The Wagner week is over, and now another home game beckons against a team BC is expected to handle easily. The Eagles are favored by 18 over the Buffalo Bulls, a team coming in at 1-2 after a 23-20 overtime win against Army on Saturday.
As anyone who was at last year’s Northern Illinois game remembers far too well, these MAC games are often far from pushovers. Given that BC’s two wins this year have come against FCS competition in UMass and Wagner, they won’t be able to take this game for granted, even if they are heavy favorites based on the betting line.
Much like last week, expect the emphasis this week be for BC to focus on the meat and potatoes of its running game. Army and Nevada were able to gash Buffalo for 396 and 352 yards of rushing, respectively, and a combined 6 touchdowns. That was how both teams were able to move the chains effectively against Buffalo, despite neither doing much against them through the air.
This is an important game for BC. Clemson beckons and is obviously going to be a really difficult game. If the Eagles are going to go in to their manageable portion of the ACC schedule feeling good about their chances, it’s likely going to be due to a really strong all-around performance in this game. Make it happen.
Three storylines of the week:
1 - Pounding the rock: As we mentioned above, Buffalo’s run defense has not been very good this year. It wasn’t great last year either, allowing around 185 yards per game on the ground. More importantly, Buffalo was 0-6 last year when allowing 200 yards of rushing or more, and 5-1 when allowing fewer than 200. Run defense was the key to everything for the Bulls.
By this point we already know about the number of backs Steve Addazio has expressed his excitement and enthusiasm about. But he also calls his line consistently inconsistent. They’re going to need to be fully consistent this week against a team they should be able to beat in the trenches.
2 - Avoiding second and long: This sort of piggybacks off of point #1, but honestly, even against Wagner, BC had far too many 2nd and 8+ situations. Obviously, it was even worse against Georgia Tech. I don’t really care how BC chooses to move the ball, as long as they move it; if they’re going to be pounding the rock repeatedly on first down, they better be getting 3-5 yards.
3 - Special teams showing continued improvement: There’s no easier way to let an underdog team blow a hole in your plans than making bad plays on special teams. BC has taken some dumb penalties on special teams the last few weeks, but they’ve also seen some positive signs: the return game has been very good, Mike Knoll has been mostly good punting, and most importantly, Knoll has shown some positive signs kicking as well, hitting all of his extra points this past week and sinking three field goals against UMass. BC’s special teams will need to continue to progress if they’re going to pick up a win Saturday and also win some of the close games against good teams they keep losing.
Meet the Coach:
Buffalo’s head coach, Lance Leipold, is entering his second year with the Bulls after a long and successful run with D3 Wisconsin-Whitewater where he won 6 national championships. Leipold found some success at Buffalo last year, starting the season 5-4 before dropping three straight to miss out on a bowl appearance. Leipold is widely respected in the coaching ranks and is expected to make Buffalo a contender in the MAC before too long.
Inheriting a team that struggled, Leipold’s style last year was a bit on the conservative, ball-control style offensively, while employing a bend-but-don’t-break defense that gave up plenty of yardage but did manage to stiffen up in the red zone. We’ll see how aggressive the Bulls defense will be with BC on Saturday and how that impacts what the Eagles try to do on offense.
Musical Selections of the Week, Buffalo Edition:
Goo Goo Dolls - “Iris”
Google suggests the most famous band from Buffalo is probably the Goo Goo Dolls. So here you go. They just want you to know who they are, guys.
Here’s your slice o’ Americana for the week. Christmas is not far away, so get ready for your family’s viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life with Pete Seeger’s version of Buffalo Gals.
Fleetwood MAC - Red Rover
Look, there aren’t a ton of songs from or about Buffalo. So yes, I’m gonna stretch it here with some Fleetwood MACtion.