Game Preview: Connecticut versus the Buffalo Bulls

US PRESSWIRE

The Bulls are trying to finish their non-conference schedule at 2-2. Do they have a shot at victory against Connecticut?

Defense…That’s what Saturday's contest between Connecticut and Buffalo is going to come down to.

The match-up features two of the worst offenses in the country on paper with the Huskies ranked 100th in points for while the Bulls are two spots behind at 102.

It hasn’t been a pretty start to the season for either team. Connecticut lost their season opener to FCS foe, Towson before losing against Maryland and #15 Michigan.

Buffalo enters at 1-2, coming off their first win of the season two weeks ago before taking last week off on their bye.

The two teams have plenty of history against one another going back to before either was even in the FBS.

Connecticut has won 12 of their last 13 meetings versus the Bulls, leading the all time series 16-4.

Buffalo’s last victory against the Huskies was a 37-20 victory in Storrs in 2001.

This year’s contest should be a close game. Connecticut is struggling out the gate and their offensive woes will let the Bulls keep it competitive.

In their match-up last year, a 24-17 Huskies win, both teams put up almost identical offensive statistics for the game.

Connecticut’s top offensive weapons are Shakim Phillips and Lyle McCombs.

Despite missing last week’s game versus Michigan, Phillips is leading the Huskies receiving corps with 15 receptions for 255 yards and three touchdowns in only two games.

McCombs is the starting running back for Connecticut. Known as more of a finesse guy, he’s averaging only 3.8 yards per carry on the year with one touchdown.

Throwing the ball for the Huskies is junior quarterback Chandler Whitmer. Turnover prone, Whitmer threw 16 interceptions last year opposed to only nine touchdowns.

Things have gotten a little better for him so far this year but he’s still struggling to get the Connecticut offense going.

Buffalo should be able to contain the Huskies offense. Khalil Mack should be in store for a good game but will need the rest of his Bulls teammates to step up.

Defensively is where Paul Pasqualoni’s squad strives. Despite being ranked 85th in the FBS in points against, Connecticut has a solid defensive unit.

The Huskies allowed only 24 points to Michigan last Saturday and were dominant at times.

Buffalo scored only 17 points against Connecticut last year so they already know a thing or two about how they can step up.

Leading the way defensively for the Huskies is linebacker Yawin Smallwood. The junior is an impact player and is coming off a great effort against Michigan in which he was named National Defensive Player of the Week by cbssports.com for his performance.

Smallwood is second in the country, averaging 14.3 tackles per game and is on preseason award watch lists for the Walter Camp Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, and Bednarik Award.

Another player Buffalo will have to watch out for is defensive tackle Shamar Stephen. A fifth year senior, Stephen is 6-5, 317 and will cause problems for the Buffalo running game.

Quinn will try to get the Bulls passing game going out of the gate. Even with Branden Oliver returning this week, Quinn wants to establish a passing attack early.

The Bulls offense needs to get going this week. Connecticut isn’t the caliber of an Ohio State or Baylor.

Despite playing in a better conference than Buffalo, the Huskies are definitely a beatable opponent.

The Bulls have shown the last few years that they can keep close with Connecticut. Now Buffalo has to show that they can actually beat the Huskies.

Turnovers could be key in this game. Both offensives are poor, which should result in a low scoring game. Whoever wins the turnover battle will have the upper hand in this contest.

Expect Buffalo to give it their all Saturday and make it a game down to the wire. They can pull off the victory but it won’t be easy.

Prediction: Connecticut 20-17

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