash it like it did against Oklahoma last week, you might want to think again. The Bulls rank one spot behind the Oklahoma defense in S&P+ at 53, and they have several impact players that could find themselves playing on Sunday with Mack.
Khalil (yes, they have another star player whose first name is Khalil) Hodge is a menace at linebacker. He has racked up 47 tackles already through 4 games, nearing almost 12 a game which is good for ninth best in the country so far this year.
Combine that with the pass rush of Chuck Harris, who is tied with studs like Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell with five sacks (2nd best in the country) and is also tied for third in the country with two forced fumbles. This is a Buffalo defense that will most likely still give up several sustained drives and touchdowns, but they have playmakers that can show up to be drive killers and make some big plays to get the Black Knights off the field.
The Bulls are coached by Lance Leipold, now in his fourth season leading the program. The administration has allowed him to build his team the way he sees fit and it’s paying dividends. Having not finished above .500 in the first three years, he is poised to take them to new heights this year. He comes from Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he won 6 national titles in 8 years, including 5 undefeated seasons. He is the fastest coach in NCAA HISTORY to win 100 games, needing only 106 games to do so. He clearly knows what he is doing, and anyone who wondered whether he could translate that into success at the D1 level is learning quickly this year what he is capable of accomplishing.
This game is the battle of New York and should be pretty darn good television in the noon slot on CBS Sports Network on Saturday.