This week UB begins a three-week “Show me” period for head coach Maurice Linguist. According to the Sargin rankings, UB’s next three opponents are ranked 131 (Ohio), 161 (Akron), and 144 (Bowling Green). In case you’re curious Buffalo is ranked 97.
So, this is an opportunity for the Bulls to show that, even in a year that follows a late and chaotic coaching change, they are not someone to be overlooked in the MAC. They have played WMU and Kent close, both solid MAC teams, but have not played a consistent game this season outside their opener against Wager, of the FCS.
First up is Ohio, who themselves are dealing with a coaching change. Long time Bobcat’s coach Franc Solich retired after 15 years at the helm in Athens. He never won a title but did get the Bobcats four division crowns, and to 11 Bowl games with five wins.
While the change at Ohio was not as dramatic as the change at Buffalo, because Ohio kept the rest of their staff, it did happen later in the off-season. About a month or so after Lance Leipold left for Kansas.
Initially, I had thought, since few players left and the staff was completely intact, that Ohio would not fall off that much. Boy was I wrong.
The Bobcats started the season 0-4, which had not happened since 2008, and it took a pillow fight against Akron to finally get Ohio their first win. They did show well against CMU last week, so they are starting to play decent ball.
So what’s the deal with Ohio?
Position for position they are a very talented team, Ohio features a strong 1-2 running back committee of De’Montre Tuggle and O’Shaan Allison who is a swiss army knife on offense, able to run, a threat out of the backfield as a receiver, and does decent in pass protection.
Ohio has another Rourke behind center, but this time it's Kurtis Rourke. He’s a pretty good pocket passer and is not at all mobile but he’s not Nathan Rourke when it comes to tucking and running the ball. He is a bit mistake-prone though, throwing four touchdowns against three interceptions this year.
Ty Walton and Cameron Odom are by far his favorite targets, but he does make decent use of his tight end, Ryan Luehrman as well.
There is no big secret on how to lock down the Ohio offense. Tackle well, hold the trenches, and make Rourke hurry a bit.
On defense, Ohio’s strength is with their defensive backs, on the outside Buffalo receiver Quian Williams is going to have to work against Jamal Hudson, who is one of the best cover corners in the MAC.
The Bulls offense is going to have to scheme ways to make other guys take the pressure off of Quian, because if they don’t he’s going to have a rough time getting open.
The good news for the UB offense is that Ohio’s run defense is one of the worst in the nation. They are giving up well over 200 yards a game and that’s been their Achilles heel.
When UB did come back against Kent it was on the back of explosive run plays, and the potential is there to do that against Ohio, forcing the solid Bobcat defensive backs to worry about run support could be the thing that lets Williams find some room in the secondary.
On paper this should be a UB win, the Bulls have played a harder schedule and looked better doing it. They are also playing at home, which in this series, is a pretty solid indicator of success over the last 15 years.
But beating anyone when you only play half a game is tricky at best. And the Bulls have not played a full 60 minutes of solid football against an FBS opponent this year.