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Game Preview: Buffalo Bulls vs Morgan State

Success can be as easy as turning around and giving the ball to Branden Oliver
Success can be as easy as turning around and giving the ball to Branden Oliver

One of the biggest challenges the Bulls may face this week is mental. After playing a solid game against Georgia will the Bulls come out of the locker room psyched for Morgan State.

For Khalil Mack the answer is undoubtedly yes. The star linebacker had to sit out week one because of a locker room altercation with receiver Fred Lee. The result is that Mack will kick off his junior season against the Bears.

Mack will line up behind Steven Mean who himself can be a world beater. The big "surprise" for UB coming out of week one was the play of Colby Way. His six tackles and two sacks earned him the MAC East defensive player of the week honors. Way came on strong in the latter parts of 2011 and looks to compliment the Means-Mack combination on the other side.

Between Mack's return and the injury free game played in Athens UB fans will get their first look at the defense being instituted by new coordinator Lou Tepper.

And that defense could be more challenged by Morgan state than people might think.

Travis Davidson and Brian Mahn are Morgan State's one two punch in the backfield. Last season Davidson rushed for 732 yards and seven touchdowns. In their opening contest against Sacred Heart Davidson ran for 107 yards on 22 carries, scoring two touchdowns.

The front seven should be able to lock down the run, especially with Mack back. The UB unit that had the hardest time with Georgia was the defensive secondary. The receiver spent the whole game getting behind UB's backs and once the Dawg wide outs and Quarterback Aaron Murray got in sync UB gave up some huge plays.

Andrew King, a converted running back hauled in five receptions for 61 yards last week. Right now he is the seventh ranked receiver in the MEAC and could be the best chance Morgan has to test the UB secondary.

The Bulls offense has nothing to prove to anyone after last week. the Bulls scored on three drives of 75 or more yards. Including a 94 yard touchdown drive which seemed to put Georgia back on it's heels in the first half.

The young front seven of Morgan state, led by Damarco Bisbee and Tierney Yates will have to stop Branden Oliver who put up more than one hundred yards against Georgia. They will also have to play smartly to avoid the running ability of Alex Zordich.

Zordich is not a guy with superstar speed but he can be a bit elusive and showed great vision against Georgia.

When he throws Zordich will look for Alex Neutz. Zeutz will be working against Joe Rankin or Kenneth Riddley. Both Morgan state corners took in an interception last week, Ranklin took his back for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Buffalo needs to find a second receiver. The Bulls were very effective at using their tight ends underneath but there are still two question marks when it comes to replacing Ed Young and Marcus Rivers.

The Bulls just need to show up and play smart Ball. The talent gap is well in their favor but Morgan state does have a lot of big play potential on both sides of the line.

Five things to watch for Buffalo

1) Steven Means: He has been pretty quiet since 2010 and some of that might be because he was the main person to watch out for on the line. With the emergence of Colby Way, and being complimented by Khalil Mack Means now has to step up. This front seven could be good enough to help out the defensive backs but only if Means rediscovers what he had in 2009 and 2010.

2) Speaking of the secondary: You get a partial pass with Georgia because you will not face that kind of speed again this season. There is no such thing as a tune up game in college football but this is as close as you get.

3) Cordeo Dixon and / or Fred Lee: One, if not both of you need to step up and take some pressure off of Neutz. Eventually someone is going to realize that UB tight ends are worthy of safety attention and when that happens Neutz could be left on his own if none of the other wide outs have established themselves.

4) Special Teams: Cover the darn kick! Nothing kills momentum like a kick return for a touchdown. Please watch the Georgia tape again, and again, and again.

5) Depth: If this game plays out as it should you may get to see some future Bulls get meaningful snaps. Joe Licata, James Potts, Khari Brown, and the depth in defensive back field will have a chance to play.