On paper this seasons defense should be better than the squad which stifled the Huskies running game last season but it has not worked out that way. Buffalo give up more than 220 yards a game which puts them at 108th in the nation, they've not been much better at the pass.
Against UConn the key for Buffalo is make sure running on first down is a lowing proposition. Conrad dug into the numbers a bit
UConn runs 75% on first down. When they win, they run 94% of first downs, when they lose they run 62% of first downs.— Conrad Mostiller (@conradmostiller) September 26, 2012
Stopping the run on first down is almost a football commandment but in UConns case it's been even more apparent that if you can force the huskies to go to the air early you can beat them.
Sophomore Lyle McCombs is the Huskies main running threat. But so far this season his best work came in the loss to Western Michigan. Outside of the Western Michigan game the best day McCombs has had was against UMass where he piled up 82 yards on 23 carries.
In other words, when they win its because they have found success using the run on first down but even then they are not a very good running team. It's entirely possible Kent is a better running team than UConn. So there is a chance that the Bulls could be effective in steering Connecticut away from first down runs.
But even if they manage that feat UConn has steadily developing other options.
The big offensive highlight of UConn's loss to Western Michigan was Chandler Whitmer. The Sophomore threw for 333 yards and three TDs, in doing so he overcame several key drops. The only part of his game which currently screams underclassman is the time it takes Whitmer to read a defense. Western Michigan recorded six sacks against UConn, a good deal of that was due to Whitmer holding the ball too long.
Colby Way, Khalil Mack, and Steven Means have all shown an ability to get into the backfield but the defensive backfield has done nothing to take away a quarterbacks options.
Last season, as bad as things were, the Bulls had a shot at upsetting UConn. Driving, down by seven UB approached Connecticut's goal line when Chazz Anderson threw up one of the worst passes of the season. Yawin Smallwood's interception in the end zone was part of a defensive performance that allowed the Bulls to score only 3 points from three trips into the red zone.
With Branden Oliver doubtful and UB coming off their worst passing game since 2004 the Bulls defense will have to hold up at least as well as last season if they did last season.