UB has to shake off two lack luster performances, not to mention the eight turnovers they gave up in those games, and prepare for the beginning of conference play. Despite the fact UB fumbled away a chance at going 3-1 out of conference a win over Temple would put the Bulls exactly where they were last season after four games (2-2, 1-0). On both sides of the ball the Bulls looked amazing in the first half but after they missed an opportunity to go up 24-7 early in the third quarter the team fell apart.
Maynard looked like a Sophomore, a great sophomore but a sophomore none the less. He was not helped by a poorly performing offensive line, or an absent running game. The defense while having to work with many a short field did themselves no favors by not getting off on third down. The end result was a heart breaking loss that never should have happened.
Temple, predictably, got throttled playing Penn State but they avoided many of the mistakes that plagued them in their week one loss to Villinova. They were more committed to their pass rush (2 sacks against PSU is nothing for a MAC school to sneeze at), their passing game looked more controlled, and they did not turn the ball over nearly as much. Two dropped touchdown passes kept them from keeping the score respectable.
Coaching (Buffalo, Clear)
Turner Gill is 3-0 against Al Golden and he has done it in a variety of ways. He has done it when both teams were awful (2006), He has done it at Temple (2007), and he has done it when both were expected to compete for the division (2008). This year is proving to be a challenge (loss of Willy, loss of Starks) and how Gill weathers the next few games may be the story of the season.
If Al Golden exceeds Gill as a coach in any one area, aside from base pay, its recruiting. Al Golden has been steadily rising the Owl's talent level for four years. This improvement has shown in the steady rise of the Temple defense, a defense that is year over year one of the better in the MAC. Still he has made some questionable game day coaching decisions which cause one to wonder if he will ever take the Owls to the next level.
Offense (Buffalo, Slight)
Temple, like Buffalo, is replacing a poised and competent play maker at quarterback. Adam DiMichele did not get the press surrounding some other MAC quarterback's but his absence this year proves just what a vital leader he was. In his place Vaughn Charlton has had a really rough first couple of games, though his play against Penn State was better then showing against Villinova. If UB can shut down the running game they souldbe able to manage Charlton.
Buffalo's new starter has shown far more promise than Chalton. Despite some mistakes against Central Florida, Zach Maynard is still having a very impressive year. Maynard is on pace for 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, and he has done it against some of the better defenses that he will face this year. The only major area of concern for UB's offense is the running game which has managed a paltry 2.9 yards a carry. Half backs have also fumbled the ball four times in the past two games (Maynard has fumbled twice).
Right now Buffalo has a better Quarterback and better receivers. So far the running game is a push as neither Temple or Buffalo has been able to get meaningful and dependable production out of their backfield.
Both teams have demonstrated that they can turn the ball over in bursts (Temple with 6 in two games and Buffalo with 8 in three games) There is the potential in this game for either team to hand it away to the other.
Defense (Temple, Slight)
For several years, position for position, Temple has been the about the most talented defense in the MAC. You can pick and choose a player here or there who is better than anything Temple has to offer (Larry English, Barry Church, etc..) but on the whole nobody has the talent and depth of the Temple defense.
Despite the physical talent it has not been the dominating defense it should be (outside of 2007 when they were #1 in the conference). Week one against Villinova the defense did not get after the quarterback nearly as often as they could have and it burned them. Last week against Penn State they managed two sacks and put on decent pressure.
Buffalo has about the most talented defense they ever fielded. They are, however, playing below themselves. A lot of consideration should be given to the fact that the Offense has pined them on the wrong side of the 50 more than a hand full of times this season but between not stopping teams on third down and not forcing turnovers can't be pegged on field position.
If the Bulls can play at their talent level this can/will be a solid front seven with an amazing secondary but so long as sending four, five, or six guys does not pressure the quarterback its going to be a long year.
Special Teams (Temple, Clear)
For the most part Temple has solid special teams (punt returns being the exception). Nothing as noteworthy as UCF but enough to give pause coming into the game. They defend kickoffs and punts well, they have a solid field goal kicker, and they don't turn the ball over on special teams.
Last week there was a cycle to every series for the Bulls (in the second half). UCF would kick off and pin the Bulls inside their own 15 (or worse). The offense would move the ball ten to twenty yards and either turn it over or punt. When they punted UCF would return it inside the 50 and set up our defense on a short field. Right now I don't know if anyone in the MAC is sporting worse special teams than UB.