When the Buffalo Bulls take the field against Kent State on Saturday, they'll be playing for much more than a six game winning streak.
They’ll be playing for respect.
One win away from bowl eligibility, you'd think they'd already have earned their fair share of respect throughout the season but Buffalo still has their doubters.
Those skeptical of the Bulls point to the teams that Buffalo has defeated over the course of their five-game winning streak. (Stony Brook, Connecticut, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Massachusetts)
While the skeptics have a strong case looking at Buffalo's schedule, they overlook how the Bulls took down each opponent with ease.
This week, things get a little tougher for Jeff Quinn's squad as they prepare for their first conference challenge of the year.
Standing in their way of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2008 is a Kent State team off to a disappointing 2-6 start.
After representing the East Division in the MAC Championship game last year, things haven't gone the Golden Flashes way in 2013.
A combination of injuries and a tough schedule have gotten the better of Kent State in Paul Haynes first season as head coach.
That doesn’t mean that his team lacks talent though.
Kent State still has firepower on both sides of the ball despite their team statistics lacking behind.
At quarterback, freshmen Colin Reardon leads the way. Reardon has put up good numbers, passing for 1,199 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions in seven games despite missing last week due to an ankle injury.
At running back, Kent State has a talented duo. Trayion Durham gets the majority of the carries but is a little knocked up, carrying the ball only five times versus South Alabama.
As a sophomore, Durham ran for 1,316 yards and 14 touchdowns but hasn't been as efficient in 2013. On the year, the junior has only 501 yards and three touchdowns.
Kent State’s "other" running back is their most dynamic player, senior Dri Archer.
Easily one of the most talented players in the country, Archer can score from anywhere on the field and has a future in the NFL.
Probably the fastest player in the MAC, Archer has been held back due to injuries and Kent State's offensive drop off.
As impressive as Durham's statistics were in 2012, Archer put up even better numbers. Last year, Archer ran for 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging nine yards per carry.
Archer is also a threat as a receiver with 89 career receptions.
When it comes to stopping Archer, it's about containment. You know that he'll make his plays, you just try to limit how many plays he makes.
It won't be easy for Buffalo to stop Kent State's talented duo but they have one of the top run defense's in the MAC to try and shut them down.
With Khalil Mack and Adam Redden playing behind a top tier defensive line, the Bulls can make it tough for any team to run the ball against them.
Buffalo should be able to hold Kent State to a reasonable amount of points. Despite all of the firepower mentioned, the Golden Flashes are averaging only 19.1 points per game, good for 110th in the country.
While a lot of that can be attributed to their schedule, (Penn State, LSU, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Bowling Green), at some point you just have to produce which they haven't.
Defensively, it's a somewhat similar situation for the Golden Flashes. They have a lot of talent led by their star defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix but they haven't been able to shut teams down.
Kent State is 93rd in the country in points allowed per game, allowing 30.9 points per contest.
That's not going to get it done in any level of football. Haynes' squad has talent but they're not producing.
With all of the above said, Buffalo will need to bring its best to win Saturday.
Kent State is far and away more talented than anyone that the Bulls have beaten this year.
Buffalo needs to continue pounding the ball with Branden Oliver. While Joe Licata has put up good numbers as a sophomore, the strength of the Bulls offense is their running game.
If the Bulls can score 24+ points, they should be able to take this game. Buffalo has proven that their defense is no joke and is one of the best units in the MAC.
I expect them to step up once again this Saturday, extending their win streak to six games as they become bowl eligible on the road.
Prediction: Buffalo 27-13