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Us against Them: Akron at Buffalo

Good news / Bad news week?

The good news: UB can slap around a IAA team (two weeks ago today that would have been in question). The Bulls were firing on all cylinders; Ike Nduka has morphed from little used third stringer into the conferences 5th most prolific halfback by total yards and fourth most by yards per game. Brett Hamlin and Jessie Rack showed amazing hands, and Maynard managed the offense. The defense looked solid in all aspects as well.

The bad news: the East Division is slipping away very early this year, Ohio and Temple survived games that were far closer than they should have been.
  • UB is 0-2 in conference,
  • Temple is 3-0 and Ohio is 2-0.
  • Ohio plays NIU (should be a great game) and Buffalo so we should be able to catch them
  • Temple is a different story, the only real conference tests left on their schedule are games against Toledo and Ohio.
If games play out as they should The most that Temple *or* Ohio should lose (baring an epic collapse) is 2 games. As nice as the win over GW was it gives us nothing towards winning our Division, the only thing UB can do to win the division is to win our final six games and even then we are going to need a ton of help. long story short, UB can not lose another game and still win the division.

That brings us to Akron, this weeks foe did everything humanly possible to give this last weeks game away. Normally 'giving away a game' is something of an exaggeration but look at their first half drives.
  • Punt
  • Fumble
  • Interception
  • Missed FG
  • Fumble (on the two)
Akron has had serious personnel issues, off and on the field among players and coaches. Right now they are on the edge of falling completely apart but every once and a while a team in their position makes a real run.

Coaching (Buffalo, Safe)

Despite starting well (including a divisional win in 2005) J.D. Brookhart is starting to wear out his welcome in Akron. He has went 9-17 in conference games and 14-22 in all games over the past three seasons. If he was ever going to turn it around at Akron this was the year:
  • They came into this season breaking in the best stadium in the MAC
  • They have a nice new field house.
  • Akron has the #1 soccer team in the nation
  • The Zips returning the MAC champs in mens basketball.
Basically the university could have made this a great season for the football culture without winning the conference. If Akron managed a decent start to the season (beating IU, Playing the Chips close) and ended up with even a moderately competitive (6-6) season the zips probably would have been averaging close to 20K a game.

Instead off and on the field issues have Akron's attendance falling week after week, players arrested, kicked off the team, and coaches resigning. This is turning into a nightmare season for the Zips.

Turner Gill is having problems of his own in Buffalo but so far the problems have all been on the field and seem to be improving from week to week. The Bulls still have a good shot at 6-6 as they enter the second half of the year. UB now has the easiest remaining schedule in all of division one football.

Offense (Buffalo, Comfortable)

On paper Buffalo is the better offense; aside from a very talented set of receivers now UB has found a running game. With Ike Nduka anchoring the the ground attack it seems everyone has elevated their play Thermilus is back to pounding out four to five yards when we need them and Maynard is flourishing now that he is not the be all end all of the offense. The main area for UB to worry about is their performance in the red zone it has killed them against both Temple and Central Michigan.

Akron Freshman Patrick Nicely is going to be a high profile quarterback someday, he already elevated the play of his team when he came on in relief against the Bobcats. Being pressed into service because of injury without a full red shirt year is going to mean a rough adjustment but he is very capable of having a monster day against most MAC d's. As good as Nicely may be he will need time in the pocket and something resembling a running game if there is going to be any kind of consistent success this season.

Defense (Buffalo, Very slight)

If you take away last weeks performance against Gardner Webb the Bulls defense has yet to play a solid four quarters (unless you count the second half of he Pitt game and the first half of the UCF game). The center of the defense is porous and the push that opposing offensive lines have managed against UB are disturbing. The fact that in five games opposing offenses have scored on their very first drive (including Gardner Webb) is something that is seriously troubling.

Akron's defense has been equally terrible, Aside from Morgan State and recently against Ohio they have given up more than 30 points in every game this year and they are last in the conference in sacks. If they are behind Buffalo in any area is the defensive backfield where UB just plain hits harder.

Special Teams (Akron, Comfortable)

I know Rasor on the Zips feels differently (more on that when this weeks blog exchange comes out) but Akron's special teams are not nearly as bad as those being sported by Buffalo. While neither team has anything to brag about Akron leads Buffalo in just about every single category.