First, find the questions for Toledo;
1) Toledo’s offensive line has allowed just four sacks for the season. That puts Toledo number one in the nation. Buffalo’s Mack, a Butkus finalist, sits in 11th place in the nation in total sacks. Buffalo as a defense is fourth in the nation (one behind Toledo) for total sacks. How does Toledo keep Buffalo defense away from the QB and open holed for the running game? Secondly will Fluellen play?
UT’s offensive line will need to continue to do what it has all season: keep a solid pocket for Owens and keep their respective blocks to give the backs (Fluellen or Hunt/Jones-Moore) the chance to get out of the backfield and pick up some yardage. The offensive line gave up just 4 sacks this season (2 sacks to Florida, 1 to Eastern Washington, and 1 to Ball State) and has not allowed a single sack in the last 4.5 games -- if they can continue that kind of performance, there will be time our players to respond to pressure and let the play develop.
Hard to say whether Fluellen can go this week, we expect that to be a game time decision. The stat line for the running game has not been significantly impacted when Fluellen is unable to go, because Hunt and Jones-Moore are capable backs as well -- but we know that our greatest chance of victory comes when Fluellen is on the field. That holds true for the remaining games on our schedule as well.
2) As great as Buffalo’s defense has been, the offense is solid as well. Buffalo can run the ball with Oliver or pass the ball with Licata. How does Toledo stop Buffalo?
Toledo will have no choice but to put extra bodies in the box and try to slow the Buffalo run game. Along with Buffalo admittedly, Toledo has a knack for getting into the backfield quickly and causing mayhem. Leading the conference in sacks and forced fumbles, the UT defense will try to get to the ball carrier before the play has a chance to develop and before Licata can find a receiver.
3) Things are well in Toledo. Coach has been extended and you have taken care of the teams you should have beaten. Buffalo not in the MAC West and with Northern Illinois the following week, does UB get overlooked? Buffalo has Miami next week so all focus will be on Toledo. If Fluellen is not 100%, do you rest him?
We doubt that Buffalo gets overlooked this week. They’re a 7-2 team, so they certainly aren’t a MAC bottom feeder this year. The Rockets know the Bulls defense is legit, giving up less than 11 points per game over the last 7 (all wins). If the Rockets lose to UB, it won’t be because they overlooked them heading in to NIU. A trap game is more often losing to a team you shouldn’t lose to. If the Rockets aren’t fully healthy, it could be very close or even swing in UB’s favor.
The questions Toledo asked of UB.
1) Buffalo and Toledo enter this game with the #1 and #2 ranked defenses (statistically) in the conference. What does UB’s defense have to do to be successful against the Rockets?
Simply, continue to make the offensive line struggle and keep the QB scared. See answer to question three on Mack. He can bull rush, swim, and fight through a triple team to get to the QB. Mack can also drop back and pick of passes. Toledo will have on every play at least two players working against Mack. That leaves opening for other lineman and backers. This is the best core UB has ever assembled. Fluellen, if available, will have all he can handle to have time to find a hole to run through. UB is great against the run
That being said, the secondary is average. Owens will be able to move the ball in the air as long as he has time.
2) As the season has unfolded, what is the most surprising aspect of Buffalo’s success and how does that aspect factor into the game versus Toledo?
Play calling and QB play. It took Coach Jeff Quinn a couple years to wrap his mind around the head coach position. UB has always been a pound the ball type of team. Quinn came to Buffalo from Cincinnati and tried a very up tempo offense. Look at the record, it did not work. Quinn went back to his roots and developed a great offensive line. UB lost the best lineman to a broken leg and did not miss a beat.
Secondly, UB has a real deal QB in Joe Licata. Joe is 10 – 3 since taking over the helm. UB had a run of five different QB’s in five years. That is not good. Licata also has some weapons. Alex Neutz is a WR that can flat out get open and take it in for a TD. Neutz had two TD catches last week and tied the UB all time record for TD catches. Buffalo was crushed like everyone else by Baylor but Neutz was the lone bright spot with 197 yards receiving in the first half. (Starters were pulled for second half!) Fred Lee as senior is getting balls thrown his way as teams focus on Neutz. Licata has two solid TE’s that can get open.
3) What three players (one offense, one defense, one special teams) will the Toledo fans be tired of hearing about by Wednesday morning? What kind of impact would be felt if they were suddenly out of the lineup?
The name the broadcasters will drool over and make you sick will be Khalil Mack. Mack coming out of high school had zero offers from any FBS schools. UB only heard of Mack because he was headed for Liberty University (ironic that Turner Gill the one who stole Mack from Liberty to UB is now the coach at Liberty!) and a coach hired from Liberty liked what he saw. When the coach arrived in Buffalo, he asked the coaching staff to take a look at Mack. Well, best offer UB ever made. I know that draft boards are useless but Mack is slated to be picked anywhere between 8 – 14 in the first round.
It will not take Toledo fans to see that Mack is playing this game at a different level. He will be in the backfield before the QB. He made Tettleton from Ohio look like a first time started versus a redshirt senior. If you have not seen the interception against Ohio, watch it here http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=9619375.
The offensive player will be Bo Oliver. Oliver last week had more offense that Ohio. Ohio is not Toledo but Ohio has a veteran QB and RB. Oliver rushed for 249 behind an offensive line that is gelling as a unit. Oliver is a tiny man at 5’7 but is a workout freak. Bo can pound you as he drove a Kent DB five yards back for a TD (http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:9883993) Bo can out run tacklers or make you look foolish with his moves in the open field trying to tackle. You will not be able to stop Oliver.
Special Teams. Well, Buffalo has struggled for the past four years in Special Teams and this year it has been quiet and that is a good thing. The kickoff returner is injured. I would have to go with kicker Clarke. Can miss field goals but is good from 55+ (really) and Quinn has no qualms letting him kick from that distance.