FACTS & STATS: Site: University at Buffalo Stadium (29,013) — Buffalo, New
York. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Central Michigan 2-2, Buffalo 3-1.
Away Record: Central Michigan 2-2, Buffalo 0-3. Neutral Record: Central
Michigan 0-0, Buffalo 0-0. Conference Record: Central Michigan 2-2, Buffalo
1-2. Series Record: Central Michigan leads, 5-1.
GAME NOTES: Following a bye week and the firing of head coach Jeff Quinn, the
Buffalo Bulls will try to right the ship as they play host to the Central
Michigan Chippewas in a Mid-American Conference clash at UB Stadium.
Central Michigan, after having won two games in a row, dropped a curious home
contest to Ball State last weekend on a 55-yard game-winning field goal for
the Cardinals with 17 seconds left to play. The Chippewas tied the score up at
29-29 late in the fourth thanks to a Cooper Rush touchdown pass and two-point
conversion run, but the Cards ended up with the 32-29 victory.
Buffalo is coming off an open week, during which time the Bulls’ athletic
department announced the firing of Quinn, citing the team’s performance on the
field for the parting. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Alex Wood
has been elevated to interim coach and will lead the Bulls, who are 3-1 at
home this season.
Central Michigan and Buffalo don’t have an extensively deep history, although
the teams have still met six times on the field in a series that dates back to
1999. CMU holds the 5-1 series advantage, and last beat the Bulls in their
most recent meeting on Oct. 3, 2009.
The Chippewas rattled off a pair of strong, one-sided victories over Ohio and
Northern Illinois in back-to-back weeks, but just last weekend dropped the
contest to previously one-win Ball State. It seemed the Central Michigan
offense had gotten hot at the right time, but the team’s defense was a bit
lacking against the Cardinals, who let running back Jahwan Edwards run loose.
Still, moving forward, the Chippewas have perhaps the best trio of skills
players in the MAC when all healthy.
All three were on display last weekend against Ball State. Rush finished the
game with 245 passing yards and three touchdowns, although his mistake-driven
side showed itself in his two interceptions tossed. He has Central Michigan
averaging 218 passing ypg and 23.8 ppg this season, and he has the help of top
wideout Titus Davis, who was also on display last Saturday. Davis caught a
team-best 10 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, which brings his season
total to 502 yards and four scores on 31 catches. He and fellow receiver Jesse
Kroll each have four receiving touchdowns.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect on the offense for CMU has been the team’s
run game, led by Thomas Rawls. Rawls has rushed for over 1,000 yards this
season in just six games played (he missed a pair of contests earlier in the
season due to injury), and has scored 10 touchdowns in that frame. He averages
167.8 rushing ypg for the Chippewas.
The offense, when clicking, has all the right tools to be extremely effective.
It’s the team’s defense that hasn’t been very effective this year, and has
allowed opponents to score more than 30 points in three games. Against Ohio
and Northern Illinois, the CMU defense allowed a combined 27 points to two
potentially dangerous offenses. But the Cardinals managed 32 last weekend, so
consistency is a huge problem.
Opponents are scoring an average of 24.8 ppg and are racking up 346.6
offensive ypg in eight games. Linebacker Justin Cherocci has seemingly done
everything by himself with a team-best 78 tackles (32 more than Tony Annese,
who is in second on the squad with 46). Joe Ostman and Blake Serpa have
combined for 14 tackles for loss and five sacks, so they’ll be looking to get
after Bulls quarterback Joe Licata this weekend.
It seemed like a questionable decision for the Bulls to go ahead and fire
Quinn in the middle of the season, when conference play had just begun. The
coach, who had been with the program for five years, owned a 3-4 record this
season, and was 1-2 in conference play. The team’s other two wins came against
FCS competition, but in a wide open MAC race this year, Buffalo could have
turned things around with some top-notch offensive players. There is still
plenty of time for it.
The Bulls are averaging 33 ppg and 475.9 offensive ypg behind Licata and star
running back Anthone Taylor, who ranks 10th in the FBS with 926 rushing yards
(even after his bye week) and is tied for 13th with nine rushing scores. The
back has carried the ball 183 times in seven games, and has helped Buffalo to
average 185.1 rushing ypg.
Licata had a breakout sophomore campaign, and is performing fairly well in his
junior season as well, although seven interceptions through seven games is a
bit too high. Licata has 1,892 passing yards and 18 passing scores, and has
rushed for two touchdowns to boot. His 65.3 completion percentage ranks 23rd
in the entire country. The offense hasn’t been the issue this season in
Losing star linebacker Khalil Mack must have been more traumatizing to the
defense than many originally thought, considering Buffalo allows 35 ppg to
opponents and has only registered one interception this season. The opposition
is having no issue whatsoever running the football against the Bulls,
averaging193.4 rushing ypg and scoring 20 ground touchdowns so far. It’s more
than standouts Lee Skinner and Adam Redden can handle.
Skinner leads the team with 52 tackles, and has recovered two fumbles with
three quarterback hurries. Redden has taken more of a Mack approach this year
with a team-best 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. On paper, the Bulls
should have a strong defensive backfield, but Boise Ross is the only one with
an interceptions, and Courtney Lester is the only player with more than three
pass breakups (he has nine this season).
This matchup in Buffalo between Central Michigan and the Bulls features two of
the MAC’s best offenses, including two of the best running backs (Rawls ranks
fifth nationally with 1,007 rushing yards and third with 167.8 ypg)
statistically in the entire country. So it will come down to whichever defense
can force the other squad to make the most mistakes that could lead to points
off turnovers. Buffalo is a strong team at home, and might need an adjustment
period without Quinn at the helm. This one figures to be a high-scoring
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Central Michigan 34, Buffalo 30